What are car bumpers made of and how tough are they?

Anyone who has accidentally reversed into another car, or had a scrape with another car, will know the importance of car bumpers. They act as a buffer on a car, and can prevent damage in the event of minor collisions. It does this by absorbing impact, so the car itself isn’t damaged. However, many people wonder just how much a bumper can withstand, so here’s some more detail about how they work.


Bumpers can be seen on classic cars from as far back as the 1920s, although they aren’t as sophisticated as they are today. In the early days, they were basically just bars, and so didn’t absorb much impact.

It wasn’t until the late 1960s that bumpers were made of a lighter, plastic bumper, and since then, the vast majority of cars use plastic of one form or another in the bumper area.

How are modern bumpers made?

Most modern bumpers are made from a combination of steel and fibreglass, which is then encased in plastic. One of the reasons for having this plastic layer is for pedestrian safety, and these cases are made to be flexible and crushable to minimise injury. Because bumpers are designed to crumple, some drivers will find they need bumper repairs after minor collisions. However, these repairs are important to ensure the overall safety of the car.

Bumper impact

The amount of impact a bumper can take varies by make and model. However, they are usually designed to withstand an impact of about 5MPH without breaking. This means that small scrapes or accidents when parking shouldn’t break the bumper. In a higher speed collision, they won’t remain intact, but simply offer an extra layer of protection for the car and passengers. If you are in an accident, you may need to book smash repairs from K&W Panel Beating to repair the car’s bumpers and any other areas affected by the impact.

The damage done by the impact will also depend on the other car. If it’s a standard vehicle with the same height bumper, then the damage may be minimal. However, a car hitting an SUV, tractor, or higher vehicle may not get full protection because of the difference in heights.


Most countries have safety regulations for cars and other vehicles that include the fitting of bumpers. In certain countries, there are regulations for height, which can minimise damage in bumper to bumper collisions. In certain countries, there are also regulations about what materials can be used. For example, bulky bull bars which protect from impact with animals, are banned in many European countries.

Nobody thinks about the importance of their bumpers until they’re in a collision. Bumpers can turn an otherwise serious accident into a minor one, and they absorb much of the impact in low speed collisions. By ensuring you have safe, effective bumpers, you can protect your car and passengers, and minimise damage in low speed collisions.