The History of the Car Bumper
Two of the car parts most easily damaged in a collision are the car’s bumpers. You know, those covers built to protect the front and rear parts of the vehicle. At Rodenhouse Body Shop, we fix bumpers of all types every day for car owners in Grand Rapids and all over the State of MI, so we know our bumpers.
Legally required on most cars today, bumpers are designed to absorb the intensity in low-speed collisions. This helps protect you and your passengers and usually lessens the costs to repair the vehicle.
The car bumper was invented by Frederick Simms in 1901. The British mechanical engineer based the design on railway engine buffers used during that time. Simms was also known as an inventor, businessman, and a pioneer in the automotive industry. Reportedly, he came up with the word “petrol” and “motor car.”
The first bumpers used on vehicles like the Ford Model A were metal bars.
In 1968, GM used a plastic bumper on the Pontiac GTO that matched the car’s color and absorbed the impact during an accident. In a popular television commercial, John DeLorean hit a GTO with a sledgehammer without it getting damaged.
Today, plastic covers are typically placed over reinforcement bars made from steel, aluminum, fiberglass composite, rubber or plastic and then attached to the front and rear of the vehicle. They are mounted on the car’s chassis with impact absorbers. In a low-speed collision, the bumper compresses, then returns to its original position. Some bumpers are being designed with flexible materials such as foam and crushable plastic to mitigate injury in case pedestrians are hit.
Bumpers protect the hood, trunk, grille, cooling system, exhaust, fuel as well as headlamps, parking lights and tail lights. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulates the height and impact capabilities of bumpers on current vehicles. Certain federal requirements for bumpers are known as “the bumper standard” and determine how bumpers must perform in passenger vehicles.
In an accident, the front bumper is often damaged. The majority of accidents have at least one of the vehicles moving forward and the front bumper is the first to get hit.
It’s also very common for rear bumpers to get cracked and dented. Maybe you backed into a post or you were rear-ended. It may seem like just a piece of plastic, by there is a thick foam pad underneath the plastic that helps protect you and your occupants during a collision and can get damaged.
After an accident, no matter how minor, make sure to get your bumpers checked to ensure they are functionally properly in case you are in another collision.
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Sources: Wikipedia, NHTSA and AAA