Have you ever been involved in a small fender bender? (This instructable project relates to vehicles with partial plastic bumpers. All vehicles vary with make, model, and year.)
Unfortunately, when I was at the local grocery store and when I returned to my car in the parking lot after shopping. I found a big dent on my front passenger-side bumper and nobody around to explain what happened. After a few curse words and grunt noises, I went home to drop off my groceries. Then after further inspection, I realized this should be an easy fix.
Step 1: Tools Needed:
1) Heat Gun (you could use a heated hair blow-dryer, but would take an extremely long time to use)
2) Flat-head screw driver with a plastic handle
3) Needle nose pliers
4) Small adjustable wrench or a small socket set (I had to use a metric socket set, usually foreign brand vehicles have all their hardware like bolts and nuts in metric sizes.)
Step 2: Check on Material & Location of the Dent
First check and make sure the section of the bumper is plastic. This is easy to tell just by feeling by hand and seeing if the bumper section is pliable. Next turn your wheels/tires in the opposite direction of the dent while parked. In my case I would turn the wheels all the to the left. Next, see if your hand can reach and touch the inside of the dent through the tire well. If you can touch the other side of the dent, skip to step 4 on this instructable.
I could not reach the backside of the dent through the tire well because my bumper has a steel frame behind the plastic bumper cover.
Step 3: Remove Grill & Headlight
Since I could not reach the backside of the dent, I had to remove the grill and headlight. Depending on the make, model, and year of your vehicle (my truck is a 2006 Nissan Titan) this can be easily done by pulling plastic tabs and removing a few bolts. The grill is held in place by 6 plastic tabs and can be removed using needle-nose pliers. Be careful when removing the the plastic tabs because they can break easily. The grill plastic tab locations are shown in the first picture. I had to remove the headlight which was held in place by three bolts and one electrical connection. Remove the three bolts (the bolts are easily visible), I used an 11 mm (millimeter) socket with a short handle. Disconnect the plastic electric connection using the flat-head screw driver. Remove the headlight and put aside for later (this step took me a considerable amount of time to wiggle/slide out my curved headlight).
There are three plastic tabs holding the plastic bumper cover to the steel bumper frame. The second picture shows the tab locations. Use the needle-nose pliers & flat-head screw driver to remove the plastic tabs. Then the dented plastic cover should come off.
Step 4: Get the Heat Gun Ready
I purchased the heat gun from Harbor Freight for $15. The heat gun only has two settings; low and high. (You could use a heated hair blow-dryer. But it will probably take you about 1-2 hours or even longer to do this step.)
Place the plastic bumper piece on the ground and turn your heat gun on the low or high setting (I used the high setting). Make sure the heat gun is about 6-8 inches away from the plastic bumper cover, so you don't melt the plastic. Also don't stay in one spot, constantly move the heat gun around the dented section so the paint doesn't get damaged. Keep moving the heat gun over the affected area for 3-5 minutes. The plastic will try to fix it itself somewhat during the heating process. After the 3-5 minutes, grab the the flat-head screw driver by the metal side and use the plastic handle side to push the dent out from the back side. Slowly push out the dent a little bit at a time and re-heat the plastic bumper, then repeat. Do not forcefully push the dent out, because it will cause deformations in the plastic. (I re-heated the plastic bumper cover four times until the dent was fully restored back to normal.)
Let the plastic piece cool down and attach it back to the steel bumper frame using the plastic tabs.
Step 5: Small Issue With the Headlight
While installing the headlight I noticed a crack in the plastic housing. So I applied super glue to cracked section and waited for it cure. I applied another strong adhesive over the cracks for added measure. (The second adhesive probably was not needed, but I did not want the cracking to continue from the vibrations when driving.) Install the headlight back into position with the three bolts and reconnect the electrical headlight connection. Reinstall the grill back into the six plastic tab locations, as shown in step 3. Then close the vehicle's hood.
Step 6: Finished!
This literally removed about 95% of the dent, it definitely looks better than before. The dent did leave a small cosmetic scratch and could be fixed with a small amount of touch up paint. But I decided not to spend money on touch up paint, because you can not see the small scratch unless you are really close to my vehicle. This home project was well worth the $15.
Thank you for reading about my personal diy project and I hope this instructable project helps anyone with a similar fender bender issue.