Rear Bumper Rehabilitation How-To


When I started out, I had probably the worlds worst 2002 bumpers!!!
A previous owner thought that they looked good painted red too... well not long after I got the car into the garage, I realized they were probably the tackiest thing on the car. Through a fellow KC 2002 owner, I was able to acquire a good condition set of bumpers without the paint on them. Man, I couldn't wait to yank those old ones off.

What I found was that the front bumper was easy, the back bumper was more difficult. Underneath both bumpers, there was a significant amount of dried mold that was the result of poor storage for the last decade. The rubber was really hard and dried out on both the bumper caps and the bumpers themselves.  During an early test drive, I neglected to get the bumper side bellows on the front securely fastened. At about 75mph on the freeway, the right side one decided that it belonged forever in the roadside wilderness and left the car. Unfortunately, it's still there somewhere... or somebody needed it worse than I did. I eventually found a good pair out of Sherman Martinez's collection when I visited him in May

Ok, the old one's off and the new one is fighting to get on the car.
What I found was that the screws that are holding the rubber on the bumper are really roached. Too much salt, dirt and no easy way to be cleaned deteriorated them through the years. A bunch of blood, sweat and tears required me to unbolt the rubber from the ends so that I could cinch up the bumper shocks to the bumpers. I suggest you remedy that situation with some 13mm "Nyloc" style nuts you can get from most auto parts or large scale hardware store. These have a nylon insert that makes using lock washers unnecessary. (Wait, don't run there yet, I have more parts needed at the hardware store before you begin)
The ends are next. Of course the metal that was reinforcing these ends is long gone to salt and water. Most of it crumbled in my hands when I took the old bumper off. Ok, add these to your shopping list:
Some 10mm bolts about 1.5" long, some fender washers and some matching Nyloc nuts to go with it. These will be used to secure the bumper bellows to the car and the bumper itself. Make sure you get stainless steel parts here, otherwise you'll be wrenching them off again with the help of a cold chisel and Liquid Wrench. Repeat this for both sides of the bumper, then your ready for the cosmetics.
Next up: I don't know what you call this, but it keeps the dust out... is it a dust cover? It comes apart in 3 parts and is screwed into the car through some holes below the chrome trim (see photo below). Needless to say, I'm still not for sure what I'm going to do about bumpers on my car... I'm reluctant to spend any more money until I decide NOT to put on euro style bumpers for the 74. Well, I decided to clean this thing really good and soak some Vinylex into it to at least keep it flexible. It was easy to see and feel the original shape of the rubber because it was totally different where it had been hid from the light on the edges than where the sun had faded it into a sandpaper like finish now.
As you can tell, the bottom is pretty wasted and weak, but it's not doing a big job here so I left it for the time being. If I keep the bumpers these will be replaced.
Where these holes are on the body will be dirty because you can't clean the very well. I chose to use some new fasteners that were stainless steel to hold the trim back onto the car. I suggest you take the bolt to the hardware store (add these to your list too) and find something suitable to replace the stock ones. Unfortunately I could not find a metric substitute and had to go with a 3/8" self tapping stainless screw to finish the job as shown below.
These screw holes are down near the wiring harness on the car. You could put a neoprene washer here or a dab of silicone just to make sure no rust breaches the fine finish your car has on it or inside it. 
Once it's back on, you have something worth looking at. I haven't gone after this thing with a buffing wheel or Autosol polish, but I could... when it gets a bit cooler... July in Missouri is hot !!! At this point in my project, most of the things that are affixed to the car are really in better shape than the car body itself... but that's the next chapter in my 2002 story to be told... very soon.
 

 


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