Bumpers in Small Cars: What Those in Auto Body Technician School Need to Know
Many drivers will opt for smaller car models when they’re looking for something that’s more fuel-efficient, easier to drive in urban areas, and all-around more affordable. Smaller cars are often much cheaper, both in fuel and up-front cost, but most buyers are unaware of the large bills that can come from minor road incident-related repairs to these designs.
A Study of Small Cars Involved in Minor Collisions
In a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), smaller cars were found to be much more expensive to repair when it came to damage caused by minor incidents, such as accidents in bumper-to-bumper traffic and parking lots where cars are moving at slow speeds. The IIHS found that the bumpers in small cars, for a number of reasons, are largely not equipped to handle these kinds of accidents. What does this mean for small car owners? While drivers might have originally chosen a small car for its budget-friendly nature, they might find themselves spending more than they bargained for should the car sustain damage from a low-speed collision.
As an auto body technician may already know, many of today’s cars are designed with superior bumper protection to prevent body damage from minor road incidents. However, tests conducted by the IIHS found that small cars proved to be an exception. Twenty small cars were tested, including popular models such as the Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Rabbit, and Toyota Prius, by conducting both a full width hit to the front and back at 10 kilometres per hour, and a hit to the front and rear corners at 5 kilometres per hour. By conducting these tests, the IIHS found some significant issues with the bumpers of these small cars.
The Smaller the Car, the More Expensive the Repair?
Following these tests of smaller vehicles, the IIHS issued ratings based on the cost of repair. The majority of the cars tested received a ‘poor’ rating. Cars receiving a ‘poor’ rating had damage expenses exceeding $2,000 CAD. This amount is much higher than the average insurance deductible, the cost of which the Institute designated as the limit for receiving a ‘good’ rating. So while many drivers might think they’re saving by purchasing a smaller car, an auto body repair technician should note that buyers of these vehicles may run into more expenses than anticipated following a very minor collision, and the ensuing repairs.
Small Bumper Design Flaws the Auto Body Technician Should Know About
The damage sustained to smaller cars can be attributed to some key aspects of these bumper designs. For one, small car bumpers are usually not mounted high enough on the vehicle to protect the head and taillights—both examples of car components that are expensive to repair. These bumper designs are less likely to be able to absorb the shock of a low-speed collision, largely because their small size doesn’t extend far enough to cover the corners of the vehicle. Additionally, they’re often simply not sturdy enough to provide adequate protection.
The Case for Better Bumpers
To reduce repair costs and improve the safety of smaller vehicles, there are several different solutions that automakers could look into. For one, the reinforcement bar and the foam absorber could be widened underneath the headlight, minimizing headlight and fender damage, which can be costly to repair or replace. Additionally, the height of such bumpers could be extended to match the level of coverage seen on larger trucks and SUVs. Bumpers of smaller vehicles might also be best mounted further from the surface of the car body to accommodate greater absorption of shock in the event of a low-speed collision.
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