RV Collision Bumper Repair: 3 Tips for Working with TPO Plastic

If you get into an accident with your RV, there's a good chance that the bumper will take the majority of the impact, and will either crack or dent. RV bumpers are made from plastic, with TPO plastic being the most common of them all. Unfortunately, TPO plastic is also one of the hardest materials to repair and work with because they typically contain anywhere from 3% to 5% of wax-based mold release agents. This makes getting the adhesives or the paint to stick to the bumper an incredibly difficult task. Still, repairing the bumper may be cheaper than having to replace it. If that's the case, here are 3 tips that you should know.

Don't Skimp Out on the Cleaning Process

Before you can repair the damaged area, you must clean it first in order to remove any dirt or dust particles that may be clinging onto the surface. Making sure that the bumper is clean is the key to the repair. If the TPO plastic is not clean, it will be incredibly hard for you to fill in the dents with plastic fillers and even more difficult to get the paint to stick. 

Most people think that cleaning the RV involves just wiping it down. That simply will not be sufficient. Put in some elbow grease, and use a scuffing pad to scrub the area that needs to be repaired. Make sure you use a cleaning agent as well to get rid of any dirt, dust or debris particles that may hard to spot with the naked eye. You can test to see whether you cleaned the RV properly or not by splashing some water onto the surface. If the water beads, you didn't do a good job. 

Avoid Using Sanding Paste

You'll probably also need to sand down the area in order to apply a fresh coat of paint or sealant later on. While sanding paste is useful in many applications, it is not appropriate for raw plastic—especially if you are working with TPO. The sanding paste contains chemicals that will actually get absorbed into the plastic and contaminate it. This will not only affect the type of finish you'll be able to achieve, but will also cause irreversible damage to the structural integrity of the bumper. 

If you accidentally use sanding paste on the bumper, you will definitely see a difference in the bumper quality later on. In fact, you will be forced to replace the bumper. 

Apply an Adhesion Promoter

Unlike other plastics, bumpers made from TPO plastic do not bond well with primers. To go around this problem, you'll definitely need to apply an adhesion promoter to the repair area. Don't skimp out when applying an adhesion promoter to the surface. This is definitely a time when you want to be generous. Make sure you cover the inner edges of any cracks that may be present and get into the nooks and crannies.

The adhesion promoter will adhere the primer to the plastic. While you might not see a difference initially, the paint will not stick if an adhesion promoter is not applied. The paint will flake off easily. 

When working with TPO plastic, you definitely need to be a bit more cautious regarding the procedure that you use, as TPO plastic is notorious for being difficult. The repair process is quite tedious, and can take awhile, especially for those who are inexperienced. However, if the plastic is repaired properly, the damaged bumper will be just as good as new, and will indefinitely as long as you don't get into another accident. For more information or assistance, contact companies like Chehalis Collision Center​.