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Body Work at Home

I’m thinking about taking on a home repair of some “minor” body repair.

The car is a 2003 Grand AM GT that has a cracked front bumper cover and bent driver’s side fender. I found a replacement bumper at a local scrap yard for $185 and a replacement fender on Ebay for $90; both parts are primed and original used parts.

So, how big of a job is it to remove and replace a bumper cover and fender? I read that I may need to remove the hood entirely and that there can sometimes be rivets in hard to reach places that need to be drilled out.

Also, what kind of paints would I use to paint parts at home? I assume I would need different paint for the metal fender and plastic bumper. Is there a clear coat that I would need to spray on?

The repair was quoted at a local body shop at $950. Wondering if saving the $500 is worth it or am I in for a nightmare.


You can certainly do the body work at home if you have a talent for doing that type of thing. Once the parts are installed and look good on the vehicle (that’s the hard part with bodywork) take the vehicle to a paint shop. New parts can be installed at home but painting the parts will still look like a homemade job especially if you use spray cans. Why ruin a good job with a subpar paint job?



If I do that, shouldn’t I take the parts to be painted before they are installed?

Probably cheaper to have loose parts painted too I would assume.

Maybe…but the parts could get damaged during installation. The main thing is that it’s better to get the parts painted while on the vehicle. The painter will “blend in” the paint so that it’s indistinguishable from the rest of the vehicle paint job. If not…the new parts will stick out like a sore thumb.

+1 to missileman’s post.

On the other hand, if you want the learning experience you can always buy a book on automotive painting, get a compressor, buy some real car paint (not the rattle can stuff) and the spray gun, and have a hand at it yourself before installing the parts. Get some nylon autobody pry bars and take your time and you should be fine. Long term, if you’re mechanically inclined, I guarantee you’ll use the compressor and the nylon tools again and again.

On an 11 year old car, anything to save money. Even of it doesn’t match exactly, it should be fine. Body shops would have to paint adjacent panels to match them regardless.

I’d agree with @dagosa on this. Take the parts to the body shop to be sprayed before installation OR paint them yourself that way. It will make for a better job. Tape the edges with masking tape to protect them during installation. Remove a small part off the car, like a fuel filler door, and have the auto paint store use their laser scanner to match the paint. Its likely faded and you’d like a good match and tell them you are painting a flexible bumper so you get any flex additives they recommend.

Be prepared to find additional damage under those parts, too. If you don’t great, otherwise, get ready to find more parts. Good Luck!

If this were my 11 year old car I would take a shot at replacing the body parts myself and then visit a local Maaco and see what they would charge to spray it. What color? Some colors are easy (like white) some are a bugger, like champagne. I mention this because you may want to spray an area a little bigger with a tough color, to attempt to blend the colors a bit. Replacing panels and body parts like this is somewhat simple (I know it CAN be complicated, this one seems simple), but spraying is an art and can get expensive if you have to shoot it a couple of times while you practice. Auto paint stuff got REALLY EXPENSIVE nowadays. Good luck!C Rocketman

Have a body shop paint the vehicle.

By the time you purchase a compressor/filter/dryer, a respirator, a GOOD paint gun, the tips for the paint gun for the surfacer/sealer/base coat, for the clear coat, the paint, clear coat, catalyst, hardener, fish eye preventer, and the flex agent for the paint for the bumper you’ll have well over a $1000.00 in equipment and supplies just to paint two parts.


Thanks for all of the suggestions.

I’m going to try digging a little more and see if I can find some already painted parts in decent condition. Though it seems all the scrap yards with pulled body parts sand blast and prime them.

Here is a picture of the car: (click on it)

I once got a car for free with rear end damage. The trunk floor where the spare goes was thorn and the rear bumper smashed. I banged the trunk straight and found a matching color bumper from the junkyard (lucky) and bolted in on. This was done on the street/no garage at the time. The color match was perfect since the other car was from the same year.

You can watch youtube videos on roller painting your car with rustoleum paint and such; if your intention is for the car to look good (which seems to be the case), you want a professional to do it. The problem with Maaco is that if they want to color match, it would cost more than the whole spray of the car with their cheaper version.

The only other suggestions would be plastidipping the car or putting one of those vinyl sheets on it (I guess it is called wrapping).

"I’m going to try digging a little more and see if I can find some already painted parts in decent condition."

I thought you already ordered the part. Heck, if you still havent got the part, try hammering out /pulling out the dent, then Bondo/prime/paint in situ.

Certainly the cheapest option…and depending on your personal fastidiousness, likely “close enough” for a 12 y.o. car (If not, you can always order the replacement.)

It’s not just a dent, some of the metal is torn/split (the fender caught on an air compressor backing out of the garage).

White should be easy to match but I’m with the others to let a shop do the painting. I prefer to paint the stuff before assembly. You get a much neater job and no over-spray. Matching would be the only issue but maybe just take the bumper cover off and take that to them too so they can check the color match. Just be careful putting it together and no need to worry about damage. I don’t think the fender will be a big problem but you have to take the splash guards and everything off I believe. Just be careful of the alignment along the door and hood. Of course the light has to come out and there might be some plastic fasteners for the bumper underneath, but otherwise usually just a couple bolts and the whole bumper assembly comes off so you can swap the covers.

Just look around on line for the parts diagrams that shows the fasteners etc.

Most modern cars, the fenders have to have the spot welds drilled out to be removed. The new fender is plug welded into place. Things are no longer bolt together. Then there is paint, primer, clear coat…

Install the body parts yourself, take your time. When the parts are on go to a good paint guy and have the whole car painted. It will look good. OR An excellent paint and body place can paint just a portion and it will be undetectable but it will cost you more.

I should have added that you should not try to paint it yourself. It is tricky, messy, smelly and you need to protect everything while you do that to avoid over-spray, dust, bugs, accidentally touching it with your tools or body. You will need a respirator and weeks for it to dry then clear coat…

I originally suggested perhaps using it as a learning project, but now that I’ve seen the photo I take that back. I’ve done it myself and it’s a great way to learn, but this car deserves a pro. It’s too nice for a self-teaching project. Nice ride.

Oh yeah, I just saw the photo, take it to a pro, Joe! Put some good nylon (NOT duct) tape on that bumper meanwhile so nothing snags it and rips it apart.

Why can’t I view pictures when posted? What am I doing wrong? Could you please post your picture again Demo? I guess I’m technologically challenged. Rocketman