Have you ever looked at your clean car and noticed the bumper color doesn’t perfectly match the panels next to it? There may not be a big difference but typically, it is not a perfect match. Why is that? There are a few reasons you may notice a color or slight tonal difference. This is not something that occurs only with a repair or repaint, as cars come directly from the assembly line with the color difference. Some colors are more obvious than others.
The Manufacturing Process
When vehicles are built, the metal components are painted at a different time than the plastic parts, oftentimes even in a different facility. A combination of things happens during this process. Cars are made of multiple materials, such as metals and plastics. Most painted bumpers are made of plastic. Paint will lay different on each material creating a slight color variation simply because they are different surfaces.
Another consideration is the equipment, the sprayer for metal could be different than the sprayer for plastic. When the product comes out of the sprayer in a different pattern or rate, this could create the smallest difference as well. Another consideration with different materials being painted is the curation (drying) period. If one takes longer to cure than the other, the paint product has more time to shift and settle creating a different look. The small “flecks” can lay and settle in a different manner resulting in a slightly different appearance.
Colors are Complicated
When painting, all parties are working with the same paint code supplied by the original manufacturer. This code is specific to the color on the car. During production when the cars are being manufactured, this code is used to mix the paint that is sprayed. Keep in mind this code is used but the paint is mixed and sprayed in different assembly lines or even different plants, so the color can vary slightly.
In an aftermarket auto painting situation, such as during repairs or replacement of parts, the body shop will use the code as a starting point to mix the color. They may spray a test color and see it doesn’t match the vehicle perfectly, so they begin to alter it from the given code to get the final match. Some colors are more obvious than others; metallic may be more noticeable than a solid color.
Lighting Affects Perception
Lighting and panel shapes come into play, too. If you look at your vehicle in different lighting the color of the entire car can look different. More specifically, the color difference between the bumper and the rest of the vehicle. In sunlight, you will see the full beauty of your car’s color. The color differences will also be more noticeable. The color will look different when overcast or in a garage. Even the type of indoor lighting can change the look. Bumpers are curved panels in a “U” shape, having the added curves that flatter shaped metal panels don’t have will also change the appearance of colors and shades.
As you’ve read, there are multiple reasons why your bumpers may not match the rest of your car. Don’t worry, this is totally normal, even on brand new vehicles.