Case of the Faulty Bumper

by G.F.X.

One of my friends recently started customizing his 1993 Mazda RX7 FD3S. Some engine modifications, body work, paint job etc... He ordered a Rotary Extreme 99 style front bumper from (Apparently this style bumper does not have the front license plate holder found in the OEM 99 spec mazda front bumper). After installing it, the garage discovered that it was 0.25 inches too long on each side. He tried to return it and was refused.

When I first heard about this situation from my friend, my first impression was the problem was due to his side. I guess I assumed the guy making a $600 bumper would know what he was doing. My first guesses were:
  • His car had been in a wreck or warped somehow. Although the previous owner claimed otherwise, you never know. This possibility is quickly eliminated by the fact that the original car bumper fits perfectly, and the new OEM bumper he ended up ordered directly from Mazda fits perfectly.
  • He ordered the wrong bumper. Maybe he ordered the bumper for the wrong year of car. I did some internet research to prove to myself that it in fact was a bumper designed for his car model/year.
  • The garage screwed up. I could imagine a scenario where maybe the sides of the bumper were pulled back too tightly caused it to extend 1/4 of inch into the wheelwell. Yeah, people who know things about mounting bumpers laugh at this, but I've never mounted a bumper. Sorry. In any case, it's clear that the top of the bumper lines up with the front of the hood correctly, so this is not the case.
So, none of these were the case. The bottom line is, it's a problem with the bumper.

So now it comes time to confront the seller. When contacted about the faulty bumper, he said he wouldn't take it back because it has been drilled and primed and wasn't in resalable condition. Although it's technically true that it's not in resalable condition, the fact that the bumper is too long in the first place should already put it in the ”not resalable“ category. However, this does not seem to be the case (more on this later).

He also claimed that there's no way for him to know if the problem was caused by the garage or during installation. If the problem at hand was a crack or a scratch or something similar, I might believe this, but to claim that a garage could somehow stretch a urethane bumper uniformly 1/2 an inch is kind of ridiculous. I must admit that I've never actually worked with urethane (all my machining work has been with metal), but it seems to me that stretching it like that would be pretty difficult and require some deliberate actions. Possibly involving a blowtorch. Other people who know more about cars than I find this excuse laughable.

The seller ( contacted the guy who molded it (rotary extreme) said that such faults are within tolerance range and found pictures of others cars where the bumper was too long and they were ok with it. I'm not a body shop guy, but this seems really strange to me. If I rammed my 10-year old Corolla into a tree and saved a little money buying a bumper that didn't quite fit, I'd be willing to accept that. My Corolla is 90% Get-Me-There, 5% Look-Good, 5% Go-Fast. But if I put down $600 for a bumper for a car that's 45% Look-Good, 45% Go-Fast, and 10% Get-Me-There, that bumper better damn well fit perfectly. Even to my untrained eye, the extension into the wheel well detracts from the lines of the car. It seems strange to me that people would be accepting of this.

I can understand where the seller is coming from. He's trying to run a low volume business and doesn't want to have to eat the cost of this item. I believe the core of this debate is ”what is the definition of an acceptable bumper.“ He might believe that 0.25 inches is acceptable. My friend does not. I find it difficult to believe that the seller honestly believes the garage might have caused the problem. I think the ”it's primed and drilled and not in resalable condition“ is a helpful technicality which helped him avoid the real problem. The real issue is the bumper wasn't molded correctly.

I'm not sure what the proper resolution here is. It's not totally rx7store's fault that the bumper is improperly made. It's not my friend's fault that he didn't receive the item he ordered. But as it stands, rx7store just washed their hands off the issue and basically said ”dealing with this issue doesn't maximize our profits and therefore it is easier for us to ignore you.“

There's a few more issues that need to be addressed. To be fair, my friend didn't test fit the bumper. This may or may not be an issue. The bumper manufacturer feels this would have detected the problem, but the body shop says it wouldn't have detected something like that because everything hasn't been tightened yet. This opinion is supported by a couple of other people I've spoken to. But I can't verify this without actually trying it. I can only relate to my experiences machining metal parts for robots. rx7store said that if he had test fit it and found it was too long, my friend could have returned it, having to pay the return shipping as well as a 30% restocking fee.

Sometimes I think about this situation, and I think my friend really screwed up and he just needs to deal with it. Sometimes, I think that he got screwed over pretty hard. I'm biased towards supporting him, but I think it's a tough situation overall.

I think what really bothers me about this situation is the ultimate resolution. I think my friend made a mistake by not test fitting the bumper. However, it's pretty clear to me that the bumper was already messed up when he received it. I think both parties are responsible. However, the manufacturer and seller have completely washed their hands off the situation, instead offering some pretty absurd excuses as to why it's not their problem what-so-ever. And it's not like they only screwed up a little. It's badly molded bumper. That's a pretty major mistake. Frankly, it's a much bigger mistake than the one my friend made by not test fitting.