Whitesburg KY

This Dakota wants a new belt buckle

Dear Tom and Ray:

My rotten Dodge Dakota (2007) came with a PLASTIC front bumper. (I knew body panels were being made of that flimsy substance, but was horrified to find out that so were bumpers.) Now, this is a “work vehicle,” which can be expected to bump into or push things around. But just rolling to a stop in a parking lot and barely touching a wooden post, I heard a sickening “cracking” sound. Drat! I asked our Chrysler dealership if Dodge or Mopar offered an optional steel bumper (they don’t). So, then I checked a local off-road parts house. The best it could come up with was a “Bull Bar,” which is even uglier than one of you guys (no offense). Do you know of anyone who offers a reasonably close to stock, steel front bumper? — Dave

RAY: We don’t.

TOM: But you DO have a steel front bumper, Dave. The plastic is just the bumper cover; it’s there to improve the vehicle’s aerodynamics, and therefore its mileage.

RAY: Underneath that piece of plastic you cracked is a piece of ugly steel that does what it’s supposed to do, structurally, to protect the truck.

TOM: Unfortunately, those plastic bumper covers are easy to break and expensive to fix — as I found out recently when I tried to test the turning radius of a brand-new Acura in an underground parking garage.

RAY: Needless to say, the turning radius was greater than zero, and my brother implemented yet another unplanned exterior redesign.

TOM: Anyway, there were years in which the Dakota came with metal bumpers, so you can check with your local auto-recycling facility (aka junkyard) and ask if the bumper from another year will fit your truck. They’ve got all that information on computer.

RAY: If you can’t find one, then I think you need to go custom. Find a metal fabricator or a custom body shop in your area, and ask it to make you something that will sit in front of the plastic cover, but will attach to the steel bumper itself. You can go chrome, you can go crosshatched, you can have your name etched into it if you like. It’ll be like a gigantic belt buckle for your Dakota.

TOM: Or, here’s an idea: You can have it fitted with raised letters: Y-R-RO S. That way, when you bang into someone else’s plastic bumper cover in a parking lot, you’ll puncture a message right into the bumper that says “Sorry.”

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Bumps and potholes do more than merely annoy drivers. Find out what, and how you can ease the pain, by ordering Tom and Ray’s pamphlet “Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It!” Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Ruin, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

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Get more Click and Clack in their new book, “Ask Click and Clack: Answers from Car Talk.” Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.

(c) 2009 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features

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