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Keystone Automotive in Brainerd is the industry leader in bumper refinishing

For an auto restoration hobbyist or expert, or even for average car owners who want to keep their vehicles looking great, chrome bumpers offer an attractive, eye-catching feature. Bringing heavily damaged and worn chrome bumpers back to original quality is usually beyond an auto owner’s ability. Fortunately, there are trained and experienced craftspersons in this field whose work is nothing short of amazing.

The Keystone Automotive Industries location in Brainerd, Minnesota, leads the industry in bumper repair and restoration. Beginning as North Star Plating in 1968, the Brainerd team has worked on bumpers from autos dating back to the 1920s. From Model A Fords, to 70s muscle cars, to modern trucks, Keystone can return any bumper to a condition exceeding original-equipment standards. The team receives bumpers from all over the United States and as far away as France and Sweden.

Brainerd location General Manager Keith Anderson explains the philosophy behind the way Keystone manages every bumper restoration job. “I want to help our customers fulfill their dream of restore their dream vehicle.

“We want to create works of art, whether it be the bumper or a hood ornament. We are helping the customer restore a piece of history.” When asked what sort of reaction he wants to see when a customer receives their restored chrome auto part, he replies, “I want our customers to feel wowed when they open the package, like when a woman opens a small velvet box and sees a diamond ring.”

Only a handful of chrome restoration companies in the US do this type of work. The skill and care the Brainerd team puts into every assignment is unmatched in the industry. They take pride in the difficult challenges that come with specific parts, using their experience and resources to deliver the best possible results.

For example, one problem with restoring classic and vintage auto bumpers is the presence of non-factory drilled holes. The team at Brainerd overcomes these challenges with a patching technique that completely erases such flaws. Other problems that will disappear through bumper repair and refinishing are rusting, cracks, warps, dents and dings.

A bumper’s journey through the full restoration process is a complex one, with each step accomplished either through the latest technological and mechanical advances or by the skill of an expert with years of hands-on experience. Here’s a breakdown of the attention and care each bumper, bumper tip, and bumper guard receives in Keystone’s “show chrome” process.

Check-in. Photo documentation of each part highlights key areas that must receive special attention, and markings provide specific instructions to restoration experts. Each part also receives a unique job-number stamp to identify it along the process and ensure it is returned to the proper owner upon completion.

Sandblasting removes all oxidized metal from the bumpers.

Straightening. The Brainerd facility stocks bumper templates that help technicians match parts to their exact factory specifications. Specialists use a range of tools, from hydraulic presses to hand-held hammers, to straighten each part.

Stripping. A chemical bath removes the old chrome plating. Technicians then remove the underlying plating by hand.

Patching and polishing. It’s at this point that each bumper receives the most hands-on attention. If a part shows any non-factory drill holes, weak areas, or cracks, the experts at Keystone apply a range of tools and techniques to a return to showroom quality.

Pre-plating. Each bumper receives first a nickel plating layer followed by a copper layer. Technicians sand the parts down to remove any excess material, and painstaking hand-polishing work restores the bumper to a mirror finish.

Racking and chrome plating. It takes skill and knowledge to place each part on the plating racks so it can receive just the right electroplating treatment based on its size and shape. The bumper receives three distinct plating layers: semi-bright nickel, bright nickel, and hexavalent chromium.

Wipe-down, quality check, and packaging. Only after a bumper has been thoroughly inspected, cleaned, and cleared for shipping is it wrapped for return to the customer.

In the rare instance that a chrome bumper is irreparable, the Keystone Brainerd location stocks a number of core bumpers that may provide an adequate replacement. The restoration team can even help with part customization requests and will be happy to work directly with customers on such requests.

Time, weather, accidents, normal wear-and-tear - nothing is a barrier to achieving quality restoration and repair of chrome bumpers for your car or truck. And soon, the Keystone Brainerd facility will be able to restore other auto parts as well, including just about any part.

Keith Anderson and the team at Keystone Automotive’s Brainerd location know how much you care about your classic car or restoration project. You can feel confident that you’ll have quality bumpers on your car when you choose Keystone.