Modern bumpers have a reinforcing bar covered by a flexible bit of plastic called "thermoplastic olefin," and auto body workers such as Mathew Sukhoo said this plastic easily "shatters" when temperatures dip below -20 C.
"When it’s icy people slide a little bit, they tap a bumper, they crack and you have to change it," he said.
"If it has a small crack you can’t really repair it, you have to change the part."
Mathew’s father Keith said he’s worked on more than 20 cracked bumpers in the last two weeks, including a red Subaru at the time of the interview, which he said would cost the owner about $1,000 to repair.
Ottawa body shop manager Aleks Koundakjian said mirrors, headlights and tail lights are other examples of modern vehicle parts that aren’t built for this record-setting winter with temperatures consistently dropping below -20 C.
"It’s just the nature of the plastic itself," he said. "There’s really nothing you can do about it.”