Stock bumpers offer little protection for the engine innards or the chassis. Having that in mind, equipping the front of your truck with better protection is always a good idea. This is where bull bars come into play. These popular car accessories have caught the attention of off-roaders more and more especially over the last couple of years.
So should you actually even care about these 4×4 accessories and equip your 4WD with a bull bar? – To have a safe off-roading adventure, you have to make sure that your vehicle is properly equipped and up for the task. A part of this includes having all the right equipment. If you own a 4 wheel drive and find yourself off-roading regularly, then bullbars might be something to consider.
What is a Bullbar?
Bullbars are metal bars that are easy to install and provide more than enough protection. A bullbar keeps everything in the engine compartment safe too. So with that said, you should equip your 4WD with a bullbar to keep your 4×4 safe from excessive damage.
Bullbars also come with brackets installed on the frame which act as mounting points. This is where a lot of 4WD equipment, including driving lamps, winches, lighting bars, and antennas, can be mounted.
With that said, when picking a bullbar for your vehicle, think about where you’ll be driving it, what kind of driving you’ll be doing, and how much additional off-road gear you’ll be carrying. You’ll want a bullbar that is both well constructed and engineered, as well as one that is compatible with your vehicle’s safety systems.
What Are Bull Bars Made of?
The majority of bullbars are composed of stainless steel or aluminum. Usually, the tubing is wide and thick enough to survive minor collisions without visible damage but those proportions depend on the type of bullbar you’ll be getting.
Bullbars come with coatings too which do not only look better but also allow the bullbar to survive for longer, especially in rainy and dusty environments. All of the connecting brackets of bullbars are constructed from the same durable materials too.
The Advantages of Having a 4WD Bullbar
Bullbars are by far the most flexible and practical off-road accessories. With that being said, they give you plenty of advantages, especially when encountering fierce off-road trails.
One quite useful advantage bullbars offer from the stock bumper are recovery points. This means if you have your 4×4 stuck in the middle of nowhere you can easily get it out from a hole. Winching your vehicle doesn’t get easier with the usually plentiful recovery points found on bullbars.
Improve Approach Angle
Improving the approach angle of your vehicle is always a welcomed benefit and also one that every bullbar offers. A better approach angle means the body of your vehicle won’t get in contact with the terrain you’re driving on.
The only thing that will get in contact with the terrain is the bullbar. This way you can avoid damaging the sides close to the front grille.
The Ability to Put Accessories on it
Alongside recovery points, bullbars also have mounting points for accessories. You can mount accessories such as lights, UHF antennas, sand flags, and more.
Protection From Animal Collision
The main reason why people get a bullbar and why you should get one for your 4X4 is protection from animal collisions. This level of protection is going to be needed especially if you’re going driving in the wild at night. You’re better off damaging your bullbar instead of the radiator or other nearby components.
But even if protection from animal collisions isn’t something that you need or care about, having you and your vehicle safe from non-moving objects is well important too. With a bullbar, you definitely get this type of protection. This makes the body of your 4×4 safe from trees, rocks, and high containment curbs.
While looks aren’t something you’ll be as concerned about when off-roading you can still make your 4×4 look like a mean machine. This will depend on the style of bullbar you go for which there are plenty to choose from.
Different Styles of Bull Bars
Single Hoop vs Triple Hoop Bullbar
The most common debate in the bullbar world is whether or not to get a single or a triple hoop bar. A single hoop bar is one that has one tube going over the front grille. Triple hoop bullbars have two additional tubes going over each headlight thus offering more protection and a more eye-catching design.
A Baja bar is similar to a bumper bar when it comes to looks. The simple design of a Baja bar offers more protection though since they come with added reinforcement into the chassis of the vehicle. Baja bars can also be used with high-power winches and in off-road competitions.
Talking about off-road competitions, if you want to take part in one it’s best that you do so with a competition bullbar. You should equip your 4WD with a bullbar of this type as it can be easily removed when it gets damaged and because they offer maximum ground clearance too.
A nudge bar is a sort of bullbar that is made to sustain light impacts. Nudge bars are mainly installed because of their aesthetic appeal. They are also easy to install as you don’t need to mount them onto the chassis of your 4×4.
Things You Need to Consider Before Buying 4WD Nudge Bars for Your Vehicle
The most important thing you should consider when it comes to buying a bullbar is its shape and size. These two factors will determine the fit of the bullbar which should make your bullbar fit perfectly on the front of your 4×4.
There should be no wobble or gaps once the bullbar is installed. No matter how well it protects the front or how good it looks on your 4×4 if a bullbar isn’t fitted well it can pose an even greater danger than not having one at all.
Overall Aesthetics & Build Quality
Once you’ve found a bullbar that fits your vehicle you should then look at how good it looks and how well it keeps your vehicle protected from frontal impacts. While the former is more of a personal preference the latter boils down to the material the bullbar is made of.
Buying an OEM Compliant Bullbar- 10 Things You Should Consider Before Choosing the Right One for You
1. Are Rated Tow Points Included?
While you might think that rated tow points might not be an important addition to your bullbar you might want to think again. You see, even if you never need to use the tow points on a bullbar to get your bogged down vehicle on a safe patch of land you might want to do it for a friend.
Your friend might be in a need of recovery and you can use your vehicle to get them out on the road again. If not for you, then get a bullbar with recovery points for someone else as you might never know when you’ll need to help someone that’s stuck on a muddy road.
Remember, a bullbar is way better with recovery points than without them.
2. Are High-Lift Jack Points Included?
While most bullbars come with high-lift jack points it’s always a good idea to check with the manufacturer if the bullbar you’re after has them. Usually, you’ll find high-lift jack points near the bottom of the bar’s front face.
3. How Does a Bull Bar Affect My Approach Angles When Off-Roading?
A bullbar has quite the impact on your approach angles so you must first know the areas you’ll be driving the most. For example, if you’re driving mostly in rural areas and won’t be doing any off-roading adventures you may want to go for a bullbar that hangs lower down.
Otherwise, go for a bullbar that is installed higher up.
4. How Does the Bull Bar Work with the Vehicle’s Electronics and Engine Bay?
It’s important to always check if a bullbar is compliant with your vehicle’s electronics as well as engine bay since, especially vehicle electronics, are known to change frequently.
The engine bay may stay the same for some time but it can change too since vehicle electronics are changing almost all the time. Make sure the manufacturer you’re getting the bullbar from has made it to work with your exact car model especially if it’s a new one.
5. What Happens If You Damage Your Bull Bar?
The repair process is definitely inevitable when you damage your bullbar but how much of it you’ll have to repair depends on the impact it has sustained. You might need a completely new bullbar or you might just need to pop some parts back into place.
6. Which Bullbar Material to Choose?
6.1 Stainless Steel
One big advantage of stainless steel bullbars is that they are extremely strong. You should equip your 4WD with a bullbar made of steel if you want the utmost frontal protection. But do keep in mind that steel bullbars are quite heavy which can affect fuel economy.
Steel bullbars are more affordable than aluminum ones though – more about them in a bit.
The cheapest option you have when it comes to bullbar materials is plastic. Plastic bullbars are made more for aesthetics as they provide protection from the lightest of impacts.
If you’re driving mostly in areas prone to animal strikes you should avoid getting a plastic bullbar. A plastic bullbar is the lightest and thus it affects fuel consumption the least. You can also replace a plastic bullbar a lot easier than a stainless steel one.
With an aluminum bullbar, you can expect a good level of protection without adding a lot of weight to your 4×4. You should equip your 4WD with a bullbar made of aluminum if you want the best from both worlds – solid protection and good fuel economy.
With aluminum bullbars, you also get corrosion-resistant 4WD accessories since aluminum has a naturally occurring protective layer. You won’t have to ever worry about a muddy terrain or rainfall affecting the integrity of your aluminum bullbar.
7. Are Bullbars Legal in the States?
Yes, they are, just keep in mind that in several countries license plates must be moved from the body of your vehicle to the bullbar. As of 2018, all states allow the installation of aftermarket bullbars.
8. Will the Bullbar Weight Affect Handling?
Typically, if you choose to modify your truck with a brand new bullbar, due to the increased weight on the front axle you should expect a decrease in the ability to handle your vehicle.
Because of this, you might want to consider upgrading your standard suspension too, so it is able to carry the additional weight added by the bullbar. It is definitely not recommended to have all this extra weight on your truck if there is no proper support for it.
9. Will Installing a Bullbar Affect Your Fuel Economy?
Yes, it will slightly increase the fuel consumption of your 4×4 but that’s going to depend largely on the material the bullbar is made of. While aluminum bars are not as robust as steel bars, they do offer the advantage of being much lighter.
This means they won’t affect your fuel efficiency as much and your vehicle’s handling. They also won’t wear out other components such as tires and suspension.
10. What Maintenance Is Needed for Your Bullbar?
Bullbars would take home the gold if there was an award for “the dirtiest modification” on a 4×4. A bullbar is always dirty, even if you aren’t traveling far or tearing through some challenging off-road terrain. Thankfully though, cleaning bull bars is a simple procedure.
This is done with the help of some cheap but at the same time effective metal polish products such as Autosol. This product removes corrosion, tarnish, and discoloration from chrome-plated items, brightwork, and aluminum.
Autosol is also able to restore and polish metal parts to a brilliant finish, protecting them against corrosion and the formation of tarnish.
There you go, bullbars are definitely worth investing in as they keep both you and your vehicle safe from not only impacts but future expenses too. You are better off spending both time and money on either repairing or replacing a bullbar than on replacing engine bay components.
Keep in mind that different bullbars, like vehicles, have their good and bad sides. Just remember to get a bullbar that will satisfy your needs and the needs of your vehicle and you’ll be fine.