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What is a bullbar?
So, you’ve just bought a brand new four-wheel-drive, are already planning your first off-road adventure, and the number one option on your vehicle modification list is a tough-looking bullbar. While these bullbars make your vehicle look tough, and can protect against wayward animals and other obstacles, how do you know which bullbar is right for you? Are there any legal issues to look out for? Can you mount your super bright LED light bars to it?
The basic premise of a bullbar is to protect the front of the vehicle from impacts and provide additional mounting points for accessories and lighting. Bullbars are usually secured to the chassis itself and may require cutting of the front bumper bar and front guards to fit properly.
Types of Bullbars
The first thing you need to look at is the suitability of a bullbar on your vehicle. Many four-wheel-drive vehicles will have both genuine and aftermarket bullbars available and all the checks for operation of frontal airbag sensors, radar cruise control and parking sensors will need to be carried out by these manufacturers prior to them offering a suitable bullbar. If there are limited options available for the vehicle you are considering, there may be a reason why.
You also need to consider the legal requirements. These change from state to state, so it’s best to understand these before purchasing that huge bullbar with CB radio aerial and winch. You want to make sure it will be legal to install in your state.
It’s now time to pick a bullbar. There are many different options and styles available, ranging from nudge bars and commercial bars up to deluxe options with additional accessories. The smallest size usually starts with the nudge bar. These are smaller bars that are mounted under the vehicle and extend out to the front grille. They are designed to be a mount for lights and other small accessories and some have provisions for parking sensors to ensure they do not obstruct the factory sensors if fitted. They tend to be chrome-plated or polished alloy but can also come in powder coating to help prevent rusting and scratches.
The next step up from the nudge bar is known as a ‘tradesman’ or ‘commercial’ bull bar. This is more designed for the work ute or commercial vehicle that spends most of its life at the jobsite than out in the bush. These are made with a solid steel construction but without the flashy extras found on more expensive bull bars. They tend to be powder coated in hard wearing black to prevent rust and scratches. They do have provisions for driving lights and aerials if needed, and some recovery points in case you get stranded on that muddy job site.
The most sought after bullbars are known as ‘Deluxe’ or ‘Outback’ bullbars, and come with all the bells and whistles. These bullbars are made from steel and are specifically designed for each vehicle, with the correct mounting points to allow for proper operation of all safety standard equipment. They have provisions for a winch, driving lights, fog lights, radio antennas and protective underbody panels, and can be ordered in the body colour of your vehicle or in black powder coating.
Reasons for installing a Bullbar
The main reason for fitting up a bullbar is pretty obvious - to help protect the vital engine components at the front of the vehicle against animal strikes and other frontal impacts when you are out in the bush. They also provide the perfect place to mount accessories and equipment to the front of the vehicle and allow for underbody protection to be fitted up to protect the engine sump, transmission and other sensitive components from damage when driving off road.
Who can install Bullbars?
While you may be able to fit a bullbar as a DIY option, it can be very difficult to get everything lined up, not to mention cutting the bumper bar and body panels. A professional installation will take care of all this, as well as wiring up any extra driving lights or the winch as needed. This work will be covered by a warranty, so if anything should go wrong, taking it back to the installer will have it rectified in no time. The same can’t be said for the DIY option.
Most installers work out of dedicated workshops designed for fitting bullbars and other four-wheel-drive components. However, some workshops provide a mobile service to have the work carried out at your workplace or home.
Things to consider when installing bullbars
The main thing to consider is whether you really need that fully loaded bullbar with driving lights and winch if your vehicle never goes further than the local school drop off? Loading up the front of your vehicle with extra weight may require changes to suspension and the vehicle's cooling system if the bullbar blocks off the factory air intakes.
Added weight will also increase your fuel consumption. The other thing to consider is the legal ramifications of fitting the bullbar and accessories. There are certain rules that need to be followed to ensure your vehicle is legal for operation in your chosen state.
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