When you talk to an off-roader about how to turn your 4WD into an off-road machine, they’d probably tell you to get a bull bar. But what are they? How do you install them? And how much do they cost?
This article is dedicated to giving you a run-down on bull bars. We will discuss their benefits, the installation process, and the things you should consider when buying one.
But first, what is the purpose of a bull bar?
What Are Bull Bars?
A bull bar is a steel or aluminium device fitted to the front of the vehicle to protect it from a collision.
It is called a bull bar (or a nudge bar or even a roo bar here in Australia) because its primary function is to protect the vehicle from collision against large animals like bull, cattle and kangaroos.
Bullbars are popular amongst 4WD enthusiasts because they offer protection against anything the car may collide with. In addition, some bull bars serve as an attachment for winches, fog lights, and some bash plates which are needed for off-roading.
Contrary to what many believe, not all bull bars are designed to have recovery points. Meaning, you shouldn’t attach ropes to the bull bar when recovering a vehicle if not stated in its features.
Several videos on Youtube show what could happen if you pull a vehicle from its bull bar.
So what are the benefits of bull bars and why are they useful when four wheel driving?
Benefits Of Using Bull Bars
Here are some of the benefits of having a bull bar:
- Reduces impact from the collision
- Protects the front of the vehicle from damage
- Serves as an attachment for the winch, LED lights, and antennas
- Protects your vehicle from debris
- Gives your vehicle a ‘tough’ look
Bull bars were previously considered unsafe because they interfered with the airbags, your vehicle’s anti-crash technology, and made the car’s crumple zones ineffective.
However, modern bull bars went through many advancements in engineering and technology.
New aftermarket bull bars are now capable of integrating with your car’s technology like emergency braking systems and airbags.
In addition, some bull bars are designed to slide back and crumple the way a vehicle should in case of impact while still offering solid protection.
How Much Do Bull Bars Usually Cost?
A good bull bar costs around $1,000 to $2,500, even more, depending on the material used, brand, and the level of technology and engineering.
Be careful when buying cheap aftermarket bull bars. They may not be airbag compatible, which could lead to injuries or even fatalities in the event of an accident.
How To Install A Bull Bar?
Installing bull bars can sometimes be complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing. But here’s a step-by-step guide to help you install a bull bar with ease.
For a video explanation, check out this video which focuses on the installation process for a Toyota Hilux, but which is a useful starting point for any vehicle.
For this process, all you’ll need is a ratchet set and a shifting spanner.
Step 1: Remove the grill and the bumper
Remove the plugs and screws at the top and bottom of the grill. Then, remove the bumper by undoing the plugs on each side.
You’ll have to unplug the wiring attached to the bumpers. Remember, do not cut the wiring. Instead, unplug it from the source of the attachment.
You also have to remove the trim between the headlights and the wheel by undoing it using an appropriate tool.
Your car should now have an exposed front with only the headlights on.
Step 2: Remove the beam across the bottom
Once stripped of the grill and bumper, you’ll see a long steel beam across the bottom of the vehicle.
Remove it by undoing the nuts, exposing the two protruding metal arms where the bull bar’s brackets will be attached.
Step 3: Install the brackets
Install the large brackets into the protruding arms. Then, install the supporting brackets on both sides.
Tip: don’t tighten up the nuts until you’ve installed all the brackets. This will give you room for adjustments as you install the other parts.
Once all the brackets are in place, check if they are aligned before tightening the nuts and bolts using your spanner.
Step 4: Install the bull bar
For this step, you may need to call out some friends or family to help since bull bars can be very heavy.
First, align the bull bar onto its mounting points in the bracket that you installed in the previous step.
Then, loosely put all the nuts in place to hold the bull bar. This will give you room to adjust and centre the bull bar.
Once you’re happy with its positioning, tighten all the nuts and make sure it's stable. You can also give it a few shakes just to test it.
Step 5: Finish up
Reinstall the front grill, add the lining, and install the lighting on your bull bar by connecting the wiring to the vehicle.
Be sure to zip tie the excess wiring so that it doesn’t cause any problems later on.
Depending on the model of your bull bar, you may have to install the underside dust plate by bolting it to the underside of the bull bar.
Don’t forget to reinstall the licence plates and any compliance stickers to avoid issues with the law. After that, you’re all done.
A few things to be careful of:
- Bull bars can be very heavy (50-90kg), be sure you have a couple of people to help you with the installation.
- Take extra care to avoid scratching your vehicle when mounting the bull bar.
- When you’re finished, be sure to check if the bull bar is stable. The last thing you want is for it to fall off while you’re off-roading!
Things To Consider When Buying a Bull Bar
Buying a bull bar isn’t simply choosing one that looks good and installing it to your vehicle.
There is a lot to think about to make sure your bull bar suits your vehicle, your budget, and the activities you’re planning on doing with it.
Here are a few things that you need to consider when buying a bull bar.
When it comes to the material, your primary choice is between steel and aluminium bull bars.
Steel bull bars are generally stronger and look tougher than aluminium bull bars. However, they are much heavier than their aluminium counterpart.
This is the popular option amongst off-roaders due to its strength, versatility, and compatibility with winches and other add-ons.
Steel bull bars are also easier to fix in case of a collision. However, they are usually very heavy and can sometimes require suspension upgrades.
Aluminium bull bars, on the other hand, are usually seen as chrome, shiny bars. They are lighter and rustproof making them the perfect bull bar for cross-country overland travelling and beach driving.
They protect the front of the car from an animal collision without adding unnecessary weight.
Aluminium bull bars aren’t very popular in the off-roading scene because they offer less protection and are harder to fix than their steel counterparts.
You also need to check the compatibility of your bull bars. Especially if you’re driving newer 4WD vehicles.
Make sure your bull bars are airbag compatible and work seamlessly with your vehicle’s modern technology like the emergency braking system.
Also, if you’re planning on tackling difficult trails or crossing rivers, be sure your bull bar is compatible with winches, which are devices used to pull out a stuck vehicle.
Vehicle Make & Model
Before purchasing a bull bar, make sure that the bull bar fits your vehicle. What you don’t want to do is make modifications to an incompatible bull bar just to make it fit your vehicle.
Here's some bull bar buying guides specific to popular 4x4 models in Australia:
And of course, in choosing a bull bar you need to consider your budget.
Some fancier bull bars with lots of new technologies and add ons can cost upwards of $2,000. This is common for bull bars that integrate with the technologies of newer vehicles.
While simple bull bars that are designed only to provide protection will cost somewhere around $1,500.
Be sure that you stay within your budget by not buying more than you need.
Although its main purpose is to protect you and your vehicle from animal collisions, a bull bar is an essential add-on for those who participate in serious off-roading activities like rock crawling and river crossings.
Not only does iit protect your vehicle from the unavoidable dangers of off-roading, but it also completes the look of your 4WD.
Installing a bull bar can be hard for those who aren’t used to fixing vehicles, however, the steps provided above along with some instructional videos are a good starting point. You can always take the mechanic to a professional and ask them to fit it for you if you aren’t sure.
Still have questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to get back to you!
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Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.