A good 4wd vehicle or Ute is pretty tough, but there are a few places you’re much better off getting dinged. The most important of these is the front, because lots of useful stuff is in there. Driving at night with a few busted lights isn’t much fun. Trying to get home with a smashed radiator is even less. Unfortunately this vulnerable part of your wagon is also the one that’s most likely to hit stuff. Unexpected rocks, branches and even animals can all put a big dent in the front end, and that’s not good news. Most of us are pretty careful not to run into stuff but sadly stuff sometimes runs into us. No matter how hard you try to avoid it there’s always a risk of hitting an animal, and that can leave you stranded miles from anywhere. It’s best to equip your vehicle to survive these unfortunate encounters. There’s not much you can do about drop bears of course, but a good set of bullbars can keep you mobile if a roo bounds out in front of you without warning.
Bullbars beat your standard bumper in several ways. They protect more of the front area of your vehicle, including the vital radiator and lights. They tend to direct any animal – or even person – you hit upwards onto the bonnet, rather than running them down, which can seriously reduce injuries to them and damage to you. They also make great mounting points for other accessories, like lights, and if they’re set up right even make a good platform for a winch.
Bullbars have had some bad publicity in the past, but if you go for a good modern set they’re very safe for you and everyone else. If you’re looking at adding some there are a few decisions you need to make though. The most important is probably the material they’re made of. There are three main choices here – steel, alloy or the new polyethylene Smart Bars.
Alloy bullbars are light and strong, but not quite as tough as steel. They’re easy to drill if you want to fit custom brackets or other accessories and they come with a range of tough anodised colour finishes as well as more standard powder coats. It can be a bit tricky to repaint them if they get scuffed up or you just fancy a change of colour, but on the other hand they’re pretty much immune to corrosion. Alloy bars aren’t a good choice if you’re looking at fitting a winch though.
Steel bars are heavier than alloy but they’re also a lot stronger. In fact if you want tough it’s hard to beat steel. It’s a bit harder to modify steel bars but if you fit any lights or other gear to them you’ll have a rock solid mounting. If the bars are attached to properly rated mounting points and have the right brackets you can also fit a winch no problems. If you’re after outstandingly strong bullbars at an affordable price steel could be just the thing for you.
A new option on the market is Smart Bars. These are Australian made from roto-moulded polyethylene and they’re available for a range of popular vehicles. Because they’re plastic they come in a variety of colours, which shouldn’t fade and definitely won’t get scraped off. The bars are also highly resistant to damage – tests have shown that unless you actually break them they just spring back into shape instead of bending or denting. Some models also have built-in winch mounting brackets, although obviously these are steel.
Bullbars can be a great addition to your vehicle, so if you fancy a set just work out what you want to do with them and take it from there. Each type has its advantages. If you want the ultimate strength and versatility steel is hard to beat, but Smart Bars are definitely one to watch and alloy has a lot of good points too.