Whether you’re planning on venturing off-road with your 4×4 or touring Australia with your caravan, the bull bar is one of the first accessories you want to equip your vehicle with. Bullbars are arguably the most sought-after four wheel accessories, as they offer essential protection for your vehicle’s front end against collision with animals, when passing through high vegetation and other obstacles you’ll frequently come across while off the beaten track.
Even though they’re pretty straightforward accessories, buying the right one requires a lot of consideration. Bullbars can be made from a variety of materials, they come in different styles and a range of features. Here’s what to have in mind when checking out a four wheel accessories store for the right bull bar.
Bull Bar Materials
The first thing you need to decide on is the material the bull bar is made from. The most popular materials are steel, aluminium and plastic, and each of them has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, and serves a different purpose.
Steel is by far the most popular bull bar material ever since bull bars were invented, and for all the right reasons. Steel is strong and durable and can withstand animal strikes without taking any damage. This makes it ideal for people who will be driving off the road and on rural highways in peak ‘roo time. Steel bull bars require little to no maintenance, and all you’ll have to do is wash them occasionally. Additionally, they are more affordable than aluminium. Their only downside is that they are by far the heaviest material, which can hurt your fuel economy.
Aluminium bull bars are quickly catching up to steel, as they’re comparable in terms of strength and durability. But aluminium has the added benefit of weighing significantly less than steel. Most aluminium bull bars are polished for improved appeal, but they do require more maintenance than steel bull bars. On the downside, aluminium is more expensive than steel. But the good news is that it doesn’t hurt your fuel economy as much due to its lighter weight.
Plastic bull bars are a recent contender on the market, and they’re the lightest option out of all three. But, they’re also the weakest. These bull bars are mainly used to improve your vehicle’s aesthetic appeal, and they’re fairly easy to bend or push in the event of a collision. However, they can lessen the impact on pedestrians, making them a safer choice for use in the urban environment.
Bull Bar Styles
Once you’ve decided on the material, it’s time to choose the style of bull bar you want. As is with most four wheel accessories, bull bar styles can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and on the type of 4×4 you have. However, most bull bars can be categorised in a few basic groups:
- Bumper Bars – These are the most basic type of bull bar and provide the least amount of protection;
- Single Hoop Bars – These bull bars feature a single hoop over the radiator that’s attached to the bumper section. Additionally, they provide a decent balance between protection and weight;
- Triple Hoop Bars – These bull bars provide the most protection, but also weight the most. If you need some heavy-duty protection when riding in ‘roo strike prone areas, this is your best choice;
- Nudge Bars – As their name suggests, these bars are designed for aesthetic purposes and light impact. They aren’t mounted to the chassis like conventional bull bars, so they aren’t suitable for withstanding a lot of impacts;
- Baja Bars – These are similar to bumper bars, except they also feature extra reinforcement into the chassis, allowing them to be used with high-power winches. Baja bars are designed for off-road use exclusively.
Features and Other Considerations
The design of the bull bar and its features will impact what your 4×4 can and can’t do. That being said, there are a few considerations you’ll need to take into account when searching for the best one.
The build quality and aesthetics are an obvious consideration. It’s important to choose a bull bar that’s well-built, enhances and accentuates the look of your 4×4. When I say well-built, I mean a bull bar that’s made of high-quality materials and features quality bends and welds.
Additionally, you want the bull bar to be as close to the vehicle and as high as possible so that it improves the approach angle of your vehicle when off-roading. There are bull bar models that hang low, which isn’t ideal when venturing off the beaten trail, as they’ll scrape and get damaged.
Next, consider whether the bull bar you’re looking at includes high-lift jack points. While most bull bars do have them, there are some models that don’t, so it’s best you talk to the manufacturer or retailer and see whether the bull bar you’re considering includes them or not. High-lift jack points make it much safer and easier to use hi lift jacks if you need to change a tyre or recover your vehicle. While you’re at it, you should also consider getting investing in hi lift jacks to have peace of mind you can get yourself out of virtually any sticky situation.
Moreover, consider whether the bull bar features rated tow points. A rated tow point is the best feature a bull bar can have, not only because it’s a functional feature, but because it means that the bull bar was inspected a third-party engineering company and given a rating.
And lastly, you have to consider whether the bull bar is ADR compliant. ADR compliance is crucial, as it’s what makes the bull bar “legal”. ADR refers to the form and shape of the bull bar and its ability to absorb impact. The bull bar shouldn’t feature forward-facing bars, sharp edges or protrusions, and block headlights. The airbags should also deploy in the event of a collision. These standards are mostly in place for pedestrian safety, as if you hit someone with the bull bar, you don’t want to push them under your vehicle and run them over, but instead push them onto the bonnet.