Tow Vehicle Bull Bars
What should I consider when buying a bull bar?
Consideration should be firstly given as to whether a bull bar is necessary for your vehicle. For the majority of travellers who frequent rural areas and off-road tracks it is considered a necessity to counter the possibility of engine damage from an animal strike (eg: hitting a large kangaroo or emu). The other advantage of a bull bar in remote situations, if a winch is incorporated, is that the vehicle can be extracted from a mud bog and prevent you from being stranded.
When selecting a bull bar you should think about what you want to use it for, if it meets Australian Standards (AS 4876.1/ADR 69), whether you wish to add a winch later and if the bull bar is air bag compatible. Make enquiries whether fitting the bull bar will have any effect on air flow to the vehicles radiator or turbo and whether it may affect the vehicle’s crumple zones. Most modern vehicles have crumple zones to cushion the impact of a front-end collision.
The bull bars normally have integrated indicator light and CB or UHF aerial and driving lights fitments. Bear in mind all these accessories add weight to your vehicle and along with dual battery systems and long range fuel tanks can get you close to the GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) See article on GVM
Check your state or territory Department of Transport or Road Transport Authority website as there are often standards to be met to comply with any vehicle modifications and accessories such as those relating to bull bars, roof racks, bike carriers, fishing rod holders, accessory guages, long range radio antennas and DVD screens.
Steel bull bars – are heavier than the alloy or polyethylene/plastic bars. Steel bull bars can be powder coated to match the vehicle, and often come with recessed park/indicator lights, heavy duty aerial tab, T-slot for hi-lift jacks, winch mounts and sump & transmission guards. Weight may be an issue with the addition of winches and lights and a steel bull bar will handle the weight of a winch more than an alloy bar. Winches cannot be mounted to a polyethylene bar.
Polished alloy bull bars can require a lot of polishing to maintain their bright sheen. Another issue with alloy bull bars is they can reflect light back from the driving lights so you may need to place black tape on the rear of the bull bar to prevent this or have it powder coated. On the plus side, alloy bars and polyethylene bull bars don’t rust whereas steel bull bars may if the paint is damaged.
For the family sedan or station wagon a steel bull bar may not be suitable due to its weight so a polymer bull bar or nudge bar may be just what you need.
Polymer bull bars or nudge bars – these are like a plastic bull bar made from materials such as polyethylene and are designed to act like a spring and deflect thereby making them more ‘pedestrian friendly’ with studies showing they ‘may’ offer a pedestrian some degree of protection.
The plastic or polymer is more deformable through careful design utilising low-modulus plastics combined with energy-absorbing polymer foams that are generally injected into the tubes.
For example, Smartbar (Team Poly owned by the Hills Group) have designed an airbag compatible, polyethylene bull bar or frontal protection system (FPS) to protect your vehicle from animal strikes and impacts with other vehicles. The Smartbar is manufactured from polyethylene with a hollow internal structure that provides a cushioning effect that absorbs the impact and minimises the forces that cause injury or damage. The Smartbar springs back to its original shape in all but the most extreme impacts.
The manufacturer states:-
‘Compared to the cost of most aluminium bars smartbar offers an immediate saving, and while some steel bars may initially be cheaper fitting a smartbar soon pays back the investment. Being lighter than metal bars smartbar means both lower fuel consumption and reduced front-end tyre and suspension wear … plus, of course, the vehicle can carry more load.
Most importantly of all however, smartbar’s unique ability to effectively absorb impacts and bounce back in to shape means not only a big reduction in crash damage but a long service life and none of the downtime and expense of replacing damaged metal bars’.
Smartbar have a large range to suit most vehicles and accommodate spotlights, aerial mount, fog lights and parking/indicator lights.
Nudge bars can be made of aluminium, polycarbonate or steel tubing. They are often used on sedans, city based 4WD’s or soft off-roaders.