4wd Bullbars Explained

4wd-track-4wd Bullbars Explained

Caption: Prado Smart Bar

In this article I am going to cover the different types of bullbars available for your 4wd in order to give you information that you are able to make an informed decision of the type of bullbar most suited to your 4wd and which you would like to purchase and why you need that particular bullbar. Bullbars in recent years are being designed differently so that when contact is made between your 4wds bullbar and an animal or person, they are thrown up over the car instead of being pushed under the 4wd, like the older style of bullbar, which causes less harm to the person or animal you hit. They also have to be developed to incorporate your 4x4’s airbags so they are still deployed at the exact millisecond they are supposed to. Essentially a bullbars main purpose is to protect the car enabling you to be able to drive the car home in the event of minor impact to the front of your vehicle instead of damage being caused to your 4wd meaning you are unable to drive away and in the event of a major incident providing your 4wd and the occupants with the best possible safety available. Safety isn’t the only thing to look out for though as you may be fussy with how it makes your 4wd look as well as mounting points for your other 4wd accessories such as spotlights. There are many things which will affect your decision and you will probably have a different opinion to other people about which bullbar you want in particular and when it comes down to it, you have to be happy with it. Let’s look at the different types of bullbars available for your 4x4 and which one would be most suited to you.

Winch/Steel Bullbars

The first type of bullbar I am going to look at is the winch bar, because here at 4wd life we are into 4wding and like the accessories to go with it. A winch bar is just that…a bar which is strong enough and has the capacity to mount your electric winch on and will not rip off the front of your 4wd when you start pulling yourself out of a deep mud pit. They are designed extra tough to handle the bashing they are going to receive on those hard 4wd tracks so you are less likely to damage your 4wd. The mounting points are extra strong to handle the force of the winch pulling your entire 4wd out of the mud which you thought you could get through, or better yet your mate who you told would make it through! There may be some alloy or aluminium winch bullbars available but the majority of them will be steel and I personally would not go anything else. One thing to look out for though is a steel bullbar is extremely heavy and if your 4wds suspension is already starting to sag you may need to upgrade your 4wd’s suspension to make the installation of a steel bullbar safe. But hey, could be the perfect opportunity to install that lift kit anyway! There are also steel bullbars which are not winch bars, they will be pretty strong and generally will have good recovery points but will not have the capacity to mount a winch on it. ECB bullbars do have a unique mounting system where the winch will mount in a winch cradle attached to your 4wds chassis so there is no excessive pressure on your bullbar itself. Don’t be alarmed though as other winch bars are designed to take the pressure of winching your 4wd out of some of the toughest mud pits and have done so time and time again. I prefer a good quality steel winch bar to protect my 4x4.

Alloy Bullbars

Next up we have the aluminium bullbars, depending on your taste they may look better to you but often alloy bullbars will require you to polish them in order to keep them looking pretty. Aluminium bullbars do have some benefits though. Aluminium bullbars are lighter which means you won’t need to worry about your front suspension and if you are not doing extreme 4wding may be all you need to protect yourself, your passengers, and your 4wd. One thing that I will make you aware of is if you are doing some outback driving and something does happen to go wrong, you will have less chance of finding someone who will be able to weld aluminium as opposed to steel. However I have seen some great looking alloy bullbars and for most 4wders you won’t need to worry about these downsides.

Plastic bullbars

Plastic bullbars such as the smart bar, well each to their own, definitely not my personal choice but they do have some great benefits. When you receive a small knock the bullbar will most times bounce back into its original shape and still look the same it did when you bought it. How would it handle a bigger hit like a roo or similar? Not so sure, and possibly you will have damage to your 4wd even if the bullbar does bounce back into shape. Definitely not for the extreme 4wder, however, these are a great lightweight bullbar that will protect your 4wd around town and if that is all you do, well, buy a normal car will save you a fortune.

Nudge bars

Nudge bars, well, are just that. You are able to leave your existing bumper on your 4wd and the nudge bar will come around the front. They are designed to protect your bumper and your radiator. Protecting the radiator is one of the vital parts of a bullbar as keeping your 4wd radiator intact will enable you to drive home or somewhere help is available without blowing up or doing considerable damage to your 4wds engine, without your radiator you will be in trouble. They don’t protect your entire bumper though and will only protect your 4wd from directly in front. You will still have the steel and aluminium to choose from in the nudge bar range. Has no great other benefits to a 4wder and will probably only be beneficial to you if you happen run up the back of someone, but they are quite popular for around town. There are many different brands and types of bullbars on the market and you will definitely find one that will suit your needs. The right one for you will depend on what you need your bullbar to do for you but here are a few things to consider before the purchase your new bullbar.

  • If your 4wd is fitted with airbags you will need to make sure the bullbar you choose is airbag compliant, there are some great winch bars out there such as millweld customs for patrols but are not airbag compliant so this will affect the GU when driving on the road
  • How old is your suspension? If it is too old you may need to upgrade it to handle a heavy steel bullbar so may affect your final decision
  • Are there good recovery points to fix a snatch strap, or someone else’s winch to
  • Good solid mounting points for spotlights and/or antenna to attach to
  • Will the bullbar affect your approach angle as this is an important aspect to consider if you are a keen 4wder
  • Is it going to restrict airflow to your radiator
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