A bull bar is a vital component that performs several functions. While it is primarily used for protecting your vehicle during off-road adventures, in the event of animal strikes or others, they are used as mounting platforms for accessories like driving lights, antennas, and light bars.
Now, with these many uses, it surely deserves your complete attention while making a purchase. It can be tempting to prioritise aesthetics over functionality and choose one that only makes your vehicle look good. However, there are other characteristics to consider, as well:
Narrow down your search for the best bull bar by determining your preferred material. These bars are typically available in plastic, steel, and aluminium, with each material serving different purposes and offering various benefits.
Steel has often been termed as a king of all materials when it comes to manufacturing these bars. You’ll find that most people prefer steel bars, thanks to their ability to withstand strikes without sustaining damage. Being low on maintenance is another factor why users mostly prefer steel. Apart from an occasional wash, you’ll need little effort for their upkeep.
Steel bars are also cheaper and easily repairable than bars made from aluminium. However, steel is the heaviest among all the three materials and weighs nearly 30 per cent more than its aluminium counterpart. Don’t be surprised to find bars that weigh anywhere between 40 to 100 kg, based on the bar and vehicle type.
Also, note that not all steel bars are created equal. While some are available with more folds and better designs that add to bar strength, others are made from high-grade, thicker materials. Essentially, it boils down to getting what you pay for.
While aluminium bars look weak against steel, they have the advantage of being significantly lighter. This translates to having less effect on vehicle handling and wear and tear of suspension and tyres. They are also corrosion-resistant and come in a polished finish. Some aluminium bars manufacturers use a combination of intricate shapes and alloy grades to achieve the near-strength of steel bars.
Nevertheless, many are not enthusiastic about choosing aluminium as a preferred bar material due to its high off-the-shelf cost and lower tensile strength. The polish may also lose its shine upon being exposed to the elements.
Plastic is the lightest of all the materials and hence the weakest. However, in the case of minor collisions, plastic bars return to their original shape with ease. They are also resistant to corrosion and make an ideal choice when driving in an urban environment.
Vehicles with airbags must have a bull bar with a compatible airbag mounting system. You can find this information from manufacturers who often mention these models as airbag-compatible. It is also likely that your vehicle includes safety features like radar cruise control, parking sensors, lane departure warnings, and emergency braking systems. In this case, ensure that your bar is compatible with the safety features as well.
The styles depend on your vehicle’s model and can vary from one brand to another. However, here is a general guide on the available bar styles:
- Single Hoop: They have a single hoop over your vehicle’s radiator attached to the bumper section. They offer a good compromise between front-end protection and weight.
- Bumper Bar: This is the most basic front-end protection and offers improved safety over the stock fender.
- Triple Hoop: This type of bars weigh the most while offering maximum protection. A triple hoop bar is a must when you are travelling in an animal strike prone zone.
Although every bull bar appears the same, they have many subtle differences like jack points, styling, weight, etc. Hence, make the purchase only if you are 100% confident about the bar’s capability of protecting you.