4WD: Bullbar debate has impact
4WD: Bullbar debate has impact

There are pros and cons to any accessories for your four-wheel-drive but never does one item come under such intense scrutiny as the bullbar.


Whether an opinion is based on aesthetics, functional operation or safety aspects, the lengthy debates could fill volumes.

On the one hand it is logical to express concerns about practical application and fitment in suburban areas given possible impact on pedestrian safety.

But it's also reasonable and rational to have frontal protection when traversing rural roads to enhance occupant safety and vehicle integrity from a wayward animal strike.

Confused? Well you're not alone. To make a long story fit on to this page, there is no simple solution to address the concerns or requirements of every individual across both camps.

Government departments across all States aren't in agreement, let alone the mix of other organisations with vested interests plus a variety of community groups which seek to develop standard guidelines for bullbars.

But there some positives emerging from all of this arguing.

Original and after-market manufacturers take the debate very seriously, and bullbar design has undergone some positive changes since the ugly upright four-poster on granddad's HZ ute.

Early bullbars were a growth attached to the vehicle like a barnacle hanging off a boat hull - integration was unheard of and they looked rather like cow catchers on an old locomotive.

Bullbars now offer a stylish and practical location for mounting your winch, driving lights and communications equipment.

Modern engineering techniques also take into account specific vehicle design, integrated safety systems, intended application and driver requirements.

To get the good oil I asked Bryan McMeikan, from Proex Automotive, what constituted a good bullbar design.

"Strength, the bar must provide protection but it shouldn't compromise vehicle safety," he said. "A good bar design will complement the vehicle, uprights leaning back with sides tapering to the vehicle contour; it must not obscure the driver's vision nor should it extend beyond the vehicle's rudimentary bodywork with no structural straight edges."

These are all important when considering pedestrian safety.

"Correct design will better protect key vehicle components such as the radiator, intercooler, AC evaporator, trans cooler if fitted, the washer bottle and headlights.

"The bar's mounting system has to be carefully engineered to match the characteristics of the vehicle's crash pulse, or crumple zone, to work in conjunction with the vehicle's onboard safety systems."

So should you fit one or not? First, be very clear that you have a need and the bullbar will not be just an expensive frontal ornament that is unwarranted on our suburban streets.

Are you going to be driving out of the city under conditions that may result in an animal strike?

Are you heading off-road on to more than just a gravel track to a winery and maybe into situations where you will need a winch?

If the answer is "yes" then do your homework and talk to all the major players, such as ARB, ECB, Opposite Lock and TJM. Each will have options covering alloy or steel construction worth considering.

Also check with your dealer about concerns they may have with you installing a bullbar under a new-vehicle warranty.

Make sure any bar you fit is guaranteed to retain your parking sensors, cameras, etc. and has been fitted and tested on your specific model.

Check the weight of the bar; what effect will it have on the front suspension, and remember it will add to the overall gross vehicle mass. Check with your insurance company to find out if it has any concerns about what you plan to fit.

Finally, choose the bar best for your vehicle when considering your particular requirements.

The West Australian

Popular videos