Protecting your 4WD vehicle should always be your top priority. So, installing protective gear like bull bars and rear bars makes sense not only to for your vehicle but for your safety as well. The majority of 4WDs have stock plastic rear bumpers that can’t even withstand a slight bump. When they collide with solid structures like trees or rocks, they will easily be squashed.
What is a rear bar? A rear bar is very similar to a bull bar but it is placed on the rear instead. They are made of steel and covers the rear of your 4WD to protect the body and accommodate spare tyres or other accessories.
Now that you know its purpose, here are the other things that you should know about rear bars…
Why Should I Install A Rear Bar?
Rear bars are installed by many people for these reasons:
- Higher clearance and departure angle: Driving over something that is slightly taller than your vehicle cause a lot of damage. It can rip the bumper and dent the rear panel which is a hassle especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere. When you decide to install a rear bar, all plastic bumpers are removed so the clearance at the rear will increase. This gives you a better departure angle that can lessen the potential damage to your vehicle.
- Protects the rear quarter panels: The material of the rear bar (stainless steel) can absorb the brunt of the force during an impact which will leave your vehicle unscathed. Without it, you will have to spend a lot of money to repair the damage.
- Improves load distribution for towing: Tow bars are not enough to distribute the weight of the trailer and your vehicle evenly. Rear bars compensate for the lower weight of your vehicle which makes towing easier.
- It can be used as a base for accessories: With a rear bar, you can attack swinging tyre carriers, holders (for jerry cans, high lift jacks, and shovels), tables, and lights among others.
What Are the Disadvantages of Installing A Rear Bar?
These are the disadvantages of adding rear bars in vehicles:
- Weight: Obviously, rear bars and the accessories that you will attach to them will weigh on your vehicle. Most 4WD vehicles have a payload that ranges between 500-1500 kg. This is the maximum weight that you can add to your vehicle and exceeding it is illegal to drive on the road. Meanwhile, most steel rear bars weigh around 50-75 kg (and the bull bar) which will add more weight for your vehicle to carry. You will also need to factor in the water tanks, fridges, and other equipment and supplies that you will be bringing with you on your trip.
- Cost: Rear bars don’t come cheap. On top of the market are Kaymar rear bars that offer the best quality while also costing a fortune. Even entry-level rear bars with twin tyre carriers, you will need to shell out about $2000.
- Will limit the accessibility of the door: Getting into the rear of your vehicle may require you to open the tyre carrier every time. While it might be considered nit-picking, it still is quite annoying. However, you can potentially get used to it given enough time.
What Are the Things to Look for In A Rear Bar?
There are a lot of reasons why you should purchase a rear bar. However, these two questions will help you to choose the right one:
- How much side coverage does it provide?
- How far forward does the bar reach?
If your main goal is to save on storage space, then you’ll be covered with a strong, functional yet inexpensive rear bar. However, if the rear bar only covers 150 mm at most, it might not be enough if you want to go to 4WD tracks. Most rear bars with this shortcoming will not protect against damage to the quarter panel and rear tyre area of your vehicle. In addition, if the said rear bar also lacks side supports, then you SHOULDN’T purchase it if you want to go off-road.
For the sides, make sure that the rear bar sticks at least 20 mm on both sides of your vehicle. This protects your vehicle when it slides into a rut. Instead of your vehicle taking damage, the rear bar will take the hit sparing your expensive panel work.
What Accessories Are Available for Rear Bars?
Most people use their rear bar as a base for swinging tyre carriers. Only one tyre can usually fit but some hardcore 4WD enthusiasts attach two which is great when travelling to remote areas. This device makes carrying spare tyres easier because you won’t have to waste precious space inside your vehicle. Other people also install jerry can holders on their rear bars. The purpose of the said device is to hold water or fuel for long journeys. However, storing fuel in jerry cans are illegal in all states in Australia, so your jerry cans will be limited for water storage.
Aside from the abovementioned accessories, work lights can also be attached to rear bars. You can also carry shovels and high lift jacks on the same accessory (swinging tyre carriers) that carries tyres. Still, some people are ingenious enough to use their rear bars to attach folding tables. It may require a bit more work but it’s worth it because you’ll save space.
What Brand of Rear Bar Should I Get?
In Australia, there are a lot of brands that manufacture rear bars. The brands that we recommend are:
- Kaymar Toyota FJ Cruiser Rear Step Bar: This rear bar is rated to tow 2500 kg and 250 kg ball load which was certified by the Australia Testing Authorities. The bar is made from zinc-plated and powder-coated steel which gives them durability and strength. It is also easy to mount because it simply bolts on the back of your vehicle. Kaymar also has a feature called “Automatic Lock-Open Mechanism” which prevents the tyre carrier from swinging when you are driving on rough roads.
- AFN Rear Step Bar with Built-In Tow Bar: This rear bar is compatible with the Ford Ranger PXII (2015 and beyond). It offers side protection, aluminium plated chequered step cover, rated recovery points, high lift jack points, and a built-in towbar.
- TJM RB6 Rear Step Tow Bar: This product by TJM is suited for the Mitsubishi Triton (2009-2015). It offers protection whenever you are approaching and departing from rough terrain. The rear bar can also handle heavy-duty tow hitch which can lug around a boat, trailer, or caravan.
Rear bars are quite expensive as they cost around $800 – $2000 or more. In addition, swinging arms for tyre carriers alone can cost from $300 – $900. So, you should look out for deals or consider a second-hand unit as it will still be useful but cost significantly lower than new rear bars.
Can I Make My Own Rear Bar?
Make your own rear bar can make sense economically but you will only have a good-looking, strong, and functional one if you have some metalworking skill. However, if you do know how to make one, you will have a unique rear bar that won’t look like it was bought from a store. You can also incorporate accessories like swinging tyre carriers and jerry can holders. If you have no clue about welding and metalwork, you can ask someone you know to make one for you. Even with the cost of the materials and labour, you will only spend a fraction compared to some branded rear bars.
How Can I Fit Work Lights in My Rear Bar?
With all the various models of work lights and even DIY lights made from LED light, they can all be attached in a relatively identical way. You will have to make mounts for attachment and connect it through wires. Most people fit them above the spare tyre but you can also place them elsewhere. One thing to remember is that you should make sure that it will prove a decent amount of light.
There are plenty of kits that you can purchase for rear bar work lights, or you can just buy a quality LED light, make some mounts up and wire it up. Most work lights sit above the spare tyre, but I have seen them in other places. Fit it where it is easy to do so, whilst providing a decent amount of light.
Are Bull Bars Legal in Australia?
There are a number of bull bars being used in NSW that are not compliant with laws introduced back in 2003. The details of the rules and regulations about bull bars are detailed in numerous sites and they also provide clear advice about which ones are legal on NSW roads. Bull bars need to be regulated as they can pose a great risk for pedestrians and other road users.
Can I Install Bull Bars on Any Vehicle?
Yes, there are some types of bull bars that are universal (can be installed on any vehicle). However, there are bull bars that are designed specifically for a certain model or make. We recommend that you go for steel bull bars as they are more durable and can survive stronger impacts. However, they are heavier than other bull bars and they can also be a burden for your vehicle’s suspension system.