It’s an age old argument. Should I fit a bullbar, Nudgebar or Nothing At All to my 4WD. I only recently asked this question myself as i am currently deciding to swap out my factory Nissan bullbar for something more suitable to Off-Roading.
Fitting a bull bar or a nudge bar really depends on your situation. In short if intend to travel off-road often and in areas where livestock on roads could be a concern I would suggest a Bull Bar as it offers you maximum protection from impact, If intending to keep your 4WD in Urban Areas, Then a nudge bars for you as it will give you protection from minor accidents and less likely to injure pedestrians.
There is obviously a lot more to it then simply the answer above, keep reading to give you a better idea on which way to go.
The Differences Between Bull Bars And Nudge Bars
A nudge bar is constructed in a lightweight aluminium tubing or polycarbonate and designed to provide minimal protection against minor front-end collisions, scratches and bumps. A nudge bar is generally fitted to sedans and small SUV’s. These nudge bars also offer a platform to mount some accessories on such as driving lights and CB antennas. Currently, nudge bars are the lightest form of front-end protection on the market and are available for a wide range of commercial and recreational vehicles.
Nudge bars are sometimes not considered as “proper” bull bars because they are not directly secured to the chassis so there is no need to take off or alter the bumper. Nudge bars are generally not relied on for protection against withstanding any substantial animal strike but rather to protect the radiator grille and surrounding areas.
Nudge bars are typically manufactured from high-quality aluminium and usually have driving light provisions as standard which adds aesthetic appeal and value to your vehicle. The majority of frontal protection systems are individually and specifically designed for specific vehicle models.
Are Nudge Bars Effective?
Nudge bars are manufactured using a range of materials such as aluminium and steel and suit a range of vehicles from small family sedans to 2WD and larger 4WD vehicles. The majority of today’s nudge bars add aesthetic appeal to your vehicle and are fully airbag compatible.
While engineering designs continue to improve a nudge bar will provide increased frontal protection an opposed to no bar protection, they are not considered as effective as a bull bar when it comes to a full animal or collision impact.
As impact studies have progressed, the bull bars design has evolved to work more effectively with modern airbag systems and their function is now to deflect up and over in the event of an impact and not push under the vehicle. These changes are effectively aimed at increasing the safety of the driver, the car and the object of impact. A bull bar absorbs the impact leaving you and your occupants safe and apart from the increased safety aspects a bull bar does provide aesthetic appeal.
Bull bars are also designed to be able to hold several accessories including winches, spotlights and radio antennas. If you live in the countryside where the risk of hitting a wild animal is greater than it may be worth investing in a steel bull bar to ensure you have the best possible protection in the event of a front-end collision.
What Are The Benefits Of A Bull Bar?
Australia’s motoring landscape is typically characterised by large sparsely populated areas and remote roads that are shared with wildlife and stray livestock. A bull bar is essentially designed to absorb a collision impact so the decision to fit a bull bar may well be for safety.
Any bull bar will need to comply with the Australian Standard AS 4876.1 2002 and comply with ADR69 and ADR73 regulations. It will need to be certified by the vehicle manufacturer as suitable for that particular model vehicle and or the manufacturer will have had to demonstrate that the bull bar will not adversely affect the vehicle’s airbag timing mechanism.
There are rules and regulations that pertain to vehicle modifications and adding accessories such as those for bull bar compliance. It’s important to check your state’s Department of Transport or Road Transport Authority website to ensure you comply with the general guideline. The regulations briefly explained, states that bull bars should have:
- No open-ended frame members.
- No small items such as brackets shall be attached to the bull-bar.
- The bull-bar shall follow the profile of the vehicle to which it is fitted.
- Fitting the bull-bar must not increase the width of the vehicle (excluding the mirrors).
- there should be no sharp edges and angels need to be radiused on the bull-bar
So, Should You Fit A Bull Bar Or Not?
Bull bars are essentially heavy accessories that can create wind resistance and often this results in increased fuel consumption. In addition, once you have a bull bar fitted it forms part of the gross vehicle mass, so any added weight reduces the maximum payload your vehicle can legally carry. This may represent a problem to those who own utes and load work tools or storage boxes to the trays.
Apart from front-end collision protection, a bull bar can be useful if a winch is fitted, in that the vehicle can be winched out when stuck and prevent you from being stranded or paying costly tow services. Another important consideration is whether fitting the bull bar will affect any crumple zones that cushion an impact or airflow to the vehicle’s turbo or radiator.
6 Points To Consider Before Fitting A Bull Bar
While bull bars can reduce cosmetic damage, bull bars change the aerodynamics and way in which the energy of the impact is transferred to the vehicle’s body structure, which can actually increase structural damage.
- It’s a known fact that bull bars increase pedestrian injuries.
- Tyre wear and fuel consumption can increase caused by the additional weight of a bull bar added to the front.
- Some manufacturers openly disclose that fitting a bull bar has unknown effects on the vehicle’s crash performance and recommend against fitting a bull bar.
- A bull bar may affect how airbags deploy so check that it complies with Australian safety standards. It may actually reduce the vehicle’s crashworthiness.
- Consider a lighter nudge bar if you are largely city or suburb travelling, where the risk of colliding with a large animal is very low.
Which Bull Bar Is Best?
This is really based on personal preference and purpose or function you wish your bull bar to serve. Steel is the most popular option and will likely be the material of choice for many 4WDers due to the advantage of its robust strength and protection it provides which sometimes trumps the increased weight and fuel consumption disadvantages. However, an aluminium bull bar may be more efficient for your vehicle if you’re travelling to urban areas where the risk of animal strikes is not as likely to happen, then a lighter aluminium option may be more suitable.
Here is a brief explanation of the different manufacturing materials available.
Steel bull bars –
are significantly heavier weighing up to 30% more, anywhere between 40kg up to 100kg more than its alloy or polyethylene/plastic bars counterparts. Steel bull bars can be customized to match your vehicle with powder coating and can further be accessorized with heavy-duty aerial tab, recessed park/indicator lights, T-slot for hi-lift jacks, and winch mounts. An important consideration if you are mounting a winch is the weight, while a steel bull bar can take the weight a polyethylene bar cannot. Where a steel bull bar is easily DIY repaired, where there is paint damage exposing the raw metal it will rust.
What are some popular manufacturer of steel bull bars
ARB 4×4 Accessories : ARB Make great bullbars, Not only are they stylish and custom made for your specific vehicle (even colour coded), they are are also tested for there frontal crush characteristics, The downside of a ARB bullbar is the are not cheap…
Ironman 4×4 : ironman makes a bar called the Proguard which is technically a loopless bull bar (which means theres no loops around the lights and radiator). While not offering the protection of traditional Looped Bull Bars, damn they look stylish and offer improved approch angles for 4WDing
Polished alloy bull bars –
Polyethylene and alloy bull bars are low maintenance as they do not rust like steel bull bars. Unless you’re a keen polisher it takes elbow grease to maintain the alloy bars bright sheen.
What are some popular manufacturer of Alloy bull bars
Irwin Bull Bars: Based out of WA, Irwin Bull Bars have lbeen around for every and are the undisbuted king of alloy bullbars. one of the keys of there alloy bars is the 4.5mm wall tube thickness of there loop tubing. While i love Irwin, there bars are looking a bit dated these days and almost look out of place on a modern 4WD, but thats just a personal observation.
Polymer bull bars–
Are similar to a plastic bull bar made from materials such as polyethylene and are designed to act as a spring and deflect. Studies have shown that traditional bull bars increase pedestrian injuries on impact while the polymer bull bars have been designed to offer a pedestrian some degree of protection.
What are some popular manufacturer of Polymer bull bars
Smart Bars: Smart bars came out of the trucking industry, the company came about from a company who made water tanks of all things, whos delivery trucks kept getting hit by animals. What i like companies like Smart Bar is they really believe in the concept of using polymer as a alternative to metal.
One great aspect of smart bars is they help to absorb damage because they compress when struck by almost 85%. They are definately worth a look if in the market for a bull bar.
How Much Does It Cost To Fit a Bull Bar?
It really depends on your state and the type of bull bar you are looking at. Lets say everything goes to plan and its a plug and play process, i would be putting away $350 to $400 on average to professionally fit a Bull Bar.
Will Having A Bull Bar Affect My Approach Angle?
Many manufacturers are aware of this and will design bull bars to increase off-roadability and be mindful of providing maximum clearance. In addition, when fitting a bull bar, they keep them as close to the vehicle body as possible so that you can climb over obstacles without stagging on approach or exit.
How Heavy Is A Bull Bar?
The manufactured weight will depend on materials used and vary amounts brands and different manufacturers. On average the weight of an alloy Bull bar is approximately 35kg and a steel bar is roughly 80kg.
Are All Bull Bars ANCAP Tested?
No, sadly there are still allot of manufacturers that do not have their bars ANCAP tested and unknowingly to you are not actually assured of ANCAP 5 rating.
How Do I Know If The Bull Bar Is Compatible With My Vehicle’s Airbags?
Some manufacturers go so far as to conducted real-world crash testing to ensure compatibility others will simply rely on computer simulating. It’s important to check this directly with the bull bar manufacture but in most cases, they will state which model bull bars are compatible with which type of vehicle.
Can I Fit A Winch To Any Brand Of Bull Bar?
You need to make sure whatever type of bull bar you choose that its able to have a winch fitted to it sometimes they are referred to as ‘winch bars’. Usually with steel bull bars winches can simply just be bolted on but with alloy and plastic bars you’ll need a winch cradle to be fitted provided it has the capacity to accommodate a winch.
While many bull bars and nudge bars appear the same, it’s the small differences in features such as rated tow points, overall weight, styling, jack points and construction materials that will be the determining factors in your final decision on which one to buy. Modern bull bars are now complex engineering products given that they need to be airbag compatible, be strong enough to handle animal impacts, be able to mount a winch and work with modern vehicles which pack a lot of equipment up front. Apart from looking good on your 4WD consider safety features as your primary reason when researching different brands and manufacturers.