A bull bar is a quintessential part of any pukka 4×4’s offroad armoury. But a bull bar is also much more than just a piece of metal bolted to the front of a vehicle.
In Australia, they call it a roo bar. In the United States it’s known as a grill guard and in Canada it’s a moose bumper. In South Africa, we simply call it a bull bar. But whatever you want to call it, these bars all share the same basic primary purpose: to protect the vehicle during a front-end collision with a kangaroo, moose or, well, bull.
There are numerous spin-off advantages, too. In the off-road department, a bull bar drastically improves the approach angle of a 4×4. It also allows for the fitment of a winch (if it is designed to house a winch) and recovery and high-lift jacking points (if fitted) make recoveries in the bundu a bit easier. On the other end of the scale, for some clients a bull bar is simply a fashion accessory, not an off-road accessory. However, fitting a bar is a bit more intricate than simply selecting one that is easy on the eye and suits your wallet. Talking about wallet, obviously some bull bars are more expensive than others.
And there’s normally a good reason for that. A company such as ARB spends months developing new bars in its stateof-the-art research facilities. This includes computer-simulated crash tests. Finally, they take their new products the whole nine yards… the bar is attached to a vehicle that is crash-tested to oblivion. The accessory company foots the bill for both the brand-new 4×4 that is written off, as well as the tests, which amounts to a small fortune.
Some other companies submit their bars for specification certification at the Australian Design Rules (ADR) organisation, but no actual tests are performed. Factors such as airbag compatibility are vital. If you fit a bar of inferior design and quality, have an accident and the airbags don’t deploy… well, you can’t exactly blame the vehicle manufacturer. Make sure that a bar is properly airbag rated. There are other factors to consider. Adding around 70kg to the nose of your 4×4 will have real impact on the driving experience. The steering will be under increased stress and handling will be affected, too.
It’s not only important that the occupants of a vehicle walk away from a crash, but as bull bars evolved, so, too, did regulations. These regulations hope to give pedestrians and other road users their best chance against a vehicle equipped with a bull bar. As a result, ADR compliancy became a sought-after title.
According to the Australian motoring organisation, the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, some important Australian standards for vehicles with frontal protection stipulate that: Vehicles, fitted with a bull bar, must still comply with certain occupant crash regulations. One example is airbag compatibility. The bull bar must not obscure the headlights of the vehicle. The bull bar must follow the profile of the vehicle to a certain extent. The fitment of a bull bar may not increase the overall width of a vehicle. All sharp edges on a bull bar should be curved. No small components should be attached to the front of the bull bar.
During an emergency stop, the vehicle will be more prone to ‘nosedive’ – where the front end of the vehicle dips considerably, lightening the load on the rear wheels and, in the case of a vehicle that doesn’t have stability control, possibly causing instability.
That’s why 4×4 Mega World will advise on an upgrade to your 4×4’s suspension along with the fitment of that new bull bar and winch. In the end, the bull bar you choose will depend on your wants and needs… and the thickness of your wallet. As with all things in life, good quality doesn’t come cheap. As we always say: you pays your money, you takes your choice.