4 x 4 Australia - - Gear -

FOR those who had $5K in the piggy bank there should now be $2500 or so left over af­ter fit­ting tyres, sus­pen­sion and a snorkel. It’s now time to start equip­ping your ve­hi­cle with some pro­tec­tion equip­ment, and the ob­vi­ous place to start is with a bull­bar.

Whether you’re go­ing to use your ve­hi­cle for out­back tour­ing, week­end rock-crawl­ing or tow­ing a trailer, a qual­ity bull­bar is an es­sen­tial piece of equip­ment for any­one trav­el­ling out­side city lim­its.

The three ba­sic choices when it comes to bull­bars are plas­tic (poly­eth­yl­ene), al­loy and steel. Each have their mer­its and there are many de­signs and styles. Plas­tic bars suit ve­hi­cles driven reg­u­larly in ur­ban ar­eas and it’s claimed that they can re­duce the risk of in­jury to pedes­tri­ans. They’re also en­gi­neered to re­gain their orig­i­nal shape af­ter im­pact, but they sim­ply won’t of­fer the pro­tec­tion af­forded to the ve­hi­cle by an al­loy or steel bar.

Al­loy bars are much lighter than steel but are not as strong. A well-de­signed and en­gi­neered steel bar will of­fer the ul­ti­mate in pro­tec­tion, but it will be the heav­i­est of the three op­tions. As­sum­ing you’ve cho­sen your sus­pen­sion wisely, this weight penalty won’t present a prob­lem.

Re­gard­less of the ma­te­rial cho­sen, you should en­sure the bull­bar at­taches di­rectly to the ve­hi­cle chas­sis and is airbag com­pat­i­ble. There are a va­ri­ety of de­signs avail­able in­clud­ing tubu­lar rock-crawler styles that of­fer plenty of ap­proach an­gle (but less pro­tec­tion), bars with no hoop sec­tions, bars with a sin­gle hoop, and tra­di­tional bull­bars that af­ford max­i­mum ve­hi­cle pro­tec­tion. Prices vary wildly, but fac­tor in at least $1200 for a de­cent bull­bar and then add up to $900 for brush bars and side rails or rock slid­ers.

If tour­ing is your thing then the afore­men­tioned bull­bar, brush bars and side rails will cost a cou­ple of grand, leav­ing you with just $500 or so for a set of driv­ing lights. In this price bracket you can pick up a pair of qual­ity HID driv­ing lights or some bud­get LEDS. Al­ter­na­tively, you could opt for an LED light bar and have enough cash leftover to buy your­self a de­cent 80-chan­nel UHF ra­dio for ve­hi­cleto-ve­hi­cle com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Brush bars and side rails will not be as much of a pri­or­ity for rock-crawl­ing en­thu­si­asts as an elec­tric winch. These days there are plenty of cheap winches on the mar­ket, but as­sum­ing you’ve spent $1200 on a bull­bar then you’ll have $1300 leftover for a winch. It’s worth spend­ing the rest of your bud­get on a qual­ity winch be­cause this is one piece of equip­ment you don’t want fail­ing when you re­ally need it.

If you use your four-wheel drive pre­dom­i­nantly for tow­ing, then a de­cent rear-step tow bar will be more of a pri­or­ity than brush bars/side rails and a winch. Fac­tor in at least $500 for a ba­sic steel rear bar with a tow hitch, and up to $1500 for some­thing more stylish. Much more than a tow hitch, an af­ter­mar­ket rear step tow bar will im­prove ground clear­ance and pro­tect the rear of your ve­hi­cle when ex­it­ing of­froad gul­lies or drop­ping off rock shelves. Some mod­els also ac­com­mo­date park­ing sen­sors and re­vers­ing cam­eras.

If an elec­tric winch didn’t make it on to the shop­ping list and you’re likely to be driv­ing off-road by your­self, then a pair of re­cov­ery tracks ($200+) will prove an in­valu­able ad­di­tion to your ba­sic re­cov­ery kit. A de­cent hand winch is also use­ful, but at $500-ish they are al­most as ex­pen­sive as some of the cheaper elec­tric winches on the mar­ket.

A good bull­bar pro­tects the ve­hi­cle and of­fers stout tow­ing points. Buy a tow­bar to match the big­gest thing you’ll ever need to tow.

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