Drive Out’s bakkie project continues here on the pages of go! Drive & Camp, and this month we’re doing another important off-road modification: a rear bumper with heavy-duty tow bar.
Afew months ago we were given a brand new Mazda BT-50 3.2 4x4 SLE double cab automatic as a long-term vehicle. Every month we make a new off-road modification to the Mazda and talk about the importance of said modification, how and why it was done, and how much it costs. The first modification was a set of tough BF Goodrich T/A tyres, because the replacement of a vehicle’s standard tyres with proper offroad tyres is the first thing you need to do if you want to say goodbye to tar. Over the next two months we’ll replace the bakkie’s standard bumper with steel bumpers, and because the bakkie will be doing a lot of towing, we’re starting with the rear bumper.
Why a new bumper?
A steel back bumper isn’t (really) made for impatient minibus taxis on your tail. A rear bumper designed for off-roading fulfils a few important roles. Firstly, a steel bumper is a lot tougher than a standard rear bumper – that’s why it can endure bumps and scratches much better. A good product, like the 4-mm-thick Ironman steel bumper that we put on, also provides side protection in the form of steel pipes that curl around the rear corners of the load bin. Then it has recovery points with which you can tow the vehicle if it gets stuck, as well as points for a high-lift jack. And then probably the most important thing: A steel bumper improves the departure angle of your vehicle so you can tackle higher obstacles without painfully scraping your vehicle’s tail or tow bar over the rocks.
To the workshop!
Johann “Tyres”Viljoen and his competent team at 1st Alignment Centre in Bellville, Cape Town, did the installation. To replace the standard bumper and tow bar, the electrical wires are disconnected and the whole unit is removed. The new rear bumper is then, just like the one it replaces, bolted securely to the bakkie’s chassis. Ironman’s rear bumper is built especially for the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 (the T6 models were developed together) and therefore the bumper fits on the bakkie like a glove. Then the parking sensors from the old bumper are mounted in the new one. For this, Johann and his team had to drill holes in the bumper, which took an hour or two’s labour. These holes can be made in the factory, says Johann, so always make sure the installer knows if your vehicle has rear parking sensors that you don’t want to lose. Also find out if your vehicle will need a special wiring loom or plug. It wasn’t necessary with the BT-50, but some vehicles’ standard loom and plug might not be compatible with a new bumper. Lastly, the new tow bar was installed. The BT-50’s standard bar is a strong product that can tow 3 500 kg and carry a downward force of up to 300 kg (just remember, only 100 kg is permissible on public roads in South Africa, but in off-road conditions you can load more if necessary). Ironman’s bar can handle up to 350 kg downward force on the ball and its maximum towing weight is also 3 500 kg. And because the bar is integrated into the bumper, the BT-50’s departure angle is also significantly better than before.