ARB BULL BAR AND REAR BAR / WHEEL CARRIER
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK ALLEN
PERHAPS YOUR 4WD IS INSURED, BUT THERE’S MORE TO PROTECTING YOUR PRIDE AND JOY FOR BUSH TRAVEL
Yep, carrying around all that extra weight may suck a little performance from your 4WD, draw on your hip pocket for a little extra cash to pay for the supposed increased fuel usage and yes you may even have to upgrade your tired, sagging old suspension to carry that weight, but there are some huge advantages to fitting a bull bar and rear bumper-come-wheel carrier… provided you use your 4WD for what it was intended for and not just picking up the kids from school.
The bull bar not only provides a spot to mount your electric winch, driving lights, antennas and sand flags, but also gives you and your mates something solid to lean on while perusing all those maps of outback Australia that are often laid out on the bonnet…you wouldn’t want to lean on the duco and scratch it would you!
OK seriously, that same bull bar will also provide your 4WD with unparalleled protection from animal strike as well as minor driving incidents in the bush (no not touch parking at the school pick up area), which is the number one reason for fitting it.
With today’s modern vehicle design and high tech inclusions of airbags and the like, it’s extremely important to ensure your chosen bull bar has been specifically designed and developed to suit your vehicle. If you choose a bull bar that is not air bag compatible you’re basically kissing your insurance goodbye…yep, it’ll be totally void once the inspectors find your bar contributed to the lack of airbag activation, which of course added to the occupant’s injuries.
The commercial-style bull bar, as used on this LandCruiser, is not only airbag compatible, but also designed to fit the 100 Series LandCruiser to allow for maximum approach angles, has Hi-Lift jacking slots, two antennae tabs and two driving light tabs – and of course it provides that all important bar to perch on while chin-wagging over the maps. Upgraded models may also include fog lights and a few cosmetic extras which do provide a superior finish. Plus, of course there’s the decision of steel, aluminium or plastic bar work, which should reflect the type of vehicle the bar is being fitted to.
Those standard weak plastic bumper bars at the back end of your 4WD that always hook up on terra firma while out 4WDing end up costing a bomb to fix (even though they’re only plastic) can easily be replaced with a steel version. Added to the well-engineered, sturdy steel bar, a few extra swing-out carriers to take on either one or two spare wheels or even a jerry can makes it a most useful accessory for remote travel.
The rear bar we are using utilises gas struts to help open and hold each wheel in place, although when parked on steeper angles, there are locking pins to help hold them steady - a good security measure to prevent the wheels slamming closed while your unloading gear. One wheel carrier also incorporates the number plate and a reversing light – a much more usable light than the pathetic original reversing candles.
This bar has allowed us to remove the low-mounted, gravel-rash-provoking, underslung spare wheel up to a safer and more easily accessed position, plus of course now we have two spares instead of one - great insurance for that remote travelling! With the underslung spare removed, we can also opt for an extra fuel tank or even a water tank to fill the void.
The rear bar also incorporates a heavy duty 3500kg rated tow bar, which means we scrapped the factory tow bar saving some weight. There are two laminated (double layered) towing points, plus Hi Lift jacking points and there’s provision for an optional antenna bracket and camp light.
Pretty much the only discernable downsides to fitting all this heavy gear is the additional weight, which was taken into account when we fitted the upgraded suspension kit. The twin spare wheels, being carried further back from the rear axle, has slightly changed the ‘feel’ of the Cruiser on road, but again, that suspension upgrade has reduced the affects.
As for whether or not the extra weight causes a slightly higher fuel usage or reduces the big Cruisers performance…yep, it does a bit, but that’s a small price to pay for the huge benefits.
Am I frowned upon when I pick my kids up from school in a big 4WD kitted out for proper bush travel – probably, but who cares! At least being able to see the extremities of my vehicle (the bull bar), I can be sure of parking in the tight spots without nudging those around me and I’m confident while travelling the outback that I have the best protection for my 4WD.