Alloy vs steel bull bar

Alloy vs steel bull bar

The two main reasons you'll want to get a bull bar on your 4WD are protection from animal strikes and the convenience they offer for attaching accessories.

The protection is not just from unpredictable kangaroos and dodgy drivers but also from the denser scrub when you decide to go offroad. A good bar will absorb most impacts and give vital protection to your front end, especially the radiator and cooling system. 

A good bull bar also gives you a great base to attach your other off-road essentials- your winch bar, antennae, LEDs, etc.

While the bars have an undoubted aesthetic appeal, functionality is often a primary buying motivation. So, which is best: alloy or steel bull bars?

This article runs you through their pros and cons so that you can make the best choice for you, your vehicle and your budget!

The materials

Most bull bars are made from steel, aluminium or plastic.

Plastic bars only really offer aesthetic appeal for city drivers who want to give their 4WD that sleek-but-rugged look. Protection-wise, they're about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Steel bullbars are your best bet if you want protection from animal strikes. Not all steel bars are created equally, however. The engineering and materials used can make a hell of a difference. You will see cheaper imports available, but, as the saying goes, "you get what you pay for"...

These might look the part, but they are built from weaker material and, like plastic, offer more aesthetic appeal than any real practical protection. 

The aluminium bar doesn't offer as much protection as steel bars, but it provides an attractive trade-off if you aren't as worried about large animal strikes. 

Alloy bull bars are tougher than plastic, lighter, and cheaper than steel (but not as strong). They have less impact on your vehicle handling, less wear and tear on your tyres, and are less likely to need a suspension upgrade to accommodate them.

They need more upkeep than the steel bullbar but offer better corrosion resistance.

As you can see, they both have their plus points.

Both steel and alloy bars allow you to mount accessories, though you will need a separate steel winch cradle to fit a winch onto an alloy bar.

Bull bar design

The design should also be something you take into consideration when you make your buying choice.

If you are buying for protection, you want your bonnet, radiator, headlights etc., as safe as possible. A triple loop is likely what you are after. Single-loop bull bars only offer protection from straight-on collisions.

If you do a lot of off-road driving, through rocky terrain or scrub, you want a bar with outer tubes that are compatible with side steps and side rails and offer protection to the side of the vehicle.

If you buy for convenience more than protection, these outer tubes are less of a priority. 

Whichever you go for, make sure it won't have a negative impact on the approach angles or ground clearance your vehicle has. You want unswept outer wings with a design that works with the contours of your vehicle.

Compatibility with accessories

Regardless of what you buy for, you must ensure your bull bar is airbag compatible. Any reputable manufacturer will ensure they are and confirm this when you buy.

Compatibility with other safety features also needs consideration; parking sensors, light bars, emergency braking systems etc. You also want to ensure your bull bar doesn't negate the technology that allows these vital accessories to work.

Anyone who has had to use a winch won't need reminding how crucial they are, so compatibility here is a must for proper off-road driving. They can be bolted into most steel bars but require a steel cradle fitted to plastic and alloy bullbars.

Most decent bull bars will let you mount driving lights and have tabs for antennas. You'll need outer tubing to fit side rails or side steps. If you plan on fitting additional under-vehicle protection (skid or bash plates, steering guards etc.), then you'll need to check your bar allows these as well.

So: alloy vs steel bar?

If you are driving in an area vulnerable or prone to animal strikes, then you need steel bars, ideally with a triple loop. 

If you don't need that level of protection, then an alloy bar might be enough. It's up to you.

Hopefully, this article has given you a better idea of the kind of bullbar you need. If you need superior off-road protection, our range of bull bars is designed and manufactured in Australia to handle the rigours of our landscape and wildlife.