Some people get bull-bars for the aesthetics- that sleek and rugged look.
Some get bull bars for the options they provide with accessorising- winches, aerials etc. But a huge reason people get bull bars is the protection they offer from animal strikes- with Skippy being the main culprit!
This article explains the different bull bars available and what you need to look for to limit the damage from kangaroo strikes.
Why do people get bull bars?
A bull bar is a steel, aluminium or plastic bar attached to your vehicle to protect it from damage by other vehicles or animals. Sometimes they are called "roo bars" and "roo shields" for this reason. They offer vital protection from kangaroos.
They can be put on any car but are most popular on SUVs and off-road vehicles. They are also more popular in rural areas at the most risk of costly animal strikes.
As well as protection from animal strikes, they can be used to attach accessories on the vehicle (like aerials and lights) and winches for vehicle recovery.
Different bull bar materials
If you are buying your bull bar primarily for its protection against kangaroos, then strength will be the main asset you are looking for.
Strength comes mainly from the choice of material but also factors in the thickness of the material and its engineering. Making sure that things are braced where they need to be, and the correct shape of metal in each particular location etc.
They usually have a triple hoop- one over the radiator, then on either side of the headlights. There are single hoop options, but while these save on weight, they sacrifice that level of protection- especially when a taller animal like a kangaroo strikes.
In short, if you live or travel in an area prone to animal strikes and are buying to protect your vehicle against a kangaroo, you need the triple hoop. But what material: steel, aluminium or plastic?
Here are the pros and cons of each:
Steel bull bars
- Strongest bull bar material
- Offers the best protection against kangaroos/ larger animals
- Low maintenance- only need the occasional wash
- The most expensive
- May require an upgrade to your suspension
Aluminium bull bars
- About 30% lighter than steel, so less wear and tear on your 4WD
- Won't rust
- Decent strength
- Not that much cheaper considering the loss of protection
- More up-keep than the steel
Plastic bull bars
- The lightest material of the three
- And the cheapest!
- Can push it back into shape after a light impact
- The weakest protection against strikes
- Only really protect against lighter collision or debris
- Can be prone to damage from the sun
Different bull bar styles
While there are a decent range of styles on offer, not every style suits every vehicle. There are six main styles: single hoop, triple hoop, bumper bars, nudge bars, competition bars and baja bars. The triple and single hoops are the more popular with 4WD drivers, but here is the breakdown of each.
These are just a single hoop over the grill to protect the radiator. They offer a trade-off between less protection but also less weight.
Triple hoops are the heaviest and strongest, offering maximum protection. These are your best bets if buying to protect against kangaroo strikes.
Bumper bars are a bog-standard bar- though still better than relying on your fender to protect the vehicle.
Nudge bars are only designed for light impacts or driving through foliage and debris. More looks than functionality, and not much use if a kangaroo hits them.
As the name implies, these are more for off-road competitions. They offer little in the way of animal protection.
Baja bars are similar to bumper bars, but with the added reinforcement in their chassis, so they are winch-compatible. Again, designed more for off-road competition than practical road usage.
Which bull bar is best for kangaroos?
If you are doing a lot of off-road, then the single hoop could do the job, aluminium or steel. But if you are going long-distance or want protection against kangaroos and animal strikes, you'll want a steel triple hoop bull bar.
If you mainly drive in the city but want that rugged look, you could save weight and money and get plastic.
Whichever you choose, get one suited to the specific contours of your vehicle model.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a bull bar and a nudge bar?
The terms can be used interchangeably, and while they serve the same purpose, they are different.
Both are installed on the front of vehicles for added protection. The main differences come in their respective size. Bull bars are bigger and sturdier, sat on the front of the vehicle; nudge bars are lighter and slightly lower down the front.
Bull bars protect the whole front of the vehicles, including the headlights. Nudge bars are smaller and not as strong, so their protection is limited to head-on collisions.
How does a bull bar work?
Bull bars are attached to the vehicle's front end with welds or bolts. Sometimes in two or three pieces, with the sections then bolted together.
Some are built with lugs to take accessories, like spotlights, fog lights and antennae.
Others have moulded-in steps which allow for easier access to the engine if you need an oil change or need to do maintenance underneath the vehicle.
Do I really need a bull bar?
Well, that depends on what you use your vehicle for.
If you are mostly driving in the city, then you don't really need one. The added weight and cost are probably unnecessary- if you really want that look though, a plastic one will suffice.
Bull bars offer vital protection to you and your vehicle, however, if you do significant off-road driving or live in areas prone to animal strikes.
Which is better steel or alloy bullbar?
Again, if you are buying for protection, then it makes sense to protect as best you can- steel is the common sense option.
If you are only protecting against foliage and less risky off-road driving, then alloy might offer an acceptable trade-off. It's a personal choice.
If you are buying to protect your vehicle from kangaroo strikes, we hope this article has given you a better idea of what to look for. If you want a bit more inspiration, here is our range of bullbars.
Engineered in Australia to cope with everything the Australian environment can throw at them!