Bullbars - Alloy or Steel?

Submitted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 15:05
ThreadID: 68752 Views:5199 Replies:12 FollowUps:18
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Firstly, apologies if this has been covered in previous posts, there's lots of advertising propaganda on the web regarding this argument but i wanted to hear it from the people who have had experience, i.e. you guys.

I have just bought, with the express permission of my wonderful partner who wasnt keen on traveling the desert in an 86 Hilux, a new Isuzu D-Max, and apart from other gear i need to set this vehicle up with, a bullbar is going to be one of the first. My question is, should i go with a substantial alloy one from somone like ECB, or do i go Steel and put up with the weight?

Whats your experience please guys?

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Reply By: handy - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 16:13

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 16:13
go with the steel, easier to repair and modify, you can always find someone with a stick welder to get you out of trouble . cheers
AnswerID: 364488

Follow Up By: Member - Ingo57 (NSW) - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 16:42

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 16:42
Gday Tony,

I agree with Handy here....IMHO I would go the steel for the above reasons also they are stronger in an Inpact.
The only advantage with alloy is weight but If your fitting the car out for touring then the chances are your going to put aftermarket suspension on which will cure the weight issue of a steel bar.

FollowupID: 632155

Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 17:20

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 17:20
Gday Handy...Hows things?

Yeah Im with Handy....aluminiunm looks nice but Steel is definately more practical.

FollowupID: 632162

Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 17:50

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 17:50
Yep, agree with the above, aluminium lighter and prettier but steel would be my choice .

Cheers Pop
FollowupID: 632168

Reply By: PeterInSa - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 18:17

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 18:17
I agree with the above, steel is best especially if you want to install a winch at a later date. I sold my AL bar for $38 to a scrap metal merchant at the top of the Mining boom, probably would be lucky to get $5 now.

But the weight could be significant when you add in all your other gear. For legal reasons would check this out before you make the decision to purchase.

AnswerID: 364509

Follow Up By: Chev-Patrol 6.5 V8 D - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 20:09

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 20:09
Peter makes a good point here; especially as regards a NEW vehicle. Warranty and legal implications are the possible pitfalls.

With modern cars, there doesn't seem to be a very big "payload" factor. Start adding heavy steel b/bar (which I reckon is the best option by the way), then 2nd battery, all your gear etc and it may be a case of the rig weighing more than the manufacturer intended. My vehicle is in this category but I rig is well out of warranty, so I'm on my own.

You, on the other hand, could possibly have to re-visit your dealer at some stage with a warranty issue and they could say that you've overloaded the car with a heavy bar.

Just something to consider if you're at all jitterish about these sorts of things.

Me? I'd go the steelie, but get all your planned accessories first, then get the suspension sorted out to match the weight.

FollowupID: 632199

Follow Up By: Madfisher - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 20:38

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 20:38
gee Peter, you should have put it on Ebay or advertised here, alloy b/bar 2nd hand bring $300 to $400. Hope it was not for a series 11 Paj, spent ages looking for one 2nd hand for it.
Cheers Pete
FollowupID: 632206

Reply By: Member - Willie , Sydney. - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 18:30

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 18:30
Hi Tony,

I have a steel one on my 100 Series. Together with the Kmac rear wheel carrier bar, I have a huge additional weight to lug around.

When I get a new 200 Series, I will be definitely getting an alloy bar because legally they can bugger all extra weight. I would rather use what weight margin I have left, to put in a long range tank. If it gets dinged I will get it fixed - it's not the end of the world.

Try lifting a steel one off the floor then go lift an alloy one the difference is huge.


I have hit roos previously ( and a sheep ) with alloy bars without any damage - I guess I was a bit lucky there.

AnswerID: 364510

Reply By: Member - Rodney B- Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 19:21

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 19:21
I had an alloy bar on my 60 series and at different times hit 2 roos, Small dint in bar but basically stayed straight. My son hit a roo last month with his brand new Ironman steel bar and it twisted to the extent that insurance wrote it off.
I guess it is luck where you hit them but alloy is lighter and will generally do the job.
AnswerID: 364527

Reply By: OzTroopy - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 20:02

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 20:02
If you want a pretty front bar that blends into the body shape ... get a steel one.

Despite the weight disadvantage ...............

When you hit something with it - it wont flex and absorb a lot of the impact like aluminium - before transferring the impact to the vehicle mounting points - so from the outside, your vehicle panels will normally still look good.

The flex in aluminium bars requires reasonable spacing from the components its meant to protect ... Steel ones "should" also have this but require less .... Its fairly pointless having tow away panel damage caused by the bullbar after a roo strike ... when the bar is meant to protect the vehicle.

Quality aluminium bars are every bit as durable as the steel ones and if winch fitting is required - its simply a matter of a winch mount plate being fitted in behind the aluminium bar.

IMHO what you see in most 4x4 shops are bars designed to meet legislation ... The amount of actual vehicle protection they provide outside of built up area speed limits is of a secondary nature.

Its also important to make a decision on why a bar is needed e.g winch mount .. or .. winch mount and roo protection .. Something to mount a winch on will be quite a bit cheaper than a full frontal protection bar.

Google search for australian made bullbars and you will find also ... that there are more than 3 and also some actual "substantial" ones.
AnswerID: 364536

Reply By: Madfisher - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 20:34

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 20:34
I always favoured steel b/bars over alloy, but a panel beater pionted out to me that a steel bar is more likley to result in a bent chassis as it does not absorb the impact as much. I think this would apply more to medium duty 4wds.
Hit a small roo with the alloy doing 80 no damage, hit a med roo at 30 with a steel bar a few years ago, and had to get a panel beater to straighten it.
Cheers Pete
AnswerID: 364554

Follow Up By: tim_c - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 21:18

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 21:18
Your bolts are too big if it bends the chassis. The bolts are supposed to sheer off once the bullbar has exceeded the limits of its strength (including what its fixed to ie. chassis)
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Follow Up By: Big Woody - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 20:11

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 20:11
If the bar is also being used as a winch mount you won't want it to be fitted with bolts that will sheer off.
FollowupID: 632358

Follow Up By: tim_c - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 11:41

Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 11:41
Yes you do! Anything will break/bend/fail at some point if you stress it enough (yes, even a Toyota!). The bolts should be specificially sized for the strength of the bullbar and its mounts so it won't fly off while winching, but the bolts will break before something else does (ie. before you pull the front off the car) - probably well beyond the capability of your winch. The bolts should only shear off once the limit of the bullbar/mounts has been exceeded (ie. before the chassis bends/breaks).

Ask an ARB engineer about bullbar bolts sometime - they'll probably even tell you to use ONLY the bolts that are supplied because the bolt size is critical.
FollowupID: 632426

Reply By: Bob of KAOS - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 21:17

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 21:17

Maybe I'm just lucky but since 1993 when I got my first Pajero, to which I fitted a steel bar, I've never hit anything. Actually, I've never hit anything since I started driving in 1965.

While my mate was diving the LX470 we hit a roo at 0200 in the morning. The Lexus had an ECB nudge bar. No damage to vehicle but PIAA spots were trashed.

So over the last 6 years I've saved the weight and gone barless.

I rarely drive in the bush after dark (so as to avoid roos and stock). I no longer run spotties for that reason.

So I'd question why you'd make a bar such a high priority.

AnswerID: 364571

Reply By: tim_c - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 21:29

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 21:29
I had a powdercoated alloy bar on my 1995 Jackaroo (ARB no longer sold a suitable bar and all the other steel ones "weren't sympathetic" to the shape of the vehicle). I was always a bit dubious about its strength until I bumped a gate post while being towed (~40-50km/h). It hit on the top corner of the top tube and held up much better than I expected (sorry I'm not a member so I can't post a pic). It was replaced with an identical bar and I'd consider an alloy bar for my next car. It came from Aussie Bullbars and they added driving light and antenna brackets for me.

I think it was also lighter than the factory fitted bumper that we removed to fit it! The only thing I'm not sure of is that my driving lights were destroyed on the GRR/Mitchell Falls Rd due to corrugations - not sure they were shaking around due to chassis flex or perhaps the alloy bars flex more?
AnswerID: 364573

Reply By: Wherehegon - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 21:44

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 21:44
On last months DVD put out by 4wd action magazine they removed an alloy bar from an 80 series cruiser and refitted with a steel one. The weight difference was 20 kg. Not sure if this will help in deciding which way to go. I put steel on the old prado, alloy to me is as good as a nudge bar, which is currently on the new prado I have bought...WHG
AnswerID: 364580

Follow Up By: Madfisher - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:11

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:11
Cannot understand why people shell out $600 for a nudge bar, though we did put an alloy on Sals nullarbor(ECB) . Pretty robust for an alloy though, but pricey.
have to put the nudge off Sals on Ebay.
Cheers Pete
FollowupID: 632275

Follow Up By: Wherehegon - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 15:55

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 15:55
Hi Pete, I will wait and see what comes up on ebay, I got the old one off there it was steel but after reading some of the above replys I might settle for a alloy if a good one comes along. The worst thing with alloy is keeping the bloody thing nice and shiney lol. didnt realize that steel ones should have shear off bolts on them ?? Will see what happens, not forking out the $$ they want for either bar new, They do come up every now and then on ebay so will wait. The bar on the prado now is one of those ugly looking things on a lot or prado's, they have like a twin loop thing that does the perimeter of the lower bar then come up in the middle, bloody useless, I think with a good kick I could bend it towards the vehicle which mind you I think would do more damage with it then without. The top loop will end up hitting the bonnett if I hit some thing with it.......WHG
FollowupID: 632316

Follow Up By: Madfisher - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 22:20

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 22:20
You are right WHG, they do not do anything for the looks of the prado.I had an arb steel on the runner(come with it) and it was a good bar,did not seem to effect the front end.The roos are getting worse up here.
Son just brought an 02 Jack se, and scored a powder coated ECB bar($2000) and aircraft landing lights with it. Lucky boy.
Cheers Pete
FollowupID: 632386

Reply By: tonbon - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 22:18

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 22:18
Thank you everyone for some good arguments for and against both alloy and steel. Bob of Kaos made an excellent point, if i am not driving at night, why the need for a bullbar. Well, i wont be doing much if any night driving when touring, however i do tend to head up to Queensland on "flying visits" on the odd occasion and always take the New England Hwy as a rule, and i always overnight it, so there is an argument there for one. I don't intend this to be a fashion accessory, it needs to have form and function. Also, it isn't high on the list of priorities, but i have pretty much sourced or researched most other things i require for the trip, but this one was puzzling me.

The argument for steel is a good one, strength! However, the added weight worries me a little ( i want to keep fuel consumption down as much as possible) and the risk of chassis damage in the event of a happening is a concern.

On saying that if i am to go Alloy, i need to ensure the structural integrity of the bar, make sure the engineering is right on it. Food for thought guys, thanks again.

AnswerID: 364590

Follow Up By: get outmore - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 23:34

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 23:34
if weight is your concern go without a bar - an alloy bar only offers minimal extra protection. If you want protection go steel - I have hit over 1/2 dozen-10 roos and emus with steel bars for zero damage - I recieved slight damage when my missus cleaned up a red light running lazer writing it off
FollowupID: 632233

Follow Up By: Madfisher - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:17

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:17
Check out the alloy bars from ECB, pricey but the strongest alloy bars I have seen. I have had 4 steel bars and 3 alloys, the only damage to a bar was a steel but it was a big roo.
Cheers Pete
FollowupID: 632277

Follow Up By: tonbon - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 11:20

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 11:20
Hi Madfisher, i actually looked at the ECB bars and was impressed with the structural info they gave me. My concern with them was that they retain the existing bumper bar and put the bullbar in front of it. Would you see that as an issue as opposed to replacing the existing bumper bar with a bullbar?

FollowupID: 632287

Follow Up By: Madfisher - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 22:11

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 22:11
Tony our ecb bar replaced the bumper bar, as I have it in the shed, must be diff styles, check out their website.
Cheers Pete
FollowupID: 632384

Reply By: MrBitchi (QLD) - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:53

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:53
All right. I'll bite.

Plastic.... Smartbar.
AnswerID: 364633

Follow Up By: OzTroopy - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:57

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:57
Nothing wrong with a good one of those either ... as long as its not flush with bodywork and expected to keep anything bigger than a roo out of the engine bay.
FollowupID: 632283

Follow Up By: Member - Duncs - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 11:39

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 11:39
Friend of mine in Broken Hill has hit more than one roo at speed in a Smart Bar equipped Paj. He is so impressed by the result that he is thinking seriously about putting one on his Patrol

I have hit one roo with an alloy bar. It was a small roo I was doing about 60 and the bar was a right off. I have hit 6 roos with the steel bar no problems apart from the last one. It was a BIG roo and I was doing a little over the speed limit at the time. Yes it bent the bar but there was no damage to anything else. Even the driving lights remained properly aligned.

FollowupID: 632291

Follow Up By: Member - Duncs - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 11:44

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 11:44
Should also have mentioned that I did not notice any difference in fuel consumption when I changed to the steel bar.

In my experience tyres have made more difference to fuel consumption than anything other than speed and engine mods.

FollowupID: 632292

Reply By: tim_c - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 13:01

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 13:01
I'd always thought there would be some damage after hitting a roo - but at least a bar (even alloy) could protect the vitals (eg. radiator, etc.) enough that it would be the difference between driving and walking home. But it seems that from many replies, the steel bars are generally undamaged, unless it's a big roo.

Can anyone comment on the steel bars on airbag equipped vehicles (which probably includes the D-Max? Airbag bars are mounted on shock absorbing zig-zag folded steel to reduce the 'jarring' that would otherwise trigger an airbag in a small impact - surely these mounts must require replacement after any substantial impact on the bar?
AnswerID: 364647

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