Plastic bullbar verses steel.

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 08:12
ThreadID: 83464 Views:6606 Replies:9 FollowUps:8
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Some maybe interested in a the results of a cruiser hitting a wall at 30kph when fitted with a plastic smart bar.

The cruiser and a hilux both had similar accidents except the hilux was fitted with a steel bar and hit a large earthmoving tyre at a lower speed while turning.

Both vehicles hit at an almost identical point on the bars. The hilux damage was less due to the slower speed, it's bar was destroyed and folded back onto the guard causing similar damage to the cruiser.

It is a shame I couldn't get a photo of the hilux as the fitters had already pulled the bar, guard and headlight out.

The plastic bar stood up well except for the tearing due to the jagged rock.

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Reply By: Member - Tour Boy ( Bundy QLD) - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 09:51

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 09:51
The problem that I see with the plastic bars is that they deflect back more than steel in the impact then return to shape. This will cause more damage to the radiator than a steel one will allow for the same impact (centre of the bar as opposed to the wings) making the vehicle undriveable. I have a bullbar to protect the vitals like the rad (don't care about the wings, lights etc) .
If the impact is so severe that the vehicle is rendered un driveable then the vehicle will probably be a write off anyway but the ocupants may just live to tell the tale. What is the point of a bar that will spring back to shape after damageing the vehicle? the bar would have to be replaced anyway due to stress from the impact.
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AnswerID: 440846

Follow Up By: Rockape - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 10:15

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 10:15
I agree about the springing back and that you also have wing damage, what got me was that the Hilux which was doing an estimated 15 kph against the cruisers 30 kph with a steel bullbar sustaining similar damage to the cruiser when hit in the same place. Note no rust in the Lux bar.

The Hilux steel bullbar was folded back during the prang just the same as the plastic one doing bulk damage to the Lux.

Another thing about the plastic one is the weight, I fitted one by myself the other day to one of our Cruisers because the fitters were busy. The bar was very light and easy to fit and even though I cut the side rails off because they were rusted out , I noticed that the Smartbar came with side rail attachment points.

Weight wise the plastic one wins hands down.

These bars come in for lots of nudges on the walls and when parking it is usual to lay them against the rock walls underground so the vehicle can't run away. They are standing up to this treatment very well.

Have a good one.
FollowupID: 712747

Reply By: Super (NSW) - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 12:15

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 12:15
Rockape, I had a plastic bar on a Pajero when I hit a steer at around 80 Kph just south of Bedourie. Two things stuck with me; first, the airbags didn't go off even though the bar was airbag compatible, second the bar deflected the steer up onto the bonnet and I thought I'd had it but, fortunately, it rolled off. This is, I believe a design point to ensure pedestrians are thrown over the vehicle rather than under it. In the case of hitting an animal I think it could be a design flaw as I would prefer the beast had gone under the vehicle rather than over it with the consequent danger of coming through the windscreen.

Key points are: the bars are lightweight (as you say) so don't cause a drag on the front suspension, the bars absorb a lot of the force at impact (I walked away without a scratch), the bars are the cheapest on the market (although they are a quality product).

I was very happy with the way the plastic bar got me through the accident. I have no doubt that an alloy or steel bar would have left me much worse off.

The Pajero did have damage to the radiator and I was told by the insurance people (when the vehicle eventually arrived back in Sydney) that the engine had moved forward about 20 mm then back about 10 mm. The vehicle was written off by the insurance company but the wreck was bought by a panel beater who "repaired" it, even to the point of refitting the plastic bar. My mechanic said I was well out of it and that the vehicle would never be "right".

I now have another Pajero with another plastic bar fitted and am very happy.

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AnswerID: 440857

Follow Up By: Member - Captain (WA) - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 13:00

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 13:00
Hi Phil,

Are you saying the steer was rolled onto the bonnet and nearly into the windscreen, the engine and radiator was moved (vehicle undriveable?), the airbags failed to go off, the vehicle was an insurance write-off and you are happy with this perfomance?

I am sorry, but if I have understood your post correctly, what value did the plastic bar add? You would have likley been better off with no bar, at least then the steer may not have rolled onto the bonnet or the airbags may have gone off. Given the vehicle was a write-off, any more front-end damage would have only lowered the cost of the wreck.

Also, how could an alloy or steel bar have possibliy left you worse off?


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FollowupID: 712758

Follow Up By: Honky - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 13:25

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 13:25
I think in NSW the law has changed and you can no longer re register a written off vehicle even if it is repairable.
At 80 ks hitting a steer you could very easily be seriously injured or worse.
They do not easily move out of the way and would be similar to hitting a tree.
The damage to the vehicle would also be similar
To walk away is a very good outcome

FollowupID: 712759

Reply By: AGNI4x4 - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 12:48

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 12:48
Reminds me of a friend years ago that brought a brand new Honda .......... first day he owned it the wife came home to inform him that some one had rear ended her. Horrified as he made his way out to look at the car he asked did you get his details ? To which wife replied "It's ok it has only made the smallest of marks on the paint and so there was no need to get his details"
On viewing the car he was relieved to see that what she had told him was true. THEN he opened the boot lid ....................... five thousand dollars later the floor pan was back as it should be..................... the bumper had returned to normality but what it crushed as it collapsed hadn't !
AnswerID: 440860

Follow Up By: AGNI4x4 - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 12:52

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 12:52
Had a conversation with an ARB rep years ago on steel versus alloy strength. They had just done some extensive testing regards this and his reply was. Quote "To make an alloy bar as strong as a steel bar they would have to put that much alloy bracing etc into it that it would end up weighing the same as a steel bar"
FollowupID: 712757

Follow Up By: Member - Barry (NT) - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 13:36

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 13:36
Depends on the tensile strenth of the materials,,,,,,, alloy can have the same tensile strength as steel,,, and yep it may be slightly thicker.

you get what you ask for IMO,, ie if you want 60,000psi marine alloy,,, that's what you ask for
FollowupID: 712760

Reply By: Flynnie - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 19:05

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 19:05

Great post.

Good to see one of my Smartbar cruiser cousins survived the prang fairly well.

Smartbars do the job they are intended to do. I was put on to them years ago by a metal roo bar maker who had one on his own vehicle. When quizzed about this contradiction he said the Smartbars were better. You could push start another vehicle with them without damage he said. He also said he was getting out of the roo bar business and now does a different line of work.

When I was looking for a roo bar for the cruiser likely size of animal strike, weight and pedestrian safety put the Smartbar in front.

Good to see they absorb a bit of full on frontal impact with a wall. An added bonus.

AnswerID: 440887

Follow Up By: Rockape - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 20:55

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 20:55
I am impressed with the amount of abuse these bars are taking, the bars in question took wing damage and the steel one took out the guard the same as the plastic one did.

Having fitted a plastic bar I took notice how it was attached to the chassis and I believe it would take anything a steel one could, no proof but the results of the similar contacts between the cruiser and hilux make me think they are not half bad at all.

Could put on a 4 poster and watch the bar look like it hadn't been in a prang until you look at the chassis.

I am sure different bars give protection in different circumstances, but these bars certainly made me stand up have have a look from another direction.

Have a good one

FollowupID: 712813

Reply By: Member - Porl - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 19:56

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 19:56
I did hit a tree, two in fact. No bullbar at all.

I was okay, the engine dropped and broke the front diff.

My 6yr daughter, however, suffered a ruptered liver and severed bile duct. If I had put a steel bullbar on the front I believe her seatbelt would have severed her spinal chord due to the transfer of the G forces into the cabin rather than being absorbed by the collapse of the vehicle, the surgeon concurred with this..

Just something to think about, if you have kids under 8 or 9 anyhow.
AnswerID: 440892

Reply By: nutwood - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 20:42

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 20:42
There's no clear answer to this one as it's a complex engineering question.
I lived in the WA wheat belt for many years where impacts with roos was common place. Steel roo bars did the job very well.
Take those same vehicles, with steel roo bars, and run them into a cow or a tree and the outcomes might be a whole lot different.
There's two approaches to an impact, as outlined by Aesop many years ago. The oak tree who resists until it breaks, or the reed who bends and survives.
I drive a Jeep J20 (F250 equivalent) with a well braced and solid alloy bar. Over the fifteen years I've had it, it's endured various impacts, ranging from wallabies to Hyundai's. There's some very minor bends but that's it. The strength of the bar matches the strength of the vehicle and is appropriate for the impacts encountered so it works. Change those variables, either by driving into big trees or bolting the bar onto a Suzuki, and it stops working.
AnswerID: 440895

Follow Up By: Rockape - Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 21:02

Thursday, Jan 06, 2011 at 21:02
I gotta agree with you, one of my old bosses hit 2 bulls in morris 1100's sorta like an overgrown mini minor if you didn't know already and survived, both cars written off and both bulls u/s. No more cow servicing for them.

Have a good one
FollowupID: 712818

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Jan 07, 2011 at 11:19

Friday, Jan 07, 2011 at 11:19
I had a Smartbar on two Prados I had 10 years ago - I thought it was very well designed - it was mounted on very solid steel mounts that offered good radiator protection - everyone who criticised it back then had not seen or understood how they are mounted. If you want a winch though, have to check because a lot of their bars aren't winch compatible.
AnswerID: 440956

Reply By: Mark Howlett - Saturday, Jan 08, 2011 at 10:35

Saturday, Jan 08, 2011 at 10:35
We've got a Smartbar on our Prado but it's an older design that looks like tubing, compared to the squarer type ones. It appears to have more space between the bar and bodywork compared to the newer ones that look quite close.
We've only had one hit, a medium sized roo at 80km/hr. The roo was amazingly still alive but had a broken back so I had to put it down, but I think this shows that their pedestrian 'friendly'. I'm sure a steel bar who have killed it instantly. As for the bar itself, even though I knew where the roo hit, I couldn't find any mark/dent/anything. There was no damage to the vehicle from bending backwards.

AnswerID: 441080

Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Saturday, Jan 08, 2011 at 12:59

Saturday, Jan 08, 2011 at 12:59
Better off with your older one, you couldn't have those driving lights with a newer version (unless they protrude)

FollowupID: 713034

Reply By: Mark Howlett - Saturday, Jan 08, 2011 at 16:37

Saturday, Jan 08, 2011 at 16:37
Before I bought the SmartBar I had a guy on another forum tell me there was no way they would fit (he had the same Prado and the SmartBar). He was also against large lights blocking his radiator. I already had the big Light Force lights on a FJ62 LandCruiser. I bought some small Nite Stalker lights in readiness for the new bar and I couldn't believe it when the large lights fitted perfectly. The Nite Stalkers ended up on my Triton. In regards to blocking airflow, we towed our Trak Shak for 6 months, spending a lot of time up North in high 40s and the temp needle never shifted past halfway - gotta love these Prado's!

AnswerID: 441127

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