You know how the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Well, this can apply to many things, but what we’re going to focus on here is protection for your 4×4 when you decide to take it out of the city and into the great outdoors. Off-road driving is no easy task, not only is the terrain bumpy, but the gravel on the ground, combined with fixed rocks and trees, can do a number on your rover if you approach it callously. Items such as bonnets, mudguards, bull bars and nudge bars can make a world of difference when it comes to being safe and protecting your vehicle on your off-road driving adventure.
Bull Bars and Nudge Bars
When it comes to off-road rover protection, the first thing you need to do is explore the range of bull bars and nudge bars. First time hearing about either of these things? No sweat, let’s elaborate.
In very basic terms, 4×4 bull bars are large pieces of metal that have been designed specifically to protect the front of your vehicle from collisions that may damage the engine and other components. They are typically used to protect against animal strikes, or most forms of off-road debris that may bring about harm to your 4×4 vehicle.
Nudge bars, however, are a special type of bull bar. A nudge bar is a smaller, more front-oriented bar that offers protection mainly from head-on collisions and is mostly an aesthetical addition to the vehicle. That is not to say that a 4×4 nudge bar is useless, far from it. It offers less protection, but it’s also 2-3 times cheaper than a typical bull bar, giving protection to those who don’t want to go all-in on front bar protection.
In any case, both sets of bars can typically be made from either plastic, aluminium or steel. Each material has its own benefits and weaknesses and is suited to different purposes. For instance, steel has been the go-to material for bull bar since four-wheelers started using them. They require very little maintenance, are much easier to repair and are typically cheaper to purchase, although they are heavier than other options.
Plastic is the lightest and weakest of all the materials. It offers very little off-road protection, however, if you need a bull bar for use in urban environments, plastic is your go-to. Unlike steel or aluminium, plastic is designed to lessen the impact on pedestrians, meaning, in case of an accidental collision with a person, the plastic bull bar is far less lethal.
Aluminium bars offer the best of both worlds. They are strong and durable, while also being light. They are the most expensive of the bunch though and it’s obvious to see why. So when you’re in the market, weigh in all your options and choose based on what you can afford and what you wish to invest in.
When it comes to sensitive moving parts, there are plenty of vital areas and components on your vehicle’s underbody, among which are the electronics, sump, fuel tank, diff, gearbox and much more. These are especially vulnerable to damage when you go off-road. Sticks, twigs, rocks, dirt and other things, either natural or man-made, can rip, tear or puncture something vital on the underbelly of your four-wheeled beast. Such damage can cost you in upwards of thousands of dollars in repairs or replacement. You can, however, minimise this by knowing where your vehicle’s vulnerable areas are and by protecting them with top-quality aftermarket under armour.
Differential Covers and Guards
The differentials put up with massive amounts of power, load, and shock on a daily basis without as much as a complaint. However, if you hit a rock hard enough, your differential might just fracture or straight up break. Not only are they expensive, but nearly impossible to fix mid-road without specific tools. This is where differential covers shine. They come in two varieties: replacement covers and bolt-on guards. Which one you’ll go for depends mostly on your vehicle, as both offer similar protection.
Side Steps and Rock Sliders
Protection steps and rock sliders are simple aftermarket accessories that can prevent thousands of dollars of damage to your 4X4 and by all accounts should be considered essential if you’re regularly headed off in off-road terrains. Protection steps are designed to take a pounding while making entry to your vehicle easier with the addition of a step. Rock sliders, on the other hand, are designed specifically to support the weight of your 4X4 when it’s bashing against rocks and gravel.
Sump guards play a multifunctional role when it comes to underbody protection. Traditionally, they don’t run the entire length of the engine, however, they do focus on the sensitive areas towards the front of your vehicle such as your radiator, steering stabiliser, air conditioning, oil cooler, etc. These are all things that can be saved by a good quality sump guard. In addition to looking really cool, they can also be quite useful in the case of an animal strike.
Fuel Tank Skids
It comes as no surprise that if you somehow end up puncturing your fuel tank mid-trip, your vehicle is not going to get very far. Factory tanks are usually pretty durable, but rocks and sharp sticks can do a lot of damage regardless. Fuel tank skids provide a protective layer of aluminium or steel between the rough terrain and your precious fuel.
Engine and Gearbox Skids
It’s safe to say that without a functioning engine and transmission, your vehicle is out of commission and is unlikely to be repaired on the spot. Engine and gearbox skid plates combined together provide excellent protection and ensure that you’re less likely to be stranded mid-road.
Lastly, we’ll mention headlight protection. This consists of plastic headlight covers that function as a protective screen, preventing both scratching and/or breaking of the headlights from the rough road ahead.