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Tacoma Bull Bars: Intimidating the Harsh Trails

Tacoma Bull Bars: Intimidating the Harsh Trails

There aren't too many other mods that add the raw intimidation factor like a Tacoma bull bar. This function and form mod has a long history in the automotive world and still serves its purposes today. Aside from the obvious look factor, it offers a level of protection on the trail. How much protection, you ask? That highly depends on the construction of the bull bar among a few other factors. Read on to learn more.

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Bull bars scream off-road prowess. From pushing aside brush and debris to offering a perfect spot to mount extra lights, Tacoma bull bars offer a great mix of curb appeal and off-road functionality.

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What is a Bull Bar

A bull bar is an external tubular device that mounts to the frame and sits in front of the bumper. Its main purpose is to protect the front end, primarily the front grille and radiator, from light on or off-road damage. Unlike a regular bumper, a bull bar is built to be very rigid and does not have any crumple zones. Tacomas do not come with a bull bar from the factory and thus must be added via the aftermarket.

They were originally developed for semi trucks that ‚Äčtraveled roads where there were often cattle or other larger animals roaming free. The bar was intended to push the animal aside in the event of a collision instead of the radiator taking the brunt of the impact (which would then likely disable the truck). Nowadays, the aftermarket has adopted bull bars for their front end protection but also as a platform to improve off-road capability.

Why Use a Bull Bar

As mentioned above, outfitting your Tacoma with a front bull bar adds an extra layer of protection versus on and off-road damage. They are a common aftermarket add-on for trail going Tacomas due to their increased front end protection and off-road capability. They are useful off-road as they provide an easy and secure mounting point for extra off-road lighting, and many bull bars even incorporate a reinforced winch plate to which you can mount a heavy duty electric winch. Most bars also have a light duty skid plate at the base that can protect under-chassis components from small obstacles.

On top of these off-road and damage control abilities, a bull bar jutting out the front of a Tacoma is something that simply looks cool.

Bull Bar Material Options

In terms of Tacoma bull bar fabrication, there are two flavors of choice: 1) less expensive, 2) more expensive. In more in-depth terms, the two choices are mild steel and stainless steel.

The former, also known as basic carbon steel, has a carbon content of between .3-.8%. This keeps it malleable and ductile, thereby making it easy to form and weld whilst maintaining adequate strength. Untreated, this type of bull bar will rust fairly easily, thus any bull bar that is made from mild steel will have a protective coating to help ward off this issue. The majority will simply use the finishing paint, a powder coat, doubling as the protective layer.

The pricier option is stainless steel. 10.5% chromium content by mass, stainless steel is significantly less susceptible to rusting than mild steel. The chromium content in stainless steel creates a microscopic inert barrier at the surface which blocks oxygen molecules from reacting and oxidizing the bull bar. Due to this natural property, stainless steel bull bars are left in their natural finish and are instead just polished to a high gloss. If regularly cleaned and kept free of debris, stainless steel is more or less impervious to corrosion.

In terms of strength, both materials provide more than adequate strength for their intended purpose and are unlikely to break under mild or moderate stress.

Lighting Compatibility

Many bull bars feature pre-drilled mounting locations for auxiliary lighting, making the process of throwing on a couple of LED cubes a cinch. Common locations are on the top tube of the bar, where larger lights can be accommodated, and on the cross-beam of the bar, allowing for the placement of smaller lights. The holes are drilled to accommodate a standard auxiliary light stud. Thus all that is left is to pick the lights you would like, screw them in place and get them wired up.

Others bull bar manufacturers have taken this off-road lighting ideology one step further and have a submersible LED bar integrated into the cross-beam of the bull bar, meaning all you have to do is connect the pre-installed wiring to a power source and switch. 

Installing a Bull bar on a Tacoma

If the idea of a bull bar sounds appealing to you, you’ll be happy to know that adding one to a Tacoma is really quite easy. They bolt right up to the factory bumper mounts and are 100% compatible with the factory bumper. No cutting or welding is needed – just a good set of socket and wrenches.

The basic process is this: locate the front bumper mounting plate and bolts. This is where the bull bar support bracket will attach to. A second set of brackets are bolted on to the ends of the bull bar, which are then connected to the support brackets. 

If you have an aftermarket front bumper, you’ll need to consult with the manufacturer in order to determine if a bull bar will clear the bumper. Furthermore, any Tacomas with a factory skid plate installed will have to remove the skid plate (and leave it removed) in order to install a bull bar.

Bull Bars – a Glutton for Punishment?

Given all the information above, the last seemingly unanswered question (and perhaps the most important question) is just how much punishment can a bull bar take? The bull bar itself is welded, however, is then bolted to the frame using a set of specific brackets. This means the brackets and the bolts are the weakest link and given a substantial collision, the bar will be pushed back into the front grille. It is important to note, however, that the bull bars manufactured for Tacomas were never intended to aid in a heavy or forceful collision. Rather, they are better suited to protect the front end from small to medium sized animals, trail brush and runaway shopping carts.

Fitment includes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Pre-Runner, X-Runner, SR, SR-5, TRD-Sport, TRD-Off-Road, Limited, TRD-Pro