|Your 4WD is a big investment, regardless of whether it is a brand new top-of-the-line SUV or a second hand ute, and properly protecting it is something that should be built into your budget from the start.
Whether it is protecting the bodywork from dents and scratches or simply ensuring you will make it home after a hard day off the beaten track, protection equipment is a vital part of preparing your 4WD.
Even if you are not planning on tackling the deepest, darkest reaches of New Zealand’s bushlands, you have bought a 4WD for a reason and that reason will no doubt involve the possibility of damage, no matter how careful you are.
By way of example, let me relate the story of an event that happened to a bloke I know.
Les was driving his late model Toyota Hilux along a graveled track down the back of his farm one day. It was a track he knew well and was, therefore, not hanging around. Les was not a man known for his patience when it came to getting from A to B. Or C, for that matter and it was not uncommon for him to bypass B altogether and simply careen sideways straight into C.
So he was, as he put it, “fair honking along” this flat, straight track that, as I mentioned before, he knew like the back of his knotted, scarred hand (his lack of patience also extended to power tools) when, from out of nowhere, a thoroughly unexpected stray dog darted out of the bushes and threw itself recklessly in front of his ute.
The dog was, as Les succinctly put it, a “solid, nuggety little bastard with a low centre of gravity and a massive head” and made a noise “like a rock in the wife’s clothes dryer” as it tumbled down the underside of his Hilux. Quite how he knew what a rock in a clothes dryer sounded like I am not sure, but you never knew with Les. He was the sort of bloke who was always up for trying something simply for the sheer hell of it and his wife had a long-suffering look in her eyes that suggested she had encountered all manner of unexpected foreign objects in her domestic appliances during the course of their marriage.
Anyway, while Les may have snuffed out the dog’s flame fairly comprehensively, the dog was equally thorough in taking apart the underside of his near-new Hilux. The front bumper was raggedly split down the middle and the sump now boasted a worryingly large dog-sized dent. A number of components Les couldn’t immediately identify, but which “looked fairly important” dangled down for the underside in almost exactly the way they shouldn’t and the exhaust now had a number of exciting new bends and outlets along its length.
While Les placed the blame squarely on the dog, it was painfully obvious that even just the basic protection equipment would have stopped a lot of the damage and probably would have cost less to install in the fist place than the subsequent bill he faced to stick back on all the bits the dog tore off.
It was a lesson not lost on Les however, and he vowed from that day forward that he would shoot any dog he saw on his property. Okay, so maybe it was lost on him, but the fact remains that had Les invested in a bit of protection equipment for his ute, he wouldn’t have been standing there looking at bits of his near-new Hilux that he simply shouldn’t have been able to see.
There are generally four main types of protection for your 4WD vehicle, most of which would have saved Les a lot of greif: bull bars, side bars, rear bars and underbody protection.
Unlike Les and his dog, off-road impacts are generally low-speed, but without a bull bar substantial panel damage can occur as these impacts are often due to the front of the vehicle sliding away in difficult conditions. Without a bull bar the front bumper, bonnet or guards wear the damage, usually with expensive consequences, not only to the panels, but also possibly to the many vulnerable components behind the panels, such as the radiator.
However these days a bull bar does more than just protect from damage. Often they replace the entire front bumper and are generally designed so that ground clearance is improved and the corners are angled up giving even more clearance at the vehicle’s front corners – great for crossing angled hazards.
In many cases they also have recovery hooks built-in or provide a good mounting point for a recovery hook. However beware - don’t be tempted to add one yourself if the bar is not designed for it as this can put loads on to the bar that it was not designed to handle, often with unfortunate and expensive results.
Also note that the holes fitted to the base of some bars are not intended for fitting shackles for snatch recoveries, they are there for static recovery such as the hook of the winch when doing a double line pull. The bar must also be correctly mounted to the vehicle chassis using the supplied brackets, plates and the correct sized high tensile bolts.
Protecting your Asset
Thursday, 05 January 2012