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Bull Bars – A Load Of Bull?

They would have to be one of the most common and the most visible car accessories. Here in Australia, we tend to call them roo bars rather than bull bars simply because we’re more likely to encounter Old Man Kangaroo in the middle of the road. But are bull bars, roo bars, nudge bars or whatever you want to call them really worth it? Should you install them on your vehicle?
Opinion is, of course, divided, and whether you put them on your car or not is really up to you, the sort of car you have and what you plan on doing with it.

There’s no denying that a set of big bull bars/roo bars have tough-guy good looks on a big 4×4 like a Mitsubishi Pajero – and that they look a bit silly on a little hatchback (although nudge bars might have a sort of ironic humour installed on a Mini) or on a sports car. But don’t just blindly get them put on your set of wheels. Think first.

The idea behind bull bars is simple. If you’re driving down a country road at night and some stupid cattlebeast or kangaroo (or some other big animal) wanders out into the road as you bucket around a corner at the full legal limit, there’s going to be one heck of a big mess. You won’t be able to stop the mess that will be made of the poor dumb animal but the mess it makes of your front bonnet can be minimised if you have bull bars attached, as the bull bars take the impact better than the headlights. You can also get smaller versions that protect the front of your vehicle from the scrapes and bumps of shrubbery; these are usually called nudge bars, bush bars or brush bars.

Bull bars also fit in very well with other off-road accessories, as they make a handy place to mount a winch or extra spotlights.

However, bull bars have their downside. In fact, there’s noises going around about them being banned in the European Union, especially the metal ones. This is because if a car fitted with bull bars hits a pedestrian or a cyclist, all the force of the car is concentrated into the bull bar as it strikes the person, and the result is much worse than if the pedestrian or cyclist hit the bumper and the headlights – a person might be able to survive being hit by a car without bull bars but the chance of serious injury or death is much higher when the metal bull bars are there. Have a look at the ANCAP or other crash test sites and have a look at the tests for pedestrian safety and you’ll see why. These problems get worse if people pop accessories onto bull bars, such as winches, lights, fishing rod holders and the like, as the brackets can be sharp and act like a spear in a collision.

Bull bars can also interfere with airbags, as it’s a hard blow on the bonnet that triggers the airbags to deploy. If the bull bars are put on in such a way that they deflect most of the force from the bonnet, the airbags might not go off during a head-on collision, which means the drivers and passengers are more likely to be injured.

The verdict? If you do a lot of rural driving or off-roading, then roo bars will certainly save you a few panel beater’s bills. However, if you’re a mostly urban driver and just like the looks of them, it’s probably better if you leave them off for safety reasons.

Those who want to fit bull bars to their new 4×4 can find out more about the Australian legal requirements at this link.


  1. Errol says:

    What an interesting read, especially the bit about airbags and bonnets and the failure of airbags to deploy. It would be interesting to know when this was written, because it reads like an uninformed opinion of a city driver.
    I live in the bush and will never have a bullbar fitted because of the damage they cause if impacted at highway speeds with local wildlife. I think (from experience) that less damage results without a bullbar. The big factor is speed. If one slows down a little, there is more time to react to avoid a collision in most cases, and if a collision is inevitable, less damage will ensue. I cover over 80,000 kilometres in the bush on highways where it is not unusual to encounter an average of 2 dead animals for every kilometre…sometimes more. The time of day has little bearing on numbers, by the way. As for pedestrian safety, I believe pedestrians need to be educated regarding the size, weight and stopping ability of motor vhicles, and that walking out onto a crossing without looking, can be fatal. Pedestrian crossings do not make humans invincible as most pedestrians believe and some regretfully find out the hard way. In pedestrian collisions, a bull bar can save many dollars worth of damage to a vehicle.

    June 4th, 2012 at 3:04 pm