Let’s talk about aftermarket bumpers.
Twenty years ago, modifying a pickup truck was all about lift kits, performance, paint jobs, and auxiliary lighting. Sure, customized aftermarket bumpers existed. But no one could have fathomed all the options that would be available today. Now, builders have the option to purchase a bumper for whatever their demands are, offering an alternative to expensive custom orders or rigging a piece from scratch. The frustrating part? Sorting through all the available options. Style, function, features, installation—where do you start?
Heavy Duty Protection
Most people reading this article are probably picturing big, heavy duty, aftermarket bumpers. Giving a truck a rugged and aggressive look, these bumpers also do a great job of deflecting blows. This makes them a great option for trucks that are work horses or will be facing off road conditions often. They’re also particularly adept at deterring wayward deer.
Customers considering aftermarket bumpers are often concerned with grille protection as well. Most manufacturers will offer bumpers with various levels of grille protection. Some options are full width grille guards that give protection from headlight to headlight. Others provide center protection, like a bull bar. These are usually solid-welded connections that won’t bend or deflect like standard bull bars or grille guards may.
Aftermarket bumpers offer more than just protection and a mean look. They’re a great location to add on some necessary off-road accessories. Winches, for instance, need to be mounted to a sturdy location where they won’t protrude too far from the vehicle’s profile. What better place than the front bumper? Not every option will be winch-compatible out of the box, so that’s a feature to keep an eye on when shopping around.
Both front and rear bumpers are a great place to add in some auxiliary lighting. Most aftermarket bumpers will have existing locations for additional lighting to be mounted, but buyers may want to take a deeper look at what’s present and make sure it’s right for their needs. Are you looking for strong off-road lights? Or less intense driving lights?
It’s important to note that not all aftermarket bumpers are “as is” out of the box. Many drivers just need a traditional, diamond plated protector for bashing. Others like to customize and play around with things. If you fall into the latter camp, modular bumpers are something to consider. A modular design allows you to add or remove lighting mounts and other accessories whenever you want. So if you’re the type who wants to experiment with different configurations, modular is the way to go. (Think, “the Fab Fours effect”)
As we said, heavy duty bumpers are very capable. However, they are heavy, and depending on the design, may cause clearance issues. Because of this, many people opt for a tubular bumper. Tubular aftermarket bumpers offer additional front end protection, but aim at providing additional clearance. They feature a simple design of multiple tubes arranged to create a barrier and are most commonly found on Jeeps.
Obviously personal preference and vehicle needs will determine the best option for a rig. But what’s an enthusiast to do if they want to have their cake and eat it too? Addictive Desert Designs (ADD) is a leader in manufacturing aftermarket bumpers and offering designs that stand out from the competition. One particular model that fits nicely between heavy duty and tubular is the company’s Stealth Fighter series Bumpers.
On its website, ADD explains that the Stealth Fighter bumper offers front end protection “without all the extra bulk.” And by matching “factory body lines,” the bumper series can offer supreme functionality that complements OEM styling. The Stealth Fighter aftermarket bumpers are available for a variety of applications and feature an easy bolt-on installation, making them a popular choice.
The last factor to keep in consideration when selecting an aftermarket bumper is the material of the bumper itself. Most aftermarket options are comprised of heavy steel (hence, heavy duty). But aftermarket bumpers can also be found in aluminum. Lighter than steel, aluminum bumpers offer more protection than stock, while still helping with fuel economy. They don’t come cheap though, so keep the cost in mind when considering what works within your budget.
Overall, we suggest keeping a list of key criteria in mind when shopping: protection, accessories, clearance, and styling materials. The level of priority will depend on personal taste and budget, but it’s a helpful place to start. Moving through a checklist can make the decision-making process move a little faster, meaning it’ll be that much easier to move on to the next upgrade!