BODY PROTECTIONS: CRUNCH TIME
Heavy-duty pickup bumpers, diff covers, skid plates & more; when push comes to shove on the jobsite, it pays to have the best when it comes to protecting your pickup’s body and undercarriage
There’s no getting around one downside of using a pickup in the construction, contracting and landscaping trades: Accidental encounters with some object moving slower or faster than our pickup is going to happen on the jobsite.
If your pickup still looks brand new, be thankful. Small dents and dings are inevitable.
Crunched bumpers, bent rockers and door bottoms, and holed differential covers are going to happen, too. It’s just a matter of when.
The extent of the damage, however, can be limited or even eliminated by stepping up to heavier-duty components and added body protection.
The automotive aftermarket is filled with vehicle body “armor” of one type or another. It ranges from heavy-duty bumpers and under-belly skid plates to nerf bars to custom differential covers.
Such upgrades and add-ons are designed to make our pickups stronger and more functional.
The key is getting the best value for your dollar – and knowing which protective parts are needed most.
QUALITY OF MATERIAL
When you begin shopping for vehicle body protection, skip right past the garden-variety discount stores as they tend to carry products designed more for show and shine.
Off-road shops, truck upfitters and specialty manufacturers who concentrate on fabricating tough, no-nonsense products are the best source for the best body protection parts. They can also give expert advice on what works best for your type of work and vehicle.
Strength in the field comes from solid design and engineering as well as the type of material used to make such items. For example, bumpers, grille guards and nerf bars/side steps made with stout material is important; 1/8-inch tubing is better than 1/16-inch, 1/4-inch steel plate stronger than 3/16-inch.
So read the product description closely before buying to learn what material and what thickness is used for a particular piece of protection.
BUMPER BUYING TIPS
Vehicle body protection begins by adding heavy-duty grille/brush guards or replacing OEM bumpers, which are made from light-gauge steel, with a true “off-road” bumper designed to take a hard lick without damage.
Aftermarket bumpers are usually designed to house a winch and auxiliary lights, too, further adding to their safety value.
When you’re buying an aftermarket bumper, make sure it has all the tabs and brackets you’ll need for turn signals, lights and off-road accessories.
It’s also wise make sure the new bumper will reuse the stock mounting locations, which makes mounting the bumper much faster than having to drill new holes in the frame or frame horn extensions.
When choosing heavy-duty bumper, look for models designed to work with the factory occupant protection (air bag) systems and any reverse sensors. (Backing into objects is one of the biggest reasons for rear body damage.)
A prime example of fine bumper engineering is the winch-ready ARB USA (arbusa.com) full-size “bull bar” available for many later-model full-size pickups, and all Toyota SUVs and pickups.
ARB Bull Bars not only have provisions for a winch, factory fog lights, turn signals, CB antennas and auxiliary driving lights, they also incorporate a special crumple zone in the event of a major front-end collision.
A well-designed heavy-duty bumper should also provide sufficient airflow to aid the engine’s cooling system.
This is especially critical on diesels where airflow to the intercooler has a direct impact on the engine’s performance under severe loads such as towing while pulling long grades.
If you plan to add a winch, the bumper’s or grille guard’s engineering must accommodate the extra strain created when winching and have the proper mounting configuration to handle your winch.
Another area of vehicle protection to address is under the body. The differentials, transmission, fuel tanks and, on newer diesels, the DEF tank, are susceptible to being holed by rocks and limbs.
Protecting those light aluminum and plastic parts is often overlooked by pickup owners who drive off-pavement and it only takes a nano-second for a limb or rock to create a very expensive problem on a jobsite.
If you drive in road building areas where large rocks are a constant issue, it’s wise to install aftermarket differential covers, as they are the first parts of your pickup that gets nailed.
DEF tanks are a big area of concern as well. Most are made from molded plastic and sit unprotected right in line of the wheels. Running over broken limbs can cause one to jab upward right into the DEF tank. When the fluid drains out, the engine stops.
And speaking of encounters with limbs, rocks, and other off-road hazards, it’s wise to protect the lower rockers and the bottom of the doors.
Some newer pickup designs don’t have rocker panels – the bottom of the door extends to the lowest point on the body. A small dent along a door edge is an expensive repair. A nerf bar or even a heavy-duty step rail is a level of protection worth the investment.
There are dozens of products on the market that provide protective function with form. What we show here is just a small sample of “body armor” worthy of placement on any pickup used for work – and weekend outdoor pursuits.
Super Duty Winch Bumper
Fab Fours 2011 Ford Super Duty bumper is designed “high and tight”, keeping close to the stock bumper envelope but still providing far more tire clearance. Key styling features include: 1/4-inch steel center and 3/16-inch steel wings; integrated fog and turn lights (included); winch mount designed to accommodate up to 16,500-pound-capacity winches; and two-stage black powder coat. Options include full grill guard and a pre-runner grill guard as well as the base bumper. Fab Fours Inc.; fabfours.com; 866-385-1905
HD Diff Protection
G2 Axle & Gear knows how important it is to protect the drivetrain and the latest addition to its’ line of heavy-duty aluminum differential covers does just that. This new heat-treated aluminum differential cover is designed specifically for the popular AAM 11.5-inch axle and is loaded with premium features such as magnetic dipstick and drain plug to isolate foreign debris away from the moving parts and bearing cap support bolts for added strength. These covers also feature increased fluid capacity for improved cooling and a super strong ribbed design for increased rigidity. G2 Axle & Gear; G2Axle.com; 877-852-7720
GO Commercial Grade
Whether you’re going off-road or just need serious front-end protection, Go Industries’ has exactly what you need in the Commercial Grade Winch Systems. Go Industries’ Commercial Grade Winch Systems are based around a sturdy grille guard designed for rugged durability and provides a base for other options. Optional heavy-duty brush guards and winch carriers (Ramsey and Mile Marker up to 16.5K capacity) round out the package. Commercial Grade Winch Systems are available for Chevrolet, GMC, Dodge and Ford trucks, vans, sport utility vehicles and for import trucks. Go Industries; goindustries.com; 800-527-4345.
Black Steel Bumpers
Fab Fours’ Black Steel line allows you to transform any Black Steel front bumper to meet the needs of the truck. The factory-replacement front and rear bumpers come standard with grille guards and mounts for OEM fog/backup lights and sensors. Options include bolt-on winch mounts; 3/4-inch D-ring mounts; and 2-inch bolt-on front receiver. Ford Super Duty (‘99-’11), Doge/Ram HDs (‘94-’11), Chevy HD (’03-’11) and GMC HD (2007.5-’11). Fab Fours Inc.; fabfours.com; 866-385-1905
Pro Series Bumpers
Go Industries “Pro-Series” Bumper Replacement for full-size Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge trucks is a one-piece, fully welded unit that provides heavy-duty front end protection for on or off-road use. The winch-ready bumper is constructed of 7-gauge smooth steel. It’s built with 5/16-inch laser cut uprights and two, 2.5-inch, schedule 40 pipes with four auxiliary light tabs, and 1/4-inch center section and skid plates. The “Pro-Series” is available in a Wrap or Center Section only design. Go Industries; goindustries.com; 800-527-4345.
Ultimate Rocker Pods
There are pickup steps and then there’s Ultimate Truck Gear’s Rocker Pod Cargo Step, a unique, custom-built storage solution that doubles as rocker/door protection and step rolled into one unit. Rocker Pods’ fully extruded aluminum core provides ultimate in strength and the highest quality. The step/storage system is custom made for each vehicle, hand-assembled and precisely fitted prior to shipment. Ultimate Truck Gear Ltd.; ultimatetruckgear.com; 905-890-2838
Heavy Duty Bumper
Heavy-duty, welded, one-piece replacement winch bumpers are now available from Warn for the latest model, full-size Ford, Dodge and Chevy Trucks. These steel bumpers are made from 1/4-inch and 3/16-inch thick plate and are designed to accommodate Warn winches including the 16.5ti. Bumper design provides generous tire clearance, integrated light ports with Warn 350F fog lights (wireless remote) and accommodates oversize tires. A tubular grille/brush guard is optional. Warn Industries; warn.com; 800-543-9276
This commercial grade heavy-duty Rancher Rugged Step from Go Industries is ideal for your work or commercial truck. This 8.25-inch-wide step provides for sure footing. It’s made from 2-inch round tube and 2-inch, 10-gauge steel runners to add body protection. And as an added feature, a “mud scraper” is included to remove mud and other debris from your boot or shoe before stepping into your truck. Go Industries; goindustries.com; 800-527-4345.
Smittybilt’s new M1 bumper for the 2007-11 Toyota Tundra will set the standard for all full-size truck bumpers to follow. Each M1 is manufactured out of 3/16-inch cold-rolled steel with 1/4-inch mounting plates and finished in Smittybilt’s signature series two-stage powder coat. Each M1 is completely bolt-on and comes standard with 7/8-inch solid D-Ring Mounts, Ultra Bright Driving/Fog Lights, Winch Mount System that can hold up to a 16,500-pound winch. Five-year limited warranty; Smittybilt Advantage warranty; limited lifetime warranty. Smittybilt; smittybilt.com; 888-717-5797