Reviewer's Notebook: Manik Tail Light Guards

Manik Tail Light Guards

Nov. 01, 2005 By Dr. Sean Michael
The WomBAT came from the rocky ridge trails of Southwestern Virginia, where trails are narrow and stout oaks, maples, and hickory mark the trail's edge. Those claustrophobic trails and the trees around them left me yearning for some lighting protection. A 5"x5" box steel bumper with a recycled Army Blazer grill guard pretty much solved the need for frontal protection, but the truck's hind end was its Achilles' heel for several years. Autostyles of Tennessee sent a set of their Tail Light Guards. I was impressed that they offer guards for virtually every truck or SUV on the road, including our pre-'92 Trooper. I was also pleased to see that the guards were not cheesy stamped steel units. The guards, manufactured by Manik of California, are welded steel finished in a clean black powder coat. The guards are pre-drilled for easy mounting and minimal light obstruction. The 1" diameter steel tubing and 1/8" thick flat plates promise strength and protection.
The Manik light guards attach with tabs that slip beteen the door and frame, screwed to the inner wall of the doorframe.

Installation

The guards we received use three attachment points. Two 1.5" wide tabs slip between the Trooper's rear doors and doorframe. Drill these holes carefully to prevent misalignment, then use the provided screws to anchor the light guards. The third attachment point is another welded tab, but instead of screws, this tab utilizes attaches to the body panel forward of the tail light assembly with tough plastic Velcro patches. The Velcro prevents the tab from rubbing or scratching the paint.

How Do They Work?

Once the Tail Light Guards were securely attached, and the Velcro adhesive set up, I was ready to back up into something. Remembering the cost of those pretty lenses, I decided to test the setup with a more incremental torture test. I started testing with an old axe handle, but my first swings were pretty tentative. Ok, Ok, they were downright wimpy. Before long, with the indifferent response of the guards, and my 4-year old son's encouragement, I was looking like Mark McGwire going for the third deck. "Whang!" "WHANNGGG!!" "WHANNNGGGGG!!!" Still nothing. The flat plates shielded the lens and showed only wood splinters: no chips, no bends, no dings. Stout. Surprisingly stout. Manik's guards are more than eye candy. Since my post-install Big League testing, I've used the guards on trails in northern Idaho where the slim but lengthy WomBAT frequently requires jockeying to negotiate heavily-wooded corners and hairpins. Neither branches nor saplings have yet defeated the guards. The guards have held their original shape, protecting the taillight assemblies. The mounting tabs, however, are showing signs of abuse. These tabs are not as strong as the rest of the product. The large twin tabs utilize approximately 1/16" steel in order to slot between the door and doorframe. These bendable tabs allow easy fine-tuning of the mounting, but if I can fine-tune them by hand, the mass of the WomBAT can definitely 'tune' them, too, against a tree. The taillight stays intact, but the guard moves around under hard use. Perhaps because of this movement, the Velcro tabs clogged with mud and grime and lost some of their effectiveness. The panel-mounted half of the Velcro never came lose though, so the paint remained unscathed.
Manik light guards wrap fully around and encage the taillights.

Conclusions

The sturdy powder-coated guards will look good for years to come; in fact, they carry a 10-year manufacturer warranty. Use common sense, though. Attachment tabs that mount to sheet metal and have to squeeze through body seams will flex in extreme off-road use. The tabs may bend, and a significant side impact may cause a sheet metal dimple behind the Velcro tab. These are reasonable limitations, considering the ease of installing the Manik Guards, and these guards have saved the taillights on numerous occasions. More involved protection might require a custom bumper and welded outriggers. Autostyles' Manik Tail Light Guards offer a unique look, providing real protection for pricey taillights. If your adventures need protection but not full on Camel Trophy armor, the Manik's may be just the ticket.
Autostyles
P.O. Box 850607
Mesquite, TX 75185-0607
1-888-407-9456
972-686-7750 FAX
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