Off-Road.Com - Toyota Section - ARB Winch-mount Bullbar Review

Feb. 01, 2006 By Jim Brink
Toyota Section Reviewer's Notebook

Often overlooked by some as just decoration, front bumpers are in integral part of a vehicle's safety system. Engineered to enhance the vehicle's safety characteristics, ARB bull bars are designed to work with the vehicle's frame to provide maximum frontal protection in the event of an impact. Doing so ensures that not only the vehicle is exposed to a minimum amount of damage, but the occupants are protected as well. As an added bonus, the ARB bull bars look good while playing their part in safety! All too often, the selection of an after market bumper is hinged on two characteristics: 1) Price, and 2) Looks. I too fell into that trap when I purchased a front "tube" type bumper for my 1986 Toyota HiLux 4WD pick-up truck. Granted, the large, round tubular construction looked beefy and the "hoop" that was styled into it looked really cool as well. Wasn't this the ultimate available protection for the front end of my truck? Apparently not. "The occurrence":
While on a trail run on one of Southern California's toughest rock trails, Santiago Canyon, I accidentally found myself negotiating a very tough climb out of a wash. I had completely missed the bypass route and I was committed to driving through the obstacle at the end of the wash. The one route out of that section necessitated the need for me to balance a tire on a small rock, and "rub" my front bumper up an over the top of a fallen tree. To sum things up, my tire slipped  off of the small rock, and the tubular front bumper took the brunt of the truck's weight and subsequent impact. The result was one bent tube bumper, two bent tube bumper mounts, and one creased and dented left front fender, courtesy of the bumper moving on it's flimsy mounts. Final score: Bumper: 1, sheet metal: 0. At that point, I decided that a better bumper was needed for my truck. All throughout the day, I watched as a fellow wheeling friend in a 1983 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ-60 Wagon tackle all the obstacles I did, yet at the same time, acquired no damage to the front of his rig. The main ingredient for this? An ARB bull bar! At each new rock outcropping I watched as the bumper would take full front and side hits from rocks as the (locker-less) Cruiser would attempt an obstacle and come down on the bull bar. The amazing thing was, the ROCKS were suffering, not the bumper. In all honesty, a little paint was being scratched off, but the little crumbling pieces of rock were the true testimonial to the ARB's effectiveness in surviving the abuse. At this point and time, I was convinced that I wanted to fit an ARB bull bar to my truck. Construction:
The construction of ARB's bull bars is unlike any other after market bumper. It is more like a "system" that utilizes the vehicle's frame entirely for mounting. The bull bar is not mounted to the body in any way, nor does it utilize a mounting plate or "subframe" to attach to the vehicle. 3MM plate steel construction is used throughout. Panels are folded steel in many places, as opposed to several plates that are welded together. This maximizes strength when fewer welds are needed. The round hoops that form the brush guard portion of the bull bar are mandrel bent, to ensure strength. Each steel plate piece of the bumper is laser cut to ensure constancy and fit. ARB then shot peens the completed bumper, dips it in phosphate primer, and then sprays it with black powder coating. Finally, the bumper is oven baked where the powder coating is allowed to cure to a durable, long-lasting finish.
ARB bull bars come standard with a compliment of features not typically found on other bumpers. The most important feature is the integrated winch mount that accepts Warn XD-Series (XD8000, XD9000) winches. Constructed as part of the bumper itself is a unique roller fair lead support plate that reinforces the fair lead mounting point. This allows the winch to be operated at severe angles. Two recovery points are included that allow the installation of shackle/clevises or two hooks. An optional Hi-Lift Jack bracket allows the use of a High-Lift Jack directly on the bumper for recovery operations or the changing of a flat tire. ARB includes with the mounting hardware, two plates for which auxiliary lamps can be mounted to the bumper. Since the stock Toyota bumper originally housed the turn signals, ARB provides mounting bracketry for OEM Toyota lamps (see below). Benefits:
Aside from the obvious gains in vehicle protection, winch mounting (and an overall improvement in looks), the ARB bull bar also has the side benefits of increasing the approach angle over the stock bumper. In addition, the boxed construction of the ARB closes several openings in the front of the vehicle that in the stock configuration, leave the radiator and underside of the engine exposed to debris. Installation:
I'll preface this segment by saying "Bring a friend." These bumpers are heavy, weighing in at a little over 100 pounds. While not unmanageable, handling the bumper alone can be awkward. The particular bumper for this review, part number is designed to fit Toyota trucks, "1986-1996 IFS Front End" according to ARB literature. Also noted by ARB is that "86-88 may need some mods." With that said, installation is relatively straightforward, requiring simple hand tools. A small grinder or file will come in handy as will a cold chisel. The modification noted by ARB is to the upper front bumper mount. These mounts (one on each side of the upper front frame cross member) need to be removed to allow the ARB bumper to be mounted. We simply hit ours with a heavy sledge until the mounts broke free, cut the remaining metal off with a cold chisel, and ground down (and painted) the frame where the mounts once lived. If your Toyota still utilizes a front "splash pan", the two front bolts will need to be removed and the pan dropped a little. The ARB uses these holes too. Our truck has an after market pan/skid plate but the ARB had no effect in either it's mounting or operation. A little grinding of some leftover factory welding slag was also needed on the frame of our truck.  Removal of the stock front tow hook and recovery loop is required; the ARB mounts using these threaded holes in the truck's frame.The rest of the installation was easy and ARB even supplies a majority of the fastening hardware. Also included in the bag of hardware was all of the needed bolts, nuts, and washers to mount a winch. Although not needed for such a simple installation, the instructions supplied by ARB were not the greatest. At one point, they were a little misleading. No mention was made to cut off the existing bumper mounts. To make matters worse, the instructions are labeled "1989 and later Hilux and 4Runner." This created just a slight bit of confusion, but looking in the ARB catalog confirmed that we had the correct bumper for our application. A little head scratching later, and we had the bumper on the truck in about two hours (not including the turn signal wiring). As mentioned above, mounting holes are provided for turn signals. While other ARB bumpers come with the turn signals, this particular application does not. The stock turn signals will work in a pinch, but do not use the ARB mounts. New lamps from Toyota, part numbers and will need to be purchased through a  dealer. Some rewiring of the existing harnesses to the new lamps is required as well. Once installed, the new lamps fit nicely into the bumper. I should note that the bumper used in this review was installed on a 1986 Toyota pick-up with a 1" body lift. While the body lift left small gaps between the front fenders and grille, these gaps are not unsightly. A one inch body lift is about the maximum the body can be lifted when using an ARB bullbar. This is because if the body is lifted any higher, the brush hoops will block the headlamp beams. As far as modifying the ARB to fit a truck with a larger body lift, I would advise against any change to the structural mounting system of the bullbar. Conclusions:
The ARB bull bar is an impressive piece of equipment. I am very impressed with the fit and finish and overall quality. It will no doubt protect the front end of the truck better than the stock bumper, plus it provides a stable winch  platform with no additional mounts or plates to purchase. If you are in the market for a serious bumper/winch mount for your Toyota truck, I strongly suggest that you take into consideration the investment in an ARB bullbar.
  Contact Info
ARB Air Locker, Inc.
20 South Spokane Street
Seattle, WA  98134
(206) 264-1669
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