Rock Ware Tacoma Bumper

Apr. 01, 2000 By Brent Griswell
Over the past several months I have been looking for a good (but reasonably priced) winch bumper for my 1995 Toyota Tacoma w/ 3? body lift. After searching the web and every catalogue I could get my hands on, this is what I came up with.  I only found 2 big manufacturers that made winch bumpers for the Tacoma, TJM & ARB. TJM makes a nice hide away winch bumper that is well priced but they don?t sell brackets that would raise the bumper to meet the body of my truck. ARB also has a nice product that they just started developing late in 99, again with no brackets to raise up the bumper.

Stock Bumper

One option was to buy either one of those bumpers and just have the brackets made by a local fabrication shop. Then I realized if I raise the bumper to meet the body 3 inches of the radiator at the bottom would be exposed to potential damage. To remedy this problem I could just have the fabrication shop make a steel or aluminum shield to place between the bottom of the bumper and my front skid plate.

After adding up the cost of the bumper and the custom work I needed to have done to make it work, I started to think maybe I should just have a custom bumper made. After doing some research I found out that I could have a custom bumper made for about the same price. This way the bumper would be built with the lift in mind and I could have more control over what it looked like.

With a few ideas in mind I headed off to the local 4x4-fabrication shop. After talking with them and exchanging some ideas we decided on what I think is a great design. For strength purposes the bumper would be made mostly of rectangle steel tubing instead of steel plate. I preferred an open winch tray as opposed to an enclosed or hide away type. This would make for easy access during use as well as maintenance. Another advantage to this bumper is that it can accept almost any winch including both integrated solenoid and nonintegrated. The Tacoma's front signal flashers are in the stock bumper valence so they would either have to be incorporated into the new bumper or relocated. I relocated them and made my parking lights double as signal flashers.

I chose to have Rock Ware located in Colorado Springs, Colorado build my bumper. They have a line of products for Jeeps & Land Rovers and will custom make equipment for other makes.  Rock Ware is not just your run of the mill fabrication shop. They specialize in 4x4 equipment and have a lot of knowledge and experience. Both are qualities that are a must when you want to do a project like this and you don't know too much about it (like me). Fabrication of the bumper only took two days; I dropped off my truck on a Wednesday and picked it up on Friday afternoon with the bumper already installed. Owner Matt Peterson said this was the first Tacoma bumper that they had attempted but you would never know it. The finished product came out better than I had ever imagined it would. I will definitely be going back to Rock Ware for my rear bumper.

How do you find out about good 4x4 fabrication shops in your area you may ask? Talk to your local 4x4 clubs and 4x4 part stores. Most people will be more than happy to help. Don't forget to check the web as well as 4x4 magazines. If you can't find a shop near you find one elsewhere and see if they can ship their product to you. Many times if you are looking for a bumper to go on a really popular make the shop will not even need to see your truck.

The most important thing is to find a shop that you like, one that has good customer service and that has a good track record. Talk to some of their previous customers to find out if they were happy with the shops work and service. I guess the moral of the story is if you want a good outcome, do your homework.

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