There needs to be a genuine and demonstrable need to fit Bull bars

RACQ does not oppose the fitting of bull bars where there is a genuine and demonstrable need provided they can be shown to offer the necessary level of protection, and meet all relevant legal requirements.

But many are fitted to vehicles that are rarely used in areas where they are likely to encounter such hazards. Presumably they are simply to enhance the vehicle’s appearance or in the belief that they will protect against impacts with solid objects or other vehicles.

Points to consider before fitting a bull bar

  • Bull bars change the way impact energy is transferred to the vehicle’s structure. They may be effective in reducing cosmetic damage but can substantially increase structural damage and crash repair costs.  
  • A bull bar adds weight to the front of the vehicle and can increase front tyre wear. Additional weight also increases fuel consumption and emissions. 
  • Severe damage to body / chassis structures can result from the increased frontal loadings bull bars produce when operating on poor roads. (Few vehicles, including many 4WDs, are designed to withstand the added weight and dynamic loads they impose on the vehicle) 
  • Check with the vehicle’s manufacturer (not a dealer) about bull bar recommendations. Some specifically recommend against fitting bull bars because they can have an unknown effect on the vehicle’s crash performance. 
  • A poorly designed or inappropriate bull bar can affect how airbags deploy, reducing the vehicle's crashworthiness. 
  • Research clearly suggests that bull bars can increase pedestrian injuries. 
  • For city and suburban use, where the risk of colliding with a large animal is very low, or for occasional country trips, a nudge bar (which is smaller than a bull bar but may still offer some protection to components such as the vehicle’s cooling system) may be an alternative to the less pedestrian friendly bull bar.

What Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) says about bull bars *

ANCAP does not test vehicles with bull bars fitted but research tests have shown that a bull bar can adversely affect performance in the ANCAP frontal offset test - increasing the risk of injury to occupants. In modern vehicles, the front crumple zone is usually an optimum design for this severity of crash and a bull bar can change the crumple characteristics away from this optimum.

The fitting of bull bars also increases the potential risk of injury to pedestrians. From 2012, the ANCAP Road Map sets out minimum requirements for pedestrian protection in order for a vehicle to receive an overall rating of 5 stars. Vehicles with bull bars are unlikely to meet pedestrian test standards and therefore are unlikely to achieve a 5 star safety rating.

Bull bar selection

  • First, consider if you really need a bull bar. If you regularly travel in an area where animal strikes are common or where assistance is not readily available, a bull bar may be justifiable.  
  • Think about the increased wear and tear and added fuel consumption a bull bar causes. Will the protection the bull bar provides offset this?
  • Consider pedestrian friendly bull bars rather than aggressive designs that are more likely to cause harm to pedestrians and other road users.
  • Light construction and the use of alternative materials, such as plastic, does not automatically mean that the level of protection is reduced. 
  • Similarly, a heavily constructed bull bar will not necessarily offer increased protection. 
  • A bull bar is only as strong as the mounting points of the vehicle to which it is fitted.
  • If vehicle protection is the prime reason for fitting a bull bar, ask the seller for proof that the product has been tested and will protect the vehicle from damage.
  • Some vehicles, (even some 4WDs) have limited front axle load capacity so it’s important to ensure that the bull bar doesn’t cause the legal axle loading to be exceeded. This is very important with heavily constructed bull bars and when adding other accessories, such as winches.
  • If the reason for fitting a bull bar is solely to provide a mounting for spot lights or aerials, consider other mounting options.
  • Only buy a bull bar that has been certified as not affecting compliance with the relevant Australian Design Rules and vehicle standards. Caution:  Some manufacturers provide certificates that say the bull bar probably won’t affect crashworthiness.  This is not acceptable to Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads.  It must say that it will not affect crashworthiness. 
  • Bull bars manufactured by vehicle owners or parties that cannot produce the necessary engineering certifications will not satisfy this requirement.
  • Where possible, buy the vehicle manufacturer’s optional bull bar rather than an aftermarket product. 
  • Bull bars made and sold by the vehicle’s manufacturer will be designed for the vehicle and should not adversely affect the vehicle’s crashworthiness.  
  • Some new car dealers sell aftermarket accessories that are not approved by the vehicle manufacturer. 
  • Remember that problems arising from the installation of any non-genuine accessory will not be covered by the vehicle’s warranty.

Legal requirements for bull bars*

  • The design and fitting of a bull bar must not adversely affect the safety of the vehicle.
  • For vehicles manufactured to comply with Australian Design Rules 69 and / or 73, which deal with occupant protection in a crash, the only bull bars that can be legally fitted are: 
  1. Those that are certified as being suitable for that vehicle by the manufacturer of the vehicle, or 
  2. The bull bar manufacturer has demonstrated that it does not interfere with the critical air bag timing mechanism or has adversely affected compliance with the ADRs. 
  • Bull bars must not obstruct the driver’s vision or the viewing angles of any lights. Where lights are obstructed, appropriate additional lights must be fitted.
  • To reduce the effects on vehicle balance and tyre wear, bull bars should not add significant load to the vehicle’s front suspension.
  • Bull bars must be securely fitted and should not project further from the front of the vehicle than is required for attachment.
  • The bull bar must be designed to reduce the risk of injury to pedestrians, and exposed sections must be radiused and free from sharp protrusions.
*Information provided by the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

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