Everyone has heard of bull bars – the most popular 4×4 accessories that offer protection to your vehicle’s front end. But what about rear bars?
A rear bar is the complete opposite of a bull bar. It’s basically a piece of steel that wraps around the rear of your 4×4 to protect it from behind, hold jerry cans, spare tyres and other 4×4 accessories. There are quite a few reasons why you would want to fit a rear step bar to your vehicle, regardless whether your intentions with it are on or off the road. Here are some of the most common reasons people fit rear bars today.
Improved Departure Angle and Increased Clearance
One of the easiest ways to damage your 4×4 when driving off the road is driving over something that’s slightly taller than your vehicle, and you can easily dent a panel or rip a bumper off. A huge number of 4×4 feature bumpers or rear panels that hang down low. But getting a rear step bar can replace all plastic bumpers, providing more clearance at the back end of your vehicle, which also results in an improved departure angle.
Protecting the Rear Quarter Panels
As briefly aforementioned, one of the most common damages done to a 4×4 is on the rear side. If you drop into a hole, it’s easy to hit the rear on docks or dirt, leading to expensive repair bills. By installing a huge piece of steel there, it takes the majority of the force and leaves your 4×4 unscathed.
Improved Load Distribution
A lot of the stock tow bars don’t distribute the weight of trailers evenly over the chassis. By equipping a quality rear bar, you distribute the load more evenly throughout the chassis, ensuring your towing is safe and worry-free.
A Base to Fit Extra Accessories
One of the most popular reasons for fitting a rear step bar is to use it as a base to fit extra accessories, such as jerry can holders, swinging tyre carriers, shovel holders, high lift jack holders, lights, tables and so on. You can’t hang these off the back of your 4x4s panels.
Many 4×4 have their spare tyres under the vehicle, so if you decide to fit a long-range or LPG fuel tank in its place, you’ll have to take the spare tyre out. Most people want the tyres out from under their vehicle anyway, as they’re hard to reach, reduce clearance and can get damaged when driving off the beaten trail, so you’ll need a place to mount the spare tyre and the ideal place to mount it is the rear step bar.
Rear Bar Accessories
The most common accessory you’ll see mounted on a rear bar is a swinging tyre carrier. Most vehicles can only fit one, but those who travel in remote areas and off the beaten trail will oftentimes need two. Swinging tyre carriers have a latch to undo the arm, and all you have to do is swing them towards the outside of your vehicle. Basically, you’re provided with a strong place to store your spare tyres, as having two spares elsewhere is difficult and oftentimes unsafe or impossible.
People often mount jerry can holders on the swinging arms as well to carry extra fuel or water. Rear bars are also the ideal platform to hang work lights on, and there are numerous kits you can buy that give you light. High-lift jacks and shovels can also be bolted onto the swinging arms as the tyres are on.
Things to Look for in a Rear Bar
As you can tell, rear bars are bought for a wide number of reasons, and you want to ensure the one you buy fulfils your needs. If you want a rear bar to expand your storage space, then as long as it’s functional, strong and doesn’t break your bank, you can’t really make the wrong choice.
However, personally, I stay away from rear bars that only protect the last 15cm of your vehicle, and everyone who does a lot of 4x4ing will tell you the same. The quarter panels take a lot of damage in between the back of your vehicle and the rear tyre, and if the bar doesn’t offer side support it isn’t doing its job.
Ideally, you want the rear bar to stick out at least 2cm on both sides of your vehicle to ensure that if you slide into a rut and your vehicle hits the sidewalls, the rear bar will take the damage and not the panels. Make sure that the latches you get are properly working and won’t get loose easily.
You can find a wide range of rear bars online made of different materials, the most common ones being stainless steel and aluminium. Aluminium bull bars are lighter, but stainless steel is stronger and more rust- and corrosion-resistant.