Bumper Upgrades for Your Full Size Pickup - What to Look For
In the off-road community in recent years there has been a - pardon the pun - big shift toward full size trucks. Why is this? And how can a robust and well-designed off-road bumper turn your full size pickup into a tougher and more capable trail monster?
The Full Size Revolution
While there are some limitations to making your off-highway adventure vehicle a one-ton or ¾-ton pickup, such as difficulty navigating narrower trails, large turning circles, and challenging break-over angles, the advantages often outweigh these drawbacks. Bigger payloads means you can haul more stuff, including larger campers or other habitats, without shooting far past your GVW rating. Roomier cabs make for a more comfortable travel experience for both driver and passengers. More powerful engines mean less stress on drivetrains, and often better efficiency - especially with diesel motors. Manufacturers often build full size trucks with more robust driveline and suspension components compared to their mid-size cousins.
In addition, many OEMs are now offering off-road or overland-oriented trims on their full-size models right from the factory, like Trailhunter on the Toyota Tundra, the AT4 option on the GMC Sierra, Prospector for the RAM 1500, the Bison AEV package on the Chevy Silverado, and Ford’s Tremor option for the F-150. These trims often include increased ride heights, uprated shocks and springs, under-body armor, larger wheels and tires, fully-rated tow points, and locking differentials. In short, everything you need to drive off the dealer lot and straight onto your local trails. Why push a mid-size truck up to or past its limits, when a big pickup just might do the job better and with less drama?
Upgrading Your Full Size Pickup’s Bumpers
Of course, even with all these factory off-road option packages, your full-size truck can always use some key upgrades to boost its capability factor. Among these, off-road bumpers are one of the most versatile and useful mods you can make.
A carefully engineered all-steel bumper offers several advantages over the original equipment bumper:
Better approach and departure angles: Factory bumpers often include fragile plastic lips or extensions that hang below the level of the structural components of the truck’s front end. These are included to boost fuel efficiency or blend body work, but they are vulnerable to damage in more extreme terrain and restrict approach and departure angles. A well-designed off-road bumper not only improves those angles, but can shrug off impacts as well.
Resistance to damage: Speaking of impacts, an all-steel bumper with a tough outer coating will defend the front and rear of your truck from all kinds of hazards both on-road and off. OE plastic painted bumpers scratch and crack easily, leading to costly and inconvenient repairs that can take your truck offline for an extended period. Your off-road bumper should also be compatible with your truck’s airbag, cruise control, and parking sensors, as well as any cameras or other electronics it may have.
Solid recovery options: A bumper engineered for off-road use will have multiple robust and highly-rated recovery points so when things go sideways you have an array of options for safe and effective vehicle rescue.
Winch compatibility: Most stock bumpers won’t cut it for installing a winch, which requires extremely strong mounting points that tie in to the vehicle’s frame as well as openings designed for the fairlead and access to the winch’s controls. A solid off-road bumper should be compatible with many different winch brands.
Accessories: Off-road bumpers also serve as a platform for other kinds of accessories, such as the stock fog lights, aftermarket driving or auxiliary lights, shackles, bull bars, hitch receivers, spare wheel carriers, and sand dune safety flags.
- Off-road bumpers look cool!: Hey, it’s not shameful to be a little bit vain. Beyond their functionality, an off-road bumper should blend seamlessly with the lines of your pickup and give it a unique look that stands out from the crowd.
With these benefits of off-road bumpers in mind, wading into the aftermarket to choose one for your full size truck can be daunting with the myriad of options out there. Bumpers are also a significant investment, and they should last the life of your truck. So it pays to do some research and choose wisely.
Materials: Off-road bumpers generally come in two flavors: steel and aluminum. Aluminum bumpers are lighter weight, but are sometimes more vulnerable to damage, and often have lower winch ratings. Steel bumpers carry more mass, but resist impacts more easily and can carry big winches.
- Construction: Among aftermarket bumpers, there are three common types of construction - one-piece, modular, and weld-together.
- One-piece bumpers are easy to install (they usually bolt on), don’t have multiple components that can rattle loose over time, and tend to be ultra sturdy
- Modular bumpers give you a range of options for building a bumper that fits your particular needs - choose the modules that make sense for your application, and leave off the ones you don’t want. This keeps things as light as possible, but maybe won’t carry as much protection as a one-piece bumper.
Weld-together bumpers are for the ambitious DIY truck owner, or someone looking to save on upfront expenses. The fabrication time and effort, however, can be significant (as well as the costs if you’re paying a welder), and weld-together bumpers can be more susceptible to corrosion if they aren’t coated carefully.
- Coatings: Powder coating and paint are the most widely used coatings on off-road bumpers. Powder coating is highly rust and corrosion resistant and generally pretty tough, but chips and damage can’t be repaired except with paint. Painted coatings are thinner and will show more scratches and trail damage (badges of honor?) but are easier to touch up.
- Installation and compatibility: A well-designed off-road bumper should not only bolt directly to your truck with no modifications or interference with the rest of the pickup’s body work, it should also be 100% compatible with all the vehicle’s electronics, especially airbag sensors. This goes for parking sensors and cameras as well, and it should have tabs or other mounting points for wire management, both for stock components as well as aftermarket add-ons.
Fishbone Offroad Has You Covered
Fishbone builds its lineup of off-road winch-compatible bumpers for full-size pickups from cold-rolled steel and are coated with a resilient rough-textured powder coat. Our bumpers are guaranteed to fit, and we provide easy to follow installation instructions with all the necessary stainless steel hardware. Most bumpers can be mounted with only basic tools and a helping hand from a friend.
Whether you drive a Tundra, a Silverado, or a Ford F-series, Fishbone has a sharp-looking and rock solid bumper for your full size application, both front and rear, all backed by our top-notch customer service.
Additional features on Fishbone Offroad bumpers include:
Light mounting: Our bumpers are designed to accept factory fog lights, should you choose to keep them, along with provisions for auxiliary light mounting and convenient tabs for wire management
- Built-in winch plate: Integrated winch plates provide a sleek low mount for winches. By keeping the winch low inside the bumper, it will not affect air flow across the radiator.
Available winch line Fishhooks: This unique accessory helps manage winch lines and winch hooks without damaging either your bumper or your line.