Choosing the Right Truck Grille Guard

Choosing the Right Truck Grille Guard

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  1. As deer populations across North America continue to explode, so do the number of vehicle-deer collisions on the highways.  A highway-speed collision with a deer usually causes extensive and expensive damage to the front end of the vehicle.  Fortunately many models of grille guards are available for most trucks and SUVs manufactured after 1995.   Which one is right for your truck?

    Most modern grille guards mount either directly to the truck frame or with heavy-duty brackets that connect the grille guard to the frame.  A grille guard that only clamps onto the bumper of the truck is no stronger than the bumper itself, and should be avoided.  Also avoid a grille guard that uses light-duty mounting brackets.  It’s a good idea to obtain an installation manual, which can usually be found on the manufacturer’s website, before purchasing any grille guard.  This guide will show you the method and quality of the mounting brackets.

    In a collision most of the impact will be absorbed by the bottom mounts to the truck frame.  But heavy-duty top mounting brackets are important too, because they will prevent the grille guard from tipping back and hitting the hood on impact.  A few vehicles, including newer GM SUVs, do not provide a top crossmember, so there is no way to attach top brackets.  In this case the bottom mount must be extremely rigid to prevent damage and to minimize vibration.  The best grille guards for this application are those that have thick uprights that cantilever under the front air dam and bolt securely to the frame.

    An important consideration when selecting a grille guard is the strength of the wraparound side bars, or brush guards.  Some models are so light on the corners that you can push the brush guard back by hand and touch the fender.  This will provide no protection from a deer impact.  In fact, it may cause more damage than if it were not there.  Be sure that the grille guard you select has solid brush guards that will not bend easily into the fender of the truck.

    Frame mounted grille guards come in three finishes: powder coated black steel, chromed steel, and stainless steel.  The finish doesn’t affect the strength, but it is a cost factor. 

    Bull bars and A-bars are a popular truck accessory, but should not be considered for deer protection.  They do not provide wide enough coverage and the mounts are typically not sturdy enough for this purpose.  If you only need a place to mount driving lights, or just like the appearance, a bull bar is perfectly suitable.

    Full bumper replacements have become popular in recent years, and are generally excellent for deer-impact protection.  These units mount directly to the frame without brackets, and are fully welded for maximum strength.   Steel bumper replacements are quite heavy, and may not be appropriate for half-ton trucks and SUVs.   Even on a heavy-duty truck a heavy steel bumper replacement may cause premature wear of tires, shocks and ball joints.  Aluminum bumper replacements are an excellent lightweight alternative, but cost about twice as much as the steel models.  Truck owners who want to mount a winch at the front of the truck should consider a bumper replacement.

    Truck owners should be aware than many half-ton trucks and SUVs have crumple zones built into the front of the frame channels.  These slots and crimps are designed to absorb impact in the event of a front-end collision.  Regardless of what grille guard or bumper replacement is mounted onto the frame, if the frame buckles due to a high speed crash with a heavy animal, there will be damage to the truck.  Still, a grille guard might mean the difference between minor damage and a totalled vehicle.

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