Picking The Right Bull Bar And Bumper Is Much Easier Now For Ford F-150 Owners
The aftermarket industry is huge for the Ford F-150. There’s a wide variety of aftermarket parts that can be added to a truck to personalize, improve the looks or give it a whole new look. From lifting to lowering, the options are nearly limitless. And with the new 2021 F-150 having a lot of aerodynamic changes coming, I'm sure there will be even more aftermarket options. And the 2021 F-150 has 11 different grille options to choose from anyway.
I belong to a lot of forums where truck owners show off their modifications or their latest aftermarket purchase. The pride in ownership is the thing that unites all F-150 owners. Whatever you do to it, or if you leave it to factory, owning America’s best-selling truck is something to be excited about.
So when I heard about aftermarket retailer American Trucks showing off their F-150 bumper-buying guide, I was interested. And I learned something. I didn’t know there were so many options when it came to the truck’s front end.
Zack Wright, of American Trucks said it well, “The F-150 was designed to be a truck that is just as rugged and capable as it looks, with purpose and functionality dictating design. Nowhere is the function driven design more apparent than the bumper, an attribute that has carried over into the aftermarket with all of the different bumper options. This guide will go over the various F-150 bumper styles/designs, as well as what they are best used for.”
Part of their buyer’s guide is also a how-to video hosted by American Truck’s Josh Dugan, the video explains that a bull bar helps to add a little more front-end protection along with the option of additional lighting.
Find the full video here.
Let’s look at some of the bumpers and bull bars available in their buying guide.
Stock F-150 Bumpers
The stock F-150 bumper is designed to flow with the rest of the vehicle, while also providing industry standard coverage/protection for your truck. Stock bumpers are designed with the daily driver in mind, offering good protection for fender benders and minor abuse, but not much else. They do not offer any sort of major front-end protection from rocks, branches, or other obstacles you may come across.
Should I Replace The Bumpers on My F-150?
Due to the general lack of protection offered from the factory and the limited functionality, going with an aftermarket option will offer you enhanced coverage and/or improved functionality.
If you are hitting up the trails on the weekend, then a bumper with extra front-end coverage is what you need. The enthusiast who cruises on the beach may want to consider a stubby bumper that offers greater articulation and a slimmer profile. The F-150 owner who mainly takes his truck onto job sites may want to consider a bumper that offers better coverage and some extra utility, such as an added light or winch. There are a plethora of F-150 bumper options available, it just comes down to picking the right one for your truck.
Aftermarket F-150 Bumper Styles
When it comes to aftermarket bumper styles for your F-150, you have several different styles to choose from. These styles include:
• Full width bumpers
• Stubby bumpers
• Stinger bumpers
• Winch equipped bumpers
• Light Bar Equipped Front bumpers
• Bull Bar bumpers
• Brush guard bumpers
Full Width F-150 Bumpers Explained
Full width F-150 bumpers are bumpers that fit the full with of your truck. They offer protection that stretches from the passenger side to the driver side of the truck. Some full width bumpers will offer fog lights built into the bumper, added enhanced visibility at night and off-road.
The biggest drawback to most full width bumpers is that they don’t offer much more protection than the stock option. Their field of coverage is relatively narrow (no less than the factory bumper), making this not the best choice for serious off-roaders. The biggest benefit to full width F-150 bumpers is that they will allow you to customize your look and possibly add some extra functionality. Full width bumpers are a solid upgrade for enthusiasts who daily drive their truck and see minimal off-road time.
Stubby F-150 Bumpers
A stubby F-150 bumper is a bumper that doesn’t quite extend the full width of the truck and ends fairly abruptly, leaving you with stubby ends. Stubby bumpers are designed to be minimalist, offering you just enough coverage to allow the bodylines to flow and to have the important bits protected (mainly the radiator and partially the grille).
Stubby bumpers tend to offer greater articulation of the F-150’s suspension system, a huge plus for serious off-roaders. The biggest drawback to stubby bumpers is that they don’t necessarily do a whole lot to keep the front end safe from debris, branches, or obstacles. Ultimately, stubby bumpers are ideal for beach cruising and daily driving.
F-150 Stinger Bumpers Explained
Stinger bumpers are simple yet effective approach to aggressive off-road protective styling. Usually designed as a trapezoid or stretched “u” shape bar that comes off the front of the truck at a 45-degree angle, stinger bumpers are made to smack into things. Rocks, branches, the ground (if you are coming down a steep down slope) and keep your F-150 in solid shape.
Some stinger bumpers offer a winch or light bar built into the design, but they come in many different shapes, sizes, and functionalities. Replacing your stock bumper with a stinger style aftermarket F-150 bumper is really for hardcore off-roaders or enthusiasts chasing that pre-runner style dessert truck.
F-150 Winch Bumpers Overview
Any seasoned off-roader knows that one of the most useful things you can have on your build is a winch. Whether you need to get yourself out of a tough situation (i.e. you are stuck) or a friend/fellow off-roader (they are stuck and without a winch), having a winch off-road is an essential that can really come in handy.
Many aftermarket F-150 bumpers offer an integrated winch design, either including the winch as part of the bumper or providing a mounting plate for one. Winch equipped bumpers are a solid upgrade choice for everyone from stock daily drivers to dedicated off-road toys and job site superstars, having a winch on your F-150’s bumper offers you peace of mind and hope for the poor soul who is stuck.
Light Bar Front Bumpers
Similar to winch style bumpers, some aftermarket F-150 bumpers incorporate a light bar into their design. Off-roading enthusiasts rely on visibility and you are hard pressed to find more nighttime visibility than with a light bar equipped bumper. With the light bar attached to the bumper, the light beam is at the perfect height to pick up subtle nuances with the terrain and hard to spot obstacles.
The majority of light bar equipped bumpers are LED based, offering an incredibly bright beam of light that can withstand a considerable amount of abuse. Light bar equipped bumpers are an ideal choice for off-roaders, F-150 owners who live in the middle of no-where and need extra visibility, and even daily drivers.
F-150 Bull Bars Explained
One of the most iconic and recognizable bumper designs is the infamous bull bar. Designed to withstand major front-end impacts and abuse, bull bars are a thick oval shaped bar that protect your front-end (similar in design to a stinger bumper).
Bull bars are a very common bumper style in the F-150 community, and for good reason. Their robust design makes them an ideal choice for off-roaders and even trucks that spend a majority of their time on job sites and in the field. Bull bars can with stand getting banged up, keeping your grille and front-end free of damage.
What’s The Best F-150 Bumper For My Build?
There is no clear cut “best bumper” for your F-150 as it really comes down to a question of what you want to use your truck for. Deciding that will narrow down the options, but even then, you have at least two different styles to choose from, usually more, no matter what you plan on doing with your F-150.
When picking a bumper for your F-150, ask yourself the aforementioned question, but also think about what you like, as the bumper will heavily influence the overall look of your truck.
How Hard Is It To Replace/Install An F-150 Bumper?
Swapping out the bumper on your F-150 is a relatively easy and pain-free experience that an enthusiast of just about any mechanical skill level could accomplish. All you need is a set of your standard hand tools and about 2-3 hours of spare time (depending upon the type of bumper you purchase). Knocking out a front and rear bumper install should take no longer than 6 hours at max and can be completed right in your driveway.
Special thanks American Trucks for providing some of this content. Find more about American Trucks visit their website here.
Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.