If you've invested in your first four-wheel-drive truck and you're looking to customize it for an off-road rig, one of the things you should think about is the bumper that you're putting on it. The bumper will serve as a solid foundation for a brush guard, lights, or even a winch. There are many aftermarket bumper options out there, but one of the most rewarding things you can do for your off-road project is to fabricate a bumper of your own. Here's a look at what you'll want to think about as you design and produce the perfect bumper to fit the front of your truck.
Choose the Material
Before you can even create a bumper design for your truck, you need to decide what kind of material you're going to use. For example, steel tubing is a great medium for creating tube bumpers. You just weld the bent tubes together to form a smooth, rounded bumper. Steel plate, on the other hand, is far more versatile and allows you to create most any shape or design that meets your needs. Steel plate is flat and can be bent, cut, shaped, and welded into any kind of custom style.
Create the Plans
Once you've settled on a material, it's time to draft plans for the bumper that best suits your truck. You'll need the measurements of the area to do this so that you can be sure that it fits correctly. Measure the distance from the outside edge of the stock bumper to the edge of the truck body. Write this down as the depth of the bumper. This is the minimum distance that the bumper should stick out from the front of the truck. You can make it larger if you want to, but you should aim for at least stock depth.
Also measure the space from the bottom of the bumper to the ground. This is the ground clearance for the bumper itself. You'll probably want to maintain that distance as much as possible. In fact, many states have regulations that limit changes to the bumper ground clearance, and although many are written as part of their suspension lift laws, they do apply to bumper alterations as well. Before you start fabrication, check with your local transportation or motor vehicle department to find out if your state has regulations about the ground clearance from the bumper.
Measure the width of the front of the truck. This lets you know how wide the bumper should be to fit the truck. Find the mounting brackets for the stock bumper and measure their locations as well. There should be mounting brackets on each side, so measure in from the edge of the truck to note how far in the brackets are placed.
Use all of these measurements to ensure that your final drafted bumper design will actually fit the truck. Draw your bumper design on draft paper, working in winch plates and any other features that you are looking for on your truck.
Build and Place the Bumper
When it comes time to fabricate the bumper, you'll have to consider your comfort level with a laser cutter and welder. If you aren't comfortable doing the work yourself, a steel fabrication contractor can do it for you. Find one at a company like Suburban Welding & Steel LLC. The goal is to ensure solid, durable welds and a structure that will stand up to the demands of the off-road environment.
Measure the distance on each side of the bumper for the mounting brackets (according to the measurements you took before) and drill holes for the bolts. Use hardened steel bolts when you attach the bumper so that you get the most durability from the hardware. Before you mount your bumper, though, consider finishing it with powder coat or something similar to protect it from rust and other damage.
With these tips, you're sure to get a bumper you'll be happy with.