What is a rear bar?
A rear bar is literally the opposite of a bull bar. They are basically a piece of steel that wraps around the rear of your four wheel drive to protect the rear of your car, hold spare tyres, jerry cans and other accessories.
What are the benefits of fitting one?
Rear Bars are fitted for numerous reasons. Some of these include:
Increased clearance and better departure angle
One of the easiest ways to damage your four wheel drive is to drive over something that is just slightly taller than your vehicle, and rip a bumper off, or dent a panel on the rear. A massive number of four wheel drives have rear panels or bumpers that hang down extremely low. By fitting a Rear Bar all plastic bumpers are removed, and you usually gain more clearance at the rear of your vehicle, which gives you a better departure angle.
Protection of rear quarter panels
I mentioned above that one of the most common damages done to a four wheel drive is at the rear of a vehicle. If you drop into a hole its easy to catch the rear of the car on the dirt or docks, and this can lead to expensive repair bills. By having a big lump of steel there, it takes the brunt of the force and leaves your vehicle unscathed!
Better load distribution on your chassis
A lot of the standard tow bars don’t distribute the weight of a trailer evenly over the chassis. By fitting a quality rear bar you distribute the load more evenly over the chassis, and ensure that your towing is worry free.
A base to fit accessories
One of the most common reasons for a rear bar to be fitted is so you have somewhere to mount other accessories. These range from swinging tyre carriers, jerry can holders, high lift jack holders, shovel holders, lights, tables and the list goes on. You can’t easily hang these off the back of your four wheel drive panels.
A lot of four wheel drives have their spare wheels under the vehicle. If you fit a fuel tank in its place (long range or LPG) you will have to pull the spare out (and most people want them out anyway as they are hard to get to, can be damaged when you go four wheel driving and reduce clearance) and then you need somewhere to put the tyre. A Rear Bar provides the perfect base.
Rear Bar accessories
The most common accessory you will see on a Rear Bar is swinging tyre carriers. Most vehicles only fit one, but those that travel in remote areas will fit two swinging arms. They have a latch to undo the arm, and you just swing them towards the outside of the vehicle. In essence you are given a strong place to store spare tyres, as carrying two spares elsewhere is very difficult. People will often mount jerry can holders on swinging arms as well, to carry diesel or water. I believe carrying unleaded petrol on the rear of a vehicle is illegal in all states of Australia.
Rear Bars are also a great place to hang work lights off, and there are numerous kits that you can purchase to give you light. Shovels and high lift jacks can usually be bolted onto the same swinging arm as the tyres are on (by fitting long threaded bar, which sorts out another storage issue. I have seen a number of people making tables fold down from their rear bars, which is a great idea if you have a bit of time and hands on skill!
Things to look for in your Rear Bar
Rear bars are purchased for a number of different reasons, and you want to make sure that these are going to be fulfilled. If you purely want a rear bar for storage space then as long as it is strong, functional and not too expensive you can’t really go wrong. However, I have a problem with rear bars that only protect the last 150mm of your vehicle, and this is very obvious if you do a lot of four wheel driving. A lot of damage is done to quarter panels in between the rear tyre and the back of your vehicle, and if the bar doesn’t have side supports it is only really doing half it’s job.
Ideally the rear bar will stick out at least 20mm on either side of your vehicle. This ensures that if you do slide into a rut and your vehicle hits the side wall the bar takes the damage and not your expensive panel work! Make sure that the latches that you get work well, and are not going to come loose.
Who makes rear bars?
There are plenty of different companies in Australia that make Rear Bars. Kaymar have the majority of the market share, and they do a brilliant job making bar work for most model four wheel drives out there. However, they are not cheap! ARB, TJM, Millweld, Rasslar and Avenger are a few other well known companies that make rear bars as well. There are a heap of local fabrication shops that will make these up too.
Rear bars by themselves range from around $800 - $1800. The swinging arms can cost anywhere from $300 - $900, depending on the vehicle you own, the product being purchased and how well you can bargain!
Making your own Rear Bar
A Rear Bar is something that you want to look good, and to make something that is strong, functional and good looking can be difficult unless you are quite competent when it comes to metal work. That being said, the best looking rear bars are the custom ones! When I bought My Hilux, it came with a Kaymar Rear Bar. I priced up a swinging tyre carrier ($800) and nearly had a heart attack. I purchased about $50 worth of steel and knocked a swinging arm up in an afternoon with a mate. Since then, I’ve made another one with two jerry can holders incorporated.
The swinging arms are not that hard to make, and there are hundreds of guides on forums, along with photos and detailed information to get you through. Providing you can handle a grinder and you can weld reasonably (or know someone who can) you will save some decent money.
Fitting work lights to your rear bar
There are plenty of kits that you can purchase for rear bar work lights, or you can just buy a quality LED light, make some mounts up and wire it up. Most work lights sit above the spare tyre, but I have seen them in other places. Fit it where it is easy to do so, whilst providing a decent amount of light.
I’ve lost count of the number of times my Kaymar Rear Bar has saved panel damage to the rear end of my Hilux. They are an accessory that is well and truly worth fitting to your vehicle.