I’ve had 2 Kaymar Rear Bars now; one on my Hilux and now one on my 80 Series Land Cruiser. The bar came with the Hilux, but I’ve recently purchased the rear bar and twin swing away tyre carriers for the Land Cruiser.
Why fit a rear bar?
A 4WD has a number of vulnerabilities when off road, or travelling on the road. The front of a four wheel drive is usually protected by a bull bar, and then there is the door sills (rock sliders or side steps) and finally the rear of the vehicle. When you go down (or up) sharp changes in direction, its not uncommon to have your tow bar (or hitch) drag along the ground. In more serious situations, you clip the rear bumper and rip it off, or dent a panel in.
When a rear bar is bolted on though, the potential for expensive damage to the rear of your vehicle is virtually eliminated. Instead of hitting expensive panels, you hit a sold steel bar, which if made well like the Kaymar ones, will do absolutely nothing except scratch a bit of paint off!
The other reason for a rear bar is to mount a tyre (or 2). Most four wheel drives will either come with the spare tyre under the vehicle, or on the door. In both situations, you are only able to carry one tyre, which can be a problem for remote touring. When you go up in tyre sizes, often the bigger tyre will not fit under (or on the door). The solution then, is to mount it on a swing away tyre carrier. A lot of vehicles that are used for remote travel have two tyres on the rear bar, making them easy to access and out of the way. There are a number of other accessories you can bolt to rear bars, which I will mention below.
Advantages of a rear bar
Anyone who has ever damaged a panel off road will know how expensive they are to get fixed up. Some people are able to do it themselves, but most will have to do without their vehicle whilst it gets repaired at the panel beaters. One decent dent in the rear of your vehicle will cost you nearly the same as a rear bar, which is why they are great insurance. If you tend to stay away from rock and mud though, maybe they aren’t of as much value.
Greater towing capacity
Usually a Kaymar Rear Bar will upgrade the towing capacity of the vehicle. This is a necessity if you plan on towing near the original towing limit, as it spreads the load over the chassis more and reduces the chance of any serious chassis damage. Make sure you look into the towing capacities for your vehicle.
A place to mount spare tyres/jerry cans
4WD’s tend to come with a spare tyre mounted on the rear door, or under the back of the vehicle. If you fit a long range tank, the spare has to come out from underneath, and needs a place to go. Tyres on rear doors will often damage the hinges if you upsize, so it makes sense to attach the tyres to a properly engineered swing away arm, which attaches to the chassis via a rear bar. Usually you won’t fit a bigger tyre under your 4WD due to space constrictions, so you either put it on the roof rack (have you ever tried lifting 35 kg onto the roof?!) or you fit a rear bar.
If you haven’t taken a moment to consider the weight of your vehicle with all of its aftermarket accessories, now is the time to do so. Most 4WD’s have a pay load of in between 500 – 1500kg. Wagons tend to be around 600 – 850kg and utes a little more. The payload is the maximum weight you can add to your vehicle before it exceeds the manufacturers engineering, thus rendering it illegal on road. Have a read of this for more information; What does your 4WD weigh?
A steel bull bar typically weighs 25 – 50kg. Most rear bars weigh around 50 – 75kg and then you have the weight of the swing away accessories too. It is a lot of additional weight, which you may or may not be able to afford to have out of your payload. Also, consider the weight is right at the back of the vehicle.
For dual cab utes especially, have a think about the weight you have sitting behind the rear wheels; Is your Dual Cab’s chassis going to bend? By the time you add up a long range tank, rear bar, drawer system, fridge, water tank etc you are looking at a huge amount of weight hanging in a place where it is very likely to bend your chassis, and this happens on a regular basis to all different types of modern utes.
When I installed my Kaymar bar, I was told the rear bar weighs 50kg, and the swing arms weigh 27kg each. I wouldn’t disagree with the rear bar weight, but there is no way each swing arm is 27 kg; more like 10 – 15kg.
Rear bars are not cheap. Kaymar pretty much top the list for quality and their price reflects it. Even a cheap rear bar with twin tyre carriers will still set you back nearly $2000, so they aren’t a cheap accessory!
Having to open swing aways before accessing door
In order to get access into the rear of your vehicle (unless you have a ute with a canopy and windoors) you need to open the swing away tyre carrier. Whilst this might seem simple, it is something that people regularly complain about. I don’t really find it an issue; you just get used to it and move on!
How much do they cost?
This is probably the primary reason why people choose not to fit rear bars – they are very expensive. For a Kaymar Rear Bar (which are one of the best rear bars around) you are generally looking at anywhere from $1800 to $2500. The swing away tyre carriers are then around $500 – 700 each, making the whole exercise quite expensive!
Attachments for Kaymar Rear Bars
Most swing away attachments either mount spare tyres, or jerry cans. A lot of people like to carry water on the rear of the vehicle as it makes it easily accessible. Look up the regulations for carrying fuel on the rear of your vehicle (like petrol, diesel and LPG) as it is illegal in many states. I have seen people carry outboard motors for their boats here too.
Where can I get one?
You can buy Kaymar bars directly from them, from ARB and a number of other 4WD accessory shops. Be careful to get a few prices; it’s not hard to save a few hundred dollars on these!
Swing away arms without the rear bar
Kaymar manufacture a number of swing away arms that bolt directly to the chassis, without the need of a rear bar. My 80 came with one, and was replaced with the new bar and twin swing aways. This is a very economical way of being able to carry 2 tyres, but it does nothing for additional panel protection and towing capacity.
I wouldn’t have spent good money on another Kaymar Rear bar if I didn’t believe they were worth every cent. In the last few 4WD trips alone, the rear bar has stopped significant panel damage, and allowed me to travel with 2 spares in relative comfort. The only thing that I really don’t like about the bars is the additional weight. A bull bar is used to protect the front of your vehicle from significantly more potential damage, and yet it weighs less.
The only way to have a rear bar that weighs less is to purchase a tube one (or get one custom made). This is great, and they look awesome, but the issue with many 4WD’s is that in order for them to incorporate the hitch receiver the bar needs to be engineered. I specifically chose a Kaymar Rear Bar because it removed the factory tow bar (which hung low and was a pain) and incorporates it in the new bar, with a greater towing capacity. I did have a good think about the weight of the bar afterwards, and I reckon by the time you consider the weight of the existing towbar and spare wheel carrier mount under the body (and considering it already had one spare wheel and swing arm) it wouldn’t weigh more than an extra 30kg anyway.
Kaymar do a top job of their bar work; I saw a 200 series Land Cruiser the other day with a colour coded white rear bar that the unsuspecting eye wouldn’t have even known was there. They are engineered, well made and will cop a hammering over and over again. I highly recommend them.
Other rear bar manufacturers
If you want to shop around, you can get rear bars from TJM, Ultimate 4WD, MCC 4×4, Raslarr, Slee, Millweld and a number off eBay. I would never buy one unseen without knowing the quality of it; I’ve heard of some terrible stories of cheap eBay rear bars requiring significant modifications to install them, and then having problems down the track.
Stick to a reputable brand like Kaymar and you won’t have any issues! Look for quality welds, waterproof lighting, well engineered steel work, quality paint work and make sure the bar runs from the rear of your vehicle right to the rear mud flaps, or you leave a large majority of the vehicle exposed to damage from underneath.
Building your own rear bar
A lot of people have the skills and tools to make up their own rear bar, which is fine providing you don’t modify the towing point without engineering approval. Most rear bars that are custom built are made from tube or pipe, with a small percentage made from plate. If you want to build your own rear bar, you can purchase the stub axles from Martins Trailer Parts in WA, and the over the center latches from UES (or make your own!).
Should I get one?
If you regularly go 4WDing in area’s where panel damage to the rear of your vehicle is likely, or you need to carry 2 tyres with you, a rear bar is a very valuable accessory, and one that I’d highly recommend.