Grille Guards – Are They Worth the Investment?

Traveling out in the more remote areas of the western US and Canada, it seems like many pickup trucks have these huge contraptions over their grille. Hearing stories from locals about hitting large wildlife on the road (and almost hitting a deer in Idaho), I could see why you’d want to add some defense to your truck.

But do these grille guards/bars actually work? Do these vehicles actually benefit from these add-ons?

If you’re driving in sparsely populated areas with a high risk of wildlife on the road, then yes. Otherwise, probably not.

In this post, I set out to learn everything I can about grill guards/bars. What they are, are they legal, how much they cost and are they really worth the investment?

And what about other forms of protection for a vehicle’s grille? We’ll talk a little about grill covers as well.

What Are Grille Guards?

Put simply – they are strong cage-like structures that cover the front of the vehicle. They serve as an additional layer in case the car or truck hits, protecting the more valuable and fragile headlights and grille.

According to Wiki, depending on where you call home, these guards may go by different names. In the United States  they’re known as –

  • Cattle pushers
  • Deer guards
  • Brush guards
  • Bull bars (or as a single word – bullbar)
  • Push bars 

Canadians call them moose bumpers (love that one!). Australians prefer nicknames like nudge bars, roo bars (short for kangaroo), push bars, and bullbars.

No matter the name, a grille guard serves the same purpose: to keep your truck’s front-end preserved in case of an accident. If deer. bulls, moose, or kangaroos jump out in front of your vehicle, a grille guard can keep your front-end intact.

What are Grille Guards made of?

Anything that’s made to get in the middle of a collision between several tons of pickup truck and a large animal needs to be super strong.

Most grille guards today are made of combinations of steel, aluminum alloys, and polyethylene or polycarbonate.

Polyethylene is a type of plastic that’s used for bottles, containers, plastic wrap, and plastic bags. Obviously, when it comes to a grille guard, the plastic base is thicker and heavier. Polycarbonate contains both carbonates and thermoplastic polymers. It’s also a heavier plastic.

The ability to thermoform and mold polycarbonate makes it a natural choice for grille guards. If these guards aren’t plastic, then they’re aluminum or welded steel.

If your truck or SUV does not come with a grille guard, you can always get one custom-made and installed. You will have to make sure that said guard is fitted perfectly to your vehicle’s make and model. Otherwise, you can’t guarantee that the grille guard will safeguard you from passing animals or collisions with other vehicles. In some parts of the world, grille guards are favored by police forces and will thus be seen on the fronts of police vehicles. 

How much does a grille guard or bullbar cost?

You can actually order these on Amazon! So I went and checked the price range. Now, keep in mind that grille guards need to be fitted properly. If you’re handy, you could do that yourself. Otherwise, talk to your local auto shop to see if they can fit the grille for you and factor that cost into the equation too.

So, as for the grille guards themselves, here are some examples –

As you can see grille guards come in a range of prices. Simple ones may be available at under $200 but if you’re looking for a more extensive unit, expect to pay at least somewhere in the $500 range. Possibly a lot higher if you’re looking to get a lightweight yet super strong bullbar.

The Pros and Cons of Using Grille Guards

Like everything, there are pros and cons to using grille guards or bullbars.

Why people prefer to use grille guards on their trucks

Advantageously, a grille guard can save the front-end of your vehicle. If someone were to hit you head-on, they could smash up your truck or SUV’s front grille. With a grille guard installed, that takes the brunt of the damage. While it’s still possible to maintain damage to your vehicle’s front-end, it would be a lot less than if it was struck head-on without a grille guard. If an animal were to hit your vehicle, you’d also be protected to a greater extent. 

At least that what they tell you.

Do they actually work though?

I know Canadians call these “Moose Bumpers” but I’m actually not entirely sure they’re useful against that particular animals. Moose are massive animals that stand on high thin legs. I only saw one moose accident in my life – while we were traveling in Alaska. A Ford F-150 hit a female moose. The truck had no grille guard and as far as we could see, it wouldn’t have helped much. The headlights and grille remained intact. The bulk of the animal just flew over the vehicle’s front and smashed into the windshield.

The result of a moose hitting a pickup truck that didn't have a grille guard

The adverse effects of using grille guards

It’s worth noting at this point that grille guards generally don’t have a great reputation. They’re controversial in many places.

Here’s why:

While they are indeed legal in most parts of the United States and many other countries, but they’re not exactly seen as favorable. Many people question the safety of using them – to other users of the road. In fact, according to research from the Department of Transport in the United Kingdom in conjunction with Germany’s Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) and the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), grille guards have been found to be “more likely to cause injuries to pedestrians than vehicles not so equipped.”

Further research from the UK discovered that, across Europe, 18,000 people have been severely injured and 2,000 people killed by vehicles with grille guards. The problem became big enough that the European Union Directive created compliance regulations for all future grille guards in the late 2000s. While you’re a careful and conscientious driver, you do have to keep these risks in mind if you’re thinking of getting a grille guard for your own vehicle.

So to sum this up –

Pros of using Grille Guards –

  • They probably defend your vehicle in case of a collision with something other than a moose.

Cons of using Grille Guards –

  • They may hurt others, especially pedestrians.
  • They’re not cheap. At all.

Are they worth the investment?

In my opinion, if you’re driving in sparsely-populated areas where you have more of a chance of colliding with a deer on the road than a pedestrian – then yes. For urban use, I would avoid grille guards. Since you can’t keep taking them off and on, consider which use the truck gets the most and decide according to that.

Now that we’ve covered the guards, let’s cover the covers!

What Are Grille Covers?

Actually, looks like grille covers can mean more than one thing.

You may have seen other trucks or SUVs where the grille is covered with what appears to be a metal mesh. These are known as grille covers.

These are inserts that you can fairly easily attach to the grille area of the truck or SUV.

But why?

Well, the idea is that when you go off-road, this cover will protect your grille from “inhaling” small rocks. From what I’ve seen these advertised as, looks like people are just adding them as part of the “truck trimming” to give the vehicle a “rugged off-road look”. Looks – not function – seem to be its key selling point.

Here’s a general price range for this type of grille covers.

As you can see, they’re far cheaper than grille guards. Again, if you’re not sure on how to fit them, you need to factor in the price of installation as well.

I’m all for customizing your vehicle and making it “your own” and if you do go off-road these may actually be necessary. For us, we intend to stick to roads. Maybe we were just lucky so far but we’ve never experienced any damage to any vehicle driven across dirt roads, so I think we’ll skip this type of grille covers.

Fabric grille covers for trucks

There’s another thing that people refer to when they talk about “grille covers”. I’m talking about the carpet/fabric kind of cover that you can sometimes see on trucks during wintertime.

The fabric used for a cover is almost always soft and malleable and may be made of quilted leather, canvas, layered cloth, mesh, or vinyl. The cover is designed to fit according to the exact specifications of your grille but it is not always produced by the vehicle manufacturer. In fact, you can shop for grille covers online from a variety of retailers. These are easy to install yourself via mounting hardware.

You may wonder, why do trucks and SUVs even cover their grilles?

The answer is simple. They’re used as winter “blankets”.

Some older trucks/SUV’s that runs on diesel fuel need these covers to help them maintain the right engine temperature during very cold weather. Since the grille is going to be warmer, that heat transfers to the engine as well. With all that interior heat built up, even when the vehicle isn’t running, the engine typically gets started faster because it’s already warm.

Should You Use Truck Grille Covers in Cold Weather?

With electric grilles or dual thermostats becoming more common in trucks and SUVs, the need for a grille cover becomes less. These heat sources prevent the engine from getting too cold. They also provide adequate warmth so the engine is ready to go when you put the key in the ignition. Using a grille cover with an electric grille or dual thermostat may lead to engine overheating, so be careful.

Before you invest in one, though, check whether your truck has an electric grille or a dual thermostat first. If it has either of these features, then there’s no need for a grille cover. In fact, it may damage your truck by causing the engine to overheat. 

Generally speaking, you may need a grille cover if –

  • The truck/SUV are old and have older cooling/heating systems.
  • You’re using the vehicle in extreme cold weather conditions.

In either situation – and definitely a combination of both – you need to know your vehicle very well and understand winter driving conditions. Talk to your local auto shop and your neighbors to see what’s needed in your situation.

For our needs, we’ll probably get a newer vehicle, no more than 3-4 years old. In which case fabric grille covers become redundant.

I hope this post helped you! If you’re using either grille guards or covers, please leave a comment and let me know what you think of them. Actually, do so even if you don’t! I love getting comments and promise to answer them all!

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