The cheapest way to get armor on your vehicle is to make some basic bumpers from raw material and basic hand tools. While such bumpers may be stronger than the factory bumpers, they usually end up looking a little… homemade. Measuring a vehicle and designing offroad armor requires time and patience and will have the largest effect on the end result of the bumper. Poorly-fitting bumpers are more likely to attract attention from road enforcement, which is the last thing you need while on your way to the trail for a day of wheeling!
No matter how good of a designer you are, it always takes multiple prototypes to get a design to exactly where it should be. With one-off homemade bumpers, its more of a ‘one and done’ effort and its common to find shortcomings such as weak mounting points or a poorly placed winch mount. In those cases, these faults will usually reveal themselves at the worst possible time, like when you’re stuck in some challenging terrain and attempting a recovery! To try and avoid this, some will totally overbuild the bumper and end up with something that weighs twice as much as it should. This adds extra stress to your vehicle’s suspension, drivetrain and frame and can lead to a ton of other issues. Even worse are the bumpers that are both overweight AND poorly mounted. The worst case we’ve seen was a rear swing out bumper on a 3rd gen 4Runner. It weighed over 300lbs and was mounted to less than 3” of the vehicle’s frame rails. This combination bent the vehicle’s frame and caused the upper coil suspension buckets to fully separate from the frame at the factory welds. The owner became aware of this issue due to the banging noise of the coil springs trying to push their way through the body and up into the cabin!
Pre-fabricated bumpers are bumpers that are fully fabricated and sometimes powder coated too. These are the most expensive option to armor up your vehicle but come with the advantage that they are of course, already welded! Many of the pre-fabricated bumper options on the market are designed and produced by passionate offroaders who really know their stuff and produce a great product. However, beware that some pre-fabricated bumpers (even some of the expensive, big names!) that claim to be offroad bumpers are not actually built for serious offroad use. These bumpers use thinner steel, inadequate mounting points, and have bulky designs that offer poor ground clearance. These bumpers will flex excessively when taking a hit and this can cause significant damage to your vehicle rather than protecting it!
There are some other factors to consider when choosing a pre-fabricated bumper. Almost all pre-fabricated options have long lead times that are measured in months and some have even been known to stretch to over a year in some cases. This means that you’ll be required to pay a large deposit or even the full purchase amount upfront and then be left waiting for several months before receiving that bumper.
The next consideration is shipping. Pre-fabricated bumpers ship as pallet freight, which is expensive, takes longer than parcel packages and requires you to have an address that can accept pallet freight. A common option is to have that pallet shipped to a local offroad install shop who will (understandably) charge you just to receive the shipment, thus adding additional cost to the bumper. If you decide to order a bumper that is already powder coated, the chance of shipping damage becomes very high and adds an additional source of headache to your purchase.
To keep production manageable, many pre-fabricated bumper providers will not offer very many options on their bumpers. This means that you will be on your own if you want to alter the bumper to better suit your needs and intended usage. This includes things such as installing your favourite lights or adjusting the bumper height to fit your body lifted vehicle properly.
Due to the stacking of tolerances while fabricating a bumper, there is always the risk that your pre-fabricated bumper will have fitment issues when installing it onto your vehicle. This is especially common if your vehicle has been in any sort of accident during its life, even a minor one. This is an especially disappointing outcome after waiting for several months!
DIY Weld Together Kits
Spanning the gap between homemade and pre-fabricated bumpers are DIY weld together kits. These bumpers arrive at your door as precise CNC-cut and bent parts that you then weld together yourself or have a local fabrication shop assemble for you. These kits are generally around half the price of pre-fabricated bumpers but are measured, designed and manufactured using state-of-the-art processes and equipment. The heart of this process is the Nitrogen CNC laser cutter, which provides the cleanest and most precise cuts possible. This results in easy part fit ups that allow even a novice welder to produce a beautiful end bumper that will hold up to serious offroad use. Why spend days taking measurements of your vehicle and cutting out pieces of metal by hand when you can leave those tedious and time consuming steps to the robots! Especially with precise laser-cut plates, welding is the easiest step when considering the entire process of building offroad armor from scratch.
Since DIY weld together kits are shipped in pieces, they can be broken down into regular parcel bundles that can be shipped to any address type – even apartments! This makes the shipping much faster and cheaper too. In the case of Coastal Offroad bumper kits, fast 2-day shipping is used for all bumper kits.
The short production lead times are another advantage of DIY weld together kits. These lead times are measured in days rather than months. Even though you will still have to weld the DIY bumper together once you receive it, there is peace of mind in having the bumper in your possession quickly. Especially when comparing that to placing a large deposit on a pre-fabricated bumper and crossing your fingers that you won’t receive yet another delay notification after 3 months of waiting!
Now let’s talk about options. With DIY bumper kits, you get to customize your bumper to your liking. If you’d like width adjustment for fibreglass fenders, custom light cut outs, or just the right amount of tilt on your grill tubing hoop, DIY bumper kits give you the ability to customize your bumper to be uniquely your own and match your vision of the ultimate offroad bumper. Not to mention, if your vehicle has ever been in an accident or tweaked in any way, a DIY bumper kit gives some wiggle room to assemble the bumper to fit your vehicle perfectly.
But most importantly, welding is an invaluable skill to know for everything from automotive mods to general projects around the house. If you have never welded before and are considering taking the leap, DIY bumper kits are a great place to start as the thick material and clean part fit-ups make it about as easy as welding gets! Welding is truly one of those skills that once you can do it, you will wonder how you ever got by without it. And now more than ever, there are so many great and free welding tutorials and courses out there that can get you up to speed in no time. Stay tuned for our upcoming welding tutorial videos, where we will cover everything from basic welder setup and preparations to welding and sanding techniques for ending up with a gorgeous bumper that you can proudly say you welded yourself!