Does my ranch truck need an aftermarket bumper?

Image Gallery: Trucks This isn't what we mean when we talk about aftermarket bumpers. See more pictures of trucks.
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Working on a ranch comes with a host of challenges. A large ranch can cover hundreds of square miles or more. Getting from one end to the other may require you to leave roads behind and cross rugged terrain. Work can include hauling heavy loads or performing other tasks that require lots of horsepower. You need the right tools for the job.

Trucks are a common resource on ranches. But a standard truck off the assembly line may not be able to meet the tough conditions of life on a ranch. The rancher may need to enhance his or her vehicle so that it can get the job done and provide years of reliable service.

Aftermarket bumpers fall into this category of vehicle enhancements. Even a truck built for off-road travel or heavy-duty work may need a little help in the form of a special bumper. While the average motorist may look at aftermarket bumpers as a way of customizing a truck or making a statement, ranchers rely on aftermarket bumpers to provide protection for their trucks.

Trucks, like any other type of work equipment, are an investment. On smaller ranches, a standard truck may have all the capability a rancher needs without any alterations. But if the ranch is large or has big patches of difficult terrain, more protection may be necessary. An aftermarket bumper can help protect that investment and ensure that the truck will remain a useful tool for many years.

It's not uncommon for a rancher to need to tow a trailer on a ranch. In the next section, we'll look at how an aftermarket bumper can help prevent damage to a truck when towing a heavy load.

Towing With Aftermarket Bumpers

Towing With Aftermarket Bumpers
© SSLA

Even a truck with a lot of horsepower might not be able to tow more than a few hundred pounds when it rolls off the dealership lot. The truck's bumper may not be strong enough to pull heavy loads. A strong aftermarket bumper could actually boost your truck's towing capacity.

Not all aftermarket bumpers are good for towing. You'll need a well-built bumper capable of withstanding strong forces while distributing the load to the rest of your truck. There are two factors you need to take into consideration: tongue weight and towing capacity.

Tongue weight refers to the amount of vertical force the bumper will experience when you hook the tongue of a trailer to your truck's trailer hitch. Towing capacity refers to the maximum amount of weight the manufacturer recommends you tow with that bumper. Most aftermarket bumpers have a much higher towing capacity rating than tongue weight capacity -- sometimes up to 10 times as much.

Towing with an aftermarket bumper is essentially the same as towing with a normal bumper. Depending upon the bumper you choose, you may have to secure a new trailer hitch to the bumper, too. Then, it's just a simple matter of hooking your trailer up to your truck using the trailer hitch and safety chains. While you'll be able to tow heavier loads using an aftermarket bumper, you should still avoid exceeding the maximum towing capacity of your truck or bumper -- whichever is lower.

It's a good idea to follow all safety guidelines and proper driving techniques while towing using an aftermarket bumper, particularly if you have to drive over uneven terrain.

Trucks with Tow/Haul Mode

Your bumper isn't the only thing to consider when hauling a heavy load. Another important factor is your truck's power. While many trucks have the ability to haul a trailer, some have a special tow/haul mode that helps you tow heavier objects safely.

The tow/haul mode changes a vehicle's transmission shift patterns. Pulling a heavy load requires a lot of power. The tow/haul mode reduces shift cycles. Depending on the truck, it may also boost torque and engage an engine braking mode to help drivers maintain control while driving up and down hills.

In general, the tow/haul mode changes shift points to higher RPM limits. This helps you keep moving as you haul your trailer. As you go down hills, you may notice that your transmission will downshift earlier than normal. This allows the transmission to help you slow down and saves wear and tear on your brakes, too.

Many manufacturers design the tow/haul mode so that it disengages a vehicle's overdrive feature. Shifting frequently can cause overdrive to burn out.

Check your owner's manual to see if your truck has a tow/haul mode. If it does, consider engaging it when you need to haul a heavy load. It will help you maintain control of your vehicle and trailer and cause less stress to your truck's transmission over a long haul.

Front Bumper Brush Guards

You may need an aftermarket bumper if you want to install a large winch on your truck.
You may need an aftermarket bumper if you want to install a large winch on your truck.
© iStockphoto.com/kelah2001

Driving across a ranch may mean you'll need to push through undergrowth and small bushes. To prevent these plants from damaging your truck, you may want to purchase a bumper guard. These special frames protect the front of your vehicle as you drive through brush.

There are many different styles of bumper guards. Because trucks come in different shapes and sizes, it's important to choose a bumper specifically made for your type of vehicle. This will ensure that the bumper fits on the front of your truck properly. It should protect your truck's grill and headlights without obscuring them.

Some bumper guards extend several inches in front of the truck, while others have enough space to accommodate a winch or tow hooks. There are bumpers for every type of truck and every budget -- you can find bumpers priced from the low $300 range to more than $600.

Depending on the type of bumper you've chosen, mounting it on your truck may require special tools. You may even need to remove your truck's grill before removing the stock bumper. Of course, you'll need to remove the bolts holding the bumper in place before removing it, and your new bumper may require you to drill new mounting holes before you can attach it to your truck. The process varies depending on the year, make and model of your truck and the aftermarket bumper you select, too.

If the land you work has a lot of brush or you're concerned about protecting the front end of your truck, a brush guard is a good investment. It will prevent damage and reduce the need for repairs.

Learn more about working the ranch by following the links on the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

Sources

  • Ranch Hand. "Back Bumpers." (Nov. 14, 2009) http://www.ranchhand.com/BackBumpers.aspx
  • Car and Truck Repair. (Nov. 14, 2009) http://car-and-truck-repair.casubi.com/
  • Truck Bumpers. (Nov. 14, 2009) http://truckbumpers.org/
  • Bumper USA. (Nov. 14, 2009) http://www.bumperusa.com/truckbumpers.html