We had talked about getting a grille guard for our truck since embracing our RV lifestyle. After all, if anything were to happen to Gulliver, we might be unable to relocate our house on wheels.
Despite that reality, other priorities on our wish list kept pushing a grille guard lower on the lineup. With a drive to Alaska in our sights, we decided the time had come to invest in protecting our hardworking truck from potential damage as a result of a collision with an animal or another vehicle.
Evaluating Grille Guard Options
Grille guards come in lots of types and price points and have many names — bull bars, push bars, brush guards, bumper guards. Most are made of steel. Some consist of a combination of sturdy metals, such as polycarbonate, aluminum alloys, and/or steel. Some are bolt-on additions whereas installing others is a lot more involved.
We started noticing these parts on other trucks and assessing what would work best for our needs. A bolt-on one would fit our budget and provide some protection, but we wanted to be able to use our parking sensors — especially since the addition would extend the length of our 23-foot truck. Fitting it into a parking spot requires all the help we can get.
The bolt-on grille guards we found, although supposedly easy to install, didn’t extend the parking sensors to the additional length of the new equipment. So, our search for the right grille guard continued.
While camping at South Llano River State Park in Junction, Texas, a beefy grille guard caught our attention. Upon closer examination, we noticed diamond plate material attached to the grille guard replaced the entire front bumper.
The owner saw us admiring the piece and came to talk to us. We explained the situation and our concerns about the parking sensors. He informed us the sensors had been extended for his equipment and showed us the proof.
We were sold on a Ranch Hand front bumper rather than a basic grille guard, a cost difference of upward of $700. We knew that, despite the additional cost, this solution would give us the most peace of mind. So, we saved the money and purchased a Ranch Hand Legend Front Bumper.
Replacing the Front Bumper
Installing the new equipment meant first removing the original bumper. We strapped the factory bumper to an engine lift to hold it in place as it detached from the truck and started loosening nuts and bolts.
Having disconnected the factory bumper from the truck, I busied myself with installing grommets for the parking sensors into the new one, along with our fog lights.
Because of the way the original bumper had been installed, we couldn’t dislodge the bolts holding its brackets in place. The radiators prevented enough wiggle room to back the bolts out of their holes. Without removing those brackets, we couldn’t attach the new bumper.
The factory bolts had to be cut off. There was no other way around it. Our Commemorative Air Force friend, Chris R., came to our aid. He used a Sawzall to slice through the bolts. The loud grinding noise assaulted our ears, and the process proved more arduous and time-consuming than we had hoped. But the Sawzall got the job done.
Able to carry the factory bumper on my own, I loaded it into the bed of the truck. We strapped the new, 300-pound bumper to the engine lift, thankful we had the right tool for the project.
Although we had invested about five hours into the face-lift, we had gotten a late start. Because of that, we couldn’t complete the job in one day and had to leave Gulliver overnight. He looked sad. We left the new bumper on the engine lift and caught a ride home.
Finishing the Procedure
The next morning, we returned to complete the job. We appreciated the help of friends Bob T. and Tim T., who graciously volunteered to help both days. It took the four of us to guide the new bumper into position and secure it to the truck.
Gulliver looks beefier and is about a foot longer. He drives differently too. We can feel the weight in the front while traveling down the road. For the importance he provides to us and our lifestyle, we’re glad we took the plunge and upgraded his grille. And we were able to sell the factory bumper the same day we brought it home. Onward to more adventures.
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This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.