ARB Bullbar

It all started with a CRACK!

In a matter of seconds, an old man with bad eyesight and a late-90s Dodge Dakota had reduced the front end of my Discovery to shattered plastic. I’m still amazed that my fellow motorists find it hard to see a seven foot tall truck in broad daylight—no, this isn’t the first time someone has run into my truck in a parking lot. Despite proper parking lot speeds too slow to register on the speedometer, the insurance adjuster informed me there was $1,600 worth of crumpled cosmetic complexity in need of repair. I smiled and thanked him for stopping by as he handed over the freshly printed funding for the next upgrade.

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Stout aftermarket bumpers have always been in the build plan for this truck, but rarely do I come across an example of a good looking bumper on a Discovery. It’s a strange market, where “industry leaders” frequently disappear under mysterious or dubious circumstances, and new companies pop up out of nowhere. The rest of my week was spent researching prices, weights, strength, options, accessories, compatibilities, mounting points, crash performances, horror stories, and most importantly—sexiness when paired with the beautiful front end of a 2004 Discovery.

Throughout all this craziness only two companies have stood the test of time and continually delivered proven solutions. Only one of these met my strict aesthetic requirements, so I set aside the biases left over from my Big Jeep days and put in the request for an ARB Bullbar. A few weeks later a box nearly the size of the Discovery arrived.

The Install

Installing the bumper is a relatively straight-forward task, and ARB does an excellent job writing out detailed instructions (something surprisingly few manufacturers have mastered). However, there are still a few pointers that were left out, so I will focus on those here. First up…

Install your winch before you install the Bullbar!

As might seem obvious, getting the winch into the Bullbar is much easier with the Bullbar sitting face-down on the ground. What isn’t obvious is the bottom-heavy attitude the bumper will have when maneuvering it onto the truck and finalizing the fitting with a winch hanging off the back, which makes it all much easier to accomplish. All of this can be done before tearing down your truck, that way you still have wheels if you need to make a trip to the hardware store (I did, twice). While you’re at it this is also a good time to get started on any winch wiring that may need done in the bumper, as well as the inevitable auxiliary lights’ wiring needed in the now-naked front of the truck.

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So, how big of a winch will fit in a Disco’s ARB? With a little extra effort, a TJM OX 12000 will drop right in place (yes, I’m putting a TJM in an ARB). The extra effort comes in when it’s time to mount the TJM control box, and you realize that the conveniently forward-facing plug for the remote will not clear the leading bar on the ARB. In my opinion, the most obvious solution is also the sleekest: remove the cover from the water-proofed innards, and bolt it inside the bumper. The plug for the remote control can then be flush-mounted into the surface of the bumper.

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Winches mount bottom-forward in this bumper, such that the winch lies on it’s side with the line spooling in and out from the “bottom” of the winch. This makes for a very simple and very stout mounting platform—little if any load force is handled by the bolts. There is no mention of it in the instructions, but the ARB Bullbar is designed with a Warn winch in mind. On a Warn winch, you can rotate the motor housing (and the controls on it) such that the controls are easily accessible through the holes in the top surface of the bumper. This is not the case with the TJM winch, so don’t even bother trying. Fortunately, there is ample room to reach the controls from the bottom and sides.

Wash the truck after tear-down!

If you do any amount of backcountry travel in inclement weather, chances are there are pounds of mud just waiting to be set free when the stock bumper comes off. Do yourself a favor and detail the truck after you’ve torn it down to install the ARB. While you’re at it, apply a healthy coat of wax to the Bullbar before you install it—there are crevices on it you’ll never reach again (thanks Rex!).

Now is also a good time to check the headlamp pods and related hardware for damage. Run a 3M Restoration Kit over the lenses, replace any weakening hardware, and ensure all the bulbs are good—this will all be very difficult to do later. Once the Bullbar is installed, there is no way to completely remove the headlamp pods without first removing the Bullbar. There will be just enough space left over, with small hands, to squeeze in and change the light bulbs.

The Unlisted Tools

Keep a rubber mallet handy at all times. When ARB tells you to slide the subframe over the frame, you’ll need it. When they tell you to gently adjust the fitment of this or that, you’ll need it again.

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A floor jack will come in very handy, along with a rag to protect the bumper’s finish. Use the floor jack to make the final adjustments, not just for lifting the bumper onto the truck. It will make the job much easier and the bumper’s alignment will come out much better.

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If you have access to a welder and a grinder don’t bother buying that uber-expensive long drill bit. Cut the head off a spare bolt of the same size, then use a piece of scrap angle iron to hold it and a normal bit straight while you weld them together. Then grind it down smooth and flush—instant long drill bit on-the-cheap (thanks Clint and Dave!).

The instructions warn that not keeping the drill perfectly straight when drilling upwards could send the bit right into the radiator. Rather than risk it, toss a piece of scrap metal on top of the frame before you start drilling. This will also protect the body mounts and other hardware in the area.

Design Improvements

If you’ve spent any time on the various truck forums, you’ve no doubt read stories about ARB Bullbars which have twisted or shifted on their mounts (and sometimes damaged body panels). ARB has addressed this for the Discovery II by integrating additional reinforcement and folds in the “wings” of the bumper to further strengthen this area. The final bolt is drilled and fastened in place after the bumper is mounted, and if installed carefully, the triangulated pattern of the bolts prevents movement in any direction.

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Note: this is not a rock-crawling bumper! If you take your truck out on “hardcore” trails to deliberatly bash it on the rocks, chances are the Bullbar will bend.

Finishing Touches

A dual-bulb module is provided for the turn signals on the 2003/2004-specific Bullbar, with a small clear lens and a wide amber lens. ARB has chosen to go with incandescent bulbs, but upgrading to LEDs is easy since both sides of the modules will take a standard 1156 bulb. With quality high-output LEDs in place, the small sides of the modules are more than ample for the turn signals. This leaves the large sides of the modules free for other duties, such as camp/work area lighting. With a little careful prying, the amber filter will pop right out of the lens intact (just in case).

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The fog lamp position on the Bullbar is designed specifically for the factory supplied 2003/2004 lamps. Installation is simple, and well documented in the provided instructions so long as the original fog lamps are still available. If not, Hella makes an 80mm OEM-style fog lamp that fits quite well with minimal modifications to the bracket (P/N H12186011).

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Four additional mounting locations are provided: two for driving lights and two that are intended for antennas, but will work for smaller lights. The driving light tabs will fit up to a 7-inch light, but look best with lights no bigger than 5-inches. There is also ample flat space to mount other accessories or quick disconnect ports for on-board air/power/water systems.

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