We’ve preached the low and stable build philosophy for years. No matter what side of the country you are on, a rig with a lower center of gravity will always be safer. Though keeping your 4x4 low might sound easy enough, a low COG can often wreak havoc on your rig’s underbelly and low-hanging parts. This is especially true for modern pickups equipped with an extremely low-hanging front bumper.
Stock bumpers adhere to strict federal safety standards and have aerodynamic cues built in to help the truck’s overall efficiency. These features generally equate to limited ground clearance and reduce the vehicle’s approach angle. But for our type of trail use, you want as much of the front tires exposed as possible. This allows you to take a more direct approach when climbing obstacles and offers you more line choices and maneuverability off-road.
Our ’98 Toyota Tacoma is a prime example of a truck built with a modest lift, and hindered by a front bumper that covers a large portion of the tires. Fortunately Trail-Gear offers an affordable heavy-duty front bumper upgrade for the ’95-’04 Toyota Tacoma. Trail Gear has a few bumper varieties to choose from, but for this build we went with the company’s Low Profile Rock Defense winch series front bumper. The simple and sleek tubular front bumper is completely bolt-on and gives the truck a better approach angle while allowing us to drop in a Warn 8,000-pound winch. This equates to better off-road performance and a safe and reliable means for trail recovery.
To toss on the bumper, we rolled the Tacoma into our home garage and were able to knock out the install in just a few hours. See a full line of Trail Gear’s bumpers at www.trail-gear.com.
Options & Coatings
To complete the heavy-duty bumper conversion, we equipped the rear of our Taco with one of Trail Gear’s Rock Defense rear bumpers. Like the front, the rear is an installer-friendly bolt-on design. Since both bumpers shipped bare, we had our friends at Area 51 Powder Coating in Holly Ridge, North Carolina, coat them with a nice semigloss black. We are pleased with the fit, finish, and overall look of the bumper combo and look forward to putting the fresh armor to the test on the trail.