Part V: Protecting Our Bumpers And Rockers
When it comes to getting the job done, our Frontier Nismo is the ideal pickup for our everyday grind in traffic, to and from the office. At the same time, thanks to its bolt-on mods, our Frontier holds it own during weekend 'wheeling adventures. With just enough room for four adults and all the necessary gear to complement a weekend away from it all-whether it's snowboarding in the Eastern Sierra, or touring the vast deserts of the Mojave-our Frontier has proven its versatility over all types of terrain. We've logged more than 30,000 miles since we picked up our Frontier in April 2005. As you can see from the images here, we've managed to spend a good portion of those miles in the dirt, rocks, sand, and snow.
This time around, we're going to focus on body protection. Body protection is important to a dual-purpose rig like our Frontier because, when appropriately designed, it can aid passage through nasty trail sections while protecting key features such as doorjambs, taillights, and body mounts. And don't forget the overall benefit body protection adds to the rugged appearance of a vehicle. We set out to protect three vulnerable areas of our Frontier: The front fascia, where a stout bumper might protect such vital components as the radiator and AC condenser from trail damage; the back portion of the bed, where the tailgate begs for refuge in the rough; and the rocker panels, where an ill-positioned rock can literally destroy a door's ability to open or close.
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We turned to the Nissan Specialists at Calmini for a bolt-on solution to our Frontier's forward-most area of concern. As you can see, this prerunner-style bumper completely replaces the molded-plastic OE unit. In addition to protecting the pickup's vital engine components, this stout bumper adds priceless inches to the vehicle's approach angle. Calmini offers this bumper with an attractive light grey powdercoat finish. It also includes an aluminum skidplate with 12 flared holes for added rigidity.
The Frontier's OE rear bumper did a marginal job at protecting the pickup's caboose. So we installed this stylish prerunner bumper, also from Calmini. We liked this bumper because it's a simple upgrade anyone with basic handtools can install, and it's a great improvement over the factory setup. Notice how the ends of the bumper wrap around the lower bedside's sheetmetal, offering improved defense from rocks and other trail obstacles.
For rocker panel protection, we contacted FST Motorsports in Phoenix, Arizona. They offer a lightweight, affordable set of rocker-panel protectors that are perfect for light-duty 'wheeling scenarios. These protector bars hug the rocker panels closely to prevent damage from logs, sand banks, and dirt ditches. We do not recommend using these particular bars for rockcrawling because they're not designed to support the weight of the vehicle.