2000 4Runner Front Bumper
|Author: Jeff Bathke, Edited by: Dan Eddleman. Dec, 2008|
After several challenging trips off-road, the stock Toyota front bumper on my 2000 4Runner wasn't surviving too well. Rocks had scraped off a lot of paint, torn off the hinged cover over the stock tow point, added a wrinkle in the plastic, and bent a corner of the bumper. So the search for a rugged aftermarket bumper was on.
At the time, the only aftermarket bumpers for '96-'02 4Runners were from ARB and TJM. They both look great. At the time, TJM had a temporary halt to shipping their bumpers to the U.S. and it was unclear if the TJM could fit a 2000 4Runner. With minor modifications to the frame mounts each of these brands was later shown to fit a 3rd generation 4Runner. Neither of these bumpers was truly designed as a direct bolt up for the '99-'02 years of the 4Runner.
I also had a goal of improving my approach angle and keeping the weight down. And I didn't like how far the ARB bumper stuck out. I also had learned that the steel TJM T-15 weighed 104 pounds and the ARB was very similar. But I wanted something that was lighter and yet very durable for off-roading.
|The new bumper
I ended up getting a custom heavy duty aluminum bumper from Denver Off-Road.
Layne at Denver Off-Road now specializes in building heavy duty aluminum bumpers. Most of his market is for full-size pickups. Building the bumpers out of thick aluminum allows light weight while maintaining high strength. I had learned about Layne from my friend Corbin who happened to have one of Layne's custom aluminum bumpers on his Isuzu Amigo. The biggest selling point was that I saw how much abuse that bumper has withstood. The basic design of my bumper was derived from that Amigo bumper.
This 4Runner bumper is built of 6061-T6 aluminum. Most of it is 3/8" thick, with a few minor pieces being 1/4" thick. It's basically a very strong C channel. The brackets connecting it to the frame are 3/8" steel and bolted to the frame in 5 places per side. Six large bolts hold the aluminum bumper to the steel brackets. Denver Off-Road has done some tests to compare the strength of aluminum and steel. Three-eights inch thick aluminum has proven stronger than 1/4" steel for a variety of tests. Yet, the aluminum is lighter. The main bumper channel without the winch weighs only 52 pounds, yet is extremely strong. The steel frame brackets might add another 20 pounds to this. For comparison, the full ARB and TJM steel bumpers for the 3rd gen 4Runner are about 1/8" thick and around 100 pounds. Those are heavier and yet can be damaged much easier off-road.
Layne says that working with aluminum is difficult. It annoyingly sticks to all grinders and cutting equipment. He uses a powerful heli-arc welder to get proper penetration through 3/8" thick material. Fortunately, his love for high quality work seems to eclipse the difficulties of working with aluminum. His meticulous hard work is very evident in this bumper.
|Going down ;-) Here you can see how to access the winch
A Warn HS9500 winch is mounted directly to the front face of 3/8" aluminum. No separate winch cradle is needed, which can't be said for other brands of aluminum bumpers on the market since they are typically 1/8" thick aluminum.
The access to the winch is excellent. Shoot, it's wide open from above and below! Other steel bumpers on the market have only a small slit in the top of the bumper and allow access to the winch only from below. That wouldn't be fun in a mud pit.
The winch is mounted as low as possible while still allowing a very good approach angle. It's tight enough to the frame and radiator that the winch cannot be removed without removing the bumper along with it. This is great for security of the winch. The bumper was built around the HS9500. So it just fits with a little room to spare against one side of the steel brackets. The control box is neatly mounted inside the bumper just on the other side of the steel bracket.
|Nice side shot
I couldn't decide how to paint it or what type of finish to add that could withstand a beating from gravel and bug splats. Layne finished it with a beautiful brushed aluminum appearance. So I simply sprayed multiple coats of clear coat enamel over it. It looks fantastic and won't rust.
I also requested TJM style "hoops" for a cool looking grill guard. Hey, what can I say, the bumper's not purely for functionality. It looks awesome, too.
Flat and rectangular turn signals are a thing of the past. So turn signals were taken from an '84 Toyota pickup and placed in simple cutouts.
One thing this bumper didn't have that I needed was a provision for tow shackles. I used a hole saw and drilled a hole in each of the 3/8" thick steel frame brackets for use with a clevis. The steel brackets looked intentionally shaped for this purpose.
I lost my fog lights with this bumper, although I'm planning to add some aftermarket fogs near the frame rails.
One significant thing the ARB and TJM bumpers have over this Denver Off-Road bumper is the Australian airbag certification and testing. The 4Runner uses inertia airbag sensors, so mine should theoretically be more sensitive to deploying the airbags since there's no cushion in an impact with the front bumper. With this in mind, both the Amigo and 4Runner with these heavy duty bumpers have taken some very hard hits off-road against rocks and the airbags haven't deployed. After what I've seen, I'm no longer worried about this possibility.