In an effort to continue the transformation of our 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 into a worthy chase truck, we decided to focus some attention on the front and rear bumpers. A lot of people associate bumper conversions purely with aesthetics, and while they certainly do have a large impact on the overall look of a truck, they serve a much more important purpose.
To begin with, aftermarket bumpers can provide some slick ways to incorporate auxiliary lighting onto your vehicle. Lots of truck owners use their vehicles where there is little to no area lighting, whether for work or for play, and extra lighting is required. The problem is that many of the available mounting locations place the lights in areas where they can be easily damaged or snagged, or even mounted into a location that may block driver visibility, or airflow to the front of the truck.
What Do We Have Here
Fortunately, our bumpers from Throttle Down Customs (TDK) produce light-mounting solutions that do not have any of the drawbacks mentioned above. Ultimately it is up to each customer, and because TDK builds its bumpers to order, you have the ability to get the bumper built the way you want it. For the front bumper, you have the option of choosing none, one, or two lights per side – we opted for one per side. These lighting holes come tabbed and sized for Rigid Industries Dually LED light pods, which can be added to your order and purchased separately should you chose to do so.
Moving to the rear of the vehicle, again you have the choice to run no lights, one, or two — and again we went with one. The rear lights are also built to accept a Rigid Industries Dually LED light, though the rear bumpers accept a flush-mount light, and the bumpers come with the appropriate holes drilled for the mounting bolts.
Another awesome feature of aftermarket bumpers, is that they can provide some seriously increased protection by putting more protection where needed, and subsequently not putting coverage where it’s not needed.
The steel used to build these TDK bumpers is far, far stronger than anything that could possibly come from the factory. Many components are mounted up front and fairly low which could severely impact your chances of returning to the highway from those off-road adventures. The radiator, transmission cooler, and power steering lines can all reside behind the front bumper area. Remember that diesels are even more susceptible with intercoolers, engine oil coolers, and the plumbing that feeds them.
Our new TDK bumper defiantly has the strength to prevent the majority of image and intrusion to these sensitive areas. You will also notice that there is less bumper area around the sides and near the lower portions of the front tires, which has two advantages: first, it opens up the approach angle should you have to drive up and over an obstacle with one of your tires; and second, keeping low hanging, unnecessary bumper coverage off the vehicle helps to minimize the chance of a snag off-road, which could result in a hangup, or even push the bumper back into the vehicle, damaging those critical components hanging below.
You may have noticed the large steel triangles protruding from the front bumper with the large holes drilled in them. These were installed and drilled to accept standard size D-rings to attach a recovery strap should a fallen tree need to be moved, or you find yourself or a fellow off-roader in a sticky situation and in need of assistance.
The rear bumper does not feature the same D-ring attachments as the front bumper, but the guys at TDK made sure its bumper does not interfere with the hitch – where a recovery hitch can be pinned into place – nor the portion of the frame that accepts a screw-in tow ball. We also like the fact that our trailer receiver plug is still easily accessible, and very bright LEDs to illuminate your new license plate mounting location are provided by TDK.
Throttle Down Customs offers a powder-coating service at the time of purchase in both a black and silver vein finish for an additional charge. While TDK is happy to get do this for its customers, we suggest that you purchase your bumpers raw and get the coating done by your own local shop for a couple of reasons. For one, it is fairly difficult to get such a large and heavy object freighted across the county securely without marring or scratching the finish.
Secondly, anyone who has visited a powder-coating shop before can tell you the word “black” is about as vague as the word “color.” There are so many different shades of black — ranging from warm, to cool, and neutrals — that it isn’t even funny … and that’s without even adding a texture into it.
For example, we opted to try and match the finish as closely as possible to the color and texture of our chase rack, and we think it came out as close to identical as possible. Additionally, this can add a fun step to the process of your bumper change, and leaves the door wide open for other options like painting to match a custom scheme. Another bonus of receiving the bumpers raw, is that this affords the customer the opportunity to weld on additional lighting tabs or make any other minor changes, should they wish to do so.
We knew we were going to need a high-quality job, with a quick turnaround time. With that in mind, we headed down to a nearby shop located in Escondido, California. Olympic Coatings has been in business for a long time, and produces the kind of results you can always rely on.
Here you see our bumpers exiting the sandblasting room. With a rough and raw surface free of any oils or solvents, they are ready to begin the powder-coating process.
Next, the bumpers are hung from a rack which rides along a track from the spray booth and into the heater room. The bumpers get wiped off and blown clean before a close last-minute inspection. Just as with paint, a big portion of the job comes from high-quality prep work.
A positive electrical charge is placed on the track system, allowing it to flow through the part. The powder-coating gun then emits a powder that has been given a negative charge. This bond allows the powder to stay attached to the metal parts temporarily.
Lastly, the parts rack is placed into the oven, which bakes the powder and forms an extremely tough and uniform coating. An object with as much mass as our bumpers takes a couple of hours to cool down, but once cooled the parts are ready for service and left with a gorgeous finish.
Bolting It Up
As you will see, the bumper installation is very simple and straightforward, and we were able to complete it in our home garage in under two hours. We believe that the installs would be fairly simple to complete with only two people, however we did it with three and it was a breeze.
You will first notice that the factory bumper and the TDK bumper have different types of mounting brackets, but do not be alarmed. As you will see when you unbolt the bumper, there are separate plates that bolt to sides of the frame rails. The factory bumper then bolts to that flat, forward facing plate. The TDK bumper however does not use these brackets, but simply sandwiches each frame rail and gets bolted into place – much simpler than the factory alternative.
We put a bolt in the bottom of each frame rail, which relieved the holding duties of our two helpers. That being said, we were unable to install the upper bolts, so you will need to raise and tilt the intercooler slightly to get these bolts installed. To do this, you simply remove two upper bolts and rubber grommets from the core support and set them aside.
After installing the remaining bolts, we began tightening them down, but left them lose enough to adjust the spacing of our bumper. With a few slight adjustments we produced equal gaps between the truck and our new bumper.
After tightening the nuts and bolts down firmly and reattaching the intercooler, our front bumper installation was complete. With the hood back down we admired the fresh look for the first time. You’ll notice that the fender liners protrude down past the lines of the bumper, and we opted to trim these so they don’t show from the front.
We turned the truck around and got right to work on removing the necessary components for removing the rear bumper. The first being the license plate, followed by the electrical connections for both the license plate lights and the trailer plug connection. Once the plugs and connections were free, we removed the remaining bolts that hold the rear bumper in place.
After removing several bolts located behind the license plate mounting location, we slid underneath to remove the remaining bolts. Once there was a helper on each corner, the last two bolts were removed, freeing the bumper from the truck. Again, it could be done with two people, but we erred on the side of safety and ease.
After setting our new TDK bumper on the ground and sorting the remaining hardware, it was back to the ground while the team lifted the new bumper into place. A few quick bolts and we were back in business. Just as we did in the front, we left the bolts loose enough to adjust the bumper for even fitment on both sides, then torqued everything down.
We then remounted our trailer brake controller into the pre-drilled location in the bumper, and spliced into the factory wires to power the supplied LED license plate lights after screwing them into location as well. Lastly, we bolted our license plate back onto the truck and cleaned up our tools.
The bumpers look absolutely fantastic on our Dodge. It is pretty amazing how much a set of bumpers transformed the look of our project vehicle, and you can tell by both the fit and the design that the guys at TDK take their time in fine tuning each bumper design to fit each new application. So far, every person that was familiar with the truck before the bumper swap has been rather impressed with how the truck looks.
The overall design has really given the truck an aggressive stance from both ends and the sides, and we really like the way you can see more of the front tire tread when facing the truck head-on.We certainly feel more comfortable when off-roading knowing the protection and increased utility that our bumpers now offer.
If you would like to give your truck the added protection it deserves along with an awesome custom look, check out Throttle Down Kustoms website, or give them a call at the number below!