Dude, You Need a Roll Cage…NOT A Bed Bar

We’ve come a look way since the original Willys Jeep.

It may seem obvious to some, but many confuse a bed bar with a roll cage – which is an issue.

There are a surprising amount of consumers who feel that their truck’s bed bar is a sufficient roll cage, but more often than not – it’s not. Sadly, rollover injuries and deaths are commonplace with inexperienced off-roaders who assume their rig is safe because they screwed in a bed bar. There are fundamental reasons behind this, mainly, a lack of understanding about the structural integrity of a bed bar vs. a proper roll cage.

This bed bar holds lights, but it isn’t a safety device. (Image: JEGS)

What is a bed bar?

There are a variety of bed bars that are partially decorative and used (primarily) to support off-road lights that sit behind and above the pickup truck’s cab. In some cases, they are stout and some even mount through the bed to the truck’s frame. This can help with structural integrity, but only when it’s In most cases, they simply screw into the bed and provide little structural assistance.

Many purveyors of bed bars will provide a disclaimer stating that their bed bar is NOT a roll cage. Sometimes, unscrupulous aftermarket provides omit this important bit of information. Don’t be fooled.

If you buy a bed bar, think about how your heavy truck and the warped bed will react as you roll over. Also, for those of you who use your screwed-in bed bar to secure cargo, you may want to make sure it was designed to do so. In some cases, manufacturers will tell you about their load capacity, or not to use them to secure heavy objects. Make sure you know before you tie down your load.

What is a roll cage?

A roll cage is a specially engineered and constructed frame built in or around a vehicle. The whole purpose of a roll cage is to keep the occupants alive in the case of a rollover. Hence the name. Most trucks and SUVs have aftermarket roll cages that can be installed by a professional. Some prefer to build their own; however, if you lack the knowledge of what you’re welding and bolting to your rig – be careful. Some folks have impaled themselves with ineffective roll cages.

Roll cages can come in a variety of configurations for your truck. A basic, 4-point roll bar has a main hoop behind the driver, two rear struts, and (in some cases) a cross brace on the main hoop. The 10-point cage also has rear struts like the four-point but adds things like an “X”-bar for additional torsional support. Usually, these more complex cages are used in serious racing.

jeep rollover black bear pass

The bottom line

Even vehicles that look like they have a proper roll cage (certain Jeeps for example) do not provide sufficient crush strength and can be a safety issue. No matter what you might think about the look of a bunch of bars, in or around the vehicle, be sure to do your research. Especially if you’re serious about off-roading. It might just save your life.

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.