Pickup Truck Aftermarket Grille Buying Guide

September 28, 2019


So, you've finally purchased that truck you had your eye on!  If you're like most truck owners the next step is to personalize your truck to fit your style and functional needs. Personalizing your truck allows you standout from the crowd and also put a little of your own elbow grease into your truck.


There are so many options today when it comes to buying aftermarket parts and it can be overwhelming.  Changing the front-end of your truck has a huge impact on the overall look and also adds great functionality like a light bar.  But, where to start?



Pick your style


Inserts - Grille inserts are typically made from plastic and are a very cost effective solution to personalize the front of your truck. They typically replace the existing pattern pieces of your OEM grille and reuse the existing frame.  The downside to these products is they typically don't offer other features, such as a light bar, and also require damaging your OEM grille to install as you have to remove sections of your existing grille via cutting to install the inserts. This can be a scary proposition for some buyers as one wrong cut and you're out the entire grille.  It also isn't an option for those leasing a truck.


Full Replacement Grilles - A popular choice, full replacements will completely (or almost completely) replace the existing OEM grille on your truck.  They are made from a variety of materials and offer a range of features and benefits.  Installation for these products can also range significantly.  Make sure you understand the ease of installation before buying or you might end up with a bill from the local shop finishing the install for you.  Other things to consider are whether the replacement grille reuses existing mounting points on your truck or requires you to damage the OEM to install.  High quality replacements will not require damage to your truck and give you the options to go back to the OEM grille should you choose.  


Pick your material

Plastic - Most OEM grilles are already plastic and there are plenty of injection molded plastic grilles and parts to help you update your truck.  Plastic is lightweight and gives the manufacturers some unique options to mold parts in shapes not conducive to harder materials like aluminum and steel.  However, plastic parts are also prone to breaking and due to the large volumes required to justify building a mold do not give buyers the flexibility to customize as much as other materials.


Carbon Steel -  Tough and sturdy this is also a common truck material.  Many side panels and other elements of the truck are carbon steel.  One thing to be aware of with carbon steel is that it is prone to corrode unless treated and finished properly.  Always look for carbon steel that is e-coated prior to being finished to give you a double layer of corrosion protection.  Note that all that sturdiness comes with weight--carbon will be the heaviest and heftiest option.


Aluminium - Lightweight and corrosion resistance, aluminum is a great option for grilles.  Also, many other parts on the truck are made from aluminium as it has a great weight to strength ratio. Aluminium will give you piece of mind that even with chips and dings to the grille you'll never have corrosion issues. 


Stainless Steel - Sturdy and corrosion resistance, stainless offers much of the benefit of carbon steel but without the corrosion issues.  Stainless steel grilles are not as popular as aluminium mostly because of the price of stainless. Buyers can get the benefits of stainless cheaper for less through aluminium.


Pick your features

Grilles today offer a variety of features.  A few to consider are listed here:


Light bar - Does the grille give you the option to add a light bar?  If so, what size and how many?  Light bars are a great upgrade, especially for the outdoor enthusiast.  Imaging the fun you'll have lighting up those two-tracks or the campsite with your new grille.


Back-lit Illumination - Many grilles also offer back-lit text and logos.  A great aesthetic feature, back-lit grilles can really set your look a part.  Consider what colors are available and if the grille has the OEM logo or model name always be sure the product is properly licensed to avoid trouble later on.


Customization - An emerging trend is the ability to customize text or art work on the grille.  Further, some grilles are now allowing buyers to change patterns, add light bars later on, and even change back-lighting.  These system grilles are a great option for those that want the flexibility to keep updating the look and functionality of the grille after the initial purchase.


WarrantyIf your grille is coming with a painted or powder coated finish make sure the manufacturer will stand behind the finish for at least one year.  Look, this thing is on the front of your truck.  It is going to get hit with rocks, bugs, salt, and who knows what else.  It's going to take some damage but make sure you buy a grille that has a warranty or might be stuck looking for your next replacement sooner than you planned.

Pick your Skill Level

Pro- Your an industry professional with all the right tools and knowledge to totally disassemble your truck.  Drilling holes and taking a dremmel to your grille doesn't scare you a bit.  Good news is you should consider all of the possible combinations of features, materials, and styles.


Handyman- Your not afraid of a little grease and know your way around a socket set.  Consider inserts and full replacement grilles, but look into the installation process for each.  If you need to break out the dremmel, circular saw, or torch maybe consider another option unless you're okay with potentially scrapping your OEM parts.


DIFY (Do it for me) - You love your truck, but have a lot going on.  Consider your budget and whether you're willing to shell out the couple hundred dollars extra to have someone put the grille on for you.  When choosing your grille, look for easy installation to keep labor budgets down.  Also be sure to consider whether you are scrapping your OEM parts in the process as that could be a deal breaker if you are leasing or ever want to change your grille back to OEM.


Our Suggestion 


Whether you are a Pro, DIFY or any other type of buyer we think the Boulder Series Grille System from 43 North Designs is your best option.  The Boulder Series Grille System built based on feedback from real customers, like you.  So, it has a no damage easy install bracket system that goes on in about an hour.  It has a dual coat finish that has been cyclic corrosion tested and is available in both aluminium and carbon steel.  The best feature of the Boulder Series Grille System is that it can be continuously updated to reflect new functionality or aesthetic needs on your truck.  Change the pattern inserts out, add a light bar, or get a new graphic--then do it all again reusing the same frame and brackets.  We think you'll love this product because it was built with you in mind. 





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