Mark D Stephens: Adventurer, writer, photographer, ambassador of the sonoran desert
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Equipment Review and Evaluation:
Kennesaw Mountain Accessories (KMA) Rear Multi-Carrier

Off-Road Bumper for Nissan Frontier D40
Nissan Frontier Navara d40 with lightforce lights 170 striker
2005 Nissan Frontier D40 shown with rear Multi-Carrier featuring two shackle mounts, Xtreme hi-lift jack mount, gas can carrier, and tire swing gate.

Purchased direct
www.kenmtn.com
Benefits of rear off-road bumper and tire swing out
Nissan frontier recovery of a Jeep while off roading

Why install an after market rear bumper on a nice new Nissan Frontier (Navara)?

In the case of going off pavement and traveling in remote or rural areas, an off-road bumper offers a readily available extraction point, jacking point, protection from impact, and ability to mount accessories.

A solidly built steel bumper that incorporates a 2" towing receiver, d-rings, or clevis/shackle mounts will simply make the process of snatching or towing quick work. It certainly beats having to tie off to the axle in a dire situation. Also, with a steel bumper that is bolted to the frame, you can use a jack for lifting the chassis - pretty cool, eh? Of course, heavy steel is going to protect the truck and make a hefty location for spare items like a back up light, spare tire, fuel reserve, hi-lift jack, back up camera, etc.

Additionally, in the case of our Nissan Frontier the tire swing gate is the main benefit, as I rendered the factory spare tire location useless by installing a fresh water tank. I needed a place to put the spare tire: this was the main reason I bought the KMA bumper. With it, though, I'm able to haul a 20-liter Scepter fuel can and an Xtreme Hi-Lift jack.

Note:
Some compromises come with installing a rear aftermarket off-road bumper for a Nissan Frontier: the added weight cuts into payload capacity, fuel economy, and puts a lot of leverage on the frame behind the axle. Thankfully, this Nissan Frontier/Navara D40 is built on the F-Alpha platform with a fully boxed frame, which doesn't need reinforcement. However, it's important to be aware of the consequences to each change.

Mexico expedition in a Nissan Frontier D40 with a KMA rear multi carrier

First impression

Off the bat, everything looked great. Nice black paint (not powdercoated) and decent welds. The license plate section had 1-1/4" holes drilled for using basic trailer license plate lights that you can buy at an auto parts store. I found the overall design very simplistic, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad yet. Just uninventive?

I noticed right away that the hinge didn't feature a grease zerk fitting, but it had been packed with grease at the factory. Servicing the hinge (re-packing) will require taking off the gate, and that could be fixed by installing my own zerk.

The tire carrier holds the spare at an angle: for aesthetics I don't like it. I'm not sure what the function of such a design feature is, either.

Craftsmanship? Mmmmm, a little odd. Inconsistent. While the welds are great, and overall exucution is professional, I don't think they use the right tools for metal cutting. See the image to the right for a photo of a short curve that follows the very corner of the Frontier's quarter panel. It's just a little too amateur and unrefined.

I understand the attempt at following the body lines, but it looks like it was performed without a template or guide. As one friend pointed out to me, "Hmmm, that's a little high school isn't it?"

I wish, too, that the bumper featured some quarter panel protection such as this:
Rear quarter panel protection with an off road bumper for a pick up toyota

Installation
Nissan Navara off road overlanding with rear bumper tire swing outThough the installation is conceptually easy (remove original bumper, bolt on the new one), a few problems made this a 3-hour job and required additional modification:

1. Angle iron brakcets were not drilled to mate up to the frame and they were welded on backwards, so I couldn't bolt the bottom of the angle iron to the bottom of the frame. The trouble with drilling the angle iron, which is 1/2" thick, is that the brackets are already welded to the bumper body - this made it impossible to use a drill press. I had to do it by hand, and considering the thickness the job was dangerous and took a long time to punch 6 holes.

2. Tire holder was installed too low and the bolt pattern was incorrect. Fixing these demanded that I have custom welding and cutting performed.

Installing the KMA multicarrier off road bumper on a Nissan Frontier Navara D40
Holes drilled in the mounting brackets
The key to installing the bumper alone is using these ratchet straps wrapped around the tailgate. 5/8" diameter holes drilled into 1/2" thick angle iron by hand. Click for photo of the template.
Rear swing out tire carrier off road bumper for Nissan Frontier Gen 2 D40 Backwards mounting bracket
The flat vertical piece of the tire carrier had been welded on about 2" lower and the lug studs exactly 1" too close together. I'm using a 2" wheel spacer to allow space for the Eezi-Awn tent and the hi-lift jack. These brackets should have been rotated so the horizontal part of the "L" wrapped around the bottom side of the Frontier's frame rails.

Regarding the bolt holes not being drilled:

"Every truck is slightly different and that's why you need to drill your own holes." This statement doesn't hold water. Both a replacement bumper direct from Nissan and a towing receiver come with holes that match up to the frame holes. They don't need to be drilled by the end user.

Shrockworks front bumper Nissan Frontier mounting bracketsAdditionally, I think that the front Shrockworks bumper is a good example of how to deal with frame mounting. Photo on right.

These are brackets that are made to bolt to the frame in the holes provided by Nissan and then the bumper bolts to the brackets. The holes are elongated to allow a little adjustment

Performance
Despite the flaws in execution and engineering, the gate doesn't rattle around and the bumper hasn't been much of a headache beyond installation. I've used it for two snatches and and have backed it into another vehicle.

KMA multicarrier rear bumper off road damage on a Nissan Frontier D40 2nd Gen NavaraThere is a small gate stop welded to the bumper and it's in the wrong place so it would never catch the gate. If you're not paying attention and the gate starts to swing open, it won't stop until it crashes into the body panel.

See the photo on the left.

This part of the design really left me with a bad taste in my mouth about my purchase. It was another point of poor execution, but this time it caused damage to the Nissan Frontier. All other flaws didn't do any harm.

Click the photo for a larger image.
Click here for a top view of the incorrect gate stop.

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After 8 months of service, the latch had worn loose a little bit. It's a steel pin that fits into a hole in the bumper body, and it used to be quite snug. Now the gate flutters a little bit, but a hammer swipe or two to the pressure plate (with the asterisk in the photo below) brings back a solid closure.

Kennesaw mountain multicarrier bumper latch multi carrier multicarrier nissan frontier

I'm sure that figuring out a good latching mechanism on a bumper is tough. I think this design is pretty good.

Value
Nissan Frontier off highway expedition vehicle with an eezi-Awn tent and rear swing out tire carrierEven though the bumper with a swing out tire carrier is basically a custom unit for the Nissan Frontier / Navara, it's really quite affordable at close to $600.

Additionally, the MultiCarrier has proven to be rather robust and durable after 25,000 miles of adventures on rough roads.

Value is decent. If the craftsmanship and quality control would improve, this would be a superior product.

Evaluation


Nissan Frontier / Navara D40 shown with off-road rear bumper (Multi Carrier) by KMA with shackle mounts, swing out tire carrier, Xtreme Hi-Lift jack, and a 20L Scepter fuel can

In today's marketplace, it's benefits and features that ultimately sells products. Or, like Kramer said in one episode of Seinfeld, "You don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle." You make people want, crave your product. I think these two things would make excellent sizzle on this MultiCarrier bumper: A gate stop/stay and quarter panel protection.

Off road bumper swing out with hinge lock and gate stay for a Range Rover
Incorporated hinge lock/stay for the swing out. The slick design holds the gate open and also keeps it from opening too far and crashing into the vehicle. Click photo for full size.

The bumper by Demello Offroad provides awesome quarter panel protection with these bent tubes. They also attach to the frame which gives them even more clout as a bonafide slider. Click photo for full size.

After a year of service, I still haven't re-greased the gate hinge --- I'm not sure when I should do it. It's still gliding perfectly, so part of me says, "Why monkey with what ain't broke?"

Let me show you the gas spring I installed. Not only does it hold the gate open even if the truck is parked on a hill, but it also makes the gate feel solid when opening and closing - I don't have to worry about it slamming shut or colliding with the body panels again.

Gas spring custom installed to the MultiCarrier KMA off road bumper on a nissan frontier
I simply made a bunch of measurements, figured out my min/max open lengths, closed lengths, and (most importantly) the ideal stroke length. Purchased at an auto parts store. Click photo for full size.
Nissan Frontier Navara set up for camping with a roof tent custom organization drawers, and rear bumper swing out tire carrier
Here, you can see that the gate holds open at a perfect 90 degrees to the bumper. Click photo for full size.

The bumper has performed really well, depsite the abundance of flaws -- and not to ignore the major bummer that the gate caused some significant body damage. The multicarrier lives up to several promises including: protecting the vehicle in a rear collision, providing a robust extraction point with two heavy shackle mounts, and making space to hold a hi-lift jack, spare fuel can, and the spare tire.

If they'd refine the product a little bit, this bumper and swing out tire carrier could bring closer to $1000 retail. And, most importantly, make some very happy customers.

Gassing up on the road in Mexico:
Gassing up on the road in Mexico Nissan Frontier

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Mark D. Stephens: Adventurer, Writer, Photgrapher and Ambassador of the Sonoran Desert