Aftermarket Front Grills, Custom Billet Grilles, Replacement Mesh Grills, Vertical Grilles, Kidney Grills
Front grills, whether they be replacements of overlays, are the most common exterior appearance upgrade that most vehicle owners will do. That's because compared to other exterior appearance upgrades like body kits and spoilers, replacing a car or truck Front Grille is usually quick, painless, and doesn't require painting. Also, the simple upgrade usually leaves the vehicle with a completely different look.
Front Grilles: What do they do?
The grille on your car or truck is not just for looks. The grill allows for ventilation into the front part of your vehicle to allow for better cooling for your radiator and engine bay. If your vehicle had no grill, you would suffocate your engine bay and significantly raise the amount of heat in your engine's environment, leading to decreased performance. The factory Front Hood Grill is there to let air in while keeping larger debris out to prevent damage to the relatively fragile radiator.
While most Aftermarket Replacement Front Grills can increase performance a bit by allowing even more airflow, they are not generally considered a high performance upgrade. Basically it's just a looks thing. Change the look of the grille and your entire front end is transformed into a different vehicle, setting it apart from the thousands of other same models out on the road.
Types of Front grills
While there are plenty of companies out there that make grilles for cars & trucks, they generally can fall within a few categories of fitment and look.
Replacement Type Front Hood Grilles
Replacement Front Grills are the most common type of grill and require you to completely remove the grill from your vehicle. These types of grills can be the hardest type to install since they require undoing several tabs and/or screws, and then fitting the new grille in. They usually have the advantage of being more securely attached and having more of a stock flush look to them.
In some very rare occasions where the stock grill is physically a part of the rest of the bumper, you may have to make modifications by cutting out a proper install area. You could usually tell by looking at your stock grill whether cutting would be required or not (if the grill is not a separate independent piece, then you probably need to cut). While such grills exist, we try not to carry cutting type grills due to the amount of labor and permanent modification involved.
Front Grill Overlay
For a small amount of vehicles, grill overlays are available. In this case, you would leave your stock grille alone, and the grill overlay would fit over the existing grill. The grill overlay would then snap in or have hidden screws to attach somewhere around the edge of the stock grill. The overwhelming majority of overlay type grills are billet type grills.
Usually, installing a Front Billet Grill overlay is simple, but due to the nature of the grill, it may sit out further than your stock grill, which may or may not look right depending on your tastes. Also, if it is a snap on type (which is also pretty rare), it might pop off in the event of a hard collision... which would probably be the least of your worries if your vehicle hit something that hard.
Different Front Hood Grill & Front Bumper Grill Designs
Cosmetically speaking, there are a few common types of grills out there that you could find to install on your vehicle. Each style has it's own advantages and disadvantages, but generally people choose aftermarket Front Hood Grill or Front Bumper Grilles based on looks. There are no significant performance gains from one grill to another.
Front Billet Grills
Billet Grills are probably the oldest style of aftermarket grille out there. The name refers to the material they are made out of, billet aluminum, which is lightweight and easy to work with. Generally speaking, they will be chrome on the outside, with the interior and rear of the fins painted black. Alternately, some billet style front grilles or billet style bumper grilles may be made of chrome, which can get very heavy, or plastic, which can be too flimsy to support the often thin design of front billet grills.
The prototypical grill consists of several evenly spaced billet aluminum fins. Fitment wise, most billet grills tend to be overlays, and will include small brackets and screws for installation. They allow for good ventilation while still acting as a formidable barrier to large trash and debris.
Front Billet grills tend to be the grill of preference for the muscle car and off road type of consumers, and they look best with darker and bolder colors. With their chrome appearance, they may not "pop" as much on lighter colored vehicles.
Kidney Front Grills
Kidney grills are the exclusive grill type of BMW. Using a mirrored 2 piece design, they grill sometimes resemble kidneys (thus their name), but depending on the model, can be rather square and angular. The original set of kidney grills was basically just a radiator grill split into two. It took decades for the kidney grill to reach it's current incarnations.
Unlike the other grills, there is usually only one design, which mimics whatever came on the original vehicle. BMW Kidney grills are not meant to be installed on other vehicles and are application specific.
Mesh Front Grills
Mesh Hood Grills are the second most popular type of grill for cars and trucks. The prototypical mesh consists of a crisscrossed metal design, the thinnest of which might resemble chicken wire. Designs can also include the honeycomb type mesh seen on larger speaker grills, or even plastic materials.
Front Mesh Grills typically have an outer shell made of painted or flat black ABS plastic. Installation for mesh front hood grills or mesh front bumper grills USUALLY requires moving the original grill and then replacing the whole thing with the new mesh grill. Color wise, the mesh is usually either black or the natural metal color (typically chrome, stainless steel, or aluminum).
Most people do not paint the mesh itself, but will instead paint the outer shell. This is easily accomplished on mesh grills with removable mesh (typically, the thinner type of mesh grills), which allows for removal of the mesh by unscrewing a few phillips screws that hold them in.
Protection wise, larger holed mesh offers less protection from larger debris, but make up for it by offering the best ventilation possible short of driving your vehicle with no grill. Thinner mesh grills look nice on light or bright colored vehicles as they tend to detract attention from the grill area to the rest of the car. Thicker mesh grills with a heavy chrome look would work best for larger and darker vehicles.
Front Mesh grills are the favorite of the sport compact, drift, and drag racing enthusiasts.
Vertical Front Grilles
Vertical Front Grills refer to the newest type of grill style available on the market; those with thick vertical bars across the grill... basically the opposite of traditional billet grills. Materials are almost always ABS plastic, even in cases where the vertical grill appears chrome, in which case, the chrome would be just painted plastic.
Installation wise, the Front Vertical Grills usually replace the entire grill, thus, installation is expected to be a bit more difficult than overlay billet grills. Color wise, they are almost always black or chrome, with the intention that they stay that way. Most people do NOT paint vertical grilles.
Designs with more vertical bars tend to look nicer on bigger, beefier vehicles, while designs with only a few bars come out nice on performance vehicles with short and long grills. Front Vertical Grills tend to be a favorite with the Truck and "dub" type of crowd, and in sport compact applications, with the JDM import crowd. As with all other grills, chrome "pops" better on darker vehicles (especially with chrome wheels and other chrome accents), while black vertical front grilles look best on light vehicles.
Generic Front Grill Installation Information
There are a billion different types of front hood grills and front bumper grills for different vehicles out there, so there is no real one-size-fits-all solution for installation instructions. There are, however, a few tips that we can offer to make installation easier.
Replacement Front Grill Installation and Maintenance Tips
- Make sure your stock grille is not integrated into the bumper. If it is, installing a grill will be a difficult custom job, and you will have to cut into your vehicle's front bumper, making it a change you can not go back on.
- If you are considering installing aftermarket headlights (like LED halo projectors) on your car or truck, you should probably install everything at the same time since you will be removing the exact same parts for either installation.
- You can inspect the new replacement front grill to determine the location of the mounting points of your original grille. Tabs with holes in them will be screw/bolt/plastic mounting tab holes.
- Painters tape works wonders when installing grills for preventing scratches. Applying the removable tape to the edges of your bumper around the fender and the grill area can help save a lot of accidental damage that might occur during uninstallation of possibly stuck and rusted parts.
- Though it might not seem like it, you can probably get away with NOT removing your entire bumper if it seems necessary for installation. In some cases, you might be able to undo a few screws / tabs and bend the bumper a bit to get to hidden installation points.
- You don't want to OVER tighten any screws. Your bumper and grill need a little flex to deal with the rigors of daily driving.
- Along the same line, some aftermarket grills are not always designed to sit flush against your vehicle. That being the case, during installation, it might be more a matter of getting the grill to rest evenly than getting both sides flush. This means you may have to loosen screws a bit until the grill is parallel to the car or truck.
- The fins on a billet aluminum grill are a bit malleable. If damaged, they can actually be bent back into place. This makes them a bit more durable than plastic grill.
- For mesh grilles, oftentimes, the mesh is only held in by a few screws and could be removed with just a screw driver. This makes it rather easy to paint the mesh, or replace it with other mesh if you find a different material you could cut in shape to match.
- If your front grill is made from bare metal, regular treatment is required to prevent rust.