One of the most distinctive and recognizable features in cars is the grille. Grilles form the front protective grating between the headlights and are made either of metal or coated plastics. All carmakers strive to differentiate their vehicles from other brands by deploying their own take on the grille, sometimes the same or very similar across a range of models. Instantly recognizable grilles include the famous BMW ‘kidneys’, the vertical bars on Jeep vehicles, or even the grilles on luxurious brands like Rolls Royce, Bentley and Maserati. Most have been around for decades and will carry on in future models as a sign of brand recognition.
Grilles obviously serve an aesthetic purpose, but they also improve performance. On sports models, they’re designed to better aerodynamics and reduce drag by diverting the direction of airflow. But besides this, they also protect the radiator right behind them from flying debris at high speeds, or in the case of 4WDs, rocks, branches, and animals when off-road. However, the main purpose of the grille is to let in cooling air that is redirected towards the radiator and other engine parts to avoid the engine from overheating.
Types of Grilles
Stock grilles on production cars are either mesh or billet-style grilles. If you don’t like the look of the one on your car, or it needs replacement, you can also opt for a custom-built grille.
Mesh grilles are featured on some of the most recognizable sports and luxury cars out there. They’re simple yet elegant. The famous grille of the Bentley Continental has even inspired aftermarket copies. Mesh grilles can be simple one-piece additions, or have intricate designs of interwoven layers. Grilles of fine mesh give an understated look, while those with thick, heavy mesh accentuate a sense of ruggedness and gives vehicles a go-anywhere posture.
Both types come in a range of materials, from chrome coated reinforced plastics, to polished aluminium and stainless steel comprising upscale and more expensive variants. Aftermarket models are available and compatible with most cars, including aftermarket Toyota grilles, to cater to drivers of Australia’s best-selling car brand.
Billet grilles consist of vertically or horizontally stacked bars resembling ‘billet’ or square ingots of steel or aluminium casting. There can be one or more thicker bars, and several thinner bars that complete the look. The same designs usually carry on in the fender grilles. Materials are polished stainless steel or aluminium with a chrome finish, but billet bars of coated plastic are also sold. They are seen in many vehicles, from large SUVs and 4WDs to luxury vehicles, the most popular example possibly being the billet grille of the Rolls Royce Phantom, ~with thick, vertically stacked bars.
You can custom build your own grille in any design or style you like using a range of different materials. Custom builds can be both extremely cheap, like a simple DIY job using such leftovers as fence rails or mesh, or complicated, expensive designs created with CNC machining. Metals, plastics and carbon fibre can be formed easily into anything you have in mind and incorporated into other front elements, like lights and air intakes. Manufacturers of custom grilles will also create a grille with enhanced cooling and radiator protection and improved aerodynamic qualities, while offering something unique. Go for a custom grille if you want an exterior design that sets you apart from the crowd of bland vehicles.
Toyota Aftermarket Replacement Grilles
Toyota sells a range of vehicles to Aussies, like the small Corolla, the Hilux ute, and the off-road king, the Landcruiser. Aftermarket parts, including grilles, are easy to find for any Toyota vehicle, new or old. Most online automotive stores selling exterior body parts stock grilles for different cars, including replacement grilles for older cars, and in the styles you’re after.
You can find different styles of mesh and billet grilles, in a range of colours and materials to suit your needs. Grilles are supplied with the necessary additions like mouldings and attachment screws and bolts to fit your specific model. Aftermarket grilles and accessories will understandably be cheaper than genuine parts sourced directly from Toyota, but won’t necessarily differ in quality. Plastic grilles for smaller cars will be cheaper than metal variants with a chrome finish intended for bigger cars, like the Landcruiser.
You can also find additional parts, like radiator support panels and filler panels if your vehicle has suffered damage or you’re going for added protection or a different look.
Adding a new grille can be a quick and easy DIY job, or something you may want to get professionally done to ensure that you get the perfect fit. To fit your new grille, you first need to locate the grille top. Open the bonnet, and remove the moulding or supporting strip lining the grille. Next, find and remove the bolts that hold the old grille in place. Once the bolts are removed, the old grille should come away easily. If your new grille comes with moulding, first attach this in the provided slots. Next, bolt in the new grille without pushing it too far back. The grille should be flush with the surrounding bodywork. Job done!
Grilles play a major part in how your car looks. A quality aftermarket grille will not only add a little style to an old car but also provide you with the peace of mind that expensive engine parts like radiators will be well looked after.