A Step-By-Step Installation Guide to the High Clearance Bumper Cut on the 3rd Gen Tacoma
If you have been following the trends in the Toyota Tacoma community, you have likely seen the so-called “Viper Cut” on a few trucks. This cut is typically done to either clear bigger tires, get more clearance up front for off-roading, or just purely for looks.
In my case, I needed to cut the bumper so my tires would stop rubbing. I already used a heat gun to push the fender liner in, but I was still slightly rubbing during full articulation on the front fender.
The people who do this high clearance “viper” cut might want to somewhat retain the stock look of their Tacoma while gaining some clearance and a more aggressive look. This mod is perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to shell out over a thousand dollars for a new aftermarket bumper.
If you are reading this article, you likely think the viper cut looks great and it can benefit your rig while out on the trail. However, you may be apprehensive about cutting into your $40k truck. I was in the same boat but I decided to give it a go. Now I’m writing this how-to so that you can feel more confident about attempting this modification yourself.
Tools & Materials
- Cheap Rotary Tool
- Cheap Rotary Tool Blades
- Upgraded Dremel
- Upgraded cutting blades for plastic
- Rotary Tool Sanding Wheel (cylindrical)
- Masking Tape
- Pen or Marker
- Automotive Edge Trim
- Funnel (optional)
- Utility Knife
Also Necessary (Not Pictured)
- Safety Goggles (important!)
- Hole Saw (optional)
- Heat Gun (optional)
- 10mm Socket Wrench (optional)
- Utility Knife to clean up edges
So you may be wondering why the funnel or the hole saw are optional. I’ll talk about that a little more in the next section.
Step 1. Mask Your Cut
There are quite a few variations of the high clearance cut.
What cut you do depends on how aggressive you want the clearance to be. Also, keep in mind any potential aftermarket bumper upgrades you may want to do down the road. For example, if you want to go with the SSO Slimline Hybrid Stage 2 Bumper, make sure you don’t cut away too much of the bumper or you will end up with some big gaps.
The graphic above illustrates some of the possible cutting lines you can do. The red line is the most aggressive you can get without interfering with the fog lights. As stated above, this line might be taking off too much bumper for some aftermarket options.
The dark orange is slightly less aggressive but still is a true “high clearance” cut. Even with this option, be careful if you are thinking about an aftermarket bumper. A lot of aftermarket products require a cut straight across as opposed to the angle.
The light orange follows the lower bumper line. This is a pretty standard cut, with a sharp angle turn. The yellowish-green color is the cut I ended up doing. I was more drawn to the curved look because, in my opinion, it looks the cleanest.
Once you decide on a cut, it’s time to mask it off with masking tape.
While masking off, keep in mind the edge trim you’ll be using.
The trim I got covers about 0.4”, so I left about ½” below the bumper line so the trim would fit properly.
To mask, simply stretch out your tape as straight as possible over the bumper. It won’t be perfect, but the tape is used more as a guide. For the inner corner, I put an extra couple of pieces of tape so that I could trace out the curve that I wanted. You can skip this step if you want a sharper turn.
Finally, I used the optional funnel to trace the curve line that I wanted. The funnel is optional because you won’t need it if you want to go with the sharper turn.
Once you have the tape on, take a step back and make sure you like the line you masked off. I had to reapply the tape a few times to get a good line. When you are happy with the line, it’s time to do the first cut.
One last thing to note about masking off the bumper is the bumper bracket on the underside. There are a couple of things you can do here, but you basically either leave it or cut it out. I decided to leave it and see how it looked, and I was fine with the look of it. More on this later.
Step 2. Make Bumper Cut
Now is a good time to state that you should only cut your bumper at your own risk.
You are working with a rotary tool that is spinning a blade at thousands of RPMs, so there is some risk involved for both yourself and your truck. Be careful, take your time, and you should be fine.
At this point you have your bumper masked off. Now it’s time to go in and make the first cut. It is vital that you are wearing safety goggles.
When I went to make the first cut, I tried to use one of the cheap discs that came with my rotary tool. It ended up breaking off and hitting my goggles directly. This is what prompted me to use the metal blades on the rotary tool.
If the budget allows, you should opt for a more expensive rotary tool, like a Dremel with upgraded blades.
I ended up cutting slightly below my tape line, which was fine because I still used the tape edge as a guide. I started at the edge of my traced out curve and moved outwards towards the fender flare.
Once you get to the fender flare, it gets a little tricky. The fender flare sticks out a good ¼” or more from the actual bumper, so you have to cut both the flare and the bumper under it. The blade I was using wasn’t wide enough to cut both at the same time, so I cut the fender first and then cut the bumper from the inside out towards myself.
For the curve, I ended up switching to the smallest blade I had. The smaller blade helped maneuver the curve better. On the driver side, I got lazy and didn’t switch to the smaller blade and the cut was significantly worse. If I was to do the viper cut again with the curve, I would use a hole saw (listed as optional in materials) because it would provide a near-perfect curve if you line it up properly.
The line you get after the cut will likely be pretty rough all around. Don’t worry about it too much, you can always go back at the end and clean it up a bit with the sanding wheel attachment of the rotary tool.
Keep in mind that the cut doesn’t have to be perfect. You will be putting automotive trim over it, which will help hide the rough edge. Just try to cut as straight as you can. Once you are done with the bumper cut and have cleaned it up with the sanding wheel, you have completed the hardest part.
As I mentioned earlier, I opted to cut around the bumper bracket mount rather than removing it.
Since you are cutting off the part of the bumper that the bracket is meant to keep stable, it should be fine to remove. I didn’t mind the look of it, so I ended up just cutting around it. If you opt to cut this part off, you can either bend the bracket back behind the bumper or cut it out completely.
After using the sanding wheel, the edge looked pretty good and I was confident that the automotive trim would go on nicely.
Step 3. Cut Fender Liner
Now that you have a relatively clean cut, it’s time to take care of the inner fender liner. For this, you have a couple of options.
You can either, use a heat gun and bend the fender liner back, or, cut out the exposed fender liner.
I decided to go with the latter because some of the people I saw that did this cut mentioned that they didn’t notice any difference in dirt or mud build up after cutting. It is worth noting that this method may cause some extra noise.
I just cut the fender liner horizontally until it was no longer visible from the front of the truck. After doing this, the liner moved quite easily and seemed like it would flap around a bit.
To prevent the liner from moving too much, I simply drilled a hole through the plastic and zip-tied it to a metal loop on the frame.
This seemed to do the trick as I took the truck on the highway at 80 mph and didn’t notice any noise. However, I do have a roof rack with accessories that cause a bit of wind noise.
Since I opted to leave the bumper bracket, I needed to unbolt the bracket to remove the fender liner.
To do this, simply remove the 10mm bolt and then squeeze the orange clip out of the metal bracket. Next, remove the fender liner and then re-bolt the bumper to the bracket.
Step 4. Add Automotive Trim
If you’ve made it to this step, you are essentially done. All you need to do now is put the automotive edge trim on to clean up the viper cut and make it look a little more OEM.
The edge trim I used has metal loops in it that help pinch the rubber of the trim down onto the bumper and grip it nicely. This makes it kinda tough to put on, but you’ll be able to get it with a bit of determination.
I decided to just put it on straight from the roll of trim and then cut it at the end. This seemed to work pretty well.
The one tough part is where the fender meets the bumper.
There is a gap between the fender plastic and the bumper plastic, so the trim won’t fit completely. I was fine with the curved look that it caused, but you can cut the bumper plastic near the fender so that the trim will fully slide onto the fender plastic.
When you have the auto trim on and you like the look of the cut, you are done!
If you think anything looks funky after putting the trim on, you can always go back with the sanding wheel to make some adjustments and straighten out any random curves you have.
Now that you did the high clearance “viper” cut, your truck looks a bit more aggressive and will clear those meaty tires you’ve been thinking about. This cut will also help to limit trail damage as it gives you a bit more clearance to get your tire up and over those rocks.
Check out my YouTube video below for some more details.