Why Do Vehicles Have Grilles and What Purpose Do They Serve?
You've undoubtedly seen those metal bars and grates that cover the front of vehicles before. While they can be stylish and give a visual distinction to various brands, it can be hard to tell from the outside if they have any practical functionality. You may have wondered why vehicles have grilles and what purpose they serve. Luckily, you'll find a helpful guide below that explains the answer.
What Is a Grille?
A vehicle grille typically comprises a metal or plastic latticework or grating situated between your vehicle's headlights to help shield the engine. It's one of the most distinguishing exterior features that helps complete the look of your car. Auto manufacturers will also attach their emblem or logo to the grille as a visual distinction to show off their branding.
A Brief History of Grilles on Vehicles
Can you imagine a car or truck where the rest of the body continues to stretch over the front, leaving only a blank space? It would be practically unrecognizable because of how distinctive a grille is on a vehicle. In fact, the grille as we know it dates back to the early 1900s, virtually concurrent with the invention of automobiles.
Early Examples of Grilles
The academic consensus is that the grille as we know it first appeared in 1903. A few years after the feature debuted, an arch-shaped design became popular, and you found them on automotive grilles for many years afterward. However, many auto manufacturers got incredibly creative with their aesthetics around the 1930s and 1940s.
For example, Pontiac adopted a vertical split-grille motif in 1935 that became a trademark of their vehicles for a prolonged period. This design was notable for an appearance that ran across the nose of the car while split by a "Silver Streak," a wide strip of ribbed trim that ran the length of the hood.
After WWII, cars began to alter styles, and grilles evolved to match them. The new grilles became shorter and broader to cover the fronts of these new designs effectively.
Why Exactly Do Vehicles Have Grilles?
The choice to have grilles on vehicles doesn't just stem from aesthetics alone. Grilles play an incredibly significant role in protecting the internal components that lie just behind them.
A modern grille's principal duty is to keep your vehicle's engine cool. While you drive, the air gets drawn through the grille, which helps to ventilate the engine bay. Even the shape of the grille itself can have a significant effect on its ability to keep your engine cooled down during operation.
Improve Aerodynamics and Efficiency
The design of a vehicle's grille frequently integrates directly into its overall aerodynamics, which improves the automobile's efficiency. Without gaps, air resistance would start building up against the car, slowing it down. With a grille, air flows smoothly through the front, side, and top of the vehicle, reducing the influence of air resistance. Some cars will even have grilles that automatically open and close as needed.
They Look Stylish To Boot
Yes, the grille is essential in improving the performance of your automobile. That doesn't mean they don't also look good, and many manufacturers use grille covers to tie into the overall identity of their vehicles. Grilles are so prominent and unique in style that you can identify an oncoming car by its grille.
Famous Examples of Grille Design
Certain automakers purposefully keep the shape of their grille consistent across all their vehicles since they become an iconic symbol for the company over time. Other companies may change up the design of their grilles more often; however, the grilles still bear their emblem as a significant component of their brand.
Twin Kidney Grilles of BMW
Since 1933, almost every BMW vehicle has featured the "twin kidney" grille design. While slight alterations and tweaks have occurred over time, the overall shape has remained consistent, featuring two identically shaped and rounded covers mirroring each other on the front. The twin kidneys might be one of, if not the most, iconic grille styles among all automobiles.
Jeep's Seven-Slot Grille
Like BMW, Jeep has applied its landmark seven-slot grille for decades on many of their vehicles. The grille is simple, with several vertical slats and a couple of circles on the outer edges to fit headlights, but it's a potent signifier for many off-road enthusiasts. The grille remains profoundly unmistakable to this day, quickly revealing that the vehicle coming down the road is a Jeep.
Mercedes-Benz Ties Their Identity Into Their Grilles
Although Mercedes-Benz uses several different grille designs, you can typically always distinguish their front ends from others. That’s because they cover virtually all their grilles with their distinctive and famous three-point star logo. Even if most contemporary Mercedes-Benz models have eschewed their old but well-known style comprising several chromed, horizontal slats, you can still always tell when a vehicle is from their factory.
Benefits of Aftermarket Grilles
While standard grilles play a crucial role in your car or truck’s performance, you can help enhance its effectiveness even further with aftermarket grilles. These custom grilles add improved dynamics and functionality and come in distinct styles that allow you to personalize your vehicle to your specific tastes.
Further Improve Airflow
As stated earlier, the more air that can flow through your engine, the cooler it will be. Many custom grilles feature improved designs over their OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) counterparts, allowing more air to enter and boost your performance. Additionally, you reduce the chance of overheating, resulting in breakdowns and high repair costs.
Added Level of Protection
Debris like rocks and sticks can jump up off the road and do a number on your front end. With custom grilles and grille guards, you create an added layer of protection that wards off the rubble and other debris that can take a toll on your exterior and interior components. This protection can be essential if you drive an off-road vehicle that generally takes a lot of punishment while trekking out in nature.
Ultimately, why do vehicles have grilles and what purpose do they serve? In general, grilles help protect your engine, boost your performance, and give your vehicle a distinctive look. It’s hard to imagine automobiles today without such a crucial and distinguishing feature.
The auto experts at American Modified offer exceptional aftermarket auto accessories that help take your vehicle’s performance to the next level. Check out our custom grilles and grille inserts that sport feisty yet functional styles. Feel free to contact us with any questions about our parts and accessories.