Back when I started modding my XJ, I never thought I would get into anything extreme, so I figured a 3" lift with some 32" mud tires and a decent bumper for recovery would be fine. Now I've got a 4.5" lift and tons of other crap that I'm slowly trying to upgrade. I've been winched out a few times from getting stuck in between rocks on rather difficult trails that I shouldn't be able to get into with 32's and a single locker. I decided it was time to stop relying on my friends to pull me out and get a winch. The only problem was my Rigidco bumper, which wasn't made for a winch. It was expensive enough and I didn't want to try and sell it, only to buy a winch bumper that stuck out really far and looked ugly. My only option now was to follow EricsXJ and a few other guys and modify my non-winch bumper to fit a winch.
I showed up at my friend's house with a harbor freight winch plate (- Harbor Freight Tools - Quality Tools at the Lowest Prices
) and my winch. He had a plasma cutter, angle grinder, and welder. We got right to work.
First we put the winch on the winch plate and cut the excess off each side of the plate. Then I took the front clip off the XJ so we could lay the plate on the bumper and see how everything would fit. The Rigidco bumper has internal supports, as well as a receiver hitch in the middle of it. We decided cutting down to the top of the hitch would be perfect so we could weld the plate underneath to both the hitch tube and the internal supports. The winch would sit down below the top face of the bumper by about an inch.
The best part was we never even had to take the bumper off the Jeep to work on it. The plasma cutter hacked through my bumper and the winch plate with ease and was fairly precise. We cut out the big section of bumper and put the winch plate in it to figure out what needed to be grinded on to even it all out. Before welding in the plate, I wanted to make it look a bit better, so I diagonal cut from the fairlead mounting surface to where the plate would meet the front of the bumper. Made the appearance a lot more appealing and fit more with the style of the bumper already.
So we welded in the plate and made small side pieces to close up the gaps between the winch plate and top of the bumper. We're confident there is plenty of weld surface to hold everything in place, plus he has a 220V welder, so welding the 3/16" plate to 1/4" plate should be easy. He was getting heat coloration on the opposite side of 1/4" plate.
Yesterday I was able to prime and paint all the bare metal and mount the winch. The solenoid is mounted with the Warn bracket right on top of the drum, which is kind of temporary for now because I'd like to mount it somewhere under the hood instead. I left the grille piece off for now because I didn't have anything to cut it with, plus I'd have to cut it more for the solenoid pack to fit. Of course, the one hitch was that the bolts for the fairlead were too big to fit through the holes in the winch plate, so I'll have to get new ones or drill out the holes sometime.
I think all complete, it looks awesome. The BG11 brush bar on the front of the bumper will protect the winch from whatever I might run into. There is about 1/8" between the bar and the corner of the winch where the motor is, so the fit couldn't have been better. The only thing I probably won't like is the huge fairlead sticking out past the front bar. I might end up getting a steel hawse fairlead to curtail this problem. Eventually I'd like to go with synthetic rope, so maybe I can wait.
Hope these attached pics work...