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Starboard M 08-19-2010 12:42 AM

Homemade Winch Bumper V2.0
Homemade Winch Bumper V1.0
Homemade Winch Bumper - NAXJA Forums -::- North American XJ Association

Over the last couple of years my Jeep has progressed to the point where I am now starting to be limited by the front approach angle, and my rather large monstrosity of a front winch bumper. At the time I built it, I felt I was cutting edge by cutting the plastic grill out and managed to suck the winch almost 2’’ closer than anything I had seen and especially anything store bought.

However, it has reached the point where I cannot take this bumper any more, for both small issues I have with it and how much it hurts my approach angle.

Major Issue 1:Steering box reinforcement

I have always been plagued with steering box issues. Several years ago before I knew better and didn’t have my outer frame rail reinforced I managed to pull all three of my steering box bolt through the frame resulting in one heck of a 16 hour day on the trail. Next came last year when I broke one of the tabs off of the steering box which ended my wheeling trip within the first hour.
Lower rear bolt:

This year I managed to sheer a grade 8 bolt in Moab (thankfully on the last day on the last obstacle on the last trail) and decided Ive had enough.

Hells Revenge, Escalator:
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Major Issue 2: Approach Angle

While at the time I thought I did a pretty good job and maintaining a good approach angle, as I became more willing to try harder trails and harder lines I soon realized that my bumper was always dragging or being hit on one thing or another.

Here you can see just how far it stuck out. 6’’ from the face of the grill to the face of the winch, and 8’’ to the shackle mounts.

And here is an example of why even that is to much

How to build a winch bumper without sacrificing approach angle and strengthening the steering box mounts

What Im doing is nothing new, Im actually copying several different people, just with my own little twist. This however, is not a bumper for the weak hearted or one afraid of a little body modification.

Step one was to remove the V1.0 bumper, and remove the entire front clip including radiator. This might be a good time to also mention that while my Jeep originally came with AC it has since been removed so the condenser is no longer there.

Ive seen pictures of cracked unibodies all the time, but figured that only happens to people other than myself. Well, turns out a unibody starts to break down if you try and turn anything larger than the stock sized tires.
Crack #1 located just behind the rearmost steering box bolt

Crack #2 located on the inner side of the framerail

While building V1.0 bumper I assumed that the stock frame sleeves through the frame were strong enough to support the steering box. This turned out to not be the case as it turns out I managed to crush the framerail by almost ½’’ and bend my Custom4x4 inner steering box brace.

If you take anything away from this thread, just remember that the stock sleeves are not strong enough for hard wheeling!

Onto the fun stuff!

Take your sawzall and make that first cut. Remember, the first one is always the hardest. Your goal is to remove the front crossmember that is exactly in the wrong spot for tucking a winch back as far as possible .
I was actually surprised at how little the framerails moved after that first cut. For a Jeep that has been wheeled fairly regularly and up until recently didn’t have a rollcage, they only separated ¼’’ at most.

Remove that entire crossmember, making sure to keep the rubber bushings the radiator mounts with.

I ended up removing the sides of the crossmember that overlap the framerails by simply drilling out the spot welds and grinding a couple of the welds on top. Originally I thought it would be stronger if I kept “caps” intact but I realized that I can redo them bigger and better.

Just for a little FYI, the stock steering box sleeves do not just fall out. They are held on by a lot of little spot welds and voodoo magic. Try as I might, I couldn’t get them out, and finally gave up in fear of messing the frame rail up more than I already had.
Here are some picture of the inside of the framerail, both drivers side and passenger side. Looks like the threaded holes that the stock sway bar uses are actually the same part as the lower steering box sleeves. The upper hole was on its own, and the bolt that the factory and a lot of aftermarket tow hooks use is its own bracket/sleeve assembly.

(Note: Jeep originally came with factory ATF lubricated drivers side framerail to cut down on rust)

Both brackets share the three nuts, looks like the drivers side has the sleeves welded onto it. Also note on the passenger side how the back bolt hole is in fact its own bracket.

If someone has figure out how to take those blasted things out, let us know, but I was unable to short of taking a plasma cutter to my Jeep and decided to just work around them.

Since this bumper build basically started because of my last wheeling trip and sheering a steering box bolt in half, I decided to work on fixing that as the first step of reconstruction.

2doorxj 08-19-2010 12:45 AM

ive always dreamed about making a winch bumper like this. good luck, and subscribed, and crawled.

Starboard M 08-19-2010 12:46 AM

Apparently none of my local steel supply stores carry ½’’ ID, 1/8’’ or ¼’’ wall tube I had to make due with two pieces and fit one inside the other. Slightly ghetto, but it works and I don’t see why I wont be just as strong as one solid piece.

With those made I drilled the rail and stock sleeves to ¾’’ which actually took far less time and effort than I originally thought.

Sleeves in, and they all lined up first time!

With the steering box in place the next step was trying to figure out how to fit 10 lbs of **** in a 5 lb bag. It just wasn’t happening.

My friend Foster, who you have seen in Winch Bumper V1.0, my front 44 build, my boatsides and cage and my dash, suggested I rotate the clutch side of the winch. I had never heard of this, but a trip to Pirate I found a couple people who had done this all with fine results.
Re-clocking your winches for clearance. - Pirate4x4.Com Bulletin Board

It seems that the Warns with the solenoids off the winch body you can rotate the side with the handle to either free spool or rotate in. This opened my options for winch mounting to almost limitless possibilities.

Normal Warn XD9k with cable removed, stock clocking

Remove the allen bolts around the housing and then entire assembly comes off. Its especially a sun gear with a lot of other gears rotating around in the case.

All back together again, clocked two bolt positions. It has since been rotated 90* from where it is in this picture.

With the front crossmember removed, put the front clip and radiator back on, and figure out where you want to mount the winch. Everything is within a ½’’ of everything else, so getting it all mocked up right is rather pivotal to how the rest of the bumper goes together.

After doing some mockup I then made some frame plates that extended all the way to my homemade front frame stiffeners as well as incorporated the steering box sleeves on the drivers side. Made out of 3/16’’ plate
You can also make out the beginning of the shackle mounts in between the tube holes.

Finally, you get to do some tubework! Ive seen pictures of what looks like people using a tube roller, or doing a lot of small bends to get the top tube to follow the body line but I decided that that was to much effort and I don’t have enough skill to do that. So I did a strait tube between the frame rails, with bends to get the tube around the side of the Jeep.

The inner frame brackets were next, and I was disappointed I couldn’t go farther back. I was limited by the engine for both getting a grinder in there to get all the paint off and also getting a welder in there. These were made out of 1/8’’ plate.

Next came the end caps which tied the inner and outer plates together and also wouldn’t allow water or mud to go into the framerail. It was rolled for clearance with the shackle mount.

Starboard M 08-19-2010 12:47 AM

The top plate was a little trickier because I also had to incorporate a radiator mount into it somehow. If you have ever seen the stock mount, it’s a rubber bushing in a dimpled hole. Well, since we have dimple dies, why not go all out and do exactly what the factory did!

Bushing fitting perfectly in the dimpled hole.

Lower mount was fairly strait forward, with just a couple bends.

With the outer framerail plate being 3/16’’, and the inner being 1/8’’, we felt the steering box sleeves needed more reinforcement and so I made a second piece of 1/8’’ to further support the sleeves. Dimples were used to move the plate from the earlier welds from the sleeves to the inner plate without having to drill excessively large holes and reducing the strength of the plate.

The bottom tube was the bane of my existence. The way I designed the bumper the bottom tube met the upper tube as the upper was both angled into the body and starting to wrap around the side of the Jeep. It was probably the most complicated notch I have had to do to date (which isn’t saying all that much), and Im glad its done.

I had to use the ol grind to fit method of notching and it took forever. Pile left over at the end.

One of the biggest issues I had with my old bumper was the fact that the shackle hangers stuck out so far in the front, and I was constantly hitting them on things. With this build I sucked them into the face of the bumper so they don’t stick out any further than the tubes. I used the 3/16’’ frame plate as the main structure with 5/16’’ plate on the inside and ¼’’ plate on the outside to get enough thickness that I felt comfortable pulling with. Here you can see the 3/16’’ and 5/16’’ together.

Next step was to get the winch mount welded up, and unfortunately I had to span the framerails with ¼’’ plate. While it wasn’t all that much weight I was hoping I could do it better, but I didn’t have much luck with other options.

I had to clearance the mount so the steering box could fit back in.

Starboard M 08-19-2010 12:48 AM

The End….?
And so ends the “detailed” build thread. At this point I had been working on this bumper and my friends Jeep for almost two weeks, and at the end I was operating on 40 hours strait with no sleep trying to get done for a wheeling trip. I may be young and stupid, but my brain was not operating at 100% and I sort of stopped taking pictures of the progress and actually ended up passing out on a step in the garage.

For now you can admire the finished product with both a strait on shot, and one from the side (although im hopelessly stuck).

Updates will happen later this week when I get back to school, but for now that’s it!

Apostle 08-19-2010 06:42 AM

you took out the frame cross member and are only using the bumper for that support? not knocking your skills, but your rig is going to twist

303_XJ 08-19-2010 07:00 AM

What part of Colorado are you from?

dcorn 08-19-2010 08:33 AM

So I guess that bumper is never coming off since it's completely welded to the frame? Looks pretty cool, good design.


Originally Posted by Apostle (Post 9983748)
you took out the frame cross member and are only using the bumper for that support? not knocking your skills, but your rig is going to twist

I mean, he plated all 4 sides of both frame rails, then tied that together with 2 tubes and 1/4" plate. It shouldn't flex very much, if at all.

Starboard M 08-24-2010 03:27 PM


Originally Posted by Apostle (Post 9983748)
you took out the frame cross member and are only using the bumper for that support? not knocking your skills, but your rig is going to twist

Im not sure how you think the frame will twist with this setup, but if you can explain how it will Im more than willing to listen.


Originally Posted by 303_XJ (Post 9983788)
What part of Colorado are you from?

I go to school in Fort Collins, but the Jeep lives in California at my parents house.


Originally Posted by dcorn (Post 9984166)
So I guess that bumper is never coming off since it's completely welded to the frame? Looks pretty cool, good design.

This bumper is not coming off, like you said, because it is welded to the frame. If I ever want to redo it, most of the pieces welded to the framerails can be reused to add more or less tube, add or subtract more plate, etc etc.

My dad, who got my old bumper, keeps on asking when Im going to get tired of this bumper so he can take it, but thankfully he cant have this one becuase it is welded on. :D

camjeep3 08-24-2010 03:54 PM

i highly doubt it will twist... looks awesome dude

Diamond-x 08-24-2010 11:38 PM

Great fab skills. Durable, light, Really cool!

GregB_00XJ 08-25-2010 12:03 AM

Very nice!

Timo_90xj 08-25-2010 12:36 AM

Well done, that's a sweet design and very nicely built :thumbsup: I can see why you wanted to get rid of that HUUGE bumper :D i had the exact same reasons..

I've never thought of clocking the winch gear side, that's a good idea! Opens up a lot of possibilities for my own front-end rebuild.


Originally Posted by Apostle (Post 9983748)
you took out the frame cross member and are only using the bumper for that support? not knocking your skills, but your rig is going to twist

You seriously think the factory POS .095" thick (if even thinner) stamped crossmember provides more structural support against front uniframe twisting than the fully welded and well integrated bumper? :rofl:

Starboard M 09-17-2010 11:40 PM


Originally Posted by Timo_90xj (Post 10016066)
I've never thought of clocking the winch gear side, that's a good idea! Opens up a lot of possibilities for my own front-end rebuild.

It was a dang good idea, but you would be surprised at how little room there is under there to get everything to fit and tuck away. With the 4 directions (front, back, top, bottom) I actually found that the front was the best solution.

Back I was worried about blindly sticking my hand behind the bumper and try and engage the winch with the engine pullys right there...:eek:
Bottom I was worried about the winch plate not retaining enough strength
Top I didnt want to cut out the grill

So I ended up cutting a 4'' hole in the front so you can get your hand in there. :rolleyes:

Some small updated pics, because I know you all care. :laugh:

Here you can see the steering box bolts as well as the tube tying the bumper back into the frame.

Shackle mount made with a3/16'' frame plate sandwiched with 5/16'' on the inside and 1/4'' on the outside

Top of the bumper. 1/8'' dimpled plate

Passenger side. Note the extra beefy shackle hanger again, as well as just a few of the many plug welds that hold this bumper on

Close up of the middle plate. Two dimpled holes on the outside, fairlead mount and 4'' hole which is used to access the winch control

Theres the winch access point. BTW, if you want to hate life, try drilling a 4'' hole into mild metal sometime. :(

Bottom of the 1/4'' winch plate. Welded to both frame rails and the front tube work


New bumper, less than 3'' from the grill

Old bumper. 6'' to the face of the bumper and 8'' to the shackle mounts

Stock bumper on a 99. 3'' to the face of the bumper and about 4.5'' to the bumperet things

So I gained 5'' of clearance over the old bumper, and basically went back to a bumper that sticks out no further than a stock bumper. :highfive:

And finally, some more wheeling pictures just to prove it does actually go wheeling.

Timo_90xj 09-18-2010 03:15 AM

That bumper is great! :thumbsup:

How thick steel can you make dimples to with the dimple dies you're using? Where did you get 'em? Using a 5-ton or 10-ton press? I've been wanting to buy dimple dies for quite a while now, but there are NO stores in Finland that sells them. Actually, I haven't seen them anywhere in European webstores. How pathetic is that? :rofl:

I started my own sort-of-similar bumper build last winter (but ended up building my exo-cage :D ), and noticed how little room there is for the winch under the radiator. But clocking the winch makes a lot of sense and actually makes it possible to mount the winch just like I initially thought.

Great build, I really like the design and functionality of it! :)

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