So at the request of others I am creating a build thread of my hidden winch plate instal. It all started from seeing the original Mojave and the hidden winch system that the people at AEV made for it.
The only problem I had with it was that they mounted the winch up side down. This means that when you get stuck and need to use the winch, you have to reach under the bumper to access the clutch lever. That was not something I was wanting to do, because if you are stuck off road reaching under the bumper can get difficult at times. Other than that I liked the design. Made out of .25" steel and replaces the factory crossmember.
So I decided to make a winch plate but mount the winch right side up. I started by making measurements of my front end.
I wanted to try and reuse the 4xGuard Matrix and do what I could to keep it intact incase I ever decided to sell it. From my measurements I made a quick sketch of the base of the plate. It will go under the frame and use the four tow hook bolts as the initial anchor point.
Now that I had a basic plan I needed materials, most important a winch. I decided to get the Superwinch EP9 because of their excellent track record and reasonable price. I ordered one off Amazon for just over $500 with free shipping.
Once it was un-boxed and on the bench.
To make working with it easier and to shed some weight I stripped it down. Took off the solenoid and then the cable which will be replaced with synthetic line.
After taking some actual measurements it was time for the steel. I was lucky enough to pick up a sheet of .25" steel for free. It started out as 24"x42". It wasn't in the best shape, so after prepping a section it was ready to measure, mark, and cut.
For all of the cutting I used a 4.5" angle grinder. So nothing special. I used cutting, grinding, sanding, and stripping discs.
I then cut two pieces 7"x2.5" for the sides where it will mount under the frame. I figured if it sat too high then I could add these in to drop the plate down a .25". I did end up using them in the end.
Next was the two side pieces that will bolt to the inside of the frame (4"x7") and the front where the fairlead will be mounted (12"x3").
That was all the work I did in advance. Next I needed to wait until I had a four day weekend to waist on the build.
Then I cut the crossmember off flush with the inner part of the frame. I placed the base of the winch plate on my floor jack and lifted it up into position to check clearance.
I forgot to take a pic of it with my phone, but the inner side of the crossmember (closest to the radiator) has tabs that are pinch welded to the frame rails. I found the best way to deal with these was with a chisel and hammer after cutting the top, front, and bottom of the crossmember.
I spaced the plate about an eighth of an inch (0.125") away from the radiator and drilled the four bolt holes to mount it into position.
This is also when I found out that I would need to use those two pieces on the sides to lower the plate down far enough to get the bumper mounting bracket back in place without hitting the winch. So I tacked those into place as well as the vertical frame mounts, the fairlead mount, and two other pieces for the front.
I tacked the fairlead plate into place once at each end. Then I pushed the bumper on to see if it was flush behind it. I am not sure of the angle, but I had to tap the the plate forward a few times until I could feel that it was flush. Then I laid a nice bead down on each side to insure that it would no longer move.
I still needed a few more pieces to complete the boxed winch plate that I had in mind. So after a few measurements, cuts, grinds, and tacks, it was complete. Then it was just taking the time to weld both sides of every piece.
Then I mounted it back up and drilled three bolt holes per side going into the side of the frame. Here is what it looked like looking into the frame rail with the bolts in place. Also notice that I reused the tow hook bolt plate, but replaced the stock bolts which were too short with a pair of longer grade 8 ones. I wanted to keep the captured bolt head idea but use longer bolts for the additional .5" of steel.
Here is a sketch of what every piece was cut to. No poking fun! I am no architect or engineer. Some pieces needed a little grinding to get them to fit just right for a tight welding surface.
Color coded for easy recognition.
Next it was time to drill the four bolt holes for the winch. The EP9 came with this wonderful sheet to make this easy. I placed it where I wanted, taped it in place, and punched each mark to aid in drilling.
After the four winch bolt holes were drilled, I marked and drilled the two holes for the other half of the Matrix mount. Then it was time for paint.
The winch plate weighed in at 32lbs. Not too bad. The winch stripped down weighs 54lbs.
After adding the Matrix mounts I bolted in the winch. At first I forgot to attach the ground wires so I had to unbolt it and then put it back in. You will not be able to get to the bottom of the winch to attach the ground wires later with everything mounted.
Now that I had the winch plate finished and the winch in place, my next concern was the hood latch/ upper radiator support. I decides to use a piece of angle iron across the top of the winch, mounted to the sides of the crossmember that were still in place. With just the angle iron on, it was hitting the top of the winch before it could rest on the crossmember ends. So I cut four pieces of .25" plate (2 for each side). This raised the angle iron up .5" and allowed about an eighth of and inch (0.125") of clearance above the winch. I drilled two holes on each side for mounting. Then I modified the two stock vertical supports to work with their new mounting position and welded them into place. Painted it up and this is what I got.
Next up was to mount the aluminum fairlead. My original plan was to mount the bumper then the fairlead to give it a cleaner look. But once I got to this point I realized I would not be able to get to the back side of the fairlead to secure the nuts. And I would have to remove the fairlead every time I removed the bumper. So I decided to mount the fairlead first and then VERY carefully cut the bumper to allow it to poke through.