How To: Install an Electric Winch -
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post #1 of 1 Old 06-13-2012, 09:17 PM Thread Starter
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2003 TJ Wrangler 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Silver City
Posts: 4,282
How To: Install an Electric Winch

This is a step by step guide on how to install an electric recovery winch. It pretty much covers everything including lifting the front suspension to compensate for the weight of the winch.

Items Needed:
Metric Socket set
Metric Wrenches
Drill and 3/8" bit
Tape measure
Torx Bit (T55)
Battery Terminal Cleaner Brush
Zip Ties
12" Piece Heater Hose
Floor Jack
Jack Stands
Work Gloves

Parts Needed (See Picture):
Mounting Plate
Battery Terminal Kit or Equivalent
2) 3/4" Spacers for Front Springs

Parts Required:

First thing to do is to measure the toe in the front end. Adding a winch adds about 100 lbs to the front end. That weight will require the addition of spring spacers or taller springs to the front to return it to the height of before the winch. I chose to go with a pair of TeraFlex 3/4" spacers. Whenever you alter the height of the suspension the steering geometry will change. I took a rough measurement with a tape measure so I could have a reference to adjust it to afterwards as it was going to be a couple days before I could get an alignment. I measured between the tie rod attachment points as it was easy and good enough to get me close. Be sure to remember this number as you will need it when you are done.

Toe Measurement:

Next You have to remove the sway bar cover and stock tow hooks to make room for the mounting plate. I bought the Warrior Product plate for my 03 TJ, so it also required removing the two front swaybar clamp bolts, too.

Bare Bumper:

Now you are ready to start installing things. First is the winch plate. The Warrior Plate uses the two tow hook bolts and one sway bar clamp bolt on each end. After it is bolted on you will notice two of the winch mounting bolts fall in the top of the bumper. Just drill them with a 3/8" bit and you are good to go. It has to be done with the plate bolted on so they line up properly. Pay attention to the length of the bolts you removed when the tow hooks came off. Because of the way the mounting plate was made they would have been useless if I put them back on, so I bought 4 grade 8.8 bolts that were shorter than the stock bolts and used those to mount the plate.

Front winch bolt locations:

Once the two front winch holes are marked and drilled, remove the mount and the front bumper and bolt the fairlead to it, make sure the bolt heads are towards the winch. Use the top foam block the winch came in and put the winch in it upside down. On the bottom of the winch is four square slots for the nuts that the winch bolts screw into. Slide the nuts in and bolt the mount to the winch with the two rear winch mounting bolts but don't tighten them yet. Next place your bumper on top of the plate. Note the length of your winch to plate bolts. There will be four of the same length and they are the proper length to bolt to the plate only. When I bought the new bumper bolts I also bought two grade 8.8 bolt that were 10mm longer for the two front winch bolts. My bumper is 1/4" thick and it required longer bolts. These bolts MUST be long enough to go all the way through the nuts in the bottom of the winch without bottoming into the winch frame.

Putting it together:

Once you have it all together and have properly tightened the winch to plate bolts turn it over and it's ready to go on the frame.

All ready to mount:

Once you have the bumper on and bolted up, pull enough slack through the fairlead so the thimble is about 12-18 inches from the fairlead. Lock the winch drum and pull the cable tight. Check to make sure that the cable passes over the rollers and does not contact the opening in the front of the mounting plate. If it does you will destroy your cable the first time you use the winch. Warrior did not make the opening on my plate large enough so I had to trim about 1/2" from the bottom edge of the opening and reinstall the fairlead after painting the bare metal where I cut it. Instead of taking it all off I removed the cable and the sawzall made short work of cutting the opening larger. Once I corrected that, the fairlead was bolted back on.

Larger fairlead opening:

Another thing to consider is the security of your new investment. I bought a Tuffy "Bolt Locker", too. It is a two piece "peace of mind" item for your winch. Just put the base on with one of the larger plate to frame bolts like this:

Tuffy bottom part:

And put the top on afterwards and it makes it hard for someone to just unbolt your winch and run. It's made of steel so you can't just break it with a hammer.

Bolt Locker:

Now that the winch is installed, it can be wired up. I went through the grill on the passenger side where the evaporator lines are. There was enough space for the cables there. I fed them through a piece of heater hose so they would be protected from the radiator mounting bracket. From there choose a route where they won't easily be damaged and can be zip tied in place. Again, where you route them is up to you as long as they are safe, mine went in front of the air cleaner, under the relay panel, and left me with about 10" at the battery. When you attach them to the battery a good solid connection is very important. From here attach the breaker that came with the winch and the two power leads and you're done. I bought the below pictured kit from Quadratec to connect the winch power cables with, it gave me a nice place to connect the winch. They replace the standard battery clamp bolt with a new bolt and brass stud. It also has an extra terminal for connecting things such as lights, compressor, etc., and was well worth the $30.

Battery Terminals:

Now, remember I talked earlier about the winch adding about 100 lbs to the front of your jeep? This extra weight will make your front end sag a little and if you already had a little rake to the front it will be even worse now. On my TJ the weight of the winch dropped my front end about 1/2" plus I had a slight rake too. I bought a pair of 3/4" TeraFlex Spacers with my winch to fix that. Jack it up and put it on good jackstands so you can proceed. On each side remove the tire so you can get to everything. Then remove the swaybar link and the bottom shock bolts and you can remove the springs, bumpstops, and bumpstop cups.

Springs out:

Now you can put the spacers in. Make sure the lip is facing down (writing will be right side up) and put it all back together. When you get to this part, you have a decision to make. The spring spacers alone will give you 3/4" of lift. The spacers with the stock spring isolators will give you 1-1/4" of lift. Since I needed to make up about 1/2" of droop I left my stock isolators in place.

Spacers installed:

Now that all of that is done you need to check your toe measurement and adjust it if it has changed. Remember, lifting your suspension changes steering geometry. You should have the alignment checked so your rubber lasts like it should. I just measured the same way I did when I started:

And made a slight adjustment. That will do until I could get it to the alignment shop.

That's It!!! You now have something that looks like this:

All you have to do now is set your cable before the first use. You want the cable wound very tightly so it won't bite into itself in the lower layers. The easiest way to do it is to put another vehicle in front of you and winch it to you or attach to a large tree or something solid and winch yourself to it. Just set the parking brake on the other vehicle or yours so it gives you resistance to pull against. Make sure you have a minimum of 5 or 6 wraps of cable on the drum before you start.

Happy Winching!!!

Remember, Be Safe when winching. There is a large amount of force on a winchline under load. Stay clear of it, don't rush, and just use your head.

A few simple precautions and not overloading your winch will give you years of trouble free service.

Silence is Golden, Duct tape comes in Many Colors.

Journeyman Meterman IBEW Local 611

Work with enthusiasm as though you were working for the Lord rather than for man.

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