Bumpers / Winch
The stock bumpers that Jeep provides are a light weight design that are not very strong. When we build our Jeeps, many of us look for bumper upgrades satisfy four categories.
2) Ability to accept a winch
3) Clearance for off road
First, let's talk about strength. Because the bumper will house a winch, many of us will choose steel for it's strength. We want the bumper securely mounted to the frame, giving us a strong base on which we can winch/pull from. There are very high quality aluminum bumpers on the market as well. choosing aluminum would have a couple of advantages. Consider as we add armor and accessories like winches, we are adding weight as well. Weight is the enemy of performance. Robbing us of power, loading springs that will sag, requiring more braking to keep performance near what the factory gave us when the Jeep was stock. Aluminum will not rust, and depending where you live, and what you deal with for winters, this can be a big consideration in you bumper material selection.
Second on the list was the ability to accept a winch. depending on how you use your Jeep, this may not be high on your priority list. I use my Jeep off road, and knew that I wanted a winch mounted up front as I was building my Jeep. I have not yet had the need to use my winch, but consider it an insurance policy while I'm miles off the beaten path. The winch is there if I get hung up, or if I need to help someone else get unstuck.
When I was looking at aftermarket bumpers, I noticed two different design options for bumpers that can mount a winch. One, have the winch sit up high on the bumper. This is a pretty simple and straight forward way to design a bumper that can handle a winch. This puts the winch up high where it is easy to access. However, this is also putting the winch directly in front of the grill opening and restricting airflow. It also presents the winch as part of your overall design, having it in such a prominent position. The second way to mount the winch is down between the frame rails. To me, this is the preferred method, and has a few advantages. This location takes advantage of the inherent strength of the "boxed" area between the frame rails. This lowers the winch out of the way of the grill opening and does not restrict air flow. This location also allows the winch to disappear as it sits down inside the bumper. Depending on which winch you select, you can have it disappear down inside the bumper, or be peeking out at the top like the Warn Zeon line does. To me, this yeilds a look and inherent strength that I prefer.
Third on my list was clearance for off roading. When we build a Jeep for off roading, we are looking to increase our approach and departure angles. the greater the angles, the better the ability to clear obstacles, and get our tires up on and then down off the obstacle. For this reason, after market bumpers are available in different widths. My stock Hard Rock (10A) bumper came with removable end caps to add clearance and increase approach angles. aftermarket bumpers are available in full, mid and short widths. Mid and short giving the better approach angles, exposing more of the front tires. Full width bumpers give "full coverage" to the front tires, more like the factory would. There are some full width bumpers that also increase approach angles over the stock bumper. There are so many choices in the market place, enjoy doing your research before you buy.
Forth was the aesthetics of the bumper. How does the design shape work with the lines of the Jeep? Are we running flat fenders, etc.. This of course will be unique for each of us. This is truely a matter of taste and what we consider to be good looking or not. As we add a stinger to this, we can vary the look between mild and aggressive. Some like the more restrained look, akin to what the factory would do, others want a really aggressive visual.
As I shopped bumpers for my build, all four of the above criteria were in play for me. As part of my build ethos, I wanted to keep the weight in check, and have the bumper design flow well with the overall look of the build if possible.
Here's a quick visual reference of the evolution of my front bumper. I started with the factory 10A bumper that was part of the Hard Rock package. My fisrt mod was a Max-3 stinger.
I was looking for a "tighter" look, and switched the stinger to the Max-3 classic hoop...
Maximus-3 makes some great upgrades for the 10A bumper, including stingers, hoops, lighting brackets and winch plates.
When I decided I was ready to replace my 10A bumper, I settled on the vpr4x4 126-ss bumper. As previously discussed, the 126-ss checked off all the boxes on my list. Those being strength, ability to accept a winch, high clearance and aesthetics. one aspect of the 126-ss that I really like is that the winch sits down between the frame rails and inside the bumper. I also like that there is a set back for the fairlead, giving the bumper a very complete looking design, like the factory might do. This also keeps the grill completely open for air flow.
Here's a look at the 126-SS...
- Constructed of A36 lightweight steel
- 1/4" plate reinforcements and mounting
- Integrated Fog Lights
- 1" D-ring mounts
- Winch mount included
- Direct bolt on installation
- Mid-width design
You can see, the outer part of the 126 turns up, giving great clearance and increasing approach angles. This clearance allows me to walk the front tire(s) right up to an obsticle without any contact on the bumper.
Warn m8000-s winch
To complement the 126-SS bumper, I selected a Warn M8000s winch.
So why the M8000-s? The VPR 4x4 bumper is designed to accept this series of Warn winches as a direct bolt on. Three words describe the M series from Warn...compact...tough...reliable! This workhorse of a winch has been around for a long time, and is still built right here in the USA. This M-series of winches from Warn have a proven record of reliable, lasting service. The control box is removable, allowing you to mount it where you like. Warn sells additional cables, if you want to locate the control box inside the engine bay.
I chose to spec my winch with Spydura rope, to keep the weight in check. This is one of the lightest winches I could find, weighing just 55lbs. A Zeon 8-s weighs 75lbs. That's a 20lb. wieght savings...20 additional pounds I'm not hanging out on the end of the Jeep, 20 pounds of additional weight the front springs aren't dealing with.
- Low profile design and separate control box allows for a wide range of mounting options
- Best-in-class Cone Brake holds the winch's full-rated load
- Exclusive brake design provides superior control while winching
- Series wound, high speed motor provides fast line speed and strong pulls
- 4.8 horsepower
- 8000 pound/4.8 feet per minute
- 216:1 gear reduction
- Durable 3-stage planetary gear train for smooth, reliable operation
- Chip resistant powder coated finish
- Industrty leading warranty: limited lifetime(mechanical components); seven year(electrical components)
- Available with lightweight, easy to handle Spydura rope or steel rope
Here's a look at my install of the 126-ss. The winch bolts straight up to the 126 bumper...
In the pic above, you can see the engagement lever is facing rearward. While it is possible to reach around from behind the bumper to get to this lever, I didn't feel this was set-up the way I wanted it. I could see myself trying to get my big hand in there on a cold snowy day...not really going to happen! The solution was to create an access hole on the top of the bumper. For this, I used 3" hole saw for this. Here's a look at that...
This allowed me "clock" the winch. The Warn is designed to allow you to relocate where you want the engagement lever. In the above pic, you can see I have it clocked, facing up. The 3" hole is large enough to allow me access to the lever, even with gloves on. After I cut the hole, I got it all cleaned and painted.
It's pretty common to have to relocate the evap canister located inside the bumper. In my case, I was able to utilize the stock bracket. I used a 1/2" spacer and mounted it from the bottom, giving me the clearance I needed. The factory has it mounted on the top...
I mounted the control box on 1/4" rubber bushings, this provides additional vibration dampening and will allow water to move through and not be trapped under the box.
All buttoned up! I love how clean and integrated this whole bumper, winch combo is. I topped the install off with a Factor 55 pro-link...
All finished. I think the VPR4x4 126-SS compliments the lines of Rubi quite well...
Through all my time spent researching bumper/winch combos with the idea of looking for what I considered the sweet spot for strength, light weight, functionality, I feel I was able to achieve that goal.
Here's a look at the numbers:
- My stock Hard Rock bumper with Max-3 Classic Hoop, fairlead centering plate and Factor 55 fairlead weighed: 95 lbs.
- Factory Hard Rock Skid: 22 lbs.
- ARB 21 LED bracket: 11 lbs.
TOTAL: 128 lbs.
- VPR 126-SS (76 lbs.) with Stinger, decorative caps/hardware: 95 lbs.
- Warn M 8000-S (Warn states 55 lbs.) 50lbs.
TOTAL: 145 lbs.
As you can see, the new bumper/winch combo added only 17 lbs. compared with my stock bumper, and keep in mind, I didn't have a winch on my Hard Rock bumper. I'm super happy that I was able to get the upgrades on Rubi and not add a lot of weight in doing so.