The idea, as these things go, was fairly simple: We wanted to move our trailer around our property with more precision and better vision than the rear hitch on our Cherokee could give us. In short, we wanted to put a front receiver hitch on it. So many front bumpers for Cherokees intended for winches or that integrate a receiver hitch actually decrease approach angle, and that was no good either. Remember that goin’ wheeling thing? But after some searching found what we wanted in JCR Offroad’s Deluxe bumper. It tied into the Unitbody at many points, didn’t stick off the front of the Cherokee like Pinocchio’s nose, and is way stronger than the factory bumper.
But now we still have a story about a bumper for a Cherokee. That’s cool and all, but how do we make the story more fun? Voila! Turn the Cherokee into a Swiss Army knife. We already knew we’d be able to move our trailer, but what else could we use the Cherokee for? Well, read on.
Tool #1 Self-Recovery
We tried the Warn mount out with Warn’s VR winch packed with synthetic cable to make the whole thing lighter to lug around and easier to remove. We liked the handles which make picking the winch up simple, but the handle on the passenger side hits our driving light, so we will put the winch on JCR’s mount once the paint dries. Warn now offers this as a kit with wiring and disconnects so you can do the same thing. We are going to keep the winch in the Jeep when wheeling in a custom receiver hitch stock mount so it isn’t on the front bumper all the time.
Tool #2 Hi-Lift Jack Mount
This receiver-mounted Hi-Lift Jack from JackRabbit Manufacturing can turn any receiver into a Hi-Lift holder. It features one fixed and one slotted bolt so that it is fully adjustable even if you have an off-brand jack. It cradles the handle so the jack won’t rattle as much as it can, and the company includes a lock if you drive your Jeep in high crime areas. The lock features a weather flap that will keep the keyhole clean even in the muck.
The jack blocks access to the shackle mounts on this particular bumper so we would have to remove the jack to yank or get yanked. The jack also rubs the shackle mount driving down the road. We just painted our bumper with Rustoleum, so touch-up is easy.
Tool #3 More Recovery!
If we hadn’t opted for the built-in shackle mounts, this would have been the way we’d perform recovery. The solid aluminum receiver shackle mount and shackle are from Factor 55 and are very high-quality pieces, and the aluminum means it is much lighter overall than our old steel one.
Tool #4 Vice
The Trail D-vice from Mac’s Tie Downs can be an invaluable tool not only on the trail, but even at home. The jaws feature a flat area that is textured to really grab flat stuff while round things pose no problem either. Just behind the jaws is an anvil area for beating on things. The handle is aluminum and has a bottle opener built in. The entire thing collapses down and is self-contained, so you won’t have to worry about any of the parts getting lost. We already cut a hole behind the bumper in our crossmember for an old transmission cooler, but if you don’t cut a hole, you will need to trim about two inches off the Trail D-Vise to work with this bumper.
Tool #5 Bling!
OK, OK, so Bling isn’t a tool. But it is something else you can use a front receiver hitch for. As an added bonus, leave this in the hot summer sun, and you can brand your friends.
Tool #6 Bantam Heavy Lifter
The Spitzlift Portable Truck Crane weighs a mere 40 pounds and can lift up to 900 pounds. We used it to load a Ford front Dana 44 into the back of our Comanche, among other things. The Spitzlift not only lifts but can rotate 360 degrees, so it can be used even to pull the engine out of the Jeep it is mounted on. We added the optional support foot (shown painted yellow) to help keep the bumper straight—this prevents the suspension from compressing when lifting heavy loads. We went with the hand-cranked model and had no problems lifting anything we tried, but an electrically operated model is available as well. The lift folds up quickly into a small package that can conceivably be put in a Wrangler behind the front seats.