WJ Pulling Power On a Diet
They say the first rule of engineering is K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple Stupid. Well we’re not engineers, but we are willing to bet that the second, third, fourth, fifth, or maybe sixth law of engineering is something like K.I.L.D., or Keep It Light Dummy. Why? Well this should be obvious; if you can drop poundage without losing any, or much, durability—you win. The lighter the parts on your Jeep are, the less gas it takes to haul everything around. Lighter mean less wear and tear on your Jeep, it’s easier to install, and so on. We have been contemplating adding a winch, some sort of winch bumper, and some greatly needed front tow hooks for our WJ ever since we first spotted the Jeep on the used car lot. Oh yeah, and during the many times we got stuck wheeling the WJ in the snow last winter.
We searched for ’99-’04 WJ bumpers and found more than a few viable options. We finally settled on one of the most thinking-outside-the-box winch bumpers we have heard of or seen in a long while. Check it out as we drop the plastic factory bumper cover in favor of an Iceland Offroad Go Berserk WJ winch bumper and revive an old Ramsey Platinum 9500 with some super-light Master-Pull winch line.
The Iceland Offroad Go Berserk bumper came in the mail with a primer coat ready for paint, but first we had to get the winch cradle and winch mounted up. The entire Iceland Offroad winch bumper assembly weighs in at a mere 65 pounds. That’s much lighter than any other WJ winch bumper available.
The meat of the winch bumper is made of ¼-inch steel plate. Also check out the cool replaceable nutserts that this system uses rather than nuts. This helps speed up the install. The bumper kit even comes with an aluminum hawse fairlead bent to match the bumper contour and a wiring harness for the driving lights that are also included. However, our WJ has factory fog lights so we just hacked into the factory wiring harness.
These four holes in the Jeep Unitbody have to be opened up so you can adjust the final position of the bumper and make sure it lines up with the fenders, lights, and grill. We used a die grinder and a hand file.
The four side plates (two per side) sandwich the Unitbody and grab six mounting points on the chassis. This is important for spreading the load of the winch during those hard pulls. This part went together like butter. Leave these bolts a little loose until you have the winch cradle in place.
The winch cradle drops down between the side plates and bolts in place with five Grade 8 bolts per side. The four bolts that will eventually hold the fiberglass bumper cover on the Jeep also serve to anchor plates that accept ½-inch D-ring shackles for recovery points.
Next we made a template out of cardboard that matches the profile of our older Ramsey Platinum 9500 so that we could cut out a notch for the winch in the fiberglass bumper. We then test fit the bumper cover, made a few adjustments, tightened all bolts, and painted the bumper.
We first used this Ramsey winch for a story in 2002. Since then it’s been used and abused. The only part that gave us any issue was the housing for the controller plug, which cracked after about 8 years of service. The winch still worked, but you had to jiggle the plug a bit. Ramsey replacement parts are available online.
Keeping with the lightweight theme, we made a call to Master-Pull which netted us a super-light, super-tough winch rope for the WJ. This rope and hook weighs 5 pounds as compared to 28 pounds for the steel version. The winch rope was also much easier to spool onto the winch than a steel cable. As an added bonus, the Master-Pull rope is much less dangerous than a steel cable if breakage occurs.
The Master-Pull winch rope comes with a rope protector sleeve so that if you have to drag the rope across a rock or other sharp object it won’t abrade or cut the rope.
This might not be the ideal bumper for a dedicated rock crawler, but the Go Berserk bumper is made out of thick fiberglass. In fact, it’s more than a ½-inch thick in some places. It’s pretty damn strong. Our occasional drive-by-Braille style helped us figure this out. Overall, the weight savings is well worth the minor decrease in strength.