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JK Makeover: Armor and Winch

Posted in How To: Body Chassis on November 9, 2018
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Installing a set of aftermarket front and rear bumpers, a winch, and a better spare tire carrier might be the most common “next step” after upgrading the suspension and getting bigger wheels and tires. That’s true for many new Jeep owners, and it was no different when it came to this two-door JK. We had already planted an AEV 2-inch lift under it and bolted up a sharp-looking set of Method wheels and Falken tires. The ComeUp USA winch and the body armor and better tire carrier from MetalCloak would make this Jeep capable of tackling mild to moderate trails without breaking the bank to do it.

MetalCloak makes a wide variety of products for Jeeps, ranging from body armor to suspensions systems. We got ahold of its Frame-Built Bumper #1402 set (includes the Frame-Built Bumper Base, 56-inch Stock Flare Caps, and Mid Stinger), Crawler Rear Bumper Base with 6-inch Crawler Caps, and Sport Gate Tire Carrier. These bumper bits are primarily made from 3/16-inch, 10-gauge or 14-gauge hot-rolled steel. The same goes for the tire carrier. The Mid Stinger features 1 3/4-inch–OD, 0.120-wall steel tube.

The ComeUp USA SEAL Gen2 9.5rsi is rated at 9,500 pounds and features a waterproof wireless remote control, aluminum die-cast housing and steel drum that are designed to withstand two times the rated load of the winch, heavy-duty series-wound motor with thermal switch to prevent overheating, and the manufacturer’s New Intelligence Dashboard (IDB) and power cutoff switch. It came spooled with 100 feet of 3/8-inch SK-75 synthetic rope.

We figured out a few things during the process that can make your installation a little easier. Follow along as we share what we learned.

The first step is to remove the lower plastic cowl if you still have it on your JK. We did not, so once the stock foglights (which will be saved for reinstallation later) were unplugged, the eight flange bolts holding the bumper to the frame came out and the factory bumper was removed.
Removal of the stock bumper cover was next. That was followed up by the removal of the foglight wiring harness clips from the frame.
With bumper cover and foglight wiring out of the way, we then removed the vacuum canister from its bracket to clear space for the ComeUp USA winch to be installed into the MetalCloak JK Frame-Built Combo Bumper Base.
Using the MetalCloak Vacuum Canister Relocation Bracket (sold separately), the factory vacuum canister was relocated to a spot in the engine compartment near the brake master cylinder. Vacuum hose and wiring for the canister were rerouted to its new location.
We used power tools because we have that option in our shop, but a hacksaw could be used if necessary to remove the factory bracket for the now-relocated vacuum canister. Again, this is all to make room for the winch.
Factory bracket removed.
A 9/16-inch drill bit was used to enlarge the smallest (one per side) of the four holes on each of the stock bumper mount plates. This allows the use of larger kit-supplied mounting hardware in all four holes.
The bumper base was placed in position between the frame rails and aligned with the mounting holes on the bumper mount plates. Some of the kit-supplied hardware for the bumper mount plates was made finger-tight to hold the bumper plate in place during the installation.
The kit-supplied flag nuts (driver side shown) were slid down into the framerail pockets to loosely attach the upper tab of the bumper base. The lower tabs of the bumper base were also attached to the framerails but left finger-tight.
This was the ideal time to install the ComeUp USA winch in the space created for it inside the bumper base. Hookup to the battery was direct and simple, and the leading end of the winch rope was pulled through the slot in the front of the bumper base. At this point we installed the remaining bolts in the bumper mount brackets, made sure the bumper was properly aligned, and then fully tightened the upper and lower frame-attachment hardware.
We then removed all of the bumper mount bracket hardware on the front and hung the bumper base cover on the D-ring mounts protruding from the installed bumper base. This held it in place long enough for us to gather the bumper base cover.
You may need an assist from a friend here (or duct tape), as the bumper base cover is best held flat against the bumper base while the end caps are placed in the proper position, aligning the holes in the end caps, bumper base cover, and bumper base with the holes in the bumper mount brackets to install and fully tighten the bolts that secure all the parts together and to the brackets.
The stinger was then positioned to line up the upper and lower mounting holes, and the kit-supplied mounting hardware was installed to firmly secure the stinger bar to the front bumper assembly.
With the front end wrapped up, we moved on back. The factory rear bumper and spare tire carrier/third brake light assembly was removed.
Heavy-duty rear bumper base mounts/frame reinforcement brackets were installed in the ends of both framerails.
Next came the rear bumper base. We held it in position while the kit-supplied hardware was used to fasten it to the new MetalCloak rear bumper mount plates.
The end caps for the rear bumper base were then positioned and attached firmly with the kit-supplied hardware for this purpose.
Upper and lower factory tailgate hinges were removed, and then replaced by new hinges from which the MetalCloak Tire Carrier Arm was attached.
The hinge bolts were installed loosely so the carrier arm could be adjusted to line up perfectly with its mounting holes on the tailgate. Once everything was good, all the tailgate and hinge hardware was tightened up.
The Metal Cloak tire carrier tower was bolted up to the tire carrier arm, and the vertical adjustment bracket was attached to the carrier tower.
After pressing the wheel studs (in the appropriate wheel bolt pattern) into the horizontal adjustment bracket, we mounted it to the vertical adjustment bracket. We began with an educated guess as to how much room we need behind the spare tire, and then after a short process of trail and error (lifting the spare on and off the studs), we arrived at just the right spot and fully tightened.
We had already added 2 inches of AEV coil spacer lift and LT285/70R17 Falken Wildpeak A/T tires wrapped around 17-inch Method MR308 Roost Bronze wheels. Now with its new front and rear MetalCloak bumpers and spare tire carrier, and a ComeUp USA winch, this Jeep two-door JK has the looks and goods to handle some fun and challenging trails.
Rear MetalCloak bumper and spare tire carrier

Tips and Tricks

Before removing the factory tailgate hinges, use some strips of duct tape across the full width of the tailgate and rear corners, and wedge some cardboard under it to support the tailgate. That will help keep it in place and properly aligned during the new hinge and carrier installation.

When removing the plastic cowl from under the nose, it helps to squeeze the plastic on the back as you unscrew the center plugs from the retaining clips, but don’t be surprised if you have to drill the plug out of some of the clips.

Have plenty of zip ties close by during the installation. They will come in handy when relocating the vacuum canister and foglights.

Paint any exposed metal from drilling (front bumper mount plates) or cutting (removal of the vacuum canister’s factory bracket) done for this installation. It will help prevent rust.

To keep the tailgate properly aligned and in place during the removal of its factory hinges and installation of the new MetalCloak hinges, run a couple strips of duct tape across the tailgate and both rear corners of the body. Cardboard stuffed between the bottom of the tailgate and the body will help support the tailgate.

Tools Needed

Socket/ratchet wrench
10mm, 13mm, and 16mm sockets/wrenches
5/8-in and 9/16-in sockets/wrenches
Socket extension
Phillips and flat screwdrivers
3/4-in and 9/16-in crescent/box wrenches
1/4-in, 5/16-in, and 7/32-in hex drive sockets/wrenches
T-50 Torx bit
Electric drill
9/16-in drill bit


Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
Comeup USA

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