Part 6: Winch And Skidplating
We think that skidplating is mandatory for any vehicle that travels off-highway. Not just thin, stamped tin skidplating, but thick, strong plating that offers ample coverage of critical underbody components. Most every 4x4 comes standard with some degree of underbody protection, but we've found that in most cases there's always room for improvement. Take, for instance, our project Trailhugger Hummer H3 Alpha. From the factory it came with far-above-average underbody protection that included front bumper, engine, and transfer-case skidplating. It's actually pretty stout, but we wanted more. We chose to upgrade to the DeFelice Offroad Innovations (DOI) Up Armor Skidplate System. DOI owner Matt DeFelice says he created this system "for the person who wants to abuse their H3 off-road and then drive it to work the next day. The intent was to provide full coverage of critical components with maximum protection with a simple installation," he notes.
While we were under Trailhugger, we also installed another item we think every off-highway vehicle should have: a winch. We chose to install a Warn XD9000. With a 9,000-pound pull rating on the first layer, it's a good match for our 4,883-pound H3. The XD9000 features quick no-load line speeds, a reliable three-stage planetary geartrain, and a low current draw for long duty cycles. It also has a separate control pack, which is mandatory for the DOI H3 winch mount. Yep, that's right; DeFelice also has a winch mount for the H3 Alpha. This mount was designed to retain the H3's excellent approach angle as well as the factory appearance and dimensions. It installs directly to the framerails of the vehicle to provide a solid anchor point for the winch.
We chose to replace the XD9000s 100 feet of 5/16-inch-diameter wire rope with 80 feet of 3/8-inch synthetic Viking Trail Line from Viking Offroad. This rope is on the cutting edge of winch-rope technology and is rated at the average breaking strength of 19,600 pounds. It is made from genuine AmSteel Blue, which is made from Dyneema fiber. Why should you care? Well, because it's the strongest manmade fiber. Viking Trail Line also features a Samthane coating to resist abrasion; a Class 2 splice that includes a lock stitch to prevent accidental unraveling of the splice; and a 10-foot nylon line protector that can slide on the line where needed.
Our Trail Line came equipped with the Viking Offroad Safety Thimble instead of a hook and we chose to install the Viking Offroad 350 Series large-radius aluminum hawse fairlead. The folks over at Viking say that the Safety Thimble is the strongest and lightest thimble available. It is designed to be used with a bow shackle or "D" shackle for safe and secure rigging of the winch line to another vehicle or tree saver. It was developed to prevent the thimble (or a hand) from being pulled through the fairlead. The 350 Series fairlead offers a large surface area and a larger wear radius to reduce the pressure on synthetic winch line. It comes with Type II black anodizing and stainless steel bolts and nuts.
We traveled to DeFelice Offroad Innovations in Mooresville, Indiana, to install the components. Here are the highlights.
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6. Next, the upper grille, brushguard, and the lower grille assembly with the new DeFelice winch mount were installed on the truck. The final step was to make the connections to the winch and battery. Note: Due to a factory change in the H3 front skidplate, if the DOI winch mount is being installed on an '08-and-up H3 you cannot use the stock front skidplate. You'll either need to use the DOI Up Armor front skidplate or an '06 model year or older skidplate.