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We install the Warn Zeon 12-S Platinum winch and Ascent bumper

Going Platinum

Bruce W. SmithPhotographer, Writer

Saving time. That’s a big factor for those of us who love four-wheeling and installing our own parts. If we can save time during the installation of a product that also saves time out on the trail, that’s a win. If the same product makes our rig look good and handles the rigors of off-road use, that’s another win.

Warn’s new Ascent winch bumper, paired up with its equally new Zeon 12-S Platinum winch, would be one of those win-win combos. We first saw these two products at the 2015 SEMA Show and couldn’t wait to install one of the winch/bumper combos on a truck to check out the claims of easy installation and time-saving features.

Warn was happy to oblige our inquisitiveness, sending us one of the very first Ascent bumpers for a 2015 F-250 Super Duty (other applications are also available) along with a 12,000-pound 12-S Platinum winch. It sweetened our install project with two pair of 4-inch WL Series LED Light Pods and wiring harnesses, along with sweet Epic shackles and matching towhook for the Spydura Pro synthetic rope that comes with the “S” model winch.

Warn has a full scope of accessories to make the Ascent Super Duty bumper and Zeon 12-S Platinum winch installation ready for immediate action. Our order came in the shop door in one big box.

It only took Thomas Smalley (foreground) and Rubin Villalobos a couple minutes to shed this big 2015 F-250 Super Duty of its factory bumper in preparation to put on the Warn Ascent.

Functional Form
What makes this combo so sweet is that the low-profile 11-gauge steel bumper is designed to complement the flow of the Super Duty’s front. The edges of the Ascent bumper fall right in line with the factory Ford flares, tucks close to the headlights, and follows the angular lines of the grille. It looks integrated; not added on. It’s also light in weight but stout in capacity. It will handle whatever the 12,000-pound-rated winch can throw at it.

Another nice touch was the simple installation. Where other winch bumpers have multiple brackets, this one has just two fabricated bumper-to-frame brackets that attach to the frame horn, so it doesn’t take much time to put on the bumper.

Then there’s the time-saving aspect of the 12-S Platinum winch, which has a number of strengths in itself over the standard Zeon models. Our favorite for installation is the wiring harness is already in place, plugged into the driver side of the control box, so you only have to run ground and power to the battery for the winch to be “hot.”

The really sweet part of this new winch is there are two additional plug-ins above the battery harness with a lighted rocker switch. Those ports are where you plug in the wiring harnesses from the twin 4-inch LED-fog lights that mount in the bumper’s cutout pods. There’s no wiring relays or running wires through the firewall to a remote switch. The winch powers and controls the lights via the built-in rocker or the wireless remote.

Recovery Power
We took our Ascented-and-Platinumized F-250 Super Crew 4x4 longbed diesel out for a quick winch test-run by getting it stuck off a side road of slimy red clay. The wireless remote engages/disengages the clutch and powers the winch in/out, in addition to controlling the lights in the bumper and reading the truck’s battery voltage, as well as the temp of the winch motor.

Spooling out the 3/8-inch Spydura Pro synthetic rope, which Warn claims is twice the strength of regular Spydura, is easy as it weighs almost nothing. We attached the Epic towhook to another Super Duty and engaged the 12-S. No sweat. The Platinum’s winch motor, which has a longer armature and 20 percent more power than the motor in a regular Zeon, delivered a smooth, fast pull up the muddy bank where our truck could get a grip.

Is that a true test? For the owner of this Ford, yes. He’s a bridge builder and weekend four-wheeler who loves his truck and doesn’t go out of his way to find the deepest mudhole or prove his is the baddest 4x4 around. It’s his work truck during the week and his family vehicle on weekends where it can be found towing a big toy hauler.

What our day with the combo showed both us and the owner is Warn’s Ascent bumper and 12-S Platinum winch saves time in installation; it looks really good on a new F-Series; and it functions exactly as promised in the field. That’s a triple win in our book.

Smalley zipped off the towhooks in short order. The new bumper will have Warn’s Epic shackles to handle such tasks when installation is completed.

We also removed the OE bumper side bracket braces. An impact with 13mm socket makes this part of the install fast and adds a few more bolts and steel to the shop’s used parts bin.

Smalley liked the concept that just two brackets are used to mount the Ascent to the big Ford’s frame, making installation fast and easy. The brackets are well designed and strong.

Although Warn’s new Ford winch bumper is rather light in weight, it’s still nice to have a couple shop buddies helping hold it in position so the first bolts can be put into the two mounting brackets.

One of the nice aspects of the Ascent is how well it fits the contours of the late-model Super Duty front. It’s also designed to make the winch install and servicing easy, even after the bumper is mounted to the truck.

Acorn nuts give the special hawse-type fairlead a nice look. The fairlead is designed specifically for use with the Spydura Pro synthetic winch rope that comes with the Zeon 12-S Platinum.

Just the essentials. The 4-inch LED fog lights and Platinum series Zeon 12-S winch lay waiting to be tucked into their new home.

A common misnomer in the field is that the Zeon Platinum is just a Zeon with a wireless remote. In reality, the Platinum is closer to mil-spec, using a motor with a longer armature and 20 percent more power. The internal gears are also more robust, using 4340 and 4140 steel versus 4140 and powdered metal that’s used in standard Zeons.

The hardest part of the entire install was trying to get the fat Spydura Pro rope through the hole in the winch drum. A neat trick the guys at Mobile Diesel Services use is squeezing the drum-end of the rope flat using a vise.

We used a 3/4-inch wrench as a handle to pull the now-flattened tag-end of the synthetic rope through the drum so it could be locked in place. Wire is used as to attach wrench to rope eye.

Warn supplies a tear-drop shaped wedge to keep the winch rope from pulling out of the drum. It has to be positioned with point going back into the winch drum when rope is pulled taught.

After the winch is mounted and battery cables are attached, Smalley spools the Spydura Pro synthetic rope onto the Zeon Platinum’s drum.

A short and long “Y” harness are offered that connect the pod LEDs to the back of the Zeon Platinum winch control box. We found the shorter harness is the best one for a Super Duty application.

A really cool feature of the new winch is you can wire the four LED lights in the bumper in just a couple minutes because the plug-and-play wiring harnesses plug right into the back of the winch control box just above the connector that runs to the battery.

All of the connectors on the wiring harnesses for the lights are watertight and vibration-proof. They lock together just like any OEM connectors.

It didn’t take Smalley but a few minutes to bolt the LED fog lights into their cutout pockets and run the wiring harness from each side tucked inside the bumper to the winch control box.

Warn’s intelligent remote allows you to engage the clutch and operate the winch while monitoring the truck’s battery condition and the winch’s motor temperature. It also controls the bumper-mounted lights, turning on one side at a time or both sides at once. There’s nothing else like it.

We gave the Ascent and Zeon 12-S Platinum a quick workout on a steep, muddy clay road near the shop. The 12,000-pound-capacity combo pulled our 2015 F-250 Super Crew longbed 4x4 without a hiccup while we stood back using the wireless remote to control/monitor all the functions.