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2004 Jeep Wrangler - Warn 9.5 PowerPlant Air Compressor/Winch Review

Testing Warn’s 9.5 New PowerPlant

Ali MansourPhotographer, Writer

For those who have loaded a Wrangler or CJ with camping gear, tools, and supplies for an extended wheeling journey, you understand the challenges of getting everything you need to fit in the limited space. While well-known for being light and nimble, two-door open-top wheelers are severely lacking when it comes to cargo capacity. This fact has created an entire plethora of aftermarket goodies designed to secure your extra gear on the outside of the Jeep.

One tool that every serious off-roader has is a winch. As one of the most effective recovery tools on the planet, having a winch can be the difference between hiking or driving out of the trail. Although using a winch isn't always part of our wheeling ritual, airing down is. Most wheelers know that dropping the air pressure in their tires is the cheapest and easiest off-road performance mod they can make. While airing down is easy, airing back up to hit the road can be a little more complicated.

Going back to the original dilemma of interior space (or lack thereof), the Wrangler and CJ platforms don't exactly have loads of extra room to mount a giant air compressor and tank. One solution for those in the market for a new winch and looking for an air source is the Warn PowerPlant. Offered in a 9,500 and 12,000-pound version, the PowerPlant is the merger of Warn's premium series winches with a compact air compressor.

Always looking to improve the efficiency and quality of its products, Warn has launched an all-new PowerPlant. We've had great experience with the older version of the PowerPlant, so we were excited to get our hands on the new model. Bolted to our '04 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, we've spent the past few months giving the 9.5 version a thorough workout.

Using the winch as it was intended (self-recovery tool for those "whoops" moments) we found that it pulled our modified LJ with little hesitation. Line speed is steady but not overly fast. It's by no means slow, but compared to the Warn Zeon winch we have on our other Wrangler, it's noticeably slower. The free-spool lever is easy to engage and the controller wasn't overly jumpy when toggling in or out.

While we've used our winch for a few recoveries, the air compressor's received a tremendous workout. From flat bike tubes to under-inflated trailer tires, and of course, airing back up from a day of trail riding, the compressor has seen its share of use. Speed is pretty important when airing up and was something we focused on with the PowerPlant. We've clocked a 5 to 30 psi fill-up on a 35x13.50R15 Toyo Open Country Mud Terrain at 3:28 on our 2004 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. On average, we would spend around 15 minutes to inflate all four tires from around 5-8 psi back to 30 psi from start to finish.

It's possible we could have used some of our NASCAR pit crew skills to pick up the pace, but we never felt the need to rush. The smaller the tire, the faster the time, but we would say this is perfect for airing up to 37s in under 20 minutes (a very reasonable time). Overall, we liked just about everything about the new PowerPlant. Sure, we wouldn't mind if it spooled in a little faster, but it's not slow by any stretch. It's not an inexpensive winch, but you're getting a lot of quality made-in-the-USA components for your money. In our experience, this is one of those items that you really get what you pay for if you use it frequently. With our old PowerPlant from 2008 still running strong, we hope to get years of service out of this unit as well.

Housed within the PowerPlant is high-output air compressor designed to provide 5 cfm at 90 psi, with a max air pressure of 100 psi. The 1/2-gallon tank helps for those quick burst of air pressure, but you'll find that the compressors stays running continuously when in use.

With the 9.5, you're getting 125 feet of 5/16-inch steel cable and a 9,500-pound line pull rating. The series-wound 4.6hp motor has a thermal protection shutoff switch to ensure you don't damage the winch. The geartrain is a three-stage planetary with a final ratio of 156:1. This provides a steady pace for pulling, but is slightly slower than some of Warn's other premium series winches.

At approximately 100 pounds, the 9.5 PowerPlant is both sizable and little portly. For our LJ, we didn't have any mounting issues as the 10x4.5-inch four-bolt mounting pattern easily locked in atop our Poison Spyder Customs BFH front bumper.

All that is needed to juice the PowerPlant is 12V power. We had plenty of cable to route the leads cleanly to the battery. Also provided with the system is a hose and filter that you'll plumb to the air compressor inlet. We mounted our compressor intake by our air filter to keep it out of harm's way.

The air attachment sits under a rubber door cover that easily pops off. If you have air tools that require low cfm, it will run them. Our air gun and cut-off wheel required too much volume, but we did find that it powers a nail gun and small 1/4-inch-drive air ratchet pretty well.

Included with the PowerPlant are all the necessary items: 20 feet of air hose, air chuck, and gauge. The winch controller operates both the winch and air compressor. Given the winch has an automatic shutoff, we would have liked to have seen a simple on/off button on the compressor itself, so we don't have to grab the controller each time we want to fire on the compressor. We ended up adding a plug kit to the provided tool bag, and swapped out the Warn air gage for one with a core remover. We found the hose to be plenty long for our Jeep and works nice when we need to air up others.