Part 1 – Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for PJ 2


We have been on 3 wheeling trips with PJ (our long term Suzuki Vitara) so far and haven’t gotten stuck… yet. However it is only a matter of time before it will happen or something breaks and we need to be extracted. Check out the winch we bought and Part 1 of building a custom winch mount and bumper!

Winch Research

After way too much research I think I found the perfect combination of cost vs options in a winch.

There seems to be two camps here (yes this is an exaggeration):

  1. The ‘If you don’t buy a WARN, you will get stuck in the middle of a forest and get eaten by a bear or die a slow starvation/frostbite death’ camp
  2. The ‘I bought a Harbor Freight / Ebay / China winch and it works fine’ camp

I lean more towards the second camp. First off I openly admit I am cheap (I refer to myself as a ‘valueist’). Second off, after much research I realized that almost all brands of cheap winches come from China. Likely the same 2 or 3 factories. If you look closely at the pictures of enough winches, you eventually notice that the cheap ones are almost all nearly identical.

The winch I ended up purchasing

I ended up buying was from a vendor ZESUPER on Amazon. There aren’t a whole lot of reviews yet and I only found one guy on Youtube that posted video of this specific winch (linked below). I decided to take a leap and order it anyways.

Unboxing the ZESUPER Winch

I’ve gotta say though, I am impressed so far with the packaging and quality of the winch and its accessories. As of the writing of this I haven’t plugged it in yet so I can’t speak to its operation. If it doesn’t work out of the box I am still within my 30 day Prime return window.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I was VERY impressed with the quality and packaging of this winch. Came with more options than A LOT of the other models I looked at.

The Amazon ad actually sandbags this winch a little bit. In the pictures it only shows one remote and no winch cover. The cover is important when you have synthetic rope since it will degrade when exposed to weather and UV light (just like any synthetic rope would).

Disassembly

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Now I just need to fit this somewhere in there…

Nothing is off limits on this rig so I am not making compromises. I don’t have a lot of money in this rig and am going to make these mods as functional as possible. I want it to look good, but I am not going to compromise ground clearance or approach angle to save a cheap plastic grille.

There aren’t a lot of options for these little trucks for front bumpers. Of the handful of companies that do make bumpers, I would never buy one because as mentioned above I am cheap and would rather make it anyways.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
One layer peeled back. My Mr. Buddy heater on the right does great. It isn’t a heat-wave per-say but it takes the chill off and I usually have to turn it down after 20 minutes or so. I wanted a small one so it was portable also.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Another layer peeled back. I want you to note the location of the A/C low pressure line (silver hose laying at bottom of grille opening and the black line going across the front of the radiator. They are both in the way and will get moved eventually.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
The silver A/C line was actually pretty soft. I was able to CAREFULLY bend it up (be sure not to kink it anywhere) and out of the way because it was exactly where I wanted the winch to sit. Lots of cutting to do here.

Cutting the Frame for the winch Mount

I am going to be connecting the front frame rails together with a piece of 2x3x1/8″ square tubing then plating the top of it with 1/4″ steel. It will have lots of gussets going down the frame since it is only ~1/8″ thick.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Grabbed some 2x3x 1/8″ steel out of my reserves and cut it to length to go from outside to outside of the frame.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I am marking out to cut in a 2″ receiver tube in the middle (2.5″ OD). A speed square makes for quick straight lines. Notice I am not marking to cut all the way through.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Boom. There was still about 1/2″ at the bottom connecting since the tube was 3″ tall. I wanted the top of the tubes lined up with each other. This worked perfectly as planned.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
A moment of silence for my cutoff wheel. I FINALLY wore out my first 4.5″ diamond cutoff wheel. I swear I have been abusing it for a good 6 months of intermittent projects. This thing paid for itself 10x and I don’t see myself EVER going back to normal cutoff wheels.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
This is just a 12″ long piece of pre-drilled receiver hitch tube that I cut ~4″ off the tail end.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I was a little worried about warping this piece when welding so I put it in a quick jig to keep it all in line. It is good to have lots of clamps laying around just in case.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
MMmmm… Welder was burning in good this night.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Mocked up to the front of the Vitara. I had it initially in line with the frame rails but decided that would cost too much in ground clearance so I raised it 2″. I will figure out the rest later, approach angle is not negotiable.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Partially welded on. Now to figure out the top plate, gussets, and a bunch of other stuff. At least I have the base set.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Took the sawzall and cut out the center support. Then laid the grill on so I could trim it also.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
This is a cool little tool that is just a couple of bucks. When rummaging around in the metal pile this little metal thickness key chain is super handy.

Notice my crossmember is only 1/8″ It is as thick as the factory frame is so I have some plans up my sleeve to reinforce it all.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I left a stub on the top of the core support to attach the A/C tube to.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Seriously these RivetNut tools make me look way more profesh than I actually am. Looks like the darn thing is supposed to be there.

Click here for my writeup on what RivetNut / Nutsert tools are and how to use them!

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
View from above. The winch is tucked in nice and tight. For reference the end of the receiver hitch tube is about even from where the factory front bumper was.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Beginning the next stage. More CAD (Cardboard Aided Design)
The top plate will be heavy duty and made out of 1/4″ which is what is recommended in the winch owners manual.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I haven’t made my mind up yet on the details. There will be a lot of bracing/gussets and some additional points to hook back to in case I need to use a snatch block.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
This is where she will sit. Still lots to figure out but I like how it turned out so far.

Thanks for reading. I hope you got some ideas for your project. The more projects I do, the more I realize that it is just plastic and metal. I know some of you all have fancy $$$ vehicles but if you are willing to invest time in modifications beyond what is available as a bolt on, you can create some functional AND good looking mods (at least I think they are).

Now YOU, go outside and work on something in the garage! We have at least another month of quarantine so don’t act like you have something else to do…


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

2 thoughts on “Part 1 – Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for PJ

  • Joe

    Love this project! I have 2 door 01 Tracker that I intend to do something similar with using a 6000lb utv winch tucked in below the grill. Thanks for documenting your’ mods this far and all the great photos! Keep up the awesome work!