Part 4 – Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for PJ


This ain’t no bolt on bumper so the madness continues! Time to reinforce the winch mount and start making a skid plate.

One of my highest priorities is ground clearance since I am running tiny 29″ tires. Similar to how I relocated the fuel tank in the rear, I need to keep everything in the front tucked up as high as possible. I don’t plan on lifting the vehicle any more at this point.

I also want the front end to be pretty stout and shaped kind of like a ramp. That way when (not if) I run out of ground clearance, I can just hit the obstacle harder until the tires make it close enough to climb up.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I started the clearancing by marking the ends of the frame at an angle with a straight edge and nipping them off with the sawzall.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Here is a before picture, note the shape of the radiator mount brackets and location of the power steering line across the bottom of the radiator.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I cut the factory tow loop off the frame… Boy did that suck. I ended up getting out the big daddy 7″ grinder to finish grinding down the leftover part on the frame.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Next up was to relocate the power steering line. On the engine bay side of this power steering line (cooler) it was soft lines so I was able to just unbolt it, drill new holes, put in some nutserts, and bolt it back in higher up.

Nutserts are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I have been using them A LOT lately. Check out my article about them here: What is a RivetNut / Nutsert Tool and How do I use it?

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
One of my new favorite tools. Check the link above to read more.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
My happy place…
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Started hacking on the radiator mounts with the sawzall. Drilled a hole above the radiator side brackets so I could re-bolt them higher up. I then cut the rest of the bracket off from the stock bolt down.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Here you can see the trimmed radiator bracket
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Test fitting the angle iron reinforcement.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Still working on my second diamond wheel.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
This is ironic. The black and decker grinder that we just did a giveaway on that I went on and on about it being 10 years old and still kicking died in the middle of this project… It started making a weird noise and I thought I had bent the wheel, nope, turns out I finally wore out the bearings in the gearbox and it locked up solid and started smoking.

I ordered another one of the SAME EXACT grinder. In fact the Amazon guy should be delivering it on Saturday. I LOVE this grinder because it is cheap and has a trigger button on the bottom. I won’t use the ones that have the side button.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Got ground clearance? ~23″ to the bottom of the receiver. By the time the obstacle gets to the bottom of my skidplate the tire should be almost touching it and starting to climb (if all goes to plan).
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Looking good.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
This shows how I am tying everything together into the frame rail for strength.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Burned in. This is as far as I am going with reinforcement. I’m pretty sure the factory frame will fail before this does.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Time to build the bottom rail to mount the skid plate on.

Notice how the piece I am holding above is this terrible ugly yellow/brown color. I want to point out that this is actually a piece of bed-frame. Fabrication doesn’t have to be expensive. You can find bedframes on FB marketplace all day long for free, normal people don’t realize that they are just a bunch of angle iron bolted together. Metal is metal folks.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Cut, test, cut, test, cut…
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I love it when the piece fits so tight I don’t have to hold it for a pic.
The angle iron will be welded to the bottom of the radiator mounts to tie it all back together and reinforce it. I am also going to do a couple of kickers back to the subframe where you can see I ground it down a bit.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Here is a view from the front. Almost ready for the final touches.

Next up I need to add a couple more pieces of angle iron to support the skid plate. I will be making it out of sheet aluminum and plan to drop some dimple die holes in it for extra fancy-ness. I am excited for this part since I have never actually used dimple dies before.

Hope this was interesting. Now YOU, go outside and work on something. We are still quarantined so you don’t have any excuses at the moment.

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