Part 5 – Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for PJ


Time to add more reinforcement and an aluminum skidplate to our custom DIY winch bumper build! We also discuss lot of tips and tricks along the way.

We left off part four with the start of a frame and reinforcement for the skid plate. Time to add a couple more pieces of angle iron and make the skid plate.

Finishing the skid plate frame

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Adding an additional crossbrace to the bottom bar. Showing the notch I made so they fit together. The sharpie mark you see is marking the center of each piece so I knew I had them lined up.

Side note. These projects take a lot of patience to get everything to fit together and look good. Everything for the most part is designed and created on the fly.

Here is my typical process:

Measure, measure again, cut, fit, cut, fit, sand a little, fit, then sand a little more, then a little more, then mumble ‘screw it, it is close enough’ and weld it together.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
MIG welded them together. Notice there are a lot of cut outs to fit around the radiator and radiator brackets.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Welding it onto the truck. Notice the bar clamp and vice grips. Sometimes it takes a little motivation for everything to fit up just right.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Sometimes even if you do get everything in right it isn’t perfectly in every direction. I have found crescent wrenches very useful for slight bends on thinner metals. This one just needed a light tweak.

TIP: If you have a piece slightly off after you are done welding it on, a crescent wrench can work wonders for making small tweaks. Just close the jaws in and push or pull your piece back into alignment.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
It is a bit tight to the radiator but should be good barring anything crazy.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
All welded up.

I forgot to take a picture from the back side, but the bottom yellow piece is welded on to the radiator mounts in multiple places underneath.

Drilling holes and inserting threads to bolt on the skid plate

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Marked up and ready to start drilling some holes. Notice how everything is tied together, radiator mounts, crossmember, winch mount, all the way out to the frame rails. Should be stout.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I just used a ruler and marked the middle of the intersections. I laid it out so there would be 9 bolts total holding it on.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Drilled out all 9 holes in two steps to get up to 3/8″ for the 1/4″ nutsert inserts.

Nutsert tools are SUPER HANDY to have in the shop for all kinds of projects. Seems like I have been using mine a lot since I started this build with PJ. Check out the one I have in the link below. If it is above your budget, Amazon has some cheaper versions also.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Ready to build the skid plate!

Making the aluminum skid plate

I will be making this skid plate from a scrap piece of 10 gauge aluminum I had laying around the shop. You will notice it has some random bonus holes already in it, no I don’t have plans on filling them in because I don’t care that much.

I was going to dimple die the large air holes but decided the metal was too thick and I didn’t feel comfortable trying it with borrowed dimple dies.

Drilling air holes for the radiator

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
First I got out the scrap, marked it and cut it to size. I then measured and marked out where the crossmembers were on the truck. Since I wanted to use 2.5″ holes (my biggest hole saw) I marked them out in a way that looked even.

I ended up using my biggest 2.5″ hole saw and doing 12 holes. In hindsight I might have been better off with a slightly smaller hole (maybe 2″ instead?) just so sticks and stuff couldn’t poke through. I wanted the holes to be big enough to let the radiator breathe since I stuck a giant winch in front of the upper part of the radiator.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Do as I say, not as my picture is. It was easier to drill the holes when in-between the boards instead of into the boards. Going in-between allowed the cut-out part to drop out of the hole saw bit instead of getting pushed further in.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
some very tired wrists and 3 drill batteries later, I had all 12 holes drilled. Be sure to lube the hole saw and go slow!

Marking and drilling the mounting holes

I forgot to take a picture of the process for marking the locations for the mounting holes in the skid plate. If you remember from up above I had 9 holes drilled and nutserts inserted. Since this is all hand made, not everything is exactly symmetrical, it is close but not exact. So I have a process that works for me.

I threaded all 9 bolts into the nutserts on the truck making sure they all stuck out at about the same height. I then took some white lithium grease and dabbed it on each of the bolt heads. I lined the skid plate up with where its final location would be and pressed it up against the bolt heads. This left me 9 white grease spots on the skid plate. Next I took my transfer punch set and used it to center mark the 9 holes then drilled them out!

Finishing the aluminum

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Next up I grabbed my orbital sander with some 40 grit sandpaper and went to town on it!
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
This removed all my marks and left a cool looking finish. I need to coat the raw aluminum with something before winter. More research will be needed for that.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I have approximately 20 lbs of 1/4″ by ~1.5″ bolts in my garage. Of course in three of the spots I needed 1″ bolts because the frame rail was in the way on the back side. Not one to spend money unnecessarily, I just put nuts on the bolts to be cut, whipped out the sawzall and cut off the extra .5″.

TIP: Put a nut on first before cutting bolts or allthread that way when you thread the nut off, it will straighten any threads at the end that you messed up while cutting.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Bingo, custom length hardware with 0 trips to the store and $0 additional dollars spent.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
All bolted up!
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Using my metal thickness gauge. I use this little guy a lot in my shop due to having a lot of unlabeled scraps laying around, it is more convenient / accurate than using a tape measure or fullsize ruler.

Metal gauges are cheap and great to have around the shop.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Kinda looks like a poor man’s knock off Toyota TRD skid plate. I like it.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Finally out in the daylight!

Conclusion

Well, that ties up the winch mount and skid plate. The only things left are some tubes to form the rest of the bumper and hooking up a huge kill switch for the winch. Stay tuned for more!

Hope this was interesting and helpful. Now YOU, go outside and work on something!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.