Part 6 – Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for PJ


Today we bend up a bull bar / hood protector for the bumper and wire up the winch with a quick disconnect safety switch.

We left off part 5 with a pretty sweet looking skid plate. Time to wire the winch up and add some more tube to the bumper!

Bending up a main hoop

Not sure what to call this… could be a bull bar, hood protector, main hoop, stinger, etc. Whatever we call it, it will help me see where the end of the front bumper is from the drivers seat. It should also help if I ever run into something or flip the truck over by protecting the hood/radiator and winch.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Step one drag all of my junk out and set up the bender. Not sure the ladder and board are official fab tools, but the got the job done
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Chuck the tubing in the bender, get it tight against the die but don’t bend yet, then set the angle gauge (a highly scientific bent piece of bailing wire adjusted to 0 on the dial…)

For more info on bending tube, check out my other article: Tools of the Trade! Tubing Benders

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I love being able to weld. I finally got tired of getting pliers out to release my air over hydraulic ram on my bender so I welded on a piece of 1/4″ round bar. Now I can release it without pliers. Took like 2 minutes to do. Not sure why I didn’t do it 10 years ago?
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Notice my rando bend off to the left. Not everybody hits the right angle on the first try. I will eventually cut it off and save it to use somewhere else.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Looks kinda like what I was going for.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Since I didn’t want to cut the tail off the tube yet, I drew the outer dimensions of where I wanted the tube on the concrete in soapstone then measured against it to make sure the ends would land on the top of the frame.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Cut the tail off and mocked up. Took lots of trips over to the grinder until I got the angle of the dangle and height looking right. Bungee cord around the hood latch worked great for holding it in place.
Bull bar done. Should protect the radiator from getting smashed some if I ever do go all the way over.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I love the approach angle of this rig now.

Why did I put this tube on?

Well, for one thing I think it looks kinda cool. It has a purpose yet is not huge and obnoxious. Keep in mind, the bumper is not done yet. It will blend in more after I finish it out.

The main reason I put it on though is because I can see exactly where the end of the bumper is when I am wheeling on tight trails. It also has the side benefit of being a great step / grab bar when your rig is stuck in the mud and you are trying to reel out the winch without sinking into the mud yourself.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Check out the visibility of the top of the hoop from the drivers seat. It is perfect in my opinion. I can know when I am about to bump into trees/rocks prior to breaking my headlights or radiator.

Wiring up the winch with a battery disconnect

While I could have wired the winch directly onto the battery, I just couldn’t bring myself do it. I used to connect the winch positive wire only when wheeling on my last rigs, but I wanted something more convenient this time.

Why do I want to be able to disconnect the winch?

This is a HUGE wire going from the winch to the battery. It would be very bad if you ever got into a situation where either the winch shorted out and wouldn’t shut off or chafed through the insulation on the wire and shorted on the frame/body.

I had a flaming river kill switch leftover from work about 10 years ago. They threw it in the trash because when at tech was removing it one of the terminal studs broke off. Not one to waste, I fixed it by smoothing the head of a bolt and putting it inside to replace the broken stud. These switches are simple but super tough (as long as a dorkus with a wrench doesn’t snap the studs off).

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Here is a look at the insides of these switches. It is literally just some heavy duty springs and a plate that goes up and down to make the connection. Note the hex head of the bolt I put in, I sanded the factory letter stamping on the top so it would make nice smooth contact.

These disconnects are like insurance. You hope you never have an emergency where you have to use them but are better off having them just in case. They are a lot cheaper than a rig on fire or anybody getting hurt.

Mounting bracket for winch kill switch

If you buy this switch new it comes with a bracket you can just bolt to the fender. I didn’t have a bracket, so I made one.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I wanted to install the switch under the hood. So I found a spot and grabbed some scrap sheetmetal from the pile. I used a hole saw bit to mark the center of the hole I wanted to drill.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Should work nicely here. I am going to attach it to the strut tower brace.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Chopped, rounded one side then hole sawed on the other side.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I then cut through where I had hole sawed to make a half-round circle that fit on the strut tower crossmember.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Then hammered down the edges in the vice to make some wings so it was sturdy and had extra space to weld on.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I covered up anything important with welding blankets and welded it on.

Wiring up the winch kill switch

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I started assembling the kill switch and didn’t like the exposed washers. It would be rare but something could arc against it.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
So once assembled, I took some liquid electrical tape and sealed off the exposed parts (this stuff is awesome!)

Liquid electrical tape is the legit. Every shop should have one of these jars laying around. I have fixed many extension cords and frayed wires where electrical tape wouldn’t have worked.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Wired up and ready to bolt in.
I could have put it the kill switch up on the front bumper where I could get to it from outside the truck, but I wanted it as close to the battery as possible. I also didn’t want it anywhere anybody could mess with it while the truck was parked or unattended.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Bolted in and ready to go once attaching to the battery.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
To feel as good as possible about it, I also wrapped the wires in convoluted tubing for pretty much the whole run except the short wire to the battery where there is no chance of chafing.

There you have it. We made a winch / hood protecting bar and wired up the winch in the safest manner that I could possibly think of. Next stop is outer tubes wrapping around to the fenders which will finish off the bumper. Hope this helps, and gives you some ideas for your project.

Now YOU, go outside and work on something!

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