Part 7 – Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for PJ


Finally, the last part of the front bumper build for PJ. Today we tie it all together by adding reinforced tubes to finish out the sides of the bumper. Be sure to check the completed pics at the end!

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Here is where we left off with part 6.
It has been about a month and I regularly drive this thing, so some of the parts I intentionally left unpainted already started getting some surface rust. No biggie.

I do occasionally bump into trees offroad, so I want the front bumper to be beefy enough to bump into stuff but not heavy. Nothing personal if you have one, but I am not a fan of the giant 1/4″ plate steel offroad bumpers. They are overkill in 99% of situations and increase strain on parts due to how heavy they are. Weight is enemy #1 for hardcore offroading.

I have tried to make this bumper as heavy as necessary but as light as possible. I went a little bit heavier with 1/4″ plate under where the winch mounts, but felt it prudent given the capacity of the winch. However I cut weight everywhere else I could think of.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Remember in the last post I had a ‘whoopsie’ and bent a piece of tube in the wrong spot?
Well turns out the angle was just about perfect for the corner of the front bumper, so here I am chopping it off a little long so I can measure and cope it to fit the other tube.

Random note about abrasive chop saws. If you notice above I use my 4.5″ grinder to cut just about everything. Ever since I found out about diamond cut off wheels for 4.5″ grinders (click for detailed write up), I haven’t even gotten the chop saw down off the shelf. I used to use my chop saw a lot but found they are loud, create a lot of dust, and are kind of slow.

Coping tube using a PipeMaster

A PipeMaster is just like one of those metal pin impression toys you used to play with as a kid that copies the shape of your hand/face/army guy or whatever. The main difference being these metal pins are in a circle that fit around a 1 3/4″ tube so you can make an impression of what it is going to fit up against. Simple but handy.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Notice I cut the tube about an inch long. This was so I left enough material for coping it around the bull bar tube.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I grabbed a stool and a couple random boards to have something to set the tube on so I could mark for cutting.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Once I had the tube in the right location, I moved on to using the pipe master to mark the cope.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
There are four gaps in the pipe master. This is so you can mark a line with a sharpie or pen that way if it moves on you, you can get it back to the right orientation.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
After pushing the pipe master toward the tube and making sure all the pins are pushed up against the intersecting tube, you can then slide it back to see the pattern for the cope.

TIP: If you find the pins bending around the tube instead of getting pushed back to mark the cope, you might have the plastic collar too far back. Move the plastic collar closer to the cope and there won’t be as much of the needles sticking out to wobble around.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Here is the bottom side where the cope was actually quite large because it hit a weld and the receiver hitch tube. The pins don’t always come out perfect, but it is still a LOT better than trying to eyeball it and running to the grinder 40 times.

I forgot to take a picture once I finished the cut, so I will briefly describe the process. I make the large cuts with my 4.5″ grinder and diamond wheel then switch to my other grinder with an 80 grit sanding flap disk and ‘sneak’ up on the cope test fitting and sanding until it fits perfect.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I then eyeballed the angle cope on the other side to match the wheel well opening and used my digital angle finder to make sure it was level with the truck.

Making your own steel tube end caps

Do this now. Don’t save it for ‘someday’ because you will never do it. I didn’t do this on my prior rigs and the tube on the bumper constantly got packed full of mud and leaked out rusty water. It also looks a lot more finished with a cap on it. It only takes 10 minutes, just do it.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I grabbed a piece of 14 gauge sheetmetal to make a cap for the end of the tube. Here I just traced around the tube with a sharpie.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
I then grabbed my sheetmetal shears and rough cut it out.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Next I used my sanding flap wheel until it matched up with the end of the tube. Cut it just a little bit smaller to give room for weld.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Welded up. Alternate side to side in small sections while welding to reduce warpage on thin materials.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Sanded with an 80 grit flap wheel on my 4.5″ angle grinder, then lightly touched up with a scotch brite pad.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Firmly tacking the first side in place.

Moving to the drivers side

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
ALWAYS clean your tube before running it through your bender. If it is all rusty, it WILL scratch your dies which will then scratch all future tubing you bend with it. Some light sanding with a scotch brite pad is usually enough.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Bending the drivers side tube to match the 75* on the passenger side.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Looks close enough…

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
Repeating the notching / coping process on the other side.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Heavily tacked. Still some more to do before final welding.

Bumper reinforcement

Roll cage tubing specifically 1 3/4″ x .120 wall is pretty tough stuff but it does bend. I mean… we send it through a bender and bend it without too much trouble. Most of the strength from roll cages comes from the design, specifically triangulation. If I stopped here and didn’t reinforce these bumper tubes, they would be pretty much useless if I actually hit something.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Mocking up a ~1″ tube for reinforcement. Honestly I don’t even know what size it is, I grabbed it out of the steel pile from another project and it seemed about right.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
This brace will give the front bumper tube support in multiple planes both from bending up/down and forward/back. While also not interfering with the core support that hangs down.

Triangulation is the name of the game here. After welding in this support, the bumper doesn’t flex at all. Obviously it will bend if I hit something really hard, but for the design and weight, it should be pretty stout.

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Finished welded and prepping to paint. I also took off the grill and painted the bottom of the core support below the headlights so it wasn’t noticeable behind the bumper. I prepped by giving everything a light sand with a scotch brite pad then wiping down with paint thinner on a rag to remove any oils.

A note on choosing paint. I ONLY buy rustoleum black gloss these days. I tried cheaper paints and they look fine right when you do it but 6 months later they quickly fade in the sun. Don’t be cheap, just buy good paint so you don’t have to do it twice. The cheapest place I have found anywhere is the 6 pack on Amazon linked below which comes in at ~$5 a can for the big 15oz cans.

Final product!

Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Finished up and painted.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Proper spacing under the headlights and just enough stick out on the end to protect the fender.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Side view. Nice and tight.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
View from top down. There is just enough stick out to protect the fender and headlights. This was intentional.
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
Now I just need to do something with those rusty rockers and missing rear bumper…
Front Winch Bumper Build with Receiver Hitch for Suzuki Vitara Chevy Tracker
All done!

Hope you enjoyed the build. Congratulations if you read all 7 parts. That was a longer writeup than planned, but I wanted to go through the entire process in case anybody else is working on a similar project. Hope this helps!

Now YOU, go outside and work on something!

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