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Suck-down Winch Project

Every now and then you end up doing a project just because you want to do it.  It would be nice to have a widget or gadget on your Jeep, not because you need it, but rather just because you can.  And hey, if it makes things easier while you are out wheelin', so much the better.  This is, in my opinion, one of those projects. 

Since you are reading this on my web site, there's a really good chance you are a TJ owner.  And being a TJ owner, you know that the front end suspension of your lifted TJ has a tendency to unload when you are going up hill or trying to climb up an obstacle.  The weight transfers towards the rear axle, the front end gets lighter, your springs extend, and you get less traction.  If it is steep enough and the suspension unloads unexpectedly, you can find yourself going over backwards.  OUCH! 

There are times when compressing the front suspension can make the difference between flopping or making it over the obstacle.  The infamous Currie Fire Ant was one of the first competition rigs (that I am aware of) to employ a method by which the front coil suspension could be compressed as needed to provide better handling in certain circumstances.  While my rig is oh so far from being anything like the Fire Ant, I borrowed the compression idea to see if it could make a difference on my TJ when playing off-road.  This write-up covers the major points of the project. 



It all starts with the acquisition of Warn Industries new 2.5s ATV winch.  The 2.5s is an updated version of the 2.5ci which is still available.  The changes to the 2.5s include a mechanical brake and synthetic rope.  A friend is doing this same project but with the 2.5ci.  We'll find out just how much difference, if any, exists between the two winches.

If you haven't figured it out by now, the ATV winch is going to be the means by which the front suspension is compressed.  Reel cable in, suspension sucks down to the bump stops.  Release cable, suspension returns to normal ride height. 

At this point, I need to make note of the phone conversation I had with Warn's customer service department when this project was first starting.  I called them to ask a couple of questions about the 2.5s, since it was listed as "NEW" on their web site and the local Warn dealer didn't even have a part number for it.  I explained to them what I was doing and was immediately informed that my application was not the intended use for the winch.  They didn't tell me that installing it in this fashion void the warrantee, but then again, I didn't ask.  I reminded him that lots of competition rigs that proudly display the big red "W" use these for just this purpose.  (no response from customer service rep) 

I ordered the winch from 4 Wheelers Supply here in Phoenix, Az.  It was drop shipped to my house from Warn (via UPS) but I never received it.  Either it was stolen or never delivered (another package from a different vendor was delivered that same day by UPS and it was not removed from my front porch).  4 Wheelers helped get things straightened out and I ended up driving down to their shop to pick up another (just like it) that they had ordered for stock. 



Just like the winch you have on your front bumper, this one comes with everything you need for the project except for the winch mounting plate.  I ended up with a couple of parts that do not get used in the project, such as the roller fairlead and the winch hook.  Unlike the 8K winch that may be on your front bumper, this one doesn't have a big ugly relay control box.  It has a fairly compact electrical actuator attaches to a small rocker switch that you use for controlling the winch.  The power leads are all 6 gauge wiring. 

With good suggestions from BobP and Troy, I spent part of a day working through some trial and error test fits in an attempt to come up with a workable mounting solution.



Once the cardboard templates had been finalized, I transferred the shapes to some 1/4" steel and made a stop at the  the band saw.  A blending disc took off the sharp edges (to save my finger tips) and I punched the mounting holes for the winch body into the base plate.



After more test fits with the winch both on and off of the base plate, the two pieces of the mounting plate were spot welded together.  Right then, I realized that I should have taken the opportunity to punch the other mounting holes in the support plate.  Oh well, not the first time an opportunity was missed.  I grabbed a drill and made the remaining three holes. 



I was very pleased with the fit at this point.  You can see the three holes in the support plate.  I decided to not worry about the four bolt heads that anchor the winch to the mounting plate.  At first, it looked like counter sinking was going to be required.  After looking at it for a while, we determined that nothing would be gained by recessing the bolt heads.  You can see a couple of the mounting bolts sticking out of the top of the plate.  They had to be there to get the correct plate spacing off of the upper spring bucket when marking the holes in the support plate.

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