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My Custom Front Bumper   -   2002/08/13Viewed 544 times this month, last update: 2004/08/26

Update: See Front Bumper Version 2 for the curent bumper design.

Seriously, read above! My new design is much better!

After my sucess with my rear bumper I built a custom front bumper. One to increase my approach angle, provide better front-end protection, and made to house my winch of choice, the Ramsey RE 12000. It's currently awaiting the arival of the winch, which I may be saving $$$ a while for, it's about $1200. Construction of the bumper took about two months. In that time I have been banned from welding in my garage by my apartment complex, complained to by one neighbor, smashed my thumb so hard it now bends a bit to the side, blead a bit, and sweat so much I could have filled a lake. But it was very worth it. I think the bumper looks great, and it will hold up to all the punishment I could possibly throw at it.
About the winch: You may be thinking, "Erik, you do not need a winch that big. You're just being silly." Well, you may be right. It may be that I will never use the winch to it's full capacity. I may never need to winch myself out of a 'stuck', I may never need to winch my buddy Chris Bell and his 8000 pound truck out of a 'stuck', I may never need to rip a big stump out of the ground from my future mountain home site, and fairies may fly out of my butt.
With this winch, I have 12,000 pounds of pulling force. Enough to lift four of my trucks straight up. (Or the whole front end through thick mud.) It's worm gear driven, allowing frictionless braking. This allows me to use Plasma Rope. Plasma rope is a non-metalic replacement for the steel winch cable that most people use. It can melt under the extreeme heat generated by non-worm gear driven winches under some circumstances. The niftyest thing about it, is that if something brakes while winching, instead of snapping back with lethal force, as a steel cable will do, the plasma rope simply drops to the ground. This is a CRITCAL safety property for me, and is what dictated the much larger and heavier RE 12000 over similarly powered winches.
Also, it is the smallest of the worm-gear driven 12,000 pound winches, and comes with the recomendation of many of the knowledgable people at discoweb.org.
I've drawn up preliminary plans, and calculated the weight of the steel involved. The bumper should be about 63 pounds. That, plus the 135 pound winch, plus the 12 pound steel cable, plus the fairlead, plus all the bolts, brings the total to about 225 punds. It'll soon be time for new shocks and springs!
Here is how the layout will go. Instead of cutting into the grill, I'm going to place the reel part of the winch in front of the grill, and let the motor assembly be underneath. This arrangement will extend the winch 7.44 inches in front of the grill. The front, bottom of the winch will be 32 inches from the center of the wheel, and 19 inches off the ground. In the rear, the 32 inch spot is about 15 inches off the ground, so my approach angle is still better. Also, I will have greatly improved corner-approach angles.
The new straight-on approach angle will be 30.7 degrees, and the straight-on departure angle will be 25 degrees. And those will improve about 3 degrees after the 2" suspension lift.
This is how I sketch out my plans. I find it easier to do if I print out a red-and-black picture to write on, since it keeps the scale more or less right, and the black is easy to read.
The front plate will be 31 5/8 x 6 x 1/4" steel. This will be welded directly onto the frame sleeves. The winch will bolt onto it, and on to a support structure in the back. The wing tubes will run along the grill work, 7 inches behind the plate. They will be attached by sturdy brackets, and an triangular face plate will join the sides of the front plate with the wings.
This is the plan for the wing support strut. The wing will be a bent piece of 2x4x1/8" cold-rolled steel tube. The support will be a piece of 2x4x1/4" tube, reaching from the bottom of the frame sleeve out and up to the bottom of the wing. A triangular piece of steel will attach to the front of the winch box, and back to this same point on the wing. These two brackets will look nice, and support the wing vertically and laterally.
This is the first "frame sleeve". It fits over the frame rail of the truck, wraps up the sides of the square frame, and attaches with two 12mm bolts. It's made of two pieces of extruded steel 'L' stock, 1/4" thick. I can jump up and down on this sucker, and it doesn't budge. I may make this attachment stronger by bracing it to the anti-sway bar bolt, we'll see how it stands up once I put both on, and weld in the front plate.

In order to weld steel this thick with my little 85 amp welder, (which is only rated to 3/16" steel) I heat the whole thing up with a torch to a good 500-600 degrees, and use a 'squigilly' weld bead of about 3/8" width. With the preheating, the steel melts better than thin steel, and the weld is good and strong. It does have one downside however: Once I'm done welding, I can't touch it for a good hour, hense the night-time pictures.
Here are the completed frame sleeves. As I said above, they are made of 4"x1/4" 'L' stock. A main beam, made to extend from the frame rail ends to the front plate of the bumper, and another, smaller piece, that wraps arround the top to form a square, for strength, and a 'U' arround the frame. This allows the whole bumper to be raised into position. These are VERY strong. Probably much more than I need for the bumper. They each weigh about 15 pounds. I'm going to have to adjust my total weight estimate.

I am so tired. Tired from lifting and pounding this thing into place for the test-fit of the front plate. I got it in however, and it's a good fit. At this stage it weighs about 40 pounds. About as much as the stock bumper. Now I'm going to reinforce the plate, and ever so slightly widen the sleeve interior, so it doesn't take so much 'persuasion' from the rubber mallet to get in place next time.
By the way, the top of the plate will be evened, and the outside of the join to the sleeves will be fully welded. The inside is done, and is more than enough for the test fit.
I welded plates to the top of the frame sleeves and front plate to make an even box all around the winch. These plates come close (but not too close) to the grill, and will serve as part of the brace for the wings.
My apartment complext managers finally caught up with me. They have told me I may no longet weld in my garage. They claim it's a fire hazzard, which it is. So, from now on I'm going to have to cut out the pieces in my garage, then drive them elsewhere to weld together. Since I've only got about 8 more pieces to cut out, I think I can get that done in one or two days of good, solid cutting. Then, off to maybe Chris' house to do some welding in his driveway. Anyone else feel like donating some concrete space and an electrical outlet?
Phew! I just cut out the major remaining pieces. It was a lot of work! The two 1/4" thick front panel triangles, the support struts, and the wing tubes. All that is left in the cutting is to cut the notches in the wing tubes for the bends, and angle-cut the support struts. That done, I can tack-weld those in place, which will allow me to cut and fit the notches in the side plates, and tack-weld them in place. Then it's off (somewhere) to do the major welding. It's going to be fun getting the bumper into the back of my truck, assembled...
The wings are on! I finished up the wings last night, and this morning, tack-welded them on, while bolted onto the truck. To safely do this, I disconnected the batteries so the computer wouldn't short out.
The fit is only OK. I'm somewhat disapointed. I have a lot of holes to fill in and bracket over. That won't be too bad however, as it'll be just as strong, and it'll be out of sight. I took the whole thing off and moved it to my garage for final tack-welding, and cleanup. I'll also tack-on the front panels, which will make it look much better. It's one heavy puppy now. Probably 70-80 pounds. I was huffing and puffing just from carrying it the 30 feet to the table.
Really making progress. I welded up all the joints that would be covered once I put the front plates on, then tack-welded them in place. All the pieces are together now. Now I just have to take it all somewhere to weld it up.
I finished up the welding at Chris Bell's house, where my neighbors wouldn't be disturbed. I used up a whole roll of welding wire!
Ok! Here is the nearly completed bumper temporarily mounted on the truck. I still need to put the top side panels on, which are purely cosmetic, and grind some welds smooth and pretty, but that's about it, till the winch gets here!
Well, today I drove the truck arround some, with the bumper mounted. It drives a bit more 'truckish', but breaking, turning, and bump handling seem mostly unaffected. I'm going to slightly modify the frame sleeves to make it easier to mount and unmount, clean up some visable welds, patch the two top holes between the front side plates and wings, and paint it.
Also, I really like being able to walk across the whole length of the bumper. For some reason, that really feels good to me.
All of the cutting, welding and grinding is done! Now I'm into the painting. Ugh. The thing is huge, with tons of knooks and crannies, so I think it'll probably take me a good three days to paint the whole thing, so keep your panties on. The final fitting will be probably saturday!

Click Here to view the first 44 comments to this article!

rich (2008-11-08): I like it . I am drawing one for my 96 discovery and really like the way yours is tall,good front end protection. I am planing on making mine slope all the way to the edges of the end caps . very cool designe man.mine is going to be 2x6 1/4 wall tobe with 2x2 at the ends.

RR (2008-11-08): Erik, bumper is cool, and its awesome that you built it yourself. good job. Bp3dp - you could probably save even more money if you paid someone else to offroad for you.

bonnie (2009-02-15): hey erik, im trying to build my own side skirts for my car. im using sheet metal(aluminium). do you think i will b able to weld it to my car body??.and can you gimme some tips??..iif i pull this out illl be going for the front bumper..and thats when i need ur help...is sheet metal ok for it??..

Erik (2009-02-15): bonnie,
Aluminum is very difficult to weld, in comparison to steel anyway. You need the correct welding gear, usually gas-shielded MIG. Also, I would strongly suggest not welding directly onto your car. The electric welding rigs can damage your engine computer. I'd suggest building your bumper as a bolt-on unit, that way you can always take it off to work on it.

Jeremy (2009-02-19): Erik, Look real nice and clean. how much would you say that it cost you all together? also, how much did the extra weight of the bumper drop the front end down?

Erik (2009-02-20): Total materials cost was probably ~$200. This one weighed about 70 lbs, and had a negligible impact on ride height.

gearhead (2009-04-26): nice job, Im considering your design for my own bumper on a 05 ranger ford

idigit (2009-07-11): too many haters out there... i am about to mock up something for my blazer, i too am limited in welding capacity. Would you do this again using the same welder or upgrade?

Erik (2009-07-11): My 80 amp mig welder worked well for this, but for the 1/4" plate welds, a good pre-heating and multi-pass weld is necessary. If you're planning on doing lots of welding on thick steel, I'd probably start with a 100-200amp stick welder.

Chuck75 (2009-08-05): looks good but there's no support in the middle but the front plate. I think youll find that the first pull you'll get a nice bow in the front. may I suggest a bottom plate that welds flush with the bottom of your frame supports or aleast some gussets

Joscon5 (2009-09-04): Dude, that looks freakin' sweet! I'm lookin' to get something for my '94 Dakota, and I was thinking about building one. My welding experience is pretty slim though... Think I'm beter off leaving it to someone else?

Erik (2009-09-21): Joscon5, if you want it to be strong, look good, go together well, you need good metalworking skills, including welding, cutting, fitting, etc. If you want to learn those skills, a bumper, especially a simple design is a great way to learn, especially if you're willing to throw out the first one or two. :-)

Tony (2009-10-19): Like your bumper good job. I want to do the same for my jeep cherokee

Joel (2009-10-27): Speaking as a professional welder 1/4" plate should be welded with a 200 amp machine. Preheating can make up a lot but 80 amps is not safe and I would break test a piece the way he welded it just to be sure.

Erik (2009-10-27): Joel, I agree. When I first started, I did several strength tests with different weld configurations. Using my 80-amp mig welder, on 1/4" mild steel, I was able to get a strong weld only by using liberal pre-heating, beveling and running beads on both sides of a critical weld. This kind of weld held up under my "sledge hammer" test, so on all my bumpers, this is the procedure I follow.

Still waiting for a high-power mig/tig/stick/plasma cutter rig to pop up on my spending priorities list...

Alexander (2010-02-04): Wow, awesome, I am looking for the same for my Disco II.

MCW23 (2010-03-20): I think the design is clean and sharp. I have a full walk around, diamond plate rear bumper on my '94 Nissan PU and I 100% agree, it feels right and I find it especially handy with a topper. I just bought a winch and am going to weld up a custom front bumper with my 110v Lincoln MIG. I am considering welding 2, 2" receivers into the bumper and installing my winch onto a hitch mounted plate. This would serve serveral purposes: 1) I could switch the winch from front to back, depending on my pulling needs 2) I can remove and protect the winch from theft and weather.

Highlander (2010-04-09): Erik,
nice work - I'm looking to do the same for my project '94 RRC... did you do any kind of mock up 1st, like making a bumper out of corrugated?

Erik (2010-04-10): Highlander,
For this front bumper, I didn't do any physical mock-up. I sketched out about what I wanted, and did the photo-mockups above, then built the winch box. After that, I built one wing, in pieces, checking with test-fits as I went. Then I just made the second wing identical to the first one.

Austin (Agie Sr) (2013-02-04): Outstanding job

See also: Obsession, 265/75-R16 Tires on a DII, Driving, Front Bumper Version 2, Front Bumper, Version 2, Front Bumper, Version 2, Front Bumper, Version 2, Land Rover Mileage


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