Changing out the front bumper on your Jeep, Ford, Toyota, or any other off-road vehicle is sometimes one of the very first items you replace when modifying your vehicle. And there is good reason for that. We will explore why you would do that and why I chose what I chose.
Motobilt was founded in 2012 by Dan (dansjt), and he was not new to the offroading world. I’ve been searching for a new front bumper for years, and I kept going back to Motobilt and looking at their Crusher series front bumpers. Motobilt makes about five versions of the Crusher series front bumper for the LJ, and I chose the Crusher Series Front Bumper W/Grill Hoop & Bull Bar.
But why did I choose that one? Couple main reasons I loved this one was due to the grill hoop and bull bar, and I just liked how it looked. I’ve been around a handful of rollovers and noticed that anytime someone has a front bumper with a grill hoop, it has always helped keep the grill and hood from completely getting destroyed. Some might ask why that is important. The biggest reason is if you are ever in a rollover where your grill and or hood might be damaged, having something protect it will protect everything under the hood at the same time. In addition, a grill hoop will help keep you going or at least help you get off the trail easier.
Installing a bumper by yourself can be daunting, but you shouldn’t worry too much; take it slow and pay attention to details. Adding a winch on top of it can really make someone nervous, but installing a winch can be very simple. Installation of a bumper and winch is universal across all types of vehicles; some are easier, and some are a little more challenging. But when it comes down to it, you unbolt the old one and bolt the new one on.
When it comes to a 97-06 TJ or 04-06 LJ, there are eight bolts you will need to remove to get the stock bumper or other different bumper off. Before I installed the Motobilt bumper, I had an old Poison Spyder bumper with a winch plate. In case you don’t know what a winch plate is, not all bumpers are designed to have winches attached to them. In that case, a winch plate is needed. This is common with the steel Jeep bumper package on Jeep JKs and Jeep JLs. They are only winch capable once you add the winch plate. But back to the bolts. Six bolts up top, three on each side and two underneath.
After removing the old bumper and winch, the hardest part of the job was going the winch off the winch plate. This particular winch is a WARN XD9000i that was offered by MOPAR way back when. The dealership installed it in 2005, and has never been removed from the Jeep until this install. Each winch is held on by four bolts from underneath, and 2 of them came off quickly, but two did not. I had to weld nuts onto the bolts to get them to come off. This is mainly due to the fact that it was installed 17+ years ago. I finally got them out so I could start to mock up the new bumper and winch to ensure everything fits.
I did a quick mock-up before I painted to ensure everything lined up as it should. And it made no surprise that everything did. Painting is where everyone is going to go a different route. I am known to drive by braille when I am offroad, so I decided to go ahead and just use spray paint to paint the bumper. Powder coating is a great option; the only thing I don’t like is if you scratch off a piece, it’s harder to cover it up. And depending on what you want, you can even have a shop put something like Line-X on the bumper. This option will make the bumper heavier but hold up to rocks and mud better than powder coating. I like to use spray paint because I know I am going to scratch it, and I can easily touch it up at any time I want.
Now that the bumper is painted and ready, it’s time to install the winch. For some vehicles, you can install the bumper first, and then you can install the winch. But when it came to this bumper and this Jeep, that is not something you can do. You have to install the winch onto the bumper. Getting the WARN winch onto the bumper by yourself can be tricky, but I got it done.
I thought I could lift the bumper with the winch up to the Jeep by myself, but alas, I am not that strong, so I hired my wife to help me get the bumper onto the Jeep. Now that the bumper is sitting on the frame rails, it’s time to install all the bolts to ensure it doesn’t go anywhere. Now if you have never installed a winch, there is nothing to worry about or fear. Once it is attached to the Jeep, all you need to do is install the red wire to the positive and the black wire to the negative. Most winches come fairly ready to bolt on when you get them.
One modification I made to my battery years ago was replacing the primary terminals with multiple hookups. I, unfortunately, do not have the room under the hood to mount a dual battery system, so I needed to add the multiple-slot battery terminals to make hooking up accessories easier. This makes installing your winch easier as you don’t have to remove all the accessories you have tied into your battery. Now that the power cables are connected, grab your winch remote and make sure it works. Another quick modification I had to make was to my WARN winch rope thimble. It was a little wide for the Factor 55 Flatlink-E, and the flatlink would not move properly. I used a vise to pinch the thimble’s end and ensured it fit into the flatlink freely.
Now that I have the bumper and winch installed, I double-checked all bolts and ensured the winch worked as it should and the light bar was also working after plugging it in. Another advantage of this type of bumper vs. having a winch plate is the bumper allows the winch to be lower down. I was able to drop the winch lower by close to 2 inches. When you have a V8 where it isn’t supposed to be, any additional airflow will help. Anytime you install a new part you are unsure about, take your time, keep an inventory of what you remove, and have fun. No need to stress, and if you need to, call in a friend and share a couple of sodas or wheat sodas to get the job done. Now time to pick your favorite Motobilt bumper and install it on your rig.
Remember, It’s Not Built, Until It’s Motobilt.