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bulletFront Tow Hooks ($15, Jan 98)

 

Ease of Installation: Piece of Cake
Product Usefulness: Couldn't Live Without Them!

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I should have purchased these much earlier, but my wife doesn't like me to buy any potential Christmas gifts during November and December!   Pictured here is the passenger side tow hook.  You can't see the two mounting bolts, because I've welded a small piece of U-channel over the bolts.  These same bolts are used to secure my winch mounting plate.  The U-channels are my winch anti-theft devices!  This set of two tow hooks came from J.C. Whitney.  They're black, have a 10,000-pound capacity each, came with all the necessary hardware, and installed in about 10 minutes using existing mounting holes.  This is a no-brainer.  Practical, very inexpensive, and an absolute necessity on the trail.  The alternative is to wrap a tow strap around the bumper or axle, risking damage to both the strap and your vehicle.   It simply isn't worth it.  Tow hooks should probably be one of your very first accessories.  Besides, it immediately makes your rig look more like a "real" Jeep.  

 

 

 

bulletWarn XD9000i Winch and Accessories ($825, Jun 98): 

   

Ease of Installation: Not Too Bad
Product Usefulness: Real Glad I Have It

Winches, like tires, are very personal items, I've found.  Everyone has their favorite brand or type and is usually prepared to defend it to the death!  Probably the biggest winch rival is between the electric and the hydraulic winch.  Both have their good and bad points.  When you include the cost of professional installation, a hydraulic winch is usually more expensive.  On the other hand, it also has more pulling endurance, albeit at the expense of line speed.   The electric winch has limited endurance, but is usually less expensive, faster, and doesn't require professional installation.  I wanted a winch for periodic personal recovery, not to pull my entire Jeep club up every impassable hill on the trail!  I also wanted a relatively fast line speed and easy installation.   Therefore, the electric winch was the correct one for my needs.  I didn't select it because it was better than a hydraulic winch, I selected it because it better suited my needs.

The next big winch rival is between Warn and Ramsey.  I know that there are other winch manufacturers out there, but these are the only two I looked at.  I'm confident that both are quality products, otherwise these companies wouldn't have survived in this competitive market for such a long time!  I price-shopped about half a dozen vendors of Warn and/or Ramsey winches.  When it was all over, I could have gotten a Ramsey Pro Plus 9000 for $650, or a Warn XD9000i for $700 (prices included a roller fairlead and s&h).   While shopping, at least two or three of the vendors told me that they no longer carried Ramsey winches.  Not that they didn't carry them, but that they no longer carried them.  It didn't matter to me why they didn't carry the Ramsey line anymore, but it was enough to make me spend the extra 50 bucks to get the Warn.  And that was really my only reason for selecting the Warn over the Ramsey.  I've since heard from several sources that Ramsey's customer service leave a lot to be desired!

I spent another $100 on a' la carte winch accessories; about $50 less than the Warn kit.  Actually, the price of the Warn kit isn't unreasonable.  I got two free shackles from my Dad from his work, and I didn't get the choker chain that the Warn kit comes with.  Those extras would have easily cost me $50 or more.  However, I did get a sturdier accessory bag that what the Warn bag appeared to be.  I also didn't purchase the $150 mounting kit either; I made (welded) my own out of -inch steel for about $25.  It is secured with 8 bolts, using existing mounting holes in the frame.

The picture on the left (below) shows the winch before installation and the mounting plate I made.  The picture on the right shows my winch accessory kit.  Beneath the accessory bag (clockwise, starting from the left) is a 3" x 6-foot tree saver strap, a 16,000-pound snatch block, two -inch shackles, my 30-foot (20,000-pound) recovery strap, winch remote switch, and leather gloves.  Everything fits in the bag (except for the recovery strap), with extra room to spare.

   

Installation of the winch was a breeze.  I mounted the roller fairlead to the mounting plate first, then the winch to the mounting plate.  Next I removed, and discarded, the black plastic stock trim piece in front of the Jeep grille, and mounted the whole winch assembly in its place.  It's doesn't look as heavy as it actually is (about 100 pounds)!   Then I ran the wires under the radiator, up into the passenger side of the engine compartment, and back to the battery.  I already have a 117-amp alternator, so I didn't make any other modifications to accommodate the winch.  Finally, I tack welded two pieces of U-channel over the front mounting bolts to deter theft! 

The picture on the left is what the front end used to look like, before I remounted my Hi-Lift to the rear roll bar.  To the right is what it currently looks like; quite a bit cleaner without the jack up there.

   

I've used the winch many, many times, for self recovery, as well as to rescue other trail riders.  It's always worked great . . . except for once.  We were on a really nasty trail; I was inside the Jeep, winching myself up a muddy, deeply rutted hill.  When all of a sudden, the winch stopped pulling.  I got out to take a look, and found out that it had reversed itself, and will still turning.  The winch wouldn't respond to the remote switch and I couldn't get it to shut off, not even by unplugging the remote!  Meanwhile, the wire rope was getting all tangled up on the spool.  I finally had to dig a -inch wrench out of my tool box and disconnect the battery!  We used the winch from another Jeep to pull the tangled wire rope off of the spool and just wrapped it around the front bumper to finish out the ride.

The following Monday, I called Warn (the winch was still under warranty).  As soon as I explained what had happened, they seemed to know exactly what the problem was.   They've recently been having problems with some of their solenoids and are now using a newer design.  They've also upgraded several other components on their winches, including much of the internal wiring, the brake mechanism, and a new 5-pin remote switch plug to replace the 3-pin design.  I shipped the winch back to the company and had a totally rebuilt winch back on the Jeep in a little over  2 weeks (including shipping time)!  They even threw in a new wire rope and clevis hook!  

Things break . . . that's life.  I still have total confidence in my Warn winch and I highly recommend the XD9000i to anyone in the market for an electric winch.   But what really made me happy about choosing the Warn was the great customer service I had just received!!  :)

For more information about Warn winches and other related products, visit their web site at www.warn.com

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bulletIn-Cab Winch Controls ($30,  Feb 2001):

   

Ease of Installation: Not Too Bad
Product Usefulness: Real Glad I Have Them

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It seems that the majority of the time I spend winching (either myself or someone else), is done from within the cab.  So I decided to wire me up some in-cab winch controls, using one of my Cole Hersee rocker switches and a 2-pole momentary toggle switch that I picked up at Radio Shack.  The first thing I did, however, since I filled my stock 3-switch bezel with my ARB switches this past summer, was to install a second 3-switch bezel in place of the ashtray.  I purchased the new switch bezel (P/N 56007314) from my local Jeep dealer for $24, plus tax.  This is not a bolt-in modification.  First you have to remove the ashtray and cut out the molded ashtray frame from your center console trim cover.  Then you have to modify the new switch bezel to fit along side the stock bezel.  I ended up cutting off the left mounting flange and bolting the new bezel to the stock one, so as to make one 6-switch bezel assembly.  Then I cut off the right mounting flange and attached a small piece of thin sheet metal, bent in the shape of a piece of angle iron, which became the new mounting flange for that side.  Finally I attached the new assembly of both switch bezels to the center console and reinstalled the trim cover.  

The three ARB switches in the left bezel control my York compressor and my two air lockers.  In the right bezel are the three Cole Hersee heavy-duty rocker switches, which are featured on my Electrical Page.  The two outside switches connect/disconnect two voltmeters I have for my two batteries.  The switch in the center is my Winch Master ON-OFF Switch.  It keeps me from accidentally activating the winch by providing power to the switch below it, my Winch Cable IN--Cable OUT Switch.  This is a heavy-duty "Momentary ON -- Center OFF -- Momentary ON" double-pole, double-throw (DPDT) toggle switch (Radio Shack P/N 275-709A).  With the master switch in the "ON" position, "pushing" the cable in/out switch to the right powers the cable "out", and "pulling" the switch towards me to the left powers the cable "in".  

With the hardest part of this modification completed, all that was left to do was connect all the wires.   Unlike the factory winch remote, which is always "hot", I wired the in-cab master switch to one of the ignition-switched circuits on my Painless Wiring Circuit Isolator.  That means the key must be in either the "accessory" or the "on" position to operate the winch using the new in-cab switches.   The master switch (when in the "on" position), in turn provides power to the spring-loaded cable in/out switch.  On the Cable In/Out switch, one pole powers the cable "in", and the other "out".

 

Click here to view my in-cab winch remote electrical wiring diagram

For more information about the Cole Hersee line of electrical switches and other related products, visit their web site at www.colehersee.com

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