My factory bumpers have always been something I didn’t like. And, the aftermarket tow hitch was always hanging too low in the rear, dragging on everything. So, I finally decided it was time to do something about this.
I started this whole project by heading out to the store, and coming home with a Hobart Handler 187 MIG welder. After adding a C25 gas bottle to it, and a 10lb spool of solid wire, I was all set to start on my bumper build.
I had 3 main requirements with this project. First, I wanted to try to maintain a visual appearance similar to the factory plastic cover. Second, I wanted the hitch receiver integrated into the bumper, and raised to regain ground clearance in the rear. Third, it had to remain removable in case of damage that may need repaired, or upgrades/modifications.
The build itself began with removing the rear plastic cover, to find the metal bumper completely rusted off and falling to the floor. That just made the removal easier for me, and everything was tossed in the corner. I then removed the hitch, completely opening up the rear end. Now I had something to start with.
After wire brushing the hitch’s mounts and repainting them, I reinstalled them, using a ¼” thick backing plate inside the unibody rails, rather than the original studs. This should help distribute the loads much better underneath. I used ½” grade 8 hardware everywhere requiring a bolt on this project.
I then took ¼” plate, and made two main arms that will come off these mounts, and run clear through the bumper to hold shackles (or D-Rings, if you prefer). This will provide for a straight pull to the unibody rails, hopefully minimizing any potential of ripping the metal down there. These plates also provided the location to weld the 2x2 ¼” wall square tube that will be the main attachment point for the receiver tube. I tacked all of this together on the vehicle to make sure all the measurements were accurate, then pulled everything off to do the finish welding. Since this will make up the entire support framework, I wanted this all fully welded before moving any farther.
Once I had the framework welded, I mounted it back on the Jeep and started cutting and tacking what I would call the ‘skin’ of the bumper. This is all made out of 3/16” sheet steel. This took a lot of cutting, grinding, staring into space, and rework to get everything how I wanted it, and clearanced properly. I think the pictures can speak for themselves for a while…
Once everything was tacked how I wanted it, it came off the Jeep and went on the jack stands (broke man’s equivalent of a welding table…) to be welded. Every seam was welded from both sides to guarantee penetration, and make sure it could be ground flush. Plus it was an excuse to use the welder more and get used to it.
After a couple of solid evenings of welding, it was ready to be ground smooth on the exterior. Two days of grinding later, I could be seen re-welding on half the seams when I found all the spots I missed, or made swiss-cheese instead of a solid bead. Another day of grinding, and it was ready for primer and paint.
And so the finished product ended up looking like this, all mounted.
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