Willys CJ2A Warn M8000 Winch Installation

Since I plan to use my CJ2A for mild offroading, and there was a big space behind the bumper just begging for a winch, I started keeping my eyes open for some options. I came across a great deal on a Warn M8000 winch ($524 with roller fairlead and free shipping from Offroad Overstock) so I ordered it.

I have been running a Warn M12000 on my '92 Dodge Ram for several years now and as far as I can tell, Warn seems to be the best in the business as far as winches are concerned. Of key importance to me was to get enough winch for the vehicle, but in as light a unit as possible, and of course at a really cheap price, which ruled out things like rockcrawling winches or synthetic cable. The M12000 on my Ram weighs 140lbs for the winch alone, not including the mounting hardware! I needed something much lighter for my little CJ2A. The M8000 is about half the weight at 74lbs. Prior to ordering the winch, I placed 70lbs worth of barbell weights on the front bumper to see how it would react, and it seemed like this weight was going to be fine. The M8000 has 100 feet of 5/16" cable, 42 feet per minute no-load spool speed and an 8,000lb single line pull rating. The usual recommendation for choosing a winch seems to be 1.5 to 2 times the vehicle's weight. Figuring approximately 2500lbs, that makes this winch rating a little over 3 times the vehicle weight, which should be plenty. Even at the gross weight of approximately 2900lbs, its still 2.75 times the vehicle weight.

There aren't any install kits that I know of to put an aftermarket winch on a CJ, so naturally I had to fabricate my own mounting method, and that is what is documented on this page. My goal was to keep it simple and relatively light, but still strong enough to do the job.

Note: As a part of the install, I drilled several holes in the front bumper. I wasn't terribly concerned about this since my front bumper has been hacked to death by previous owners. I actually used the opportunity to weld shut a bunch of holes, so the bumper looks a lot better now than it did before I drilled it, but if you are performing a similar install on a more pristine Willys than mine, you may want to pick up a piece of channel iron to use instead so that you can store your unmolested, original bumper away, in case you want to return to stock at some point.

So far, the winch has worked great. Only a few weeks after it was installed, I used it to free a John Deere farm tractor which which was buried up to its axle in mud. (It was actually leaning to one side; the high side was buried up to the axle, on the low side, it was buried nearly to the top of the tire!) Normally, I would use my Dodge Ram with its M12000 for this, but that truck was down for repair at the time, so this was all that was available. The little Jeep was too light to be of much good on its own (it just dragged itself across the ground towards the tractor) so I used a tree strap to anchor the rear to a tree. I could see the front bumper actually bow out ever so slightly during the winch but it pulled that tractor out without a problem. I was apprehensive to say the least, but the little CJ2A passed its trial by fire with flying colors. :-)

Click on any pic to bring up the full sized version.
001.jpg - 68 KB Tue 9/26/06

Due to space constraints on the front of the vehicle (and also for esthetic reasons), I decided to mount the control box inside the cab, above and to the left of the pedals on the driver's side. This is a view of the firewall from the engine bay side. As you can see there are a few large holes there already, and I am going to use one of the larger ones to run the winch cables through.
001 - 68 KB
002.jpg - 78 KB Tue 9/26/06

I cut a piece of vacuum tubing to make a grommet of sorts so the sheet metal wouldn't cut into the cables, mounted the box on the firewall, and ran the cables through.
002 - 78 KB
003.jpg - 84 KB Tue 9/26/06

Since the control box is made to mount on the winch itself, I need to extend the cables. I did so by crimping and soldering #2 cable lugs onto lengths of #2 welding cable, which I ran up to the winch. Here is a shot showing the connection of the cables coming from the control box to the welding cables. As you can see, I have color coded and marked the extension cables the same as the winch cables so that hookup will be easy if it ever needs to come apart. After these connections were made, I wrapped each connection with a comination of split loom tubing, rubber and electrical tape.
003 - 84 KB
004.jpg - 82 KB Tue 9/26/06

A picture showing the welding cable extensions attached to the winch. I may make a decorative plate or something to hide this at some point, but its fine like this for now.

(Obviously, this pic was taken after the winch mount fabrication was done, the details of which are shown below.)
004 - 82 KB
005.jpg - 91 KB Tue 9/26/06

I scrounged up a piece of 1/4" diamondplate that I had lying around, which was just about the right size for what I wanted. My basic idea was to mount the winch to this plate, which would be mounted to the bumper in the front, and I would design a bracket to hold it in the rear. When the winch is in use, the load would be transferred to the plate and partially to the front bumper and then the frame rails, and also partially to the rear bracket which then would connect to the frame rails.
005 - 91 KB
006.jpg - 84 KB Tue 9/26/06

I taped a piece of paper to the bottom of the winch and marked the mounting holes.
006 - 84 KB
007.jpg - 101 KB Tue 9/26/06

Then I set the winch in place on the plate, taped the paper to the plate, and carefully removed the tape from the winch.
007 - 101 KB
008.jpg - 86 KB Tue 9/26/06

This left the paper on the plate, and I could now mark the winch mounting locations.
008 - 86 KB
009.jpg - 90 KB Tue 9/26/06

I drilled the four holes for the winch mounting bolts, and also drilled four large holes along the front of the plate which will be used to bolt the plate to the bumper.
009 - 90 KB
010.jpg - 86 KB Tue 9/26/06

I set the plate in place again, and marked the bottom lip of the front bumper where the holes in the plate lined up.
010 - 86 KB
011.jpg - 84 KB Tue 9/26/06

Then I drilled out those corresponding holes in the bumper.
011 - 84 KB
012.jpg - 84 KB Tue 9/26/06

Finally, I could bolt the plate in place on the bumper.
012 - 84 KB
013.jpg - 107 KB Tue 9/26/06

Using some 1/4" angle iron, I used some clamps to hold it in place, running from frame rail to frame rail, along the back of the plate. Shorter sections of the same 1/4" angle are placed against the frame rails. I had previously boxed this section of the frame for strength, and I will now use the boxed portion to mount this rear bracket.
013 - 107 KB
014.jpg - 77 KB Tue 9/26/06

I have drilled holes in the back of the plate as well as the rear bracket so that I could bolt them together, and I have also drilled holes through the smaller side brackets so that the rear bracket can be bolted to it.
014 - 77 KB
015.jpg - 97 KB Tue 9/26/06

I made a "cup" for the rear bracket to sit in by welding a couple of gussets to each of the smaller angle pieces.
015 - 97 KB
016.jpg - 77 KB Tue 9/26/06

Now, I have welded the "cups" to the boxed portion of the frame rails.
016 - 77 KB
017.jpg - 82 KB Tue 9/26/06

I cut a clearance hole for the cable and drilled mounting holes for the roller fairlead.
017 - 82 KB
018.jpg - 86 KB Tue 9/26/06

Here is a shot of the roller fairlead in place, and I have painted up the rest of the mounting hardware before bolting it into place, and I've painted the front bumper also.
018 - 86 KB
019.jpg - 85 KB Tue 9/26/06

Finally, the winch can be bolted into place.

I have mounted D rings to the front bumper as well, to be used as tow points or anchor locations for a double line pull.
019 - 85 KB
020.jpg - 105 KB Tue 9/26/06

A quick note about the D rings... I picked these up from a local tractor supply store, and they are rated to 11,000lbs each. I enlarged the holes slightly where the bumper bolts to the frame knuckles, and mounted the rings in those locations. The bolts hold the rings to the bumper as well as the bumper to the frame.

If you just bolt the rings up, they will rattle around something fierce. To prevent this, I just cut a small section of split loom tubing and put it on the D ring prior to bolting them up.
020 - 105 KB
021.jpg - 76 KB Tue 9/26/06

You can't even tell that the split loom is in there, and not only do they not rattle, but as a side bonus, you can position the rings wherever you want, and they will stay in place (as shown in the pic to the left.)
021 - 76 KB

This page was last updated Sun Feb 3 20:36:52 EST 2008