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Installing a Warn 9.5Ti Winch on the Jeep TJ Wrangler Rubicon!

Warn's Mopar Accessories version available through Chrysler/Jeep dealerships.

(Photo courtesy of Jeep®/Mopar Accessories.)

  Top on my list of accessories for a Jeep 4WD is an electric winch. If you drive off-pavement in rough country, sand, snow or mud, you will find a winch valuable. The Warn model shown is a Jeep® Accessories offering from the Mopar® and Jeep® Accessories catalogs.

     Note: This article and my accompanying photos share the steps involved with a quality winch and winch mount installation. The Jeep is a late TJ Wrangler Rubicon. Warn's popular 9.5Ti unit with a Warn mounting kit is my winch of choice for this application.Moses Ludel

  The winch mounting position is important. Winches that mount above the frame/bumper height are better suited to off-pavement use. Often, when you most need a winch, the front of the vehicle is low to the ground. Above bumper height, the cable and spool will still be easy to reach.

     In the worst instance, a below-bumper mount could actually become buried in snow, mud or a creek. As with any front bumper extension, your Jeep Wrangler’s approach angle may also suffer from a below-the-bumper mount. A winch near the ground also increases the likelihood of dragging the cable during pulls. Many 4x4 owners, however, prefer hiding a winch behind the bumper.

9.5Ti Warn winch fits above bumper line of TJ Wrangler.

Winch 1: On Wranglers, an open grille frontal area is important. In very hot climates, under severe loads, a tall profile winch may compromise the Jeep’s cooling system. Decreased airflow over the radiator core reduces radiator efficiency. Here, the modern, low-profile winch serves best. Shown is a new Warn 9.5Ti unit ready to mount on a TJ Rubicon.

Accessories include the roller fairlead, remote control and mounting plate.

Winch 2: Options are another factor when selecting your winch. Winch manufacturers frequently offer extra equipment. A roller fairlead, winch cover, remote controls, portable/receiver mount, hand tools or a wiring harness may be items you’ll want.

Winch mount is engineered for the TJ Wrangler chassis.

Winch 3: Mechanical engineers design winches and winch mounts. As life, limb and expensive property are at stake, proper installation is a necessity. Your safest strategy is a manufactured winch mount kit from the winch builder. Such installation kits fit the frame and vehicle requirements of your Jeep. Mount kits address load points, the strength of frame attachments and ease of access to the winch. Engineers take the rated load capacity of the winch and apply that force safely to the vehicle’s frame—not the Wrangler’s bumper!

Warn provides instructions, hardware and details.

Winch 4: Warn kits include proper hardware and instructions. (If your Jeep has modifications that make a kit difficult to install, consult the winch manufacturer for possible solutions.) Eliminating any part of a winch installation package could compromise safety and load capacity. Likewise, use only the graded and designated hardware included in the kit. Bolts, nuts, spacers and sleeves each take safety into consideration.

Winch mounting and attachment points.

Winch 5: Operators often underestimate the load forces involved with winching. A cable drawn to maximum load capacity must transfer force safely to the frame. This concern goes beyond the winch mount and hardware. When a winch attaches to the OEM bumper or brackets, the OE hardware must also meet standards. If the OE bumper has been removed, make certain that the attaching bolts and nuts meet or exceed OE Jeep standards for your model. Winch kit engineering assumes that the vehicle meets OEM engineering guidelines.

Remove Jeep TJ Wrangler cover over stabilizer bar.

Winch 6: The first step in the TJ Wrangler winch installation is removal of the plastic cover over the stabilizer bar assembly. Warn’s mounting plate will fit precisely into the space behind the bumper and utilizes OEM bolt attachment points.

Bolting the fairlead to the Warn winch mounting plate.

Winch 7: Winch assembly begins with bolting the fairlead to the mounting plate. This mounting plate is uniquely designed and tested for use on the TJ Wrangler. The YJ Wrangler plate is similar. The roller fairlead is an upgrade furnished with this 9.5Ti winch package. Hawse fairleads are typically a standard approach.

Installing winch fasteners.

Winch 8: I use Loctite on all mounting screws, nuts and bolts. This is added assurance of an installation that will not loosen or fail in service. Winching forces dictate this level of precaution. Here, the Warn square nuts fit into the winch pedestal slots. Bolt alignment is a shear load instead of an elongation pull on the threads.

Use of Loctite 242 on threaded fasteners.

Winch 9: I coat these bolt threads liberally with Loctite 242. This will provide protection from vibration and loads while also helping to prevent rust and seizure of hardware. This installation could easily be removed at a later date for transplanting the winch to another vehicle. Note: Warn’s mounting plates are vehicle specific applications. Winch units, however, fit any of the mounting plates.

Torque hardware to specifications provided by Warn.

Winch 10: The screws torque to specifications provided in the Warn instruction sheet for each winch type and installation. Always follow instructions and use a torque wrench for final tightening. I re-check torque after hardware sets for several minutes.

Mounting Warn 9.5Ti winch to the mounting plate.

Winch 11: Here, the winch mounts to the mounting plate. The assembly will now bolt onto the frame of the Wrangler. This is the common Warn mounting approach for CJ, YJ and TJ models. Mounting plates are model specific; the winch unit fits any of the Warn mounting plate systems.

Make note of hardware locations and sizing.

Winch 12: Winch mount installation begins with removal of the upper bumper bolts and stabilizer bolts. Following the Warn instruction sheet, there are OEM bolts and replacement bolts. Make sure correct hardware fits at each location.

Washer spacers are part of this Warn installation package.

Winch 13: A washer stack is part of the Warn hardware package. Here, leveling the stack assures a flat fit of the winch assembly. You want the winch on a correct plane for safe pulling. Spend time to properly level and secure the winch.

Cleaning up OEM threads with tap.

Winch 14: The factory nuts in the frame can suffer from the self-starting OEM bolts. Often, these threads have a roughness or slight stretch. Rather than risk forcing the bolts into these threads, I chase the threads with a tap, carefully preserving material. The aim is to turn the tap slightly, back off and relieve, use plenty of oil or penetrant, and make sure that you leave the metal intact. This will assure a correct fit. Note use of a tie strap to keep the bumper and bolt holes aligned during the bolt installation.

Always use a torque wrench, Loctite and correct fasteners.

Winch 15: Torque all bolts to specifications found on the Warn instruction sheet. The OEM bolts have Torx heads, and in this application a T55 size. I use a quality Torx socket to withstand the required torque. Quality tools assure good fit and proper tightening of hardware. Here I use Loctite 272 on threads and a torque wrench. Re-check torque after hardware sets for several minutes.

Running shielded cables through the grille opening.

Winch 16: I select the right grille opening for these heavy amperage cables. Route cables with great care, avoiding sharp edges or any chafing surfaces that could cut or wear through the cable insulation and create a dangerous short. These cables have current at all times, direct from the battery. I use convolution sleeve tubing as added protection, shielding the points that pass metal edges. Opening in the grille/core support is alongside air conditioning tubes, a somewhat tight fit.

Routing cables safely is crucial to a proper winch installation.

Winch 17: As cables rise into the engine bay, be aware that the body and frame have mount separation. There is slight movement between the frame-mounted winch and the body. Route the sleeved tubing safely and away from heat, any moving parts and trail debris. I prefer elevating these cables and keeping them visible for quick inspection.

Safe and secure attachment point for the shielded cable.

Winch 18: A sensible attachment point for the cable sleeve is this hefty air conditioning hose. Although the hose has a good insulating surface, I add protection with the use of convolution tubing and industrial strength plastic ties. My approach takes vibration, twisting and a long service life into account. Since plastic ties can cut into rubber and wire insulation, so the convolution tubing helps prevent damage.

Sleeved winch cables attached to the air conditioning tube.

Winch 19: Here, I have attached the cable sleeve to a rigid air conditioning tube. There is slight slack in the sleeved cable harness to allow for body and parts movement. A short piece of convolution tubing wrapped around the air conditioning tube protects the aluminum tubing. Industrial strength, UV and heat resistant tie straps work well here. I cinch the tie strap snuggly to prevent slip and twisting of the sleeved cable.

Safely routing cables to the battery posts.

Winch 20: Here, the cable sweeps to the battery. There is rubber insulation across the battery tie-down brace. Always consider movement, rough surfaces and how the cable might be affected by underhood components. These winch cables attach directly to the battery and therefore could deliver very high amperage if shorted or grounded. If these cables short to ground—anywhere in the circuit—the cables will fry, and the battery could be severely damaged. Route and attach these cables carefully and properly.

Cable attachments at the battery.

Winch 21: Cable routing overview shows the sleeve out of harm’s way, away from the alternator, body parts and heat. Inspect the plastic sleeve and cables regularly. Make sure connections at the battery remain secure, clean and in position. Be aware of the high amperage loads and gauge of these wires. Protect them at all times!

Engine bay overview and winch cable routing.

Winch 22: This engine bay view shows the routing of the winch cables. (See the convolution tubing near the air cleaner box.) The mounting plate and winch installation follows step-by-step guidelines. Cable routing, however, varies with underhood equipment, engine type and accessories. Use discretion and care when routing and securing these high-amperage winch cables.

Warn 9.5Ti winch installed and ready for service.

Winch 23: Front view of the installed Warn 9.5Ti winch shows the winch wire cable and hook installed. This system is one step from being service ready: Before winching, the cable must be reeled out until 20-25 feet of cable remains on the drum; at this point, the cable should be spooled back carefully with a load applied.

Caution—Never put a new cable into service without first spooling the cable out then spooling it back onto the drum under load. Follow instructions furnished with the winch and wire cable. 

Warn Industries winch ad.

Warn Industries has a variety of technical videos available at YouTube. You can quickly access the video series at:

http://www.youtube.com/wwwwarncom

Copyright 2010 © Moses Ludel...Enjoy this comprehensive, color-illustrated article and photography by Moses Ludel. The article is available solely at the 4WD Mechanix Magazine website and can be viewed here as often as you like. If you wish to share the article with friends or professional colleagues, please refer them to 4WD Mechanix Magazine website: www.4WDmechanix.com. As copyrighted material, this article and the photography cannot be copied or distributed in any other form.—Moses Ludel

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