By Steve Garrett
In my opinion, the new JL is a significant improvement over the outgoing JK. I won't say it's the best Jeep ever made, because comparing the JL to anything other than the JK is apples and oranges, but no matter how you view it, the JL is a great Jeep. One of the many enthusiast targeted design features FCA included on the JL is an optional steel front bumper that is 90% ready for installation of a winch. Whatever your plans for your Jeep, recovery equipment should be number one on your list of planned purchases, and mounting a winch is one of the best recovery choices you can make. I'm not going to talk about winch selection criteria, as that's a whole other topic.

In this article, we're gonna go through the steps for installing a winch in your Mopar steel bumper. The basic steps we're going to cover are the same for any winch, but you may have some fitment issues depending on the particular winch and winch plate you choose, which should be noted by the manufacturer of those parts. I personally chose a WARN Zeon Platinum 12S and the WARN winch plate.

T45 Torx wrench (or socket)
Socket driver
18mm deep socket
12mm socket
Body trim removal tool(s)
Flathead Screwdriver
Hardware supplied with winch/winch plate/fairlead
Appropriate tools for whichever winch/winch plate you chose

The first thing you need to do is pull the little plastic trim piece attached to the frame in the gap between the bumper and the grill. You won't be re-using this, so you can either carefully remove it, or rip it out and toss it.

Next disconnect the wiring harness for the fog lights. It's on the passenger side, on the outside of the frame, and comes apart pretty easily with a flathead screwdriver, or a body trim pick. Be careful not to break it.

(Optional) You may want to go ahead and pull the end caps of the bumper. Even if you don't want to run it as a stubby, it will make accessing things behind the bumper easier, and make the bumper lighter when you pull it off.

Now go ahead and pull the plate covering the winch gap. It is attached with six T45 torx head bolts, with capture nuts (so you don't need a wrench on the back side). Here again, keep the plate, or don't.

Next pop out the plastic cover for the fairlead. It's only held in with clips so it comes out easy with a little push from the inside of the bumper. Here I would go ahead and mount your fairlead on to the bumper. Your winch plate kit should have come with a fairlead backplate, which will go between the fairlead and the bumper. You'll need to follow the install procedure and hardware from the manufacturer to complete this step, but basically bolt that sucker up there. The tricky (not hard, but important) part is getting your fairlead and backplate aligned properly so that your winch line won't contact anything but the smooth surface of the fairlead.

Finally we're ready to unbolt and pull the bumper. There are eight nuts, four for each frame horn. They're all 18mm, they're easy to get to (for now), and you can break these free with a standard wrench, a socket wrench, or use an impact. Don't lose these nuts, you'll reuse them. The bumper might take a little wiggling to get it dismounted, so you might use a helper, but it can be done by yourself.

Now we're at the point of installing the winch plate and winch. Follow the manufacturer provided install instructions for these steps.

After the winch and plate are installed, simply reverse the steps from above to put the bumper back on. Don't forget to run your winch line through the fairlead before putting the bumper on, and when running the electrical cabling make sure to avoid any moving or high temperature parts. The torque spec on the bumper frame horn nuts is 66 ft-lbs, and the inner frame nuts are kind of a pain in the butt to get to, so be patient and just work your way through them. Also, make sure you follow your winch manufacturers instructions for properly spooling your winch line for the first time.

I ended up doing two installs, first using the JCR winch plate, and then using the WARN winch plate. The JCR install was tedious and frustrating, as the plate didn't line up to the frame horns properly, it required grinding about 1/8" off the frame horns on each side to get my winch to fit, and then we had to fight with the bumper forever to get the studs through the horns. After the JCR plate was in, my winch would 'flex' and move within the bumper under load. A winch should not do this. I've contacted JCR and they're revisiting their design, but I went ahead and replaced it with the WARN winch plate. The WARN plate is significantly stronger, and uses additional structural reinforcements that tie it into the lower frame extrusions much more effectively than other plates. It also angles the winch down in the front just slightly so it clears the grill, the bumper, and the frame horns without any drilling, grinding, or other nonsense. And afterwards, no winch movement under load. Solid as a rock. WARN also makes the install much more smooth by including heavy duty zip ties to hold the winch plate up while putting the bumper on, extra nylock nuts to put those torx bolts back in so there aren't any random open holes in the bumper, and spacers so the bumper sits flush against both sides of the frame horns.

In total transparency, this setup isn't ideal. The Mopar bumper doesn't have jack-points, or shackle mounts, and it limits access to the winch drum for line inspections or spooling adjustments. That last one may or may not matter to you, there are differing schools of thought there. However, the Mopar bumper is a great first step for those looking to add a winch without buying a bumper. Of course, the Mopar bumper itself is an option from the factory so for a similar price you could probably get an aftermarket bumper with all those features and an integrated winch plate. We'll probably see more and more of that as more aftermarket bumper options become available.