Jeep YJ Front Bumper Build

Last October I purchased a 1991 Jeep Wrangler YJ (2.5L) from my brother. Needless to say it was his “toy” and so it was in bad shape and only getting worse. I had previously owned my own 2.5L 1994 Wrangler so I was intimately familiar with it and appreciated its potential.

After I got it home I devised my plan for getting it back into working order. Many changes were coming, some mechanical, some cosmetic, all necessary. At least that’s what I told my wife.

This thing is looking rough.

Here is a picture of it after I got it home.

No fender flares, rusted front tube bumper, cracked “Cowboy Up” windshield (What the hell does that mean?), rusted windshield frame that leaked like a sieve, no rear bumper or tire carrier, no rear seat, and the paint was oxidized to a chalky white. These are just a few of the cosmetic things that I would be working on over the next few months. Later I will touch on the mechanical issues.

First thing I did was cut off the ends of the tube bumper. I have kids and did not want them getting cut. This was a temporary fix as I would soon be building my own bumpers.

New “Stubby” tube bumper after I sawed off the rusted ends. Better but still dated. I have never liked the look of the tube bumpers. You might also notice that I installed some Rugged Ridge fender flares.

In this photo I have also removed the glass to see if I could maybe weld up the windshield frame. I determined that it was too far gone and decided to purchase a new one and have it painted to match and install new glass. Since I would be replacing the windshield frame I might as well get rid of the stainless brackets and replace them with some black OEM brackets which would be heavier duty and would keep the Jeep themed “Black on White” with no bling.

Alright, now it’s time to get on with the bumper build. I called the local Iron and Metal supplier and order up 20′ of 3″ x 5″ rectangle tubing (.1875″ wall) to use as the main body of the bumpers and rock sliders.

Removed old bumper. It was pretty difficult since all of the bolts were rusted to the frame but I finally got it.

With the bumper off I decided to get started on the new bumper.

I wanted to get an idea of how I wanted it before I started fabricating so I drew it up in Solidworks.

Solidworks drawing of my vision.

 

 

 

 

With drawing in hand and plenty of steel I started the build. I cut out the mounting brackets first to make sure I knew how I would fit it up. I used 3/16 mild steel to ensure that the bumper would solidly be connected to the frame.

Top front bumper mounts.

 

 

 

Once the mounts were finished it was time to get to the meat of the project and start cutting the bumper shape.

I cut the front and rear bumpers at the same time to ensure that they matched. I would finish up the rear bumper later.

 

 

If you have access to a plasma cutter it will make any cutting job much easier. I used mine to cut the angles. I could have used an angle grinder too but I am not known for my patience so I opted against that.

With the bumper cut to shape I would need to plug up the ends. Of course I also went ahead and welded the mounting brackets on by this point. The best way to do this for me was to mount the brackets to the Jeep and then put the bumper in position exactly where I wanted it. When it’s perfectly placed, weld it to the brackets.

Notice the keg that I used as a stand to help me fit up the bumper to the brackets. Once you maneuver it into place, weld the bumper to the brackets to ensure the perfect fit.
A little nozzle spray on the parts to keep welding splatter to a minimum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cut the end “caps” out of some scrap that I had laying around. For this I am just covering the end so it wasn’t necessary to match the bumpers thickness, although you don’t want to go too thin.

 

 

 

Tack on the end covers. Skipping from side to side so that I don’t overheat the metal.

I like to tack on the piece before I lay down any beads. Skipping from side to side helps to keep the metal from overheating and potentially warping. Be patient. It will make the piece turn out better.

After I get all the pieces welded on I used an angle grinder with an 80 grit flap wheel to smooth it all out.

80 grit flap wheel to smooth out the welded end cap.

Once I capped all the open holes I mounted the bumper up to check for fit. It sucks painting something only to find out you have to grind away welds and redo it.

Welding done and it’s time to mount the bumper to check for fit before I paint it.

Now it’s time to go paint this thing.

 

Hanging the bumper to paint it makes it much easier. 2 coats of primer and 3 coats of enamel.

I used a surface prep disc on an angle grinder to remove all the mill scale. Taking it down to bare metal and leaving the surface a little rough will make the primer and paint “lock” on to the piece. I also wiped it down with acetone or something similar to remove any oils. Oil and dirt on the piece will keep the paint from adhering properly and you will back painting it again after the paint starts flaking off. As my father has said to me several times, “if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you have time to do it over?”

Once the paint was good and dry it was time to get it mounted so I could get back on the road.

The bumper is finished. Well, I do plan on adding some clevis mounts later on so I’ll update when I do, but for now it’s on and it’s solid.

Well, that’s basically it. I chose to mount the bumper with 1/2″ grade-8 bolts.

Just one more thing. Something to cover the frame between the bumper and the grill. I found some diamond plate at the scrap yard. I recommend getting scrap metal as opposed to buying new when possible. At pennies per pound you can get it much cheaper and usually find something useful.

Here it is. My custom cover and a final view of my Jeep.

The plasma cutter makes quick work of the aluminum diamond plate. This cost me a few bucks since I got the plate from the recycling center.

 

This is looking pretty good. I have also finished the rear bumper which I will post photos and a write-up for in another post.