I've been driving my Jeep off-road for about ten years and have done many of the usual modifications including a lift kit, low gears, lockers, and big tires, but for some reason I never got around to buying a winch. It's not like I've never been stuck. Actually I found that after putting in my lockers I could get stuck in nastier places than ever before. It's just that there always seemed to be someone else around with a winch and it was easy to rely on other people's recovery equipment both in getting myself unstuck and helping others.
I began by surfing around on the Internet to try and learn as much as I could about winches. There are several winch manufacturers out there and they all seem to have pretty good stuff. My research eventually led me to the Ramsey Pro Plus 9000 winch. It took very little deliberation before I decided to give it a try. How can you not love all that pulling power? Besides, Ramsey has been building winches for more than 50 years, about 15 years longer than Warn.
The Ramsey Pro Plus 9000 has a 3-stage planetary gear set and is rated at 9000lbs. Although Ramsey recommends that the rated line pull should exceed the loaded vehicle weight by at least 25%, I think that the more common rule is to exceed the loaded vehicle weight by 50%. Regardless, this winch would provide plenty of pulling power for my Jeep YJ. The planetary gear set makes for a good line speed which, given the optional 150 feet of 5/16"e cable, comes in quite handy. Another nice feature is the low weight. At only 90lbs the Pro Plus 9000 is one of the lighter winches available, a nice feature when trying to keep the overall weight of the vehicle down.
I could hardly wait to try it out and although my wife didn't share my winch enthusiasm, she also didn't protest its purchase. Besides, I paid in cash so she didn't know how much it cost.
When it arrived, I had no idea what to expect, having never installed a winch before. It came complete with both roller and hawse fair leads, a mounting plate, and all the mounting hardware needed. It even included a manual with exploded diagrams and part numbers for every single internal part.
I brought everything home and laid the parts out on the garage floor so I could better see what I'd bought.
My Jeep has a custom rear bumper but a stock front bumper. I wanted to keep the stock front bumper rather than go to a heavy custom bumper but I wasn't certain how easy it would be to mount the winch. I took the tow hooks off the front of the Jeep and set the winch plate in place. The one thing I noticed right away was that I'd bought the wrong winch plate. It was about three or four inches too narrow for my YJ's frame rails. Although Ramsey makes mounting kits with winch plates that are available in different lengths varying from 24 to 36 inches, we decided that it would be easier to lengthen this one rather than order a new one. Other than this minor detail it looked like everything was going to be quite easy. The power cables were nice and long, which would enable me to route them cleanly to the battery.
Although I had done some gas welding years back, I really wouldn't trust one of my welds to hold the weight of the truck so I asked my brother to help with a little bit of winch plate fabrication. (Okay, he did all of the fabrication, but he likes doing it, honest.) After some thought we decided that the easiest thing to do would be to widen the plate by welding a two-inch long extension onto each side. This would allow us to bolt the plate on using the existing bolts that hold down the factory tow hooks. At some point in time I'll have to add another anchor point to the front bumper, as it would probably be dangerous to use the factory tow hook as an attachment point for a double pull since it is also what holds the winch plate to the frame. (When doing a double pull there should be a separate attachment point that ties in to the frame for the return line.)
After a bit of welding, grinding, painting, and just the right amount of beer we had the perfect bracket. It took a little longer than we thought because we wanted to maintain the channel shaped cross section of the winch plate for strength.
The electrical hookup was very easy. Routing was no problem because the cables were nice and long. There are two wires that go straight to the battery. It's important to make sure that the wires are protected from sharp edges. You really wouldn't want the positive lead to ground out against the body or frame. I was amazed to read that the current drain at max pull is 405 amperes (comparable to other winches with similar line pull ratings). This makes it essential that the electrical connections are made directly to the battery. It is also important to note that some side post batteries cannot deliver this much current without getting dangerously hot. A good battery and charging system are very important.
If you visit the Ramsey web site you'll see that they give estimated installation times for their winches. I think this was rated for about two hours, which would have been right had I selected the correct mounting kit.
It just so happens that my brother has a few acres, the back portion of which is complete with some reasonably deep mud and even has some trees big enough to winch from. I backed the truck into a suitably deep hole and wrapped the tree saver around a handy Douglas fir. I made sure that I had a jacket placed five or six feet from the end of the winch line. I'd always thought that the jacket or blanket was supposed to go at the midpoint of the cable but my manual said otherwise. Since this was my first winch I decided to follow the instructions.
(Remember to read all of the safety instructions that come with your winch. These are very important. A snapping wire cable can be lethal. You should stand back as far as the winch controller allows, and if you are in your vehicle, putting up the hood can be good idea to reduce the likelihood of injury in the event of a snapped cable. Always wear gloves and keep your hands well away from the fair lead when taking line in. Put a jacket or blanket over the cable to reduce its velocity in the event it snaps.)
Although this was a short pull (the maximum pull rating of a winch is only achieved on the first wrap of cable around the drum. By the fourth and last wrap of cable, the Pro Plus 9000 is rated at 5400 lbs of pull.) the winch pulled the truck out of the hole with very little effort. By the time I unhooked the tree saver a rain cloud had blown in and it had really started to pour so I really appreciated the fast line speed when re-spooling the wire cable. Another much appreciated feature on the Wet Coast.
I'm quite happy with my new purchase. Now I can get myself out of trouble and maybe even replenish my karma by helping pull a few others out too. Even my wife is happy because the installation and testing was quick enough that I have enough time left over to clean the gutters. Or maybe I need to do another winch test?
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