As with everything else, after a bunch of research I settled upon the Slee Off-Road bumper with optional spare tire and ladder mounts.
The package arrived as a freight truck drop-off, was a large, heavy package (~259lbs) on a palette, and basically in the shape it left the factory. Slee Off-Road took a picture of the delivery prior to leaving the warehouse. I took a picture upon arrival. The pictures matched. I was impressed at how the components were shipped. Had I my wits about me, I would have taken a picture of the actual packing. Everything was individually wrapped and taped. The bumper in first, then expanding blow-foam blown around the perimeter to lock it in place and protect it from external blows. Impressed. Then the internal pieces were set on top and around the bumper using very thick pieces of some sort of padding with adhesive. Once these big padding pieces were in place, I doubt anything moved the entire trip. And then the box itself was closed up and itself wrapped in plastic and strapped shut thereby affixing it to the palette as one big unit. The boys that delivered it moved it up the driveway on a palette jack.
There were five things that needed to be removed from the rear bumper assembly prior to attempting the new bumper mount. After removing these things, the new bumper simply slid into place like a well-worn glove without much effort or coordination.
- Two sub-assembly brackets on either side of the bumper assembly which originally held the factory bumper. Given they were original, they were also frozen. Since we didn't need to re-use these holes, I cut the head off the final, most stingy bolt and knocked it off with a hammer. All the others eventually came off with some love. This was no place for WD-40, but rather some CenPeCo Penetrator introduced to me by a friend who has decades more experience than I doing this sort of work. When I say things like, "It's frozen and won't move", he only smiles and teaches me another trick of the trade.
- One tow hook
- Two recovery point rings
Not knowing how difficult this bumper would be to hold in place, we set two jack stands (with a fat towel for scratch-control) underneath either wing and a floor jack (again, with a fat towel) underneath the rear centerpoint as a matter of safety. Frankly, because of the good design of the bumper itself, after we slid it onto the rear bumper frame assembly, it just sat there making our floor jack and jack stands safety elements only. They really supported no weight. Picking the bumper up and moving it around was a two-man job given the weight and awkward size/design. Otherwise, no issues.
If you have a new vehicle, I suspect the bumper mounting will go free, clear and smooth. If you have an older vehicle like I do, there is some prep-work that I should have done, but didn't think to do. It would have saved time.
- Find out where you need to put new bolts into the frame and make sure the bolt holes are clean, accessible and will take the bolts easily when needed. I didn't do this. As a result, during the installation we spent extra time cleaning and otherwise getting old holes to work for us. Find which ones you need, clean them in advance. It will save time.
- There are two bolts on each side of the bumper, closest to the bumper itself (and closest to you when viewing the pictures, bolts 1 and 2), that attach the bumper to the frame. For me, since the old bolts came out of these holes, new ones went in without issue.
- Farther in from the back of the truck (in alignment with the bolts closest to the bumper, bolts 3 and 4) an additional two bolts need to go on both sides and is likely where an after-market tow bar would mount. These bolts hold the wing-braces to the frame which then connect out to the wing of the bumper itself for leveling, strength and stability. These holes had never been used for the life of the truck. The in-frame bolt plates (or welded nuts, I'm not completely sure) on the inside of the frame were not aligned to the holes and were full of rust, dirt and whatever else gets up in there from greater than decade of weather exposure. We had to hammer the frame, use an air compressor, some more rust remover, holler and complain for an unfortunate amount of time to make it work. We even greased the bolt shafts to aid in the effort. In the end, one of the bolts broke the plate free (or welded nut) and it spun freely. All other bolts went on correctly, though the ones in the unused holes required use of a commercial air gun else it would never have happened. I'll address the bolt that broke free by spot welding that portion of the plate to the frame and there will therefore be no concern. How I address the hanging bolt is yet to be determined.
- There are two bolts that go straight into the rear bumper frame to the 11 and 1 o'clock positions of the receiver. We had to loosen the bumper to get the holes aligned correctly. Furthermore, to keep the bolts in the socket head as we passed it through the bumper itself to the frame, we greased up the head of the bolt to stick it in the socket head without falling. We had to mess with the bumper a bit to align the holes, pulling a dropped bolt or flat washer out with a magnet a couple of times, but it eventually worked.
Basically, pre-clean all the holes making sure bolts will go where they are supposed to go in advance of mounting the bumper. After that, fit all of the bolts before tightening any of them. It was artful science. I suppose, the older the vehicle, the more art.
Adding the ladder and tire mount were "as-is" simple. Particularly impressive to a friend of mine helping me were the high-end bearings Slee Off-Road uses in both pivots points for ladder and spare time mount. They seem to be high quality which bodes well for aging, weight and extensive use. Just follow the directions and this all makes sense and works as specified.
Out of everything, the license plate light kit seemed to be made of a brittle plastic that, if over-torqued, would likely just snap off. I was careful to not do such and it mounts cleanly. There is ample wiring length and, though I've not yet done it, I expect wiring it in will be a simple as well.
I'm pleased with this $2600 purchase (all in). This is solid, well-engineered, bumper solution with details on it that can only come from people who have first-hand experience.