4x4 labs front bumper build (1 Viewer)

Joined
Oct 25, 2018
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8
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lalaland
On search for a front bumper for my 97 LX450, it really came down to 2 options for me. The Slee or the 4x4labs, obviously based the title I choose to go with the labs for a few reason. First, the look. Aesthetics matter to me, just as much as function. It is my belief that form should follow function and the labs bumper has both. Second reason is the availability, I called Slee in early Oct of 2018 and was told that I could be placed on a waiting list for early Jan 2019. I called 4x4Labs that same day and they had a kit ready to ship. I ended up waiting another month before I made the purchase but the responsiveness for the guys at 4x4labs certainly helped. The last reason was the price. I had been planning to learn to weld and I thought, what better of a project to learn on. I know this can be a bad idea for some people but I felt confident in taking it on and I have more experience people to help me trouble shoot any issues I would encounter along the way.

I had intended on taking more pictures and do a much more detailed write up, but I think like other, I got caught up in just trying to not mess it up that I did not document it as much as I wanted to.

Vehicle: 97 LX450
Welder: Hobart 210mvp solid .030 wire, 75%25% gas

I didn't have a whole lot of equipment as I do wood working and I have a single car garage so space was limited. I did get a decent welder and had a electrician buddy wire in a 230 outlet since I knew I would need enough amperage to get good penetration.

I had a few clamps, an angle grinder with a few flap disks and cut off wheels, wire brush an a few block of wood to support the bumper and a table (wood) to weld on. That was about it.

I started with the frame mounting brackets and I got all of the 14 bolts the kit comes with started so I knew I was lined up, I put a few tacks in place on one, then I got the winch plate in place and added a few more tacks.

The square tubing cross member was a little long so I took the angle grinder to it until it fit snug and used a few claps to hold it while I tacked it in place.

I decided to go ahead and weld the cross member to the winch plate since getting good angles would be hard once the skid plate was one and after that, is when I hit my first road bump. Welding that had pulled the top of the frame mounts where the wings attach inward able 3/8th of an inch, which was enough to no fit on the frame anymore, I tried using a ratchet strap to pull the frame together but that didn't work. After calling it a day and sleeping on it, I decided that all I need to do was clamp the bottom, I used a 3/4 pipe clamp and this worked out perfectly.
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This gave me back about an 1/8 inch gap on either frame mount so it would slide on the truck without being impeded. After cutting about 1/2" off the receiver to get it to sit flush. I tacked the toe lugs but because I had already fully weld the winch plate, cross member and frame mounts, the toe lugs did not sit flush. If I did it again, I would have given myself some room on the cross member so that the lugs could sit flush against them there was about a 3/8" gap or more and it was too big for me to want to fill it in. I tacked the skip plate back on then took the clamp off and did a test fit to make sure it would still go on the truck without issue.

Foolishly, I didn't just weld the toe lugs all the way on BEFORE I added the skid plate and this made getting a good angle difficult. Because the angle was bad and my amperage was too high, thinking "this is really thick 3/4" I need more heat" I got really really bad undercut in one of them. I ended up doing several more passes so I am confident in them now, but I wasn't very pleased when it happened.

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Next it was time for the wings, This was very much a trial and error process. I did do a bit of grinding and fitting to get the first wing to make the most contact it could before tacking it up, then I used an angle finder to try and match the angle for the next wing. This was helpful but they are not perfect. Part of it was I think that one of the frame mounts was slightly out of square so that when I went to put the other passenger side wing on, it would sit a few degrees lower than the other side. If I tried to match it exactly to the other side, there would be a massive gap at the bottom where it gets welded to frame mount. So, I got it as close as I could and tacked it up.

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I made up for the difference in the shorter section of the wing by doing some grinding on the long section that would give me an angle to match that of the driver side. The driver side went together really well, the passenger side took some more finagling. They are pretty darn close, and even though I am a bit OCD when it comes to that stuff I new from doing enough projects myself, that the more you mess with something you usually make it worse.

Now, this thing was really starting to come together, so I figured I could start to rip some welds, bad idea. That heated things up and when things get hot, they move. The top section pulled in even more, so if I did it again, I would have added the first section of the stinger before I added the wings, that or weld smaller sections at a time. Perhaps one of you can provide some better technique/ order of operations to an amateur like myself.

I tacked up the gussets that go inside of the wings and added the end caps.

The stinger comes a bit long, presumably so that you may customize it to your liking, so I looked at some reference pictures and decided I wanted it to sit on the flat surface inside of the frame mounts, adjacent to the wings.

To find the angle I placed the singer tubing upside down and let it rest between the 2 places it would be welded, then took a straight edge and a paint pen and made a mark. I then gave my self a 1/4" on either side for grinding then slowly and painfully cut the straightest line I could with a grinder.

It came out pretty dang close but I still needed to do some grinding with a flap disk, of course.

Getting the piece to stay in place so that I could check the angle from the side and levelness was a pain in the ass. I used some magnetic squares but they were not that helpful. I ended up just tacking one end down and then stepping back and eye balling it and also using the 2 smaller support tube angles as reference. Turns out I got pretty close and I was happy with it so I tacked it up. I did a little bit of grinding on the the smaller support tubes and eyeballed those as well.
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Finished by welding the inside of everything, somewhat poorly. I can definitely see how having a jig or more work space will correlate to higher quality fit up and welds.

I probably spent about 15-20 over 6 days. I definitely spent some time getting the wings right, tacking, then cutting grinding and retacking. But I certainly learned a lot from it. I have the rear kit sitting in the garage but I am not when I will have the time to dive into that. I will definitely try to get more pictures and a better right up on that. I will start a build thread one of these days as I have done things like gutting the interior and FatMat-ing the inside that I would like to just start documenting.

I hope this helps someone on the fence about either this bumper or tackling this project. I had no real welding experience, before starting this other than ripping a few beads several years ago. I will say in full transparency, I was a full like glass blower for many years so that may or may not have helped me but some of the welds are s***ty so probably not :p
 
Joined
Oct 25, 2018
Messages
8
Location
lalaland
@customcruiser Yeah, I may go back and do that, but for now I am done haha. I am considering adding mounting tabs for lights and onboard air so I am going to leave it bare steel for now until I decide. Did you paint or powder coat yours?
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2014
Messages
737
Location
N. California
@customcruiser Yeah, I may go back and do that, but for now I am done haha. I am considering adding mounting tabs for lights and onboard air so I am going to leave it bare steel for now until I decide. Did you paint or powder coat yours?
If you don't paint it, it will rust ...in days, not months. I think you should give it at least a rattle can primer job. Then grind or flap whatever you want to touch up before you do more welding. Much easier to tale off some paint where you want add light tabs or whatever, than to try to remove rust from the whole thing.
 
Joined
Jul 20, 2004
Messages
24,774
Location
Chandler, AZ
If you don't paint it, it will rust ...in days, not months. I think you should give it at least a rattle can primer job. Then grind or flap whatever you want to touch up before you do more welding. Much easier to tale off some paint where you want add light tabs or whatever, than to try to remove rust from the whole thing.

I ran my rear 4x4 Labs naked for ~6yrs, worked great, self healing finish, drag it on rock and the finish grew right back! :hillbilly: :meh:
 

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