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Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Introduction to DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kits

As any Jeep enthusiast knows, the Cherokee XJ is one of the most iconic and capable 4x4s ever made. With its rugged unibody construction, available 4.0L straight-6 engine, and classic boxy styling, the XJ is a favorite for customization and off-road modification. One of the most popular upgrades is fabbing your own heavy-duty front and rear bumpers. Not only does a custom bumper kit add protection and improve approach angles, it lets you put your personal stamp on your Cherokee.

Crafting DIY bumpers takes some skill, equipment, and elbow grease, but the end result is well worth it. Unlike flimsy stock bumpers, an XJ bumper you weld yourself can stand up to years of hard trail use. Adding a stout winch mount, front guards, LED lights, and other accessories takes the functionality even further. And nothing looks better than a shiny custom bumper on a lifted Cherokee!

Benefits of Installing a Custom Bumper Kit

  • Superior protection – Heavy steel construction withstands impacts better than factory bumpers.
  • Increased clearance – Allows for larger tires and articulation off-road.
  • Improved approach angle – Lets you climb over bigger obstacles and steep inclines.
  • Winch mounting – Strong welded plates provide a stable base for winches up to 12,000 lb.
  • Styling – DIY bumpers look great and allow you to customize your XJ’s look.
  • Adventure ready – Add LED lights, Hi-Lift jacks, skid plates, and other gear.

Essential Materials and Tools Needed

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Fabricating your own bumpers requires some investment in equipment, but many items are reusable for future projects. Here’s a rundown of the basic materials and tools you’ll need:

  • Steel tubing – 2-3″ diameter x 1/4″ wall thickness square and round tubing.
  • Steel plate – 1/4″ and 1/2″ plates for mounting and reinforcements.
  • Weldable end caps – Capped ends give a cleaner look.
  • Grinder and cutting wheels – For shaping tubing and smoothing welds.
  • Welder – A 220V MIG welder capable of 1/4″ steel is ideal.
  • Clamps – For holding parts in position while tacking.
  • Paint and primer – Use rustproof enamel or powder coating.
  • Drill and hole saw kit – For mounting points and light tabs.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Front Bumper Fabrication

With the right planning, you can DIY a front bumper in a weekend. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Design your bumper layout based on desired winch location, approach angle, and style.
  2. Cut your main bumper tubes, cross braces, and mounting plates to length.
  3. Miter tube ends at 45° angles and tac together the main hoop.
  4. Tack on the cross braces and gussets for support and shape.
  5. Fully weld all seams with a MIG welder.
  6. Grind down welds for a smooth finish.
  7. Cut mounting plates; bolt or weld to vehicle frame horns.
  8. Prime and paint the bumper.
  9. Install winch, lights, and other accessories as desired.
  10. Bolt on the completed bumper!

Step-by-Step Instructions for Rear Bumper Fabrication

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

The rear bumper uses a similar fabrication process. Here are the steps:

  1. Measure between frame rails and design bumper shape.
  2. Cut main hoop, braces, and end caps to length.
  3. Miter tube ends and tack weld into shape.
  4. Add support gussets and rectangular tubing for accessories.
  5. Fully weld all components and grind smooth.
  6. Mark and drill holes for tail light relocation.
  7. Weld mounting plates to frame rails.
  8. Apply primer and top coat.
  9. Wire up trailer plug and lights.
  10. Bolt on finished bumper.

Tips for Cutting and Welding the Steel Tubing

Working with steel tubing requires some finesse. Here are a few tips:

  • Use a tubing cutter or chop saw with lubricant for smooth cuts.
  • Clamp pieces to a sturdy table when making miters and tack welds.
  • Start tacks from the center working outward to minimize distortion.
  • Use a grinder to prep edges and remove slag between passes.
  • Weld slowly with consistent heat to avoid burn-through.
  • Let welds cool gradually before handling to prevent cracks.

How to Give Your Bumper a Durable Protective Coating

Raw steel will quickly rust and corrode. Protect your work with these steps:

  1. Clean and degrease the metal with acetone or brake cleaner.
  2. Apply self-etching primer to prep the surface.
  3. Spray or brush on a top coat of enamel paint.
  4. For maximum durability, use a powder coating shop.
  5. Touch up any nicks or scratches immediately.
  6. Re-coat annually to maintain the finish.

Ideas for Customizing Your Bumper’s Look and Function

With your own bumper kit, the possibilities are endless for a unique look. Consider these cool custom touches:

  • Add brackets to mount Hi-Lift jacks or shovels.
  • Incorporate LED cube lights or auxiliary lights.
  • Install hidden winch remote and air compressor switches.
  • Cut out areas for LED backlit Jeep logos.
  • Use stencils and sponges to apply camo paint accents.
  • Incorporate plate steel designs for a bumper guard.

Safety Considerations When Installing Your New Bumpers

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Upgrading to heavy DIY bumpers requires some safety precautions:

  • Re-aim headlights to account for bumper height change.
  • Add tow points to avoid winch cable damage if towing.
  • Check tire clearance at full turn and flex.
  • Use spacers/longer shocks to correct suspension geometry.
  • Secure tools and spare tires for off-road travel.
  • Add skid plates to protect fuel and driveline components.

Frequently Asked Questions About DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumpers

What size tubing should I use?

2-3 inch square or round with 1/4 inch wall thickness is ideal for most builds.

Can I do this project with basic welding skills?

It’s doable with practice first on scrap metal. Taking a welding class helps tremendously.

Where can I find bumper kit designs for inspiration?

Jeep forums, Pinterest, and Instagram have endless examples to browse through.

What type of winch plate should I use?

1/4 to 1/2 inch steel plate will stand up to winches in the 8,000 to 12,000 lb range.

How much does a DIY bumper kit cost compared to buying one?

You can save hundreds of dollars, with the tradeoff being your time and labor.

Benefits of Installing a Custom Bumper Kit

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Upgrading to a rugged DIY bumper kit offers some key advantages over stock bumpers for Jeep Cherokee XJ owners who want to enhance their vehicle’s capability and appearance. Here are some of the top benefits:

  • Better protection – Heavy-duty steel construction provides superior impact resistance compared to thin factory bumpers. Your drivetrain, lights, and bodywork will be better shielded from dings, dents and damage on the trails.
  • Increased clearance – A properly designed aftermarket bumper will provide greater clearance for larger diameter tires and allow for more suspension articulation. This improves your approach, departure, and breakover angles for climbing obstacles.
  • Improved approach angle – Greater approach angles let you tackle steep inclines and hill climbs without scraping your bumper. No more worrying about getting hung up on a flat-faced factory bumper.
  • Stable winch mounting – Custom winch plates integrated into the bumper provide a sturdy base for winches up to 12,000 pounds or more. You won’t have to deal with a flimsy bolt-on winch tray.
  • Enhanced styling – DIY bumpers allow you to put your personal touch on your XJ’s look. Pick just the right style, from minimalist to laden with LED lights and accessories. Show off your custom creation!
  • Increased adventure readiness – A fabricated bumper is the perfect platform to mount Hi-Lift jacks, LED aux lights, shovel brackets, skid plates, compressed air tanks and anything else you need for off-road adventures.

By investing the time and effort into building your own bumper kit, you can create something purpose-built for your specific Jeep Cherokee XJ setup and needs. The end result will be a bumper that offers more protection, capability and functionality compared to any factory or pre-made bumper on the market.

Essential Materials and Tools Needed

Fabricating your own bumpers requires some key materials and equipment. While the list may seem long, many items are reusable for future fabrication projects. Here is an overview of the basic supplies you’ll need:

  • Steel tubing – The foundation of your bumper build. 2-3″ square or round tubing with a 1/4″ wall thickness is standard.
  • Steel plates – 1/4″ and 1/2″ plate steel is used for mounting points, winch bases, and reinforcements.
  • End caps – Optional but provide a cleaner look. Make sure they are weld-able tube end caps.
  • Cutting tools – A tubing cutter, chop saw, or angle grinder with cutting wheels.
  • Welder – A 220V MIG welder with sufficient amperage for 1/4″ steel. An entry level suitcase welder can work.
  • Clamps – Needed to hold parts steady and square while tacking welds.
  • Finishing supplies – Sandpaper, primer, paint or powder coating for protecting the steel.
  • Drill – Handheld or drill press for mounting holes. Hole saw kit for lights.

With these basics covered, you have everything needed to start your bumper build. Of course, having access to additional tools like a tubing bender, chop saw, bench grinder, and welding table make the job easier.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Front Bumper Fabrication

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Building your own front bumper can be completed over a weekend if you have all your materials and a well thought out plan. Here is an overview of the process:

  1. Design the bumper structure based on desired winch location, approach angle, style and tubing dimensions.
  2. Cut the main bumper hoop, cross braces, gussets and mounting plates to length with squared ends.
  3. Miter the ends of the hoop tubes at 45° angles and tack them together into a basic loop shape.
  4. Tack on the cross braces and triangular gussets for extra support and to achieve the planned dimensions.
  5. Do final welds of all joints using a MIG welder with sufficient amperage to penetrate the 1/4″ steel.
  6. Use an angle grinder to smooth and blend the welded seams for a cleaner look.
  7. Mark and cut out the mounting plates to tie into the vehicle frame rails.
  8. Prime and paint the raw steel using a prep, primer, paint procedure for long-lasting protection.
  9. Install your winch, LED lights, fairlead and other accessories as desired.
  10. Bolt on your completed DIY front bumper and admire your work!

Following this process will result in a front bumper that is light years ahead of the factory bumper in terms of strength, protection, and appearance. Take your time and don’t skip steps – you’ll be rewarded with a bumper that will serve you for years on and off-road.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Rear Bumper Fabrication

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

The rear bumper uses a very similar fabrication technique. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Measure between the frame rails to determine the overall width for your bumper hoop.
  2. Design the shape and look you want, accounting for accessories like lights and carrying tools.
  3. Cut the main hoop, braces, and end caps to the proper length.
  4. Miter the ends at 45° and tack together into the basic loop shape.
  5. Tack on support gussets and any small cross tubes for rigidity.
  6. Do full seam welds and grind/sand smooth.
  7. Drill holes to relocate the tail lights and license plate into the bumper.
  8. Cut and weld the mounting plates to the vehicle frame rails.
  9. Apply primer/paint for protection and your choice of color.
  10. Wire up the trailer hitch plug and lights into the bumper.
  11. Bolt on the finished bumper for a custom rear end.

Like the front bumper, taking care with the prep, welding, finishing and installation will result in a rear bumper that really completes the look of your lifted Cherokee.

Tips for Cutting and Welding the Steel Tubing

Working with steel tubing requires some fundamental skills. Follow these tips to make the process easier:

  • Use a tubing cutter or chop saw with lubricant to make straight, burr-free cuts.
  • Clamp pieces securely to a flat surface when mitering tube ends or tacking parts together.
  • Start tacks from the center and work outward to prevent distortion from heat.
  • Use a grinder or flap wheel to prep joints and remove slag between weld passes.
  • Weld slowly with consistent heat input to prevent blowing through thin tubing walls.
  • Allow welds to cool gradually before handling to prevent cracks from rapid cooling.

Having the right tools and following fundamental welding techniques will ensure your bumper has strong, lasting welds.

How to Give Your Bumper a Durable Protective Coating

Raw steel will quickly rust and corrode. Use these steps to add durable protection:

  1. Thoroughly clean and degrease the steel with acetone, brake cleaner or wax/grease remover.
  2. Apply self-etching primer to prep the surface for paint adhesion.
  3. Spray on or brush your choice of gloss enamel paint for color and protection.
  4. For maximum durability consider getting the bumper powder coated instead of paint.
  5. Immediately touch up any chips or scratches in the coating to prevent surface rust.
  6. Consider yearly scuffing/re-coating to maintain the finish over time.

Putting effort into properly coating your bumper will help it stay shiny and prevent rust for years of service.

Ideas for Customizing Your Bumper’s Look and Function

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

One of the great things about DIY bumpers is all the possibilities for custom touches. Here are some ideas:

  • Add raised brackets to cleanly mount Hi-Lift jacks, shovels, gas cans or RotoPax.
  • Incorporate cube or pod LED lights for stunning illumination.
  • Install hidden switches for winch, air compressor or other accessories.
  • Cut out areas to backlight custom logos or designs.
  • Apply custom camo paint schemes using stencils and sponges.
  • Integrate plate steel bumper caps for extra armor and style.

The only limit is your imagination. Spend time looking at other Jeep builds to gather ideas you can incorporate into your own DIY bumper kits.

Safety Considerations When Installing Your New Bumpers

Upgrading to heavy aftermarket bumpers requires adjusting some other aspects of your XJ. Keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Re-aim headlights to account for change in bumper height.
  • Add front tow points to prevent winch cable damage if towing is needed.
  • Carefully check for tire clearance at full steering lock and suspension flex.
  • Use spacers or extended shocks to correct suspension geometry.
  • Make sure tools, jerry cans and spares are securely mounted.
  • Add skid plates to protect vital vehicle components underneath.

Taking these steps will ensure your upgraded bumpers complement the rest of your Cherokee for safe and dependable performance on and off-road.

Frequently Asked Questions About DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumpers

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

What size tubing should I use for my bumpers?

2-3 inch square or round tubing with a 1/4 inch wall thickness is ideal for meeting strength needs without excessive weight.

Can I complete this project with only basic welding skills?

It’s certainly doable with practice first on scrap metal. Taking a hands-on welding class can really help build confidence and technique.

Where can I find design inspirations for my DIY bumper project?

Jeep forums, Pinterest and Instagram have endless examples to browse for ideas. Look for bumpers with similar goals to what you want to achieve.

What thickness winch plate should I incorporate?

1/4 to 1/2 inch steel plate is recommended to withstand winches in the 8,000 to 12,000 pound capacity range.

How much money can I save by DIY versus buying a pre-made bumper kit?

You can potentially save hundreds of dollars, with the tradeoff being the time and effort spent on fabrication.

Essential Materials and Tools Needed

Before starting your DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ bumper project, you’ll need to gather some key materials and equipment. Having the right supplies on hand will make the fabrication process smooth and efficient. Here’s an overview of the basic items you’ll need in your bumper-building toolbox:

  • Steel tubing – The bumper structure itself will be built from 2-3″ square or round steel tubing. The most common choice is .120″ (1/8″) or .1875″ (3/16″) wall thickness for a balance of strength and moderate weight.
  • Steel plate – Plate steel is used for winch mounting plates, bumper caps, and other reinforcements. Typical thickness is 1/4″ to 1/2″.
  • End caps – Capped tube ends give a cleaner look. Make sure to get weldable caps, not just cosmetic plastic caps.
  • Cutting tools – A tubing cutter, chop saw, or angle grinder with cutting wheels are needed to precisely cut the steel.
  • Welder – A MIG welder that can handle 1/4″ steel is ideal. For DIY, an entry level 220V welder will work.
  • Clamps – Essential for holding parts in position while tacking. C-clamps, vice grips, magnets, etc.
  • Grinder – For weld prep, blending welds, and general metal shaping. Both angle and bench grinders are useful.
  • Metal finishing supplies – Sandpaper, flap wheels, primer and paint or powder coating.
  • Drill – A hand drill or drill press with hole saws for light mounts, etc.

While this covers the core items, there are more specialized tools that make fabrication easier. A tubing bender, chop saw, sheet metal shear, brake and English wheel are very handy for shaping custom bumpers. Don’t let lacking some pro tools stop you though – with creativity and elbow grease you can DIY bumpers with more basic tools.

Recommended Steel for DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumpers

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Choosing the right steel is important so your bumpers have the needed strength without excessive weight. Here are some guidelines:

  • Main tubes – 2-3″ square or round tubing with .120″ or .1875″ wall thickness. DOM or HREW mechanical tubing grade.
  • Cross braces – 1.5″ or 2″ square tubing with .120″ wall thickness.
  • Mounting plates – 1/4″ or 3/8″ steel plate. Can also use 1/2″ for winch plates.
  • Winch base – 1/2″ plate or a thick-walled square/rectangular tube.
  • Bumper caps – 1/8″ or thinner sheet steel. No need for thickness here.

This combination of tubing, plate and sheet will give you the strength you need while avoiding excess weight. Of course you can go thicker, but marginal gains come with heavier steelwork.

Where to Source Steel and Supplies

You can source steel and fabrication supplies from these places:

  • Local metal supplier – Convenient but may have limited size selection.
  • Online metals dealer – More variety but requires shipping.
  • Scrap/salvage yards – Cheaper but restrictive on sizes and quality.
  • Hardware stores – Good for consumables like grinding wheels.
  • Welding shops – Can get tubing drops and remnants.
  • DIY bumper kits – Buy pre-cut steel tube kits to save time.

Shop around for the best balance of selection, quality and value. Buying in bulk for a full bumper build saves money compared to piecemeal purchases.

Bumper Fabrication Tools Checklist

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Here is a checklist of useful tools to have on hand for your bumper build:

  • Welder capable of 1/4″ steel – 220V MIG or multiprocess welder
  • Angle grinder with cutting and grinding wheels
  • Tubing cutter for straight smooth cuts
  • C-clamps, vise-grips, magnets to hold parts for tacking
  • Standard drill and bit set
  • Hole saw kit for light mounting holes
  • Sandpaper and flap wheels for finishing
  • Basic shop hammer, pry bar, measuring tools
  • Bench vise to securely hold parts
  • Eye and ear protection – critical for safety

Having these tools will make it much easier to work efficiently and safely. While a full machine shop would be nice, you can DIY bumpers with more basic garage tools and workshop equipment if you get creative.

Top Sources for Discount Tools and Supplies

Outfitting your shop doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips for saving on tools and bumper supplies:

  • Harbor Freight – Go-to for inexpensive angle grinders, clamps, consumables, etc.
  • Craigslist – Search for deals on high-quality used power tools locally.
  • eBay – Good source for discounted abrasives, drill bits, welding wire, etc.
  • Northern Tool – Decent import welders and shop gear for less.
  • Amazon – Shop “warehouse deals” for open box power tools.
  • Estate sales – Look for garages and workshops being cleared out.

With some savvy sourcing, you can outfit your bumper fabrication toolkit on a budget. Don’t skimp on safety gear like respirators and welding helmets though – protecting your health is priceless.

Key Accessories to Enhance Your Bumper Build

Beyond the core tools and materials, here are some accessories that will make your bumper build easier:

  • Fabrication table – Provides a flat stable work surface.
  • Welding blankets – Protects paint from sparks and clamp marks.
  • Fixtures and jigs – Hold parts accurately for production fabrication.
  • Portable band saw – Quick precise cuts without abrasive dust.
  • Magnetic angles – Ensure accurate 45 and 90 degree joints.
  • Tube notcher – Cut exact fishmouth joints for pro-level mating.
  • Sheet metal brake – Shape bumper caps, gussets and plate cleanly.

Start with the essentials, but consider upgrading your workspace with these nice-to-have accessories once you get hooked on bumper builds and fabrication.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Front Bumper Fabrication

With the right planning and materials, you can DIY a front bumper for your Jeep Cherokee XJ in a weekend. Here is a step-by-step overview of the fabrication process:

  1. Design and Sketch It Out
  2. Develop your bumper design on paper considering desired approach angle, winch mounting location, and overall style. Sketch front/side/top views to visualize the full structure and dimensions.

  3. Cut the Steel Tubing
  4. Mark and cut the main bumper hoop tubes, cross braces, and other tubes to length with squared ends using a tubing cutter or chop saw.

  5. Miter the Ends
  6. Use a bench grinder to miter both ends of the main hoop tubes at precise 45 degree angles so they fit together cleanly.

  7. Tack the Main Hoop
  8. Fit the mitered tubing ends together into a basic loop shape and tack weld them in position. Start tacks from the center working out.

  9. Add Supports
  10. Tack on the cross braces and small gusset plates to support the main hoop and achieve desired dimensions.

  11. Complete the Welds
  12. Do finish welds of all joints using a MIG welder with sufficient amperage to fully penetrate the 1/4″ tubing.

  13. Smooth the Welds
  14. Use an angle grinder with a flap wheel to smooth and blend the welded seams for a more finished look.

  15. Fabricate Mounts
  16. Cut and shape mounting plates to tie the bumper structure into the vehicle frame rail mounting points.

  17. Apply Protective Coating
  18. Follow a paint prep process and apply primer then topcoat paint or powdercoat for corrosion protection.

  19. Install Accessories
  20. Mount your winch, lights, fairlead and other accessories to complete your custom front bumper.

Following this fabrication sequence will result in a front bumper that matches your vehicle, once you dial in the specific dimensions and angles needed for your Cherokee.

Tips for Designing Your Bumper

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Here are some tips for planning out your DIY front bumper design:

  • Research approach angles for off-road performance you want
  • Decide if winch is needed and best mounting location
  • Incorporate support for auxiliary lights and accessories
  • Include openings or grilles if additional cooling is needed
  • Sketch front, side and top views to visualize the full structure
  • Model tubing paths and intersections to avoid interference

Recommended Tubing, Plate and Sheet

Construct your bumper from these quality materials:

  • Main hoop – 2-3″ square tube with .120″ or .1875″ wall thickness
  • Braces – 1-2″ square tube with .120″ wall thickness
  • Winch plate – 1/2″ steel plate
  • Mounts – 1/4″ or 3/8″ steel plate
  • Gussets – 14 gauge (.075″) sheet steel

Helpful Fabrication Tips

Use these techniques for clean professional welds:

  • Use a script liner or soapstone to mark cut lines
  • Clamp parts tightly for clean miters and tack welds
  • Grind welds thoroughly to prevent undercutting
  • Tack from middle outward to minimize heat distortion
  • Weld slowly with consistant heat input for good fusion

Finishing Touches

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Give your bumper long lasting protection and custom style:

  • Media blast to remove rust and provide tooth for paint
  • Wipe down with a wax/grease remover before primer
  • Apply high-build primer filler for a smooth base
  • Topcoat with a rustproof enamel or outdoor-rated powdercoat
  • Add custom logos, lettering or accent graphics

Top Tips for Installing Your Bumper

  • Have helpers for lifting and aligning the bumper
  • Use quality graded hardware for all mounting bolts
  • Apply blue Loctite to mounting bolt threads
  • Torque all bolts to spec with a calibrated torque wrench
  • Aim headlights to account for change in height
  • Torque steering linkage bolts/joints to factory spec

Taking it slow and methodical during install prevents problems down the road. Admire your work when finished!

Common Bumper Fabrication Issues

  • Misaligned miters from poor fit up
  • Distortion from insufficient clamps
  • Burn through from too much heat
  • Undercut welds from incorrect technique
  • Weak welds from lack of fusion
  • Rust due to minimal surface prep

Watch out for these common trouble spots on your first bumper project. Learning to recognize and prevent them will lead to professional quality results.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Rear Bumper Fabrication

The rear bumper uses a very similar DIY fabrication process as the front. Here are the step-by-step phases of building your own rear bumper:

  1. Design It
  2. Sketch out the rear bumper structure and features needed for your Jeep application and planned accessories.

  3. Measure Frame Width
  4. Determine the overall width by precisely measuring between the rear frame rails. This sets the bumper’s overall width.

  5. Cut Steel Parts
  6. Use a tubing cutter or saw to cut the main hoop, braces, and mounting plates to length based on your design.

  7. Miter Tube Ends
  8. Grind precise 45 degree miters on the ends of the main hoop tubing so they fit up cleanly.

  9. Tack Main Hoop
  10. Fit up the mitered tubing ends to create the main bumper loop and tack weld in place, starting from center.

  11. Add Braces
  12. Tack on the support gussets, cross braces and any additional small tubes per your design.

  13. Complete Welds
  14. Do full welds of all joints and external supports using a MIG welder with adequate current.

  15. Smooth Welds
  16. Use a flap wheel grinder to smooth and blend welds for a professional finish.

  17. Install Mounts
  18. Weld the mounting plates to the frame rails to secure the bumper structure to the vehicle.

  19. Prep and Coat
  20. Media blast, clean, prime and paint or powdercoat the bare steel for protection and color.

  21. Wire Accessories
  22. Install tail lights, wiring, hitch and other accessories into the finished bumper.

Following this process will result in a rear bumper that matches your XJ model’s contours while providing protection and function.

Design Considerations

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Factor these into your rear bumper design:

  • Departure angle needed based on off-roading extremes
  • Tube paths that avoid exhaust routing
  • Included mount points for accessories – jerry cans, ladder, etc.
  • Winch access in case a rear pull is ever needed
  • integrated brackets for back-up lights above the license plate
  • Incorporated support for tow hitches and trailer plugs

Recommended Materials

Construct your rear bumper from:

  • Main hoop – 2-3″ square tube with .120″ wall thickness
  • Braces – 1.5″ square tube with .120″ wall
  • Sheets – 14 gauge for gussets and recessed panels
  • Plates – 1/4″ for mounts, 3/8″ for jack base

Helpful Fabrication Tips

  • Align main hoop tubes perfectly before tacking
  • Use multiple clamps to hold parts square and prevent warping
  • Tack weld slowly and methodically to minimize heat input
  • Test fit on vehicle periodically to ensure proper shaping
  • Grind all welds thoroughly to prevent crack initiation points

Custom Touches

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Personalize your rear bumper with these creative touches:

  • LED reverse and auxiliary lights for bright illumination
  • Coordinated powdercoat color with added metal flake for sparkle
  • Etched geometric or abstract patterns into recessed bumper panels
  • Integrated brackets to hold rotopax gas cans or tools securely
  • Stone guard steel sheeting wrapping rear trailing corners

Top Tips for Installation

  • Have helpers for lifting and positioning the bumper
  • Temporarily support on stands before unbolting factory bumper
  • Apply anti-seize compound on mounting bolt threads
  • Use new hardened grade 8 bolts torqued to spec
  • Aim and adjust backup lights to illuminate properly
  • Test all wiring for tail lights, hitch, etc. before finishing

Taking it slow with the rear bumper install will ensure everything fits and functions as designed.

Tips for Cutting and Welding the Steel Tubing

Working with steel tubing for bumpers requires some fundamental skills. Here are tips for making precise cuts and clean welds:

Cutting Tubing

  • Use a tubing cutter for straight, square cuts without distortion. Keep the cutter head perpendicular.
  • Mark cut lines clearly with a scribe or soapstone. Measure twice to cut once.
  • Support tubing firmly in a vise and use cutting fluid for chop saw cuts.
  • Make notch cuts for coped tube ends using a hole saw or jigsaw.
  • File the cut ends smooth and square before fit up. Deburr inside and out.

Preparing and Fitting Tubes

  • Use a disc sander or bench grinder to miter tube ends at precise 45 or 30 degree angles.
  • Clamp tubes tightly to a jig or table when mitering ends to ensure perfect angles.
  • Grind the mitered ends lightly before final fit up for a snug full contact joint.
  • Check fit up carefully and use clamps to hold tubes in perfect alignment for tacking.

Tacking and Welding

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

  • Use multiple clamps to hold parts in position before tacking to prevent distortion.
  • Make initial tack welds from the center outward to balance heat input and minimize warping.
  • Let welds cool between passes and double check fit up and alignment.
  • Use a grinder or flap wheel to clean each weld pass before applying the next.
  • Weld slowly with consistent torch angle and speed for solid fusion with no undercut.

Helpful Tools and Accessories

  • Soapstone for marking cut lines and tube positions
  • Magnets and vise-grip clamps for hands-free holding power
  • Square tubing jig with magnetic angles to ensure accuracy
  • Coping tube notcher for precise notch cuts
  • Welding table with fixtures to locate tubes consistently

Avoiding Common Cutting and Welding Defects

  • Out of square tube ends from poor cutting technique
  • Uneven weld penetration from wavering torch motion
  • Overheating and burn through from excessive heat input
  • Undercut welds from incorrect torch angles
  • Porosity from contaminated base metal or poor gas shielding

Following fundamental cutting and welding best practices will yield professional results and strong bumper structures.

Top Tips for Getting Excellent Welds

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

  • Take your time preparing parts – clean, squared, aligned edges
  • Use multiple tack welds to lock perfect fit-up before finish welding
  • Keep torch angle and travel speed consistent during welding passes
  • Allow cooling between passes to prevent cumulative heat buildup
  • Thoroughly remove slag and spatter between each weld pass
  • Carefully grind welds smooth to prevent stress risers

Patience and diligence during the cutting, fit-up, tacking and welding stages pays off in professional quality bumpers that withstand abuse.

How to Give Your Bumper a Durable Protective Coating

Raw steel will quickly rust and corrode if not protected. Follow these steps to add a long-lasting finish to your DIY bumpers:

Prep the Steel Surface

  • Media blast the steel to remove surface contaminants and provide profile for paint adhesion.
  • Wipe down with wax/grease remover or acetone to degrease all surfaces prior to coating.
  • Fill any small pits or craters with an epoxy primer filler to smooth the surface.
  • Lightly scuff sand painted areas with 600 grit sandpaper to promote coating adhesion.

Apply Primer

  • Use a self-etching primer formulated for bare steel to provide corrosion protection.
  • Spray primer on in multiple light coats for complete coverage.
  • Allow proper flash time between coats as specified by the primer manufacturer.
  • Fill any remaining surface defects with primer surfacer before top coating.

Top Coat for Color and Protection

  • Apply durable 2-part truck bed liner coating for abrasion resistance.
  • Use an industrial urethane enamel if wanting a glossy painted finish.
  • Consider a custom color powder coating for ultimate durability and appearance.
  • Spray apply for consistent coverage and professional looking finish.

Maintenance Tips

  • Immediately touch up any chips to prevent surface rust from forming.
  • Consider an annual scuff and re-coat to refresh the finish after exposure.
  • Keep coated surfaces free of salt and debris which can cause corrosion.
  • Avoid using harsh cleaners – use soap and water instead.

Common Coating Problems to Avoid

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

  • Flash rust due to minimal or no primer used
  • Poor adhesion from inadequate surface preparation
  • Pinholes or solvent pops from applying too thick
  • Runs or sags from excess coating thickness
  • Loss of gloss and fading over time with cheap paints

Following best practices for properly coating your steel bumpers will provide great looks and protection from the elements for years of service.

Professional Finishing in 5 Steps

  1. Blast surface to remove contaminants
  2. Clean and degrease all surfaces
  3. Apply primer then surfacer to smooth
  4. Top coat with industrial grade enamel or powder
  5. Immediately touch up any damage areas

While it takes effort, proper planning and preparation leads to exceptional results that withstand abuse on and off road.

Ideas for Customizing Your Bumper’s Look and Function

One of the best things about DIY bumpers is the ability to customize them. Here are some creative ideas to make your bumper truly unique:

Functional Add-Ons

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

  • Incorporate mount points for hi-lift jacks, shovels, gas cans, rotopax, etc.
  • Add brackets and tabs for auxiliary LED light bars and pods.
  • Integrate hidden compartments for winch controls, air lines, and switches.
  • Include cutouts or mesh for added ventilation and cooling.
  • Weld on custom rock sliders along the sides for protection.

Styling Ideas

  • Add embossed or engraved lettering showcasing your rig’s name.
  • Incorporate geometric cutouts or patterns into the steel for interest.
  • Paint or powdercoat in a custom color to match your vehicle.
  • Accent with metal flake or textured coatings for unique effects.
  • Backlight custom logos or designs with LED strips.

Armor Options

  • Wrap corners and leading edges with thicker steel plating.
  • Incorporate expanded metal or mesh for a guard-like look.
  • Add plate steel “wings” along the sides for extra protection.
  • Design the bumper surface to serve as a rock guard for bodywork.
  • Use DOM tubing sleeves over winch mount tubes for durability.

Materials to Enhance Bumpers

  • LED light strips and pods for illumination.
  • Powder coating for tough and custom colored finishes.
  • Etching solutions and stencils for designing patterns.
  • Expanded metal sheet for see-through guarding.
  • Thicker DOM tubing for high wear areas.

The possibilities are endless when designing your own bumpers. Research other vehicle builds for inspiration and ideas you can incorporate into your custom bumpers.

Expert Tips for Decking Out Your Bumpers

  • Sketch ideas to visualize how components will mount and fit.
  • Account for added weight from accessories when designing.
  • Use sturdy materials that withstand abuse – DOM tubing, 1/4″ plate, etc.
  • Perform test fits of components prior to final welding.
  • Check accessory wiring for faults before finishing install.

Planning ahead, mocking up parts, and overbuilding will result in custom bumpers that not only look stunning but also hold up to hard use.

Safety Considerations When Installing Your New Bumpers

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

Upgrading to heavy aftermarket bumpers requires adjusting some other aspects of your XJ. Keep these safety tips in mind:

Re-aim Headlights

With the change in bumper height, re-aim headlights to properly illuminate the road again. Use a wall or screen to match the alignment points.

Add Tow Points

Install dedicated tow points on the frame or bumper to prevent winch cable damage if towing becomes necessary.

Check for Tire Clearance

Carefully test for adequate tire clearance at full lock and suspension articulation. Trim if needed.

Adjust Suspension Geometry

Use spacers or extended shocks to correct suspension angles changed by the bumper’s increased height.

Secure Loose Items

Make sure tools, jerry cans, and spare tires added to the bumper are firmly secured for off-road travel.

Add Skid Plates

Skid plates protect vital underbody components like your fuel tank, transmission, and differentials when off-roading.

Materials for Tow Points

Build Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumper Kit Guide

  • Thick wall tubing or plate steel brackets
  • Quality D-ring shackles or tow hooks
  • Reinforced mounting points bridging frame rails

Spacers for Suspension Adjustments

  • 1-3 inch lift coil spacers
  • Extended shocks or adjustable control arms
  • Taller sway bar end links

Recommended Skid Plate Brands

  • Rugged Ridge
  • OR-FAB
  • Armor Express
  • Ricochet Offroad
  • Crawford Performance

Protect your investment in new bumpers and off-road capability by addressing these complementary accessories and upgrades.

Top Safety Checks Before Off-Roading

  1. Retorque all mounting hardware
  2. Verify skid plates secured tightly
  3. Shake test all accessories to check for looseness
  4. Inspect for fluid leaks underneath
  5. Ensure tow points are accessible if needed

Taking the time to check these items provides peace of mind your rig is trail-ready to safely conquer the most rugged terrain.

Frequently Asked Questions About DIY Jeep Cherokee XJ Bumpers

What size steel tubing should I use for fabrication?

2-3″ square or round tubing with a .120″ -.1875″ wall thickness provides a good balance of strength without excessive weight.

Can I complete bumper fabrication with minimal welding experience?

It’s certainly doable with practice first on scrap steel. Taking a hands-on welding class helps build skills immensely.

Where do you find design inspirations for DIY bumper projects?

Jeep forums, Pinterest, and Instagram have endless build threads and photos to browse for fab ideas.

What thickness winch mounting plate should be incorporated?

1/4 to 1/2 inch steel plate is recommended to stand up to winches in the 8,000 to 12,000 lb range.

Is it cheaper to DIY versus buying a pre-made steel bumper kit?

You can potentially save hundreds of dollars, with the tradeoff being the time and effort spent on fabrication.

What type of paint or coating provides the best protection?

For maximum durability and corrosion resistance, powder coating is hard to beat.

How long does it take to complete a DIY bumper build?

With all materials and tools, expect a full weekend per bumper. The front requires more time.

What skills or tools are must-haves for bumper fabrication?

Welding expertise, angle grinder, tubing cutter, clamps, and metal cutting tools are essential.

What design software or tools help plan bumper projects?

CAD programs, Adobe Illustrator, or even paper sketches are useful for visualizing bumper designs.

Where can I learn more about welding and metal fabrication?

YouTube, books, local community college courses, and on-the-job practice are great knowledge sources.

Don’t be afraid to tackle a DIY bumper project for your Cherokee. With proper planning, materials, and techniques you can create custom bumpers that exceed your expectations and budget.