FJ Cruiser – Winch Mount – HF Apex Winch – How-To & Review

We try to keep up with the never ending winch design evolution in that we want to know what works with our winch mounts. The answer is ‘just about all of them’ but some just fit different than others, have different layouts, etc.
We get a lot of questions about Harbor Freight winches. I won’t get in to the debate about their quality but to say this. I know a lot of folks who use them and have done so very successfully. They have a 90 day warranty but are inexpensive. We have quite a few customers who run them in our winch mounts on various models.
One of the newest is the Apex with a semi integrated control box.
Here is a great write up and review from a customer of ours, Terry Pelt from Utah. Not just about the winch but our winch mount as well.
He mounted an Apex in one of our FJ Mounts, while roomy it is the smallest winch tub of our lineup but generally accepts most all winches, it’s the height above the winch in regards to the hood release brace that can get tight or interfere. Bottom line, it fits but I’ll let Terry lay it out in detail for you:

This is for the Harbor Freight Badlands APEX 12K winch.
1): If this winch is being installed and planned to be used on a regular basis, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND relocating the control box from the top of the winch to somewhere in the engine compartment. The clearance and limited access to the remote plug-in and the Wi-Fi control switch is ULTRA and SUPERTIGHT! Small user hands are beneficial if the control is left in the OEM location.

If relocating, DO NOT be tempted to just move the control box above the winch and in front of the radiator on your FJ – the box is too large and will greatly limit needed air flow to the radiator cooling fins. (Personally, I don’t plan on using my winch for more than flipping a Jeep back onto its wheels, or only in a dire self-recovery situation).

2): If you are going to leave the control box in the OEM location, it MUST be removed from the winch to place the winch body into the mounting tub, and ONLY AFTER trimming the center bracket that sticks out above center of the winch (as seen in my photos [and highlighted with circles and arrows in yellow]). After the winch body is mounted, the control box can carefully be wiggled under the newly trimmed center bracket to be re-installed.

3): The A/C line not only needs to be CAREFULLY and slightly bent/repositioned, but it will need a spacer placed between the mounting
bracket and plastic keeper that your instructions suggest and the A/C line (I deleted the plastic keeper and used a stainless steel strap bracket).

The A/C line also needs to be slightly elevated over the winch and behind the control box, and under the newly trimmed center bracket; it’s a bit ofa tight squeeze, but it can be done.

I finished my US Off Road mount (after sanding it with 600 grit and wiping it down several times with lacquer thinner) with 3 coats of Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer (but I had no rust…..), followed by 3 coats of Rust-Oleum Custom Premium Lacquer Paint (Silver Gray color).

Fitment of your product was awesome; I really appreciated the improvements you have made to the original design (after watching some installation videos and seeing a couple of older US Off Road tubs in person).

Packaging for shipment was excellent. Even though the box had a large gash in the top, the tub was unharmed. I’m not sure how FedEx managed to make the shipping label bar code unreadable, but glad they finally caught it, fixed it, and got it delivered with only minimal delay.

Again, I suggest and HIGHLY RECOMMEND that if someone is planning to use this APEX winch allot, it is worth the time to relocate the control box.

Vehicle: 2012 FJ, 3” Old Man Emu lift, 285/70-17 tires, Ricochet Offroad skid plates (complete undercarriage armor), Tandem Offroad rock slides, Badlands APEX 12K winch… and of course a U.S. Off Road Winch Mount.

Also notice how well our mount works with the Ricochet skid plate.

And of course,  when you are ready to purchase a winch mount for your FJ or Tacoma, go here:



We receive inquiries every day regarding winch selection so I thought I might address this in writing for easy reference. Some of this is based on experience, some on manufacturer data and some on opinion and is worth exactly what you just paid for it.

Recovery winches, like many products, come in various ‘flavors’. Many buyers focus primarily on price, some on name recognition and some purely on reputation and/or experience. We are all looking for ‘value’, “how much should I spend to get what I want or need?”


The fact of the matter is that most off roaders rarely use their winch, some are lucky (or unlucky) to use it once a year. Avid off roaders may use theirs every weekend. Some are expeditionary in nature and rely on their winch to pull them across rivers, over mountain passes and in many cases in areas with little to no help or support. Another words, their very lives may depend on their winch. So the first thing you need to do is understand YOUR needs.

Are you the ‘just in case’ user, the ‘I wheel several times per month’ user or the ‘I’m headed to the Amazon’ user?


First off, where are winches made? This is the most common question next to ‘which winch do I need?’. The truth of the matter is that ALL winches are made in China or Taiwan except for Warn and Ramsey. But even that statement is not really accurate. Warn manufacturers their Zeon and other higher end winches in Oregon but you will find Chinese or Taiwanese parts in them. Warn’s lower end winches, including their VR EVO series, are typically made in China. ComeUp’s very good line of winches comes from Taiwan. Ramsey, while assembled in Oklahoma does use some Chinese and Taiwanese parts from my research. Every other winch is made in Asia, without exception. Tis the global economy as of today.

So then, what is the difference? If most winches are made in China or use Chinese parts then why spend more money? While there are a handful of factories in China that build winches for all of the winch ‘manufacturers’ and some use a system of ala carte design (you can choose this finish, these solenoids, these levers, etc) some are built to very specific design criteria. Some are tested more than others, some components are better than others, most always this is reflected in price and warranty.


There are many winch brands out there, some more popular than others but for this article I’ll focus on what U.S. Off Road carries. As of today we carry Warn, ComeUp and Viper and I’ll group these by price/quality.

What I might classify as our entry level winches are Viper and (previously Engo). U.S. Off Road has carried these lines for many years and have sold hundreds with less than 1% warranty rates, which by any metric is exceptional. They start off in pricing at around $335 and go as high as $600 for synthetic rope versions in higher capacity ranges. Both are Chinese made of course, both companies have extensive experience in the industry. Viper’s main focus is the ATV/UTV market and sells thousands per year in addition to their vehicle recovery winches.

The Viper Max with steel cable I originally installed on the FJC in 2011 is now on my car trailer and works perfectly as well. Made in China but fully supported in the USA you can’t go wrong with Viper. The new Viper Elite winches use Albright one piece contactors and can be had with Dyneema rope for a great price.

Then there’s a mashup of Warn, Mean Mother and ComeUP.

Mean Mother (we no longer carry) is a quality brand from Australia and we have sold plenty of them since 2016. Be sure to read the 4wd Toyota Owner article (14mb pdf) about our FJ winch mount and Mean Mother 9500S winch combo!

ComeUP has seen extensive use in Arctic conditions and expeditions, is made in Taiwan and has a very good reputation. They start off around $900 and go up from there. Again, components, design and packaging are great.

Warn needs no introduction, their brand is known world wide. Warn’s high end winches are made in Oregon, lower range in China. Expect top quality and support from Warn.

So which is the better winch? Do a Google search for ‘recovery winch problems’ or something similar and what will you find? Mostly Warn of course. Why? Simply because there are far more out there, not necessarily because Warn is lower quality.

Every single winch ever built will eventually fail. Whether it’s 1 year or 30 years down the road, lightly or heavily used, there is no firm criteria. What is the most common failure? Solenoids/contactors hands down. Most everyone uses sealed one piece Albright type solenoids now instead of the old ‘trashcan’ style that you would see on a Harbor Freight (30 day warranty) unit. The one piece versions are far superior when it comes to withstanding water, heat and vibration. Next is…and don’t laugh, coating failure. Yep, the paint or powder coat tends to come off. Some manufacturers use hydrocoating on their winches and seems to hold up very well but coatings on winches are really no different from paint on your 4×4 but in the form of powder coat, every so often you should clean the grime off and give it a coat of wax…no kidding. Keep a cover on it if you can. Next is motor failure, rare but it happens, especially if you over work the winch and the winch doesn’t have a thermal cutoff switch. Anything man makes can and will fail, but those are the common items.


How about steel cable vs synthetic rope? Volumes have been written about this and arguments from both sides have some valid points so I’ll simply give my opinion. I will never ever use steel cable again if I can help it. Maybe on my car trailer where the pull is short and straight and the load is typically light and predictable. But on my 4×4 it will be synthetic every time. Why? Several reasons. Weight, a spool of 3/8″ x 85′ Amsteel or Dyneema is about 3.6 lbs, aluminum hawse 1.5 lbs for a total of 5.1 lbs. Steel cable on the other hand along with the roller fairlead can be up around 30 lbs or more. Then there’s safety, synthetic doesn’t store near as much energy as steel cable. Snap a rope and it typically falls to the ground, snap steel and you better have a winch blanket on it or you may lose body or truck parts.

Rope is much easier to work with but the drawback is abrasion and UV. On our integrated winch mounts the winch is under the bumper cover so UV doesn’t come in to play as much but if you have an exposed winch installation like on a Jeep then it is a very good idea to have a winch cover, and use it. Rope abrasion is best dealt with by using a rock sheath, a ballistic nylon cover over the rope that can be positioned over a rock edge or other spot where the rope may rub. Steel cable can rust so it has to be maintained as well. Like I said, use your Googlefu and read some of the very good articles out there about steel vs synthetic.


Generally speaking I feel as of today 95% of the winch owners out there will use their winch 1-3 times per year, sure, you may use it a few times a month but very few more than that. An entry level Viper Elite or Warn VR EVO will do nicely at 10 or 12K ratings. Should you go with Warn? If you have the money it won’t be lost purchasing a Warn M or Zeon series… or ComeUp for that matter.

Most people are buying ‘insurance’, light trails, fishing/hunting/camping or even moving a downed tree, this is 95% of us and for those it probably won’t make sense to purchase a $1000 winch but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. For most of us though a VR EVO is all the winch we need.

Many will ask what I run on my vehicles? Right now, my 2008 FJ Trail Team, with one of our winch mounts, has a ComeUP 9500Rs, my last FJC started with a Viper 12K steel cable (still on my car hauler working hard years later) and then an Engo 10k  with synthetic (still operating today with the new owner). My previous FJ62 had a Mean Mother Edge 12k on an ARB bumper, worked beautifully. 

I classify the Warn Zeon and M series and ComeUp winches as expedition class units, but you will pay for them and their abilities. Do you need a built in wireless remote to fully operate your winch (now available on the VR EVO) or is an add on module ok? Is in and out enough or do you want temperature warnings too? Do I care about the brake design? Motor specs? Line speed? There are plenty of details that can drive your decision and the best advice is to study the specs of each winch.

This is very much a case of getting what you pay for but either way we feel that we have a solution to your recovery winch needs.

Here is a handy link to Warn’s website so you can compare specs to each of their winch models:

If you are in the market for one of our winch mounts and are wondering about which winch will fit please read this article.

You can shop our line of recovery winches here:

Updated: Sept 2020



Here are a series of customer made videos showing the installation of our winch bumper in his FJ Cruiser along with a Smittybilt winch. He does a good job of covering things which makes this a great tool to go along with our install docs. As the Tacoma install is almost identical it’s worth watching for those applications as well.

First Video: This model of our mount is from 2014 or earlier. We have since changed a few things including going to 1″ wide shackle mounts, more drainage in the winch tub and made some slight clearance adjustments to the torque arms as noted in the video. We also now include some plates that go on over the 3 outer mounting studs for better faster surface contact, never had a problem but we thought it was a good idea. The torque arms are installed and welded with jigs but can flex left to right even though they are .250″ thick as that is not their intended purpose but rather to arrest the torque forces created by winch usage in a front to back and vertical planes, so flexing them for a perfect fit is perfectly ok.

As noted in the install docs, the AC lines will vary from vehicle to vehicle in their alignment, some need to be moved as noted, some do not, our V notch in the rear usually gives plenty of clearance in 2007-2009 models but in 2010 Toyota made some changes and will usually require moving the AC line back as noted in the video. Using fuel line is also noted in the docs and was used here as well, makes for a good long term insurance policy against abrasion that I have verified on my own FJ and others over a period of 7+ years. Every winch solenoid box is different and routing the 2 to 4 gauge wires are therefore all different but zip tying them to the bracing, as done in this video, always works well and is highly recommended.

Cutting the plastic is typically a very simple task but the rusted fasteners made your job a bit tougher, you he was smart to leave some plastic to trim to fit as noted in the docs. 


Video 2:

Part I

Part II

Part III


Video 3:




We offer powder coating as an option for our Winch Mount Bumpers and FJ Camera Armor. While some will still opt to paint or coat their own bumpers (this article discusses more), many of you prefer to receive your bumper or cam armor coated and ready to install.

We have created some custom formulations to match the factory colors using quality Tiger Drylac powder. The finish is a 20% matte with a decent texture and is available in black, gray

or silver. Be aware that powder coat will still show some marks from the bending process and any welding beads or heat deformities.

Many manufacturers will only chemical etch then spray one coat of powder. We commercially blast then shoot a coat of zinc primer followed by two coats of powder. This application will stand up much better to weather, road debris and the northern winters. When you see people complaining about coating issues on competitor’s products it’s because they are likely chemically etching then spraying one coat of powder, the bean counters rule those decisions. We, on the other hand, want your U.S. Off Road products to have a coating that will stand up to the abuse our products are designed for.

While we try to keep coated product in stock, please expect a 4-7 working day delay in shipping if you purchase powder coat. Custom colors are available, please contact us to quote you accordingly.

Please understand that even though we go to great lengths to package and protect the powder coat we are not be liable for any shipping damage to the coating itself. Luckily it rarely happens.

Pro tip: Powder coat is similar to a single stage paint which has no clear coat, so be sure to clean out any dirt and debris after months of use and road grime, give it a bath then wax it. Yes, a good coat of wax will help prolong your coating….and don’t laugh but your winch housings could use a coat too from time to time!

See the high resolution photos below to get a better idea of texture and sheen.


I receive quite a few questions about how to prepare and coat or paint our winch mount bumpers and FJ Camera Armor so I thought I would cover it a bit more here. We sell all of our products in bare steel but also offer powder coating in black, gray, silver and other colors. 

First off, there is no right or wrong when it comes to coatings. I prefer paint vs powder coating if I am wheeling a vehicle hard simply because it’s easier to patch and match. However, most of our customers have us powder coat their winch mount and it always turns out great. Many of you have coated your bumper with Linex or Rhino (or whatever polyurea you prefer) and that is a good way to go as well. Some like POR-15 which is another great solution, just make sure you topcoat it as it’s sensitive to UV and will turn gray then fail in a hurry. The main draw back to powder coat and polyurea is that when you damage it you will need to take it back to the applicator to let them respray. Both are difficult to match for repairs. 

On much of my personal stuff I’ll have it powder coated as it’s a tough finish. Once it becomes trail ugly then I’ll sand the scuffs, remove any surface rust, prime those spots and then shoot with Rustoleum Bed Spray as discussed below. Powder Coat makes a great base for down the road!

Rustoleum’s Bed Spray is a great alternative. Now I wouldn’t really want to use it as bedliner, I don’t think it goes on thick enough or is tough enough but for a bumper coating it’s perfect. It has a slightly textured finish, is easy to patch and covers up gashes and scratches easily. Matches the factory FJ bumper cover well too if that is what you are working on.

Rustoleum Bed Spray
Rustoleum Bed Spray


To prepare the bumper you will want to give it a good scuffing so the paint will adhere properly. A scotchbrite pad or, my favorite, a 3M Paint remover disc will do a great job of removing any flash rust (these come bare steel with a rust inhibitor coating) and will give a good finish for painting. But just about anything will work, sand paper, wire wheel or a flap disc.

3M Power Sanding Paint And Rust Stripper
3M Power Sanding Paint And Rust Stripper

Once you have the metal prepped you will want to give it a good cleaning. I suggest a wax and grease remover which can be found at most auto parts stores.

Wax & Grease Remover
Wax & Grease Remover

Make sure you get every square inch clean or your primer will not stick. You need to remove any oils and rust inhibitors from the manufacturing process along with dirt, metal shavings and what not. While we laser cut and MIG weld our bumpers, which keeps mess to a minimum, we also give it a good wipe down prior to shipping, there will always be some left over trash. Proper preparation is 90% of the battle. Buy a big roll of shop towels and keep wiping down until you see no black on the towels. Let it dry for half an hour so that any residual grease remover has time to evaporate.

Now you are ready to prime the bumper or FJ Camera Armor. I always suggest priming and painting the winch tub area first then after that has a chance to dry shoot the front/visible areas. Let the visible areas dry then flip it over and give it all a second coat. You want to paint the tub first as a winch will tear up soft paint so let it dry the most, the outside is last so you aren’t flipping it over again and it can dry nice and smooth. Just a suggestion. If you hang it to paint make darn sure you have it secured well (I suggest a chain), you don’t want 50-70 lbs hitting the ground…or your toes.

Primers are where you have quite a bit of latitude as there are tons of good primers out there. I prefer to use SEM self etching primers but you will typically only find them in automotive paint stores. It’s also going to depend on what your final coating will be as to what you might use. Make sure you read any application instructions before priming.

SEM Primer
SEM Primer

After you have applied 2-3 good coats of primer and waited the appropriate amount of time for it to cure then you are ready to paint. Again, there are a ton of great solutions out there, just don’t skimp on quality. The Rustoleum truck bed spray is about $8-10 per can at most stores and is easy to find, good quality spray paint is about the same price and other solutions go up from there.


Whatever you choose, make sure you take your time, don’t rush the drying process as you will be installing a heavy piece of steel on to your vehicle along with a winch and if the paint is still soft you will destroy your work in a hurry. Remember, it’s not just about looks, you want to protect your investment for the long run from rust and corrosion so give the primer and paint plenty of time to dry before installation. 2-3 good coats should suffice and I would suggest giving it 24-48 hours to dry before you start turning wrenches.

If you decide to go with us powder coating your winch mount then know that it’s done right. They get an industrial media blasting, every piece, inside and out, then it receives two coats of zinc primer and two coats of powder. This is designed to stand up to many northern winters, salt and coastal environments. Many applicators out there will chemically treat the surface instead of priming and give it only one coat (heat curing) of powder, you do NOT want that on anything you mount to an off road vehicle!

Be sure to visit our Customer Photos pages to view tons of customer installation photos showing some great examples of colors and coating solutions. 

And of course… you gotta visit our store and shop for some new goodies for your off road rig!

Installed and ready to roll!
Installed and ready to roll!


Master Pull first introduced synthetic winch lines to the off road market in the late 1990’s. Synthetic ropes had already been highly used in industrial applications, such as commercial fishing and mining. The numerous advantages of synthetic winch lines made them an obvious choice for many off roaders.


One of the most important features of synthetic winch lines is the safety benefits they provide. Synthetic lines do not store energy while under load and are very lightweight. This means that if something should go wrong and the rope breaks, it will harmlessly fall to the ground. Steel wire rope on the other hand, stores a tremendous amount of energy under load, and in the case of breakage, will violently snap back and whiplash. This can cause serious injury to people involved in the winching procedure.

Synthetic winch lines don’t have any wire splinters or burrs like steel wire ropes commonly do, so there is no chance of getting a surprise hand injury while handling a synthetic line.

Finally, there is the issue of weight. Synthetic winch lines are much lighter than their steel counterpart, which reduces the chance of strain and body fatigue when handling lines in winching procedures. This may not be as noticeable when using smaller diameter lines, but in applications that involve very heavy equipment, steel wire rope lines and extensions can weigh upwards of 200 pounds and require multiple people to handle them. Synthetic winch lines are up to 80% lighter, making them much easier to carry and handle.


Synthetic winch lines have breaking strengths 30-90% higher than steel wire rope. This is a tremendous increase and allows for smaller diameter winch lines to be used when switching to synthetic, therefore increasing the amount of line that can be installed on the winch.


Synthetic winch lines are up to 80% lighter than steel wire rope. Aside from the safety benefits mentioned above, this offers some obvious advantages. On a typical recreational off road vehicle, switching to a synthetic winch line and an aluminum hawse fairlead will shave up to 30 pounds of weight from the front of the vehicle. Rigging vehicle extractions is also much easier, especially in loose, hilly terrain. Synthetic winch lines are so light, they even float.

No Kinks

Once a steel wire cable kinks it’s breaking strength is seriously compromised and should be removed from service. You don’t need to worry about kinks with a synthetic rope because it doesn’t have memory.

Ease of use

There are many aspects of synthetic winch lines which make them easier to use than steel wire rope. As mentioned in the section on safety, synthetic lines are up to 80% lighter, making it much easier to rig up vehicle extractions. Synthetic lines are also much more forgiving to hands than steel wire rope because they do not have sharp burrs or “meat hooks” as they are sometimes referred to.

Reprinted from Master Pull:


The guys at Top Speed Photography have sent us some neat photos of them installing our winch mount along with a Warn Zeon 10s winch in their 2013 Cavalry Blue FJ. Not only do these guys produce some nice photography for others but in these sessions gave us a good look at how things all fit within the factory bumper cover. The first shots with the bare mount are test fits, after pulling everything back off they painted the inside of the mount flat black and the visible front fascia silver to match the FJ’s trim. Make sure to visit our Google+ page for more photos from this installation and many others.

Here’s a quick video of the synthetic line being spooled in to the Warn winch.


Many people ask us what winch will work in conjunction with our FJ Winch Bumper and our Tacoma Winch Bumpers. The answer is that just about any winch will fit the mount. We have holes drilled for the standard 10″ x 4.5″ mounting bolt pattern used by 99% of the winches out there. What can limit your selection of a winch is the bracing behind the grille of the Tacoma and FJ or the A/C line on various year model FJ’s and the design of your winch and solenoid mounting. Visit our Google+ page for more customer installation photos and winch combinations.

Please read this full article but as a rule of thumb we suggest using a removable/remote solenoid style winch on FJ Cruisers and Tacomas. 

We offer an in depth line of combination packages with winches, shackles and more that take the guess work out of this.

You can also stagger the solenoid box off to the side some to clear any center grille bracing or A/C line.


Mean Mother 9500s
Mean Mother 9500s


One dimension to watch is the winch depth (front to rear). Most are around 6.25 to 6.5 inches. The winch tub on our bumpers is 8″ wide and there are a few winches out there wider than that. Because of certain clearances it’s best to stick with a winch that is less than 6.75″ wide, which most are.

For example:

  • Viper Max: 6.3″
  • Engo 10000S: 6.3″
  • ComeUP DV-9S: 6.3″

…and most others, just check the specifications on the winch you are buying to make sure.

Below is a compilation of known winches that will work using our mount in any 2007-2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser and 2012+ Toyota Tacoma. That is not to say no other winch will work but the winches listed below have been fitted and are in use with our winch mount. Test fit your winch before painting your mount to make sure you don’t have any fitment issues to deal with! We also suggest testing the functionality of your winch, used or new, before installing it.

Here’s an example of how much this setup will weigh:

Winch mount bumper: 55.00 lbs (63.5 lbs (Tacoma)
Viper winch with no rope: 51.40 lbs
85′ x 3/8″ AmSteel rope: 3.6 lbs
Aluminum hawse: 1.5 lbs
Coating and fasteners: 1 lb
Total weight: 113 lbs (121 lbs Tacoma)

Mean Mother, Superwinch, ComeUp or one of the Engo winches and any other similarly styled winches that have a removable solenoid/control box will work quite well. Pay attention to the control cable port orientation on your selected winch. If it’s pointed straight up, for example, you won’t be able to get a control cable connected without opening the hood or adding an extension cable and mounting it in the grille or somewhere accessible. 


We are also finding that some winches with integrated solenoids can and will fit. Something like the Warn Zeon 10S fits, snug, but it fits. Depending on the year of your FJ the A/C line might be routed in a fashion that could interfere with the rearmost portion of the solenoid. 


ZEON10-SAs you can see the Zeon is 10.52″ tall but still fits. The Viper Elite is 10″ tall and 4″ narrower at 20.5″ wide so it should fit as well vertically but is a bit deeper and is untested. 2010+ FJ’s route the AC line differently and will hit the solenoid on the Elite.  The center brace behind the grille will interfere with the Elite as well. Some have made it work by trimming the brace. As a rule of thumb we suggest using a removable/remote solenoid style winch on FJ Cruisers and Tacomas.








Updated for 2019 at the bottom.

While this is geared towards the FJ Cruiser it will apply equally to all Tacoma models.

After installing one of our FJ Winch Mounts and Viper Max 12K winch in my 2010 FJ I had a total drop of 3/8″ up front, not bad but with the factory rake it didn’t need any more. I decided on the 5100’s from Down South Motorsports and went with the 3rd notch which was perfect. Ride is very good, much less nose dive and just generally looks better. I couldn’t be happier.

Here are my before/after measurements:

Prior to winch/mount install:
LF: 35″
RF: 35 1/4″
LR: 36 5/8″
RR: 36 1/2″

After winch mount:
LF: 34 5/8″
RF: 34 7/8″
LR: 36 5/8″
RR: 36 1/2″

After winch/mount and 5100 install:
LF: 36 1/4″
RF: 36 1/4″
LR: 36 5/8″
RR: 36 5/8″ (seems to have leveled out on all 4 now)

So, I have gained a net total of about 1 1/4″ from stock to now or 1 5/8″ before installing the winch…however you want to look at it.

After a year of driving it this way, and quite happy with the results still, I decided to take the front up to the 4th notch on the 5100 shocks and bought some Icon 2″ lift springs for the rear from TRDParts4UDown South Motorsports was kind enough to provide me with a set of 5100 shocks for the rear that can accommodate the added lift. As I haul my M101A2 trailer quite often and keep some gear in the back of the FJ it was riding nose high most of the time. Having a little rake is a good thing when dealing with loads and helps keep the MPG up as well.

New measurements:
F: 37″
R: 38 1/4″

I expect the rear to settle a bit, maybe 1/4-1/2″ or so, we’ll see. So, 1 to 1 1/4″ is not really much of a rake.

I’ve measured several stock FJ’s which could have 1 1/2 to 1 3/4″ of rake. When the tires are replaced I’ll likely go with some 285’s of some sort. As a side note, my first tank of fuel after raising it I recorded 18.75 MPG which is as good or better than after I lifted it to the 3rd notch. I suspect having some rake keeps airflow reduced under the FJ. I also noticed a reduction in roof rack wind noise.

Update April 2014: I’ve had a set of 285/75/16 Hankook DynaPro MT03 tires installed. The old BFG Rugged Trails in 265/75/16 were 31.8″ in diameter where the DynaPros are 33″, so a gain of 1.2″ total there, not necessarily a full 1.2″ in height though. Then I installed our new FJ Winch Mount Bumper (V 2.0) which is 4.5lbs lighter than the previous version at 52.5lbs, an Engo winch with synthetic rope, aluminum hawse and two of our Sirius LED lights for a net gain of 1″ to 38″ in height, up from 37″ previously. (see below) Here’s an example of how much this setup will weigh:

Winch mount bumper: 52.50 lbs
Engo 10000 winch with no rope: 53 lbs
85′ x 3/8″ AmSteel rope: 3.6 lbs
Aluminum hawse: 1.5 lbs
Coating and fasteners: 1 lb

Total weight: 112 lbs


  Before/after pics:

Stock suspension.
Stock suspension.
Stock suspension.
Stock suspension.
3rd notch on 5100 shocks.
3rd notch on 5100 shocks.
3rd notch on 5100 shocks.
3rd notch on 5100 shocks.
4th notch on 5100 shocks and Icon 2" springs and 5100 shocks rear.
4th notch on 5100 shocks and Icon 2″ springs and 5100 shocks rear.


DynaPro 285/75/16
DynaPro 285/75/16



Fast forward to December 2018 and having sold my beloved 2010 a few years ago to a life long friend of mine who was wanting to trade up from his well used 2007 FJ (which I regretted doing every day since I sold it) and I decide to buy another FJ. I found a very clean 2008 Trail Teams with a TRD Supercharger and a few minor mods but overall stock with 95,000 miles.

First thing I noticed was the front end was sitting very low. No surprise, I’ve measured many of these and after X amount of miles the front springs tend to sag. This one was no different at 34″ from ground to fender flare. It should have measured 35″. I decided to try the new (since my last FJ) 6112 coil over shocks as the front springs needed replacing anyway. The 5160’s are the companion shocks for the rear but as every warehouse I deal with was out for many weeks to come I opted for the 5100’s and if they seemed out of sync with the 6112’s up front I could swap them out later. So far though they seem to work well together.

Here are the initial measurements with the OEM style BFG KO2 A/T’s.

F: 34″
R: 36.5″


The rear was pretty typical but as you can see compared to my measurements on my 2010 up top the 2008 was sitting an inch or so low in the front…and rode like it. More go kart than FJ.

After installing the 6112/5100 combo with some new Icon 2″ springs in the rear and new upper strut mounts up front this is where it landed:

FR: 38.50″
FL: 38.25″
RR: 39.00″
RL: 38.50″

Typical of the ‘FJ lean’ it had .25-.50″ of sag on the driver side yet we came up a total of 4.25-4.50″ lift up front! Why the big jump over the advertised 2.5″ from Bilstein. Simple, we gained the lost 1-1.25″ lost up front by the sagging OEM springs and then I installed a set of Hankook Dynapro M/T’s in 285/70/16 tires which are 32.8″ vs the 32″ BFG’s so that accounts for .800″.  That gets us pretty close to the advertised 2.5″ from Bilstein.

  • If you have over 75k miles on your FJ expect a few things.Once you lift a stock FJ the inner CV boots will probably leak.  You will need to cut the factory clamps off and install some special stainless worm gear type clamps with rounded edges. I ordered up the following small and large clamps (for the outer boot) from McMaster Carr for reference:

PN: 5574K16 – Worm-Drive Clamps with Smooth Band for Soft Hose/Tube, 304 Stainless Steel, 1″- 1-5/8″ Clamp ID Range, Packs of 10

PN: 5574K24 – Worm-Drive Clamps with Smooth Band for Soft Hose/Tube, 304 Stainless Steel, 3-1/2″ to 4-3/8″ Clamp ID, Packs of 5

  • Don’t be surprised if you start hearing popping up front. Your balljoints and bushing may be worn and after sitting at a certain angle with a specific load for XX amount of miles it’s to be expected. For 2.5″ of lift you don’t HAVE to replace the upper control arms but I will this time around as my components are worn. Those are another topic on their own.

I have not installed one of our winch mounts as of this writing but have one along with a ComeUP SEAL Gen2 9.5rs sitting here waiting. This will add about another 100 lbs net on the nose which should drop the front another .250-375″ up front and preload the front end just a touch more. As it rides now the springs are really very good, some nervousness up front on really choppy roads but that could be shock valving as well but it’s very minor and overall rides much better than stock, especially since my front springs were done. I expect the ride to improve a touch with some more weight up front.  Dropping the nose another 1/4 to 3/8″ will help increase the rake front to rear. My 2010 actually gained 1.5 MPG back when I did this and I anticipate a gain when I do it on my 08 as well. We shall see.

Stock, with the supercharger, I was routinely seeing 17.5 MPG as long as I kept my foot off of the skinny pedal. Once I installed the tires and lift it dropped down to 14.5 for several tanks but has settled in around 15.6.

I will update this once the winch mount and winch is installed.

UPDATE 7-15-19 (read all the way to the bottom): With one of our winch mounts and a ComeUp 9.5Rs installed the front end dropped 1.00″. Why? The stock springs on the 6112’s are 600 lbs/inch, which is fine stock but that’s it. With one of our mounts I’d suggest 650 lb springs and with a full plate bumper and winch, 700 lbs, which are available from Bilstein. More to come.

Also, on another note, I weighed all of the items removed for a winch mount install. The plastic chin, the section cut out behind it, the lower grille and of course the crash bar and mounts. Total is 20.2 lbs.

Here are a few lousy before and after photos to illustrate the change.

Before with sagging front springs and stock TT shocks.

After with Bilstein 6112/5100/Icon 2″ added along with Hankook 285 M/T’s.

More Details: After noticing the 1″ drop I realized one thing I forgot to take in to account was the weight of my supercharger/aftercooler setup which is around 90 lbs. So, with the net gain of 90 lbs from the mount and ComeUp winch along with the supercharger I’m at 180 lbs or so which is too much for the ‘stock’ 6112 springs which are rates at 600 lbs/in.

So, to clarify…

If you intend to keep it stock you can run the 600 lb springs perfectly, you can run our winch mount and a winch and probably be ok, although steel cable may push it. I would suggest the following:

600 lb springs: Stock or our mount with a winch and synthetic rope/hawse

650 lb springs: Same as above and/or a winch with steel cable and a roller fairlead.

700 lb springs: If you happen to have a supercharger plus our mount and a winch or if you are running a full steel bumper and winch.

Bilstein offers 650 and 700 lb springs or you can go with Eibach, King or Icon at 14″ and a 3″ ID.