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Viking Offroad 350 Series Aluminum Hawse Fairlead
 

Jeeps and winches....they just go together, if you know what I mean.  Shortly after I got my TJ, I picked up a winch and winch plate and mounted it up front.  The winch came with steel cable on the winch and with it, a roller fairlead.  When I re-spooled my winch with synthetic winch line, I did some work on the winch plate, cleaned up the roller fairlead a bit, and continued to use it with the new line.  Years of use with cable on the rollers left less than a smooth surface.  The rollers also attracted some rust.  It was finally time to swap out the roller fairlead for an aluminum hawse fairlead. 
 

So according to the box on the workbench, it might have been D-Day.  I'm not so sure about that but grandsons will be grandsons.....so we'll focus our attention on what came in the white box and skip the D-Day box for now.  Inside the white box was a Viking Offroad 350 Series aluminum hawse fairlead.  It came with 7/16" stainless mounting hardware too (more on that later).

At first glance, the 350 Series shares some of the same properties as other aluminum fairleads.  It has two holes in it and a big slot in the center.  It is intended to be used with a standard 10" bolt pattern.  That is about where the similarities end. 
 

What is not readily apparent with the 350 Series is just how thick this thing really is until you compare it to the competition.  In the above photo, I placed the Vikiing Offroad fairlead on top of a regular 3/4" thick aluminum fairlead.....the later I won in a raffle some time ago.  The 350 Series is twice that dimention at 1.5" thick.  It also has been Type III hard anodized for a stronger working finish and better color integrity. 

So you are asking yourself so what?  Why do I need a thick hawse fairlead?  It's all about the synthetic rope.  The 350 Series, due to its 1.5" thickness, provides a larger working radius (or maybe should I say "rubbing" radius) for the synthetic line to be drawn across when doing any kind of angular pull.  Drawing the synthetic line across a small radius (this occurs when the winch pull is anything other than straight ahead of your vehicle) reduces its working life.  Just like metal tubing which has a minimum bend radius, the synthetic line prefers a larger bend radius as well, so to speak.  Once again, we see that bigger is better. <grin>

So let's get this thing on the winch plate and see how it looks.  The directions supplied by Viking Offroad are pretty straight forward.  There are but four steps in the accompanying instructions, which are:

1.  Remove the old winch line or winch cable.
2.  Remove old fairlead.
3.  Install the new fairlead.
4.  Install the synthetic winch line per the manufacturer's directions.

Sounds like a 30 minute job assuming you stop for some cold refreshments half way through, right?  Not quite, as I was soon to discover.
 

Removing my AmSteel-Blue winch line was easy enough.  I slipped the winch into free spool and pulled the line off the winch.  So much for step #1.  In the above photo, you can see one of the two bolts holding the roller fairlead in position.  Step #2 is remove the old fairlead.  Unfortunately, I can't get to the nuts (behind the winch pate) for the bolts that hold the roller fairlead in place.  Hmmm.......oh  boy, I get to remove the bumper and the winch plate (with winch attached) so I can remove the fairlead. 

Six bolts later, the front bumper is free to come off of the frame rails.  I should mention that a generous coating of anti-seize, during the last bumper installation, resulted in the bolts coming out very easily.  You don't have to read too many Jeep forum threads to find situations where rusted bolts cause issues.

With the bumper out of the way, I popped the hood and removed the winch power cables from the battery and fished them out to the front of the vehicle.  With two more bolts removed, I was able to lift the winch plate off of the frame rails so I could work on it.
 

I laid the winch over on its side to get to the bottom of the winch plate.  Winches have a standard 4 bolt pattern (or at least the good ones do) that attach the winch to the winch plate.  These Grade 5 bolts had also received a coating of anti-seize when the winch was last mounted. 


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