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CHP’s Heavy-Duty Winch Bumpers

Traffic officers may no longer need a tow truck to clear a road or assist in cleaning up after an accident with the help of the Reunel heavy-duty front bumper and the Warn winch. The California Highway Patrol can attest to the success of these products, particularly the Reunel bumper, a hand-crafted product that is one of, if not the strongest, vehicle bumper ever built.

The CHP began using both products roughly 10 years ago, having them upfitted at the dealer on sport-utility vehicles that were used in remote or mountainous areas where access can be difficult.

The Reunel Manufacturing Company in Maxwell, CA makes the winch bumpers utilized by the CHP. The Reunel Extreme Duty front winch bumper is a solid-welded construction bumper with solid-steel shafting grill and headlight guards. Reunel also offers stainless steel channels for standard and winch rear bumpers.

Reunel first developed these heavy-duty winch bumpers in the mid-1990s and modeled them after the rear bumpers produced in the 1970s and 1980s for agricultural equipment. Reunel President Dianne Reusser-Nelson said her company needed to find customers outside of agriculture in the 1990s just to stay alive.

“What we did was curve our rear bumper and put it on the front of vehicles and a (customer base) just developed,” Reusser-Nelson said. “Each bumper is a labor of love and commitment and they are used on all types of vehicles for law enforcement, hunting, agriculture, fire department needs and more. What’s unique about our product is that we wrap the frame with ½-inch thick steel both horizontally and vertically.”

The towing capabilities are impressive. From a ball mounted directly on the bumper, or with a welded-in receiver tube, an individual can tow 20,000 pounds with a 6,120-tongue weight. The bolt-on receiver will tow 15,000 pounds with a tongue weight of 5,180.

The FBI can also attest to the strength of the Reunel winch bumper since the agency has used it as a battering ram in an effort to knock down buildings and doors in the past, Reusser-Nelson said.

CHP Equipment Inspector Reginald “Bo” Bohanan said the Reunel bumper and Warn winch provide roughly 100 of the agency’s sport-utility vehicles’ increased versatility.

"They allow one officer to have the tools available to pull vehicles out of snow or push vehicles off the road by themselves with little or no difficulty,” Bohanan said. Bohanan has been with the CHP for 27 years. “We make these available on vehicles in our more remote or hilly areas where wreckers or two trucks might not be readily available.”

When the CHP first purchased the bumpers and winch products, it was virtually impossible for officers in rural, hilly areas to be able to clear a road after a major accident. At times, this could result in major traffic backups, road closures and could result in even more accidents.

Most of the CHP vehicles that have been upfitted with these products are newer Expeditions and older Tahoes. One officer can easily operate the winch and the push bumper simultaneously. There is little or no training required to use them or to teach an officer how to clear a road with these products and the operating manual answers every question a law enforcement officer might have.

“It’s an awesome tool for our officers,” Bohanan said. “It allows us to address the situation quickly and get the roadway open.”

Traffic officer Randy Fisher of the CHP’s Truckee, CA office agrees. As a patrolman in the mountainous region of northeast California near Reno, Fisher has become an expert at using the winch bumper. The Truckee area got 175 inches of snow last winter. He has used the bumper to push vehicles over a summit, pull them off a summit, drag fallen trees off a highway, and assist in stabilizing vehicles to help get accident victims out of a vehicle.

“It’s definitely a one-officer job,” Fisher said. “I’ve used it in storms where we get three or more feet of snow and it’s easy to use tow chains with them. “It’s so easy to use and I can’t even count how many times it has helped me out while on the road.”

A number of other law enforcement agencies in California utilize the Reunel bumper and Warn winch, according to Bohanan, as do agencies in other parts of the country. “It’s something we deem necessary in certain areas,” he said. “I can tell you there are a number of agencies who would love to have this that are in remote or rural areas and if there are some who don’t they should consider it.”

One of the unique features of the Reunel heavy-duty winch bumper is that the company can build bumpers out of stainless steel if requested and they can be customized to specific agency needs such as if some departments require additional lighting. “We can do pretty much any type of customization as long as it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the strength of the bumper,” Reusser-Nelson said.

A typical rear bumper (non-winch capable) for new model trucks weighs in at 170 pounds. A bolt-on receiver will add an additional 22 pounds. On older model vehicles, the original style bumper weighs in at 110 pounds.

Front bumpers vary greatly from truck to truck. The bumpers are made of 3/16-inch or ¼-inch plate mild steel, or 3/16-inch plate solid 304 stainless steel-hand polished to a mirror finish. All Reunel brackets are made from ½-inch plate steel. A full line of DuPont color matching options is available for the winch bumpers. Reunel uses an etching primer, primer sealer, a DuPont color coat, and finally, a clear coat for its bumpers and they will have the same finish as the vehicle.

In addition installation is easy and few if any modifications are necessary. Reunel bumpers bolt to the side and bottom of a vehicle frame, so it most cases it doesn’t require any involvement with the bed.

Warn winches provided law enforcement vehicles the brute strength that heavier trucks and sport-utility vehicles as part of a fleet need. These winches provide pulling capacities of up to 16,500 pounds and higher-strength carrier plates to handle heavy gear-train stresses. They are American-made and considered among the most powerful on the market.

Mike Scott has contributed to more than 70 newspapers, magazines, and Web sites. He lives in Waterford, MI, and can be reached at

Photos courtesy of CHP officer Steven Bryan.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2006

Rating : 9.0

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