How Do I Know If I can Install a Tow Hitch Myself?
One of the best things you can do before buying a tow hitch for your truck or car is to find out if the job is even something you want to tackle. Remember that most hitches are considered permanently installed so that you will be driving for a while with the hitch on the back of your car.
Most manufacturers of tow hitches provide instructional videos to help would-be installers. Watch the video and pay attention to how much the exhaust hardware has to be removed or whether holes must be drilled for mounting plates to be anchored. If it seems more of a hassle than you want to handle, then take your truck to a shop, let a professional do it while you drink a cup of coffee, and watch ESPN.
How Does a Trailer Hitch Anchor to the Frame?
Most trailer hitches come with mounting plates and bolts to secure them onto the truck's frame. (This reality means that no drilling is necessary). In addition, truck manufacturers often provide pre-drilled holes (mounting holes) in the frame rails that can be used for a hitch installation. (It is always a good idea to check with your local dealer to see what trailer hitch is built for your particular truck or car. If the hitch the dealer offers requires no drilling, it is worth buying, so you don’t have to drill on your frame, and the installation becomes much more manageable. Just ensure that the hitch is large enough to handle the weight of whatever you will be towing).
Do I Need to Drill Holes in My Truck?
Depending on what type of hitch you purchase or what it is intended for, you may have to drill additional holes through the frame. To find out where to drill, you must place your truck on a lift or jack it up to provide the clearance underneath you will need. Always chock the wheels and use lifts that handle the truck's weight.
(I prefer to use ramps as an extra precaution, and also I make sure that I have someone spot as I back the truck up on them. Once in place, I always place chocks against the front tires, so the truck doesn’t roll down on top of me).
Occasionally, the installer will have to drill holes in the frame. With your truck raised on a lift or jacked up, have someone help you lift the hitch into place. Mark the holes with a marker to see where to drill. Set the hitch aside, for now, grab the drill and make a small pilot hole. Once the pilot hole has been drilled, change the bit to the correct size of the bolts on the hitch and drill the holes. Be sure to use safety glasses so that none of the metal shards from the metal of the frame get into your eyes.
Will Installing a Hitch Void My Truck’s Warranty?
No, you will not void the warranty if you install a hitch as long as the hitch is installed correctly.
What is the procedure for Installing a Trailer Hitch?
Here are some steps to follow if you decide to install the hitch yourself.
Read the Instructions
Even though most of us hate to read the instructions for anything, reading the install guide that came with the trailer hitch is prudent. Many hitches and truck frames have been messed up because someone drilled in the wrong place or didn’t anchor the hitch to the frame correctly.
Assemble the Right Tools
Make sure you have all the tools you will need for the project and have them laid out and accessible. This pre-action will speed up the process considerably if you don’t have to stop every five minutes from trying to find out where you last put something.
Chock the Wheels
Safety is paramount when doing work underneath a truck or car. Only use ordinary jack stands that are reinforced by ramps or something else. You will likely have your whole upper torso under the rear of the truck, and should something jolt the truck; you do not want the back end of 4 - 7 thousand pounds crushing your chest.
Prepare a Safety Light.
You will be working underneath the truck and need some light source. Whether that is a high-powered light that wraps around your head like a fitness band, or a separate light source that you hang from one of the rails, you will need to be able to see what you are doing.
Remove the Spare Tire (if needed)
Since most spare tires are below the rear bumper, you will likely need to remove the spare tire to install the hitch. Most truck hitches are designed to work with the spare tire, so you can bolt it back up after the hitch is installed. Most cars do not carry their spare tire underneath the frame so you should be fine.
Remove Any Exhaust Equipment if Needed
Sometimes the trailer hitches connection to the frame sits above the exhaust pipes or muffler. Be prepared to remove the exhaust brackets and bolts to get a clear shot at the hitch mounts.
Sometimes there are other equipment things in the way as well. Pay careful attention to how things are rigged underneath the car so you can reattach whatever you take off or move. A great idea is to take a smartphone and snap a few pictures before you remove any exhaust hardware, so putting it back together becomes following the picture.
Have Someone Help You Lift the Hitch Into Place
Most hitches are too heavy for one man to lift and tighten the mounting bolts. Have a buddy help hold the hitch into place while you do the bolt-tightening.
Tighten all bolts and mounts to the Manufacturer's Specifications
All bolts and nuts should be tightened to the manufacturer's torque specifications. Use a torque wrench if you have one; if not, find one. (Many auto parts stores will allow you to rent one if you need to).