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How to Install a Trailer Hitch

Most vehicles aren't built to handle heavy hauling. Whenever you're carrying cargo for a camping trip or towing equipment in and out of storage, you need to have the appropriate hitch on your vehicle. Once you find the right model, it's important you know how to install a trailer hitch correctly. Here are the tools you'll need and the steps to follow when installing a hitch.

What you'll need:

  • Trailer hitch. A hitch typically comes with appropriate nuts and bolts.
  • Car jack and jack stands. Lift the vehicle with the jack and use the stands to keep it suspended.
  • Drill and bit set. If there aren't factory holes, drill new ones onto the vehicle's frame.
  • Safety goggles. Wear goggles to prevent debris from flying into your eyes as you drill.
  • C-clamps. Have two C-clamps on hand to hold the hitch while you drill holes and bolt it on.
  • Ratchet and socket set. Use a corresponding ratchet and socket set to attach the bolts.
  • Torque wrench. This device securely fastens the bolts once the hitch is attached to the vehicle.

Step 1: Jack the car up and insert stands.

Read your owner's manual or check the bottom panel for an indicator to see where to insert the car jack. Once it's in the right spot, use the jack to lift the vehicle. Place jack stands under the vehicle and use the car jack to slowly lower the vehicle on each stand.

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Step 2: Check for holes on the vehicle's frame.

Some vehicles, especially heavy duty pickup trucks, already have factory-installed holes. Check underneath the bumper on the vehicle's frame to see if it has appropriate holes. If it doesn't, you'll need to drill your own.

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Step 3: Drill holes into the frame.

Some new hitches come with instructions detailing where each hole belongs. If your hitch doesn't have these instructions, use the holes in the hitch as a guide to drill holes on the vehicle's frame. Temporarily mount the hitch with two C-clamps as you drill each hole.

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Step 4: Hand-tighten the bolts.

With the C-clamps still attached, start to mount the hitch. Use an appropriate ratchet and socket set to tighten the nuts and bolts in each hole.

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Step 5: Fasten the bolts with a torque wrench.

Use a torque wrench to make sure each bolt is securely fastened. It's important that these are on tight since your hitch will help you carry heavy items.

 

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Step 6: Remove the jack stands and lower the car.

Raise your jack and remove the jack stands. Once the stands are removed, lower the vehicle slowly with the jack until the tires are on the ground.

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