Trailer Hitch Installation: 3 Tips

MINI Cooper with Airstream

More drivers are taking more along with them by installing trailer hitches.  On cars they offer added convenience of towing small trailers or adding bike racks without resorting to awkward roof mounts.  Trailer hitches also open tons of possibilities for work or play when connecting them to RVs, SUVs, trucks and vans.

Like any equipment application, trailer hitches made for your specific vehicle should be reasonably straightforward to install.  There are still plenty of things to consider and follow in the process.  Once you have confirmed the proper setup and capacities with your vehicle owner’s manual, follow these tips for a safe and trouble-free installation.

Proper tools.  Forget what you’ve inferred from infomercials; there is no single substitute for a full set of tools.  Trailer hitch installation is not one of those times to make like MacGyver and get creative.  Have every tool you need at the ready before you begin.  If you don’t have something called for in the instructions, get it.

Follow along.  Just as you’ll want to gather every needed tool beforehand, give the instructions a good read and follow them to the letter.  The trailer hitch may be designed to fit your vehicle, but that doesn’t mean it won’t require preparation or even slight modification.  You might have to adjust the exhaust system a little, so don’t tackle this when the muffler and tailpipe are hot, for example.   

Keep it there.  If your trailer hitch installation doesn’t stay secure, all your work is for nothing.  Prop the hitch or use C-clamps to keep it level and in place during installation.  As you torque the hitch bolts for their final setting, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to use a thread locking adhesive.  Even with lock nuts and washers, it’s an extra measure of assurance.

And when you recheck the bolt torque periodically, clean off built-up dirt and try to spot any bare metal.  Minor scrapes to the trailer hitch are bound to happen even with everyday driving, so with a clean surface, give the scuffs a quick hit of spray paint to give better protection from rust.


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