How to install a DrawTite front hitch on your XJ
By Robert B.
If you take your Jeep off road at all, even for moderate camping, a front recovery point is a must.
Unless your Jeep came stock with Mopar tow hooks, you don't have anything up front that is a safe place to be pulled from.
After researching tow hooks and a front hitch, which you can read about here, I decided to get a DrawTite Class III front receiver.
The cheapest place I could find them
around town and online was at
, which was for $99 for the hitch plus $11 for shipping.
I received my front hitch only a few days after I ordered and I was eager to install it. Before installing
my hitch I crawled underneath my Jeep to see exactly how it mounts. The hitch uses four existing holes, the
sway-bar mounts, and two holes have to be drilled. I took this time to spray the sway-bar mounts with
some WD-40 to help loosen them up, I did this for the next couple days.
The day before I planned on putting on the hitch I removed the old bolts and put in the new bolts, just to make sure they were going to fit. Keep in mind that most of the bolts on an XJ are in metric, so if you use english measurement sockets you'll strip your bolts.
The first half of the install went relatively easy. I had my dad help me, so we didn't have any problems lifting the hitch into place and bolting it in, but if you're by yourself, some jack stands are a must.
- First I removed the four sway-bar bolts, and dropped the sway-bar down a little. Then we slid the front hitch in
between the sway-bar bushings and the frame rails. Use the new longer bolts and washers to secure the
hitch and sway-bar back into place. You could spray some antiseize or WD-40 on the bolts to help prevent them from getting locked into place in the future. Next we had to trim the front air dam a little where the hitch sticks out. We used a good ole' utility knife, but I've heard a jigsaw is easier. We didn't have to trim the air dam for the two side loops at all.
This is where we stopped for the day; we decided to save the drilling for some other day. The hitch was attached
to my Jeep securely, but I definitely didn't plan on using it until the other two bolts were in place.
We didn't get around to drilling the two holes until about a month later. I recommend using the hitch
as a template for drilling the holes, just make sure to keep your drill going in straight, and use plenty
of tapping oil to keep the bit and hole lubed up!
Also, it will make life a lot easier to use a smaller bit and make a starter hole. Definitely start with a bit
smaller than 1/4". Be sure to wear some safety glasses or you'll be sure to get hot bits of metal in your eyes.
- My dad and I used a 1/4" bit for the first hole, and then went in with the 1/2" bit, but the
holes were so close in size that the drill kept on binding and grinding with the hole, even with tapping oil. On the second hole we used a smaller starter bit, and the 1/2" bit went in like butter after.
Probably the hardest part of the install was threading the bolts through my two newly drilled holes. If I was doing
this all over again, I would DEFINITELY remove the bumper. It will make life 10 times easier.
Now that we had our holes drilled, the next step was to get the bolts in. What I would recommend is that you remove the front bumper to get these bolts in, it will save you time in the long run and you won't scratch up your arms on the bumper while trying to get the bolts in.
But anyways, here is what I did.
First, place the spacers with circular holes in between the hitch and the frame rails. There is a slight lip that may keep you from getting the spacer all the way in, but it's nothing that a hammer and screwdriver didn't fix for us!
- The trick is that you have to get the bolts and the spacers with the square hole in the frame rail and the bolt has to "drop down" through the square spacer and the hole that we drilled. There is a hole located behind each side of the bumper that allows access to the frame rails. We took some fish line and tied it to a nut, then ran the fish line through the square spacer, then tied it
SECURELY to the bolt. The red line in the picture is where the fish line is. Also, if you have a local U-Haul, they carry things called "fish wires" which are bendable steel wires with a coil at the end that allows you to screw the bolt into it. I found out about these after I installed my hitch, but they sound like they would make things easier. You could just use one of these in place of the fish line that I used.
- In a nut shell, what I did is reach up behind the bumper, and toss the nut into the frame rail, which
we then had to get to drop through the hole that we drilled. We used a coat hanger by putting it up the hole
we drilled, grabbed the fish line, and pulled the nut down. The next step is the put the spacer in the frame rail and line up its hole with the hole that we drilled.
- Finally, place the bolt in the frame rail
and GENTLY tug it into place with the fish line. This involves getting the bolt into the spacer's hole, and then getting it to drop down through the hole that we drilled. It was this step that was harder than anticipated. I had to reach up behind the bumper for a while to get the bolt into the spacer's hole, but then the bolt didn't drop down all of the way.
What we ended up doing is taking of the front grille (there's only like 4 screws holding it in) and then placed a screw driver on the head of the bolt. We then GENTLY tapped it with a hammer until
it dropped into place.
As I stated above, this process would have been ALOT easier if we had just removed the
front bumper before we started the install. If you have small hands like me you might be able to
do it the same way we did, but if you're a big guy then you'll definitely have to remove the bumper.
After you get the bolts down, simply put on your washers and nuts and you're done! Be sure to check the
first couple days and then about a month later that all of the bolts are tightened down good and secure. I also sprayed on a couple squirts of black Rustoleum on the bolts only for looks.
That was basically it for the install. Since writing this install article I have yet to use my front hitch. Note the rust that looks like it's on the bottom of the front hitch is actually rust that's on the sway-bar behind the hitch. Considering a tow trucks around here charge about $60 or $70 bucks, the total cost of $110 that I paid
for the front hitch and shipping from
is a very cheap insurance policy.
Also, on a side note, if you want to use your front hitch as a recovery point (it is the purpose
of getting it right?), then you'll need a good hitch D-Ring shackle and recovery strap; like the ones I have in the above picture. You can read about the
shackles, straps, and how to use them here!
If you have any questions about this install or the front hitch, don't hesitate to contact me!