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> How to Install a Trailer Hitch Receiver

How to Install a Trailer Hitch Receiver

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One of the most obvious benefits of owning a pickup truck is the ability to carry large items in its bed, a feature smaller vehicles just can’t replicate. However, a truck’s hauling ability doesn’t stop at the bed. By installing a trailer hitch on your truck, you’ll be able to haul even larger items such as horse trailers, campers, and even other vehicles. Installing one of these items isn’t as difficult as you might think and, while details of installation will differ from one truck to another, the basic steps remain the same.

Required Tools
Image of a trailer hitch receiver
Trailer hitch receivers open up a range of towing options.

These tools will be required for the installation of nearly any style of trailer hitch.
  • Ratchet and Socket Set With Extensions: Needed for tightening most of the bolts that fasten your hitch receiver to your truck’s frame.
  • Box Wrenches: Necessary to tighten bolts in some areas where a ratchet won’t fit.
  • Torque Wrench: Some truck owners overlook this item when installing their trailer hitch, but most hitch manufacturers do have specific foot-pound guidelines for the tightening of some or all of the hardware used during installation. If you’d rather not purchase one, many auto parts stores offer these as rentals.

Recommended Tools

Depending on your vehicle’s year, model, or condition, the following items may be needed or helpful during installation.
Image of a torque wrench
Make sure you follow the manufacturer's specified torque values during installation.
  • Utility Knife/Shears: Used to trim light-duty fascia for clearance of hitch receiver on some applications.
  • Masking Tape: Used to mark off areas of fascia that need to be trimmed on certain applications.
  • Penetrating Lubricant/Wire Brush: Used to clean light rust on threaded holes found in the frame of your truck.
  • Thread Tap: Used to repair threads on severely damaged threaded holes. This damage is more common on older vehicles located in areas where road salt is used during the winter.
  • Grinder: Used to widen mounting holes in the frame of some vehicles.
  • Power Drill and Drill Bits: While most modern vehicles won’t require drilling, some trucks and SUVs (particularly unibody designs) don’t have enough holes.
  • Fishwire: This tool may be necessary to install certain pieces of hardware within the frame of your vehicle. The good news is that when this tool is required, the winch manufacturer will include it with your winch.


These steps detail the general procedure for installation of a trailer hitch, along with a couple of steps that, while common, are not necessary on every truck or SUV.
Image of the underside of a truck
Most trucks will have pre-drilled holes in their frames for mounting of a trailer hitch receiver.

  • Lower Spare Tire: If your spare tire is mounted underneath the bed of your truck, it will need to be lowered prior to installation.
  • Remove Rear Grounding Cable: Many current-generation pickup trucks have a grounding cable located near the rear of the vehicle. Make sure you remove (and reinstall later) this cable before you start fastening and unfastening hardware.
  • Remove Bumper Bracket Bolts: The brackets that hold your bumper in place sometimes need to be removed in order to facilitate the installation of trailer hitch mounting hardware. This step will be detailed in your instructions if it is necessary. If it isn’t, you can move on to the following step.
  • Install Mounting Hardware: At this point, you should be ready to install the hardware that will fasten your new hitch to your vehicle. The previously mentioned fishwire tool may be necessary during this step, along with more conventional tools such as wrenches.
  • Raise Hitch Into Place: With your hardware in place on the frame of the vehicle, it’s time to raise the hitch into place.
  • Tighten Mounting Bolts to Specified lb/ft Values: With your hitch now in place, torque the hardware to the foot-pound specifications from the hitch manufacturer.

Your truck is now ready to haul thousands of pounds worth of cargo to whatever destination you have in mind. Just make sure you periodically check your hitch’s hardware and re-tighten it if it becomes loose.

If you have questions about hitches or any other truck accessories, chat in or call our truck experts at 877-216-5446.