Instructables

Installing a trailer hitch on a small car

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I installed a Class I trailer hitch on a small sedan. I ordered the hitch online. All parts fit perfectly. The supplied instruction sheet was excellent. No body mods were necessary. The job was surprisingly simple. It took me about 2.5 hours total. If you have safety glasses, a torque wrench, and assorted tools, I'd encourage you to try it.

Warning: Never exceed the towing capacity ratings of your car.

 
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Step 1: Parts and tools

Picture of Parts and tools
instructions.jpg
supplies.jpg
Buy the hitch to fit your car. Several manufacturers offer hitches for most makes and models of car. (I ordered a Reese hitch from autozone.com for my 1996 Honda Civic sedan with 150K miles (don't laugh)).

Unpack the package. Look at the bag of parts. Read the instructions. Note the torque specs.

Gather your tools. Safety glasses (to protect your eyes), torque wrench (to make sure the hitch stays attached), hammer and chisel (to remove any schmutz on your car frame), inspection mirror (to make sure the carriage bolts are installed right), etc.

One change: To attach the ends of the hitch to the frame, I used big round washers instead of the u-shaped washers which came with the package. I'm not a mechanical engineer, but my gut didn't like the u-shaped ones. Caveat emptor: deviate from the manufacturer's recommendations at your own risk.

Parrhesia3 years ago
Not laughing. My first car was an '83 Civic, and I only got rid of it at >200k miles because I couldn't get it to pass smog. I loved that car. I still dream about it :)

Glad to find this, since I've been wanting to put a hitch on our little car for years. Much appreciated!
Couldn't you have just replaced the catalytic converter?
not worth it money wise at that point lucky here if a car is older then 25 it is exempt from smog test
Same here, I think :) When I had it...well, it was far from meeting that requirement at the time ;)
Or just have put one in from a car with better smog ratings.
Harvard821 year ago
I believe the "U-shaped washers" are actually shims.
zonk3r6 years ago
That caveat is pretty significant. The manual for my '95 Honda Civic DX specifically states that it is not to be used for towing. There are a few reasons for this. One the brakes aren't designed to stop a heavy load. If you are towing a trailer behind your Civic it will wear your breaks much faster. Take a look at the break design of an SUV or truck and you'll see they are MUCH larger and heavy duty. Another reason is the transmission in most small cars are light duty. A manual transmission will burn through the clutch much faster and an automatic will strain worse and can slip or stutter. The money you save on a truck rental for a weekend vs. a cheap trailer mount for your car can come back to haunt you. Lastly the weight on the frame is a lot to bear on springs and suspension not designed for it. So be careful when doing this. Part of the above can damage your car or wear parts much faster than normal. The break issue however can be very scary. If you are hauling a small bike trailer you will likely be fine. If you decide to haul the boat well... that's another story.
bschran zonk3r1 year ago
The reason me personally I looked at doing this to my Chevy Lumina, is to either tow a 2nd trunk (small trailer) or a cargo platform most rated at 500lbs the lumina 3.1L is rated at 1klbs
a.doovz (author)  zonk3r6 years ago
Zonk3r, thanks for the good advice. I added a warning to the main page. I use it with a hitch-mounted bike rack.
rblee1 year ago
A general point worth making is that fitting the tow bar yourself can be seriously cheaper than getting a dealer to do it, at least in the thieving UK - I have a Citroen C5 for which I was quoted £1,200 for fitting a tow bar by my Citroen dealer, whereas I was able to do it myself for £275 in about 2 hours. It was the exact same bar that Citroen fit.

It's also worth noting that you should get one with a removable ball if you have reversing sensors.
pheenix423 years ago
Myself, I'd only be using one to get, say, a TV set or other appliance home if I didn't have access to someone's pickup. Friend has a fridge in his garage he's willing to give me, but neither one of us has a truck available! (T_T)
beff505 years ago
lol, my dad once did this to his 1996 Doge Stratus before he bought a truck. it was so hilarious watching that little car pulling around his boat. :D unfortunately my dad sold his Stratus a few years ago and bought a Toyota Solara, nice car but no trailer hitch...
This is exactly what I needed! I've wanted to install a hitch (for a bike rack) on my '97 civic and didn't know if it was even possible on such a small car.

Could you share where you ordered it from and how much it costed? Thanks so much!
a.doovz (author)  a grain of alt.6 years ago
http://www.autozone.com $129 plus tax, free shipping to house, returnable to local retail store.
LinuxH4x0r6 years ago
Nice! My truck came with a preinstalled III
mikedoth6 years ago
While I don't plan on doing this soon, I like that I can see what's involved. Thanks!