Hooniverse Projects- 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee – Trailer Hitch

A few weeks back I covered the replacement of some road-scarred headlamps on the 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Today, we’re gonna’ get hitched! Strangely, and despite the fact that the 4.7-litre V8-powered Grand Cherokee has a towing rating of over 5,000-lbs, it doesn’t come with a receiver as standard equipment. Not only that but the rear valance rolls down to meet the gas tank skid plate necessitating some Sawzall® action should you want to install a hitch, which we do. Because of that, we’ll need to remove the bumper cap in order to cut out the opening, but first we’ll need to remove a good deal of the cargo area trim so we can snap in place the trailer hitch wiring loom extension. Thankfully, the full-size spare doesn’t have to be removed for this – that is, unless you drop a screw down the well, like I did. The lip cap, hatch opening cap, and D-pillar cover all need to be removed so that the side panel can be peeled back allowing access to where the wiring loom addition needs to be placed. Chrysler handily color coordinates the connectors, and the pigtail comes pre-mounted with all the push-in clips you need for a tidy installation. Now to the bumper. The plastic cap is held in place by a series of plastic push-in rivets under the hatch opening, four large snaps under the tail lights, and four screw-in connectors behind the wheel well liner. Let’s get busy! Getting to these wasn’t tough, getting out the rusted ones was. Living through nine New York winters makes for some serious oxidization. Unfortunately, three of the four could not be saved and had to be replaced. Eventually the bumper cap came off without damaging anything, and the Styrofoam filler was then able to drop out. You can see the external end of the wiring loom extension hanging down next  to the wheel. Yup, pretty much what it looks like – without the big arrow of course. The hitch itself bolts into place with no muss. It comes with a pair of diagonal cross braces that replace a  pair already on the Jeep, and securing to the gas tank skid plate. Three bolts per side, threaded into existing holes, are all it takes. Holding the hitch up there while trying to thread them is a bit of a challenge however. The electrical connection screws into place, behind a spring-loaded weather door. The loom is then zip-tied to the frame and hitch, nice and tidy. Next up, we need to cut the bumper cap in order to fit this hitch bezel onto it, and allow the receiver to fit through the bumper. The instructions say to use the enclosed template, but it turns out that since those were written, Jeep has instead molded a cut line inside the bumper, making the template unnecessary, and hence it is no longer included Unfortunately, this Jeep had been rear-ended at some point in its life and the current bumper cap isn’t an OEM part- there’s no cut line on it. These are the kind of hurdles that call for ingenuity and in this case we ingeniously decided to wing it. The bezel is held in place by a series of nut caps which thread onto pins molded into the bezel’s back. We cut holes for those first, after carefully measuring the spacing and outlining the opening. In the end, the fit was spot on, and the bezel hugged the bumper cap like it came that way from the factory. What appear to be scratches on the bumper are actually flecks of bumper plastic from the cutting that stuck there due to a static charge. I guess we need to use more fabric softener. Much like the engine rebuild instructions in your Haynes Manuals, reassembly was the opposite of dis-assembly. In this case it went a little bit more smoothly as we knew what we were doing by then, but did require some new hardware as the most exposed had suffered from the weather and couldn’t be saved. Overall, the job was relatively easy, although the instructions provided with the hitch and other parts were a little short on details. It’s still surprising to me that a vehicle with a 5,000-lb tow rating requires so much modification just to add a hitch. I would have expected that the wiring connection to be closer to the hitch, as well as the bumper cap to have a pre-existing opening. Despite that, and the somewhat vague instructions, we now have a tow vehicle that’ll handle any of the cars we currently might need to transport, and should another Jeep need the same treatment, we’ll be ready!

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