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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  1. muthalovin Avatar

    What was the total cost of the kit?

    1. Robert Emslie Avatar
      Robert Emslie

      It was actually three kits, if you can believe that. The wiring loom is about a buck and a quarter, the hitch itself about one-eighty, and the bezel was eighty five. The purchase of the replacement fasteners brought the whole cost to a little over four hundred.

      1. ChuckyShamrok Avatar

        Diclosure: I work for U-haul and am considered a "Hitch Pro"
        Generally the prices for the Hitches from U-Haul tend to be a bit cheaper, and come from manufacturers like Valley, Draw-Tite and Hidden Hitch. The "Universal" hitches you can buy from Autozone and Wal-Mart tend to be complete junk. The wiring harness is sometimes available at U-haul, but usually you have to splice them in to the exsisting wiring using a universal wiring harness. The difficulty on installing a hitch depends on the vehicle. Some hitches are wicked easy (Chevy Venture Vans & late model Chrysler SUVs and Pickups) and others make you want to set the car on fire (Chevy Luminas, Honda AccordS). Typically on SUV's and trucks the hitches bolt up to the frame, and some cars even have nuts welded into the frame that you simply thread a bolt into. Other hitches require drilling holes in the trunk floor to mount the hitch to.

        1. amanda Avatar

          I have a 2000 grand cheerkie laredo . my back bumper was just replaced with one with no hitch hole does this matter if i want to put a hitch on it. How easy is it to cut a hitch hole . I told my auto dude. he said its better not to have one with hitch design, better just to cut out when you get the hitch. Is this true or did he just sell me one with no hitch kit.

          1. ChuckyShamrok Avatar

            Cutting the bumper cover isn't hard, its cuts pretty easily with a razor knife. A non factory hitch shouldn't even require cutting the bumper as it should hang down below the bumper cover.

  2. lilwillie Avatar

    Next week is the transmission cooler right? Right?
    Nice work. Looks cut and dry. I've not installed one yet so this was nice to read.

  3. Robert Emslie Avatar
    Robert Emslie

    Luckily it already has the tranny cooler plumbed in there.

  4. SSurfer321 Avatar

    If you want a challenge, look up installing a hitch on a Nissan Murano. You have to replace the rear aluminum bumper.

    1. ChuckyShamrok Avatar

      I've done hitches on Nissan Murano's for my job, I've never had to replace the bumper. Than again we don't use factory hitches. If you don't mind having the hitch be visible from the back of your car check U-Haul, I'm pretty sure its four or six bolts into the frame using existing weld-nuts. You DO have to drop the exhaust in the back witch is a pain in the ass.

  5. DeadinSideInc Avatar

    Graverobber – is that an XJS I spy in the garage?

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      If you knew what else was in that garage…we would have to kill you.

      1. DeadinSideInc Avatar

        And now I'm intrigued. Go on.

        1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
          Jeff Glucker

          We will bring it up on this site sometime in the near future…

  6. LTDScott Avatar

    Crazy, adding the factory hitch to my g/f's Highlander Hybrid (rated to tow 3500 lbs) was much easier than this.

  7. DeadinSideInc Avatar

    Very good then, carry on.
    AND future idea of for a 'Hooniverse Project' – have him change the rotors and pads on those XJS inboard disc breaks. Ha.

  8. Fantasy Avatar

    I’m loving it

  9. Margery Buechner Avatar

    Hi dude How are You ? I like your post and i want to stumble it for my friend but i cant see your social bookmark widget in this blog. Please help me admin Thank You

  10. Jaime Romag Avatar

    thanks a lot for beginning this thread

  11. KABRICK Avatar

    My hitch didn't come with new cross bars, do you know if you can use existing? Plan on installing in the next week. Thanks for a great write up.

  12. bob Carroll Avatar
    bob Carroll

    Where did you get the hitch from?