If you take a good look around, you'll likely notice that most truck and SUV owners have towing hitches, or a towing receiver, mounted just below the rear bumper of their vehicle. They're easy to spot -- that is, once you know what you're looking for. The typical receiver (with nothing attached) looks like an open-ended square tube. In most cases, the primary intent of this opening is to accept an attachment that permits a trailer to be connected -- normally a ball hitch -- a rather standard piece of towing equipment.
However, in the past several years, manufacturers have learned how to make the receiver opening useful even when there's no trailer attached. Useful accessories allow drivers to mount bicycles, electric winches, steps, spare tires, hunting and fishing gear, or even gas grills to the rear bumper. But what happens if you want to hook up your camper or tow a trailer and bring your bicycles along, too?
If the vehicle is large enough, as in the case of a full-sized pickup truck, SUV or even a recreational vehicle, a front-mount receiver might be a good solution. Really, the idea is quite simple -- take what works at the back end of the vehicle and apply it to the front. The front-end receiver is normally visible just below the front bumper. Hitch accessories attach (and detach) just like they do at the rear of the vehicle.
Most people use front-mount receivers for the wide selection of accessories that they permit; however, it may interest you to know that you can attach a ball hitch to your front end, too. Obviously, you can't push a trailer down the road, but you can hook up to it. With a little practice, very calculated movements of the steering wheel and the added benefit of being able to see the trailer directly in front of you, you should be able to accurately position your trailer within your campsite, driveway or garage.
Relatively speaking, front-mounted receiver kits aren't terribly expensive, either. Depending on the size of the receiver and the vehicle you'll be attaching it to, you'll find that the kits are typically priced between $100 and $250. Once you've decided to purchase a kit, will you need to have someone install it -- or is it something that you can easily handle on your own? Read the next page and decide for yourself.
Installing Front-mount Receivers
As long as you've purchased the right kit for your vehicle and have the proper tools and directions, installing a front-mount receiver is rather simple. In fact, most kits are designed to require no cutting or drilling at all. Front-mount receivers often attach using pre-existing holes found in brackets behind your vehicle's front bumper.
When you purchase a front-mount receiver kit, the instructions will detail the specific information for installation on your vehicle. A hardware kit will be provided, along with detailed instructions that show the proper alignment of the receiver bracket and the exact mounting points for your new front-mount receiver. The kits vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and vehicle to vehicle, so you may encounter an installation kit that requires you to notch (or cut) the composite skid plate material found under the front end of most vehicles. If necessary, a hacksaw or a very sharp utility knife will make quick work of the job. Just remember to take your time, be accurate and remove only the required amount of composite material and no more.
Since installation of a front-mount receiver kit typically requires little more than bolting the receiver to the front bumper brackets of your vehicle, a lot of people opt to tackle this somewhat uncomplicated project in their own garage or driveway. Of course, if you have any reservations about being able to complete this project on your own, you can hire a professional to do the job for you. As long as there are no complications, it won't take a certified mechanic very long to complete the installation of your latest piece of towing equipment. After all, if they're accustomed to installing towing hitches on the rear end of a vehicle, installing a front-mount receiver is really no different.
To read more about towing, hitches and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- Hitches For Less Inc. "Front Mounted Receivers." (Oct. 6, 2008) http://www.hitchesforless.com/front_mount/frontmount_main.htm
- JC Whitney. "Front Mount Receiver Hitch & Accessories." (Oct. 6, 2008) http://www.jcwhitney.com/Front-Mount-Receiver-Hitch-Accessories/600002342.jcw
- Walton, Larry. "Installing a Front-Mount Receiver for a Winch or Trailer Hitch." Extreme How To. (Oct. 6, 2008) http://www.extremehowto.com/xh/article.asp?article_id=60569