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Helpful tip for bent hitches - Valley is a good replacement

Discussion in '1st Gen. Tacomas (1995-2004)' started by phidauex, Aug 18, 2009.

  1. Aug 18, 2009 at 9:42 AM
    #1
    phidauex

    phidauex [OP] Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    Member:
    #20114
    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Male
    First Name:
    Sam
    Boulder, CO
    Vehicle:
    '96 4x4 V6, manual, 201k
    Small lift and a topper!
    So the '97 I bought the other day came with a hitch, but it was quite rusty, and had been bent in a rear-end accident, so I was going to replace it. It was a "Sure-pull" brand, installed by Uhaul many years ago, but appeared to be a basic Draw-tite clone.

    It mounted to the bottom of the frame rails, and when I removed it, I realized that on one side of the vehicle, the hitch itself had bent, but on the other side, the frame rail itself had been bent. Not the entire thing, but the bottom "lip" of the C channel had been deformed, and slightly buckled. The sides and top were still in good alignment.

    This seems to be a common problem.

    I ordered a Valley hitch ($147 on Amazon, w/ free shipping), partly because it is a very nice hitch (tubular, tucks under the bumper very well, maximum ground clearance for a hitch, etc.), and partly because its mounting brackets mount to the SIDES of the frame rail, not the bottom. You also mount the brackets first, and then the rest of the hitch body mounts up separately, allowing for easier installation.

    The Valley brackets have two bolts that replace the two bumper mount bolts, and the bracket goes between the bumper mount and the frame rail. One tab goes underneath and bolts to a single hole in the bottom of the frame rail.

    I was able to use clamps and a mini-sledge to mostly straighten the bent flange on the frame, and then bolted the bracket to it. I was then able to put a jack under the bracket (with only one bolt installed, the one to the bottom of the frame rail), and used a jack to lift the front of the bracket like a lever, and tweak the frame the rest of the way into alignment. Then the two bolts into the side hold the bulk of the weight.

    A little tapping with a hammer lined up the brackets on both sides, and the new hitch bolted in between them without complaint. I now have a perfectly straight, non-rusty, tucked under the bumper hitch, and a rusty bent-up old hitch to give to one of the metal scrappers who comes by my warehouse all the time. That should make his day. ;)

    Anyway, just thought that might be helpful, the Valley seemed to be the only hitch that primarily mounts to the sides of the rail instead of the bottom, which could be a real boon to anyone working with a slightly tweaked out frame. Of course, I should note that any bending of the frame means it isn't as strong as it once was, if you aren't certain, don't do it. The minor bending on my frame I determined not to be a problem, but let a professional check if you aren't sure. Welding in some plate as an additional frame brace wouldn't be a bad idea if the damage was more severe.

    -Sam
     
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