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Buying And Installing A Trailer Hitch  
User currently offlineJetsgo From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 3086 posts, RR: 5
Posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 2662 times:

I'm considering having a trailer hitch installed on my 2013 Subaru Outback and feel like I have no idea what I'm doing since I've never had any experience with this kind of thing. Given that it's an Outback, I'm obviously not considering anything big any heavy, just something that I can attach a bike rack to and possibly a U-Haul type trailer if need be.

I found this hitch on a website recommended on some Subie forums and it seems to have good reviews. However, when I get into things like receiver opening, tongue weight, ect, I get lost. I know it's not terribly complicated, again it's just something I have no experience with and don't really know anyone who does. So what I'm asking those with experience is: does this seem like a decent hitch to take care of small weekend stuff? Price is right? Anything specific to consider when looking for a shop to install? Anything else to consider at all with regards to taking care of this? ect.


Marine Corps Aviation, The Last To Let You Down!
14 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineWildcatYXU From Canada, joined May 2006, 2659 posts, RR: 5
Reply 1, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 2644 times:

It certainly looks like a decent hitch. It will definitely do whatever you expect from it. It seems to me a tiny bit pricey, but that may be just because of the vehicle it fits on. The installation is, compared to my 2012 Frontier a bit more complex, but easily doable at home. Since it includes drilling holes into the car's body, I'd do it at home rather than in a shop. I'd never forget to treat the holes with some rustproofing agent, but shops just may not care.

Edit: Don't forget to buy a proper wiring harness.

[Edited 2013-04-12 20:35:15]

User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 2, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 2627 times:

I have a 2012 Dodge Ram 2500 - with which I tow a 4,200 lb boat or a 6,500 lb 30 ft long camping trailer. I'm looking at 8-9,000 lb empty weight 5th wheels, no more than 35 ft long to buy soon.

I have a 2007 Chevy Uplander Van - with a hitch. It can move the boat on level ground for short distances, but I will not try to launch the boat or retrieve it with that van. I have a 700 lb 5 x 10 utility trailer with a ladder rack which is often towed by the Chevy van. We carry two canoes on the ladder race, and three kayaks on the bed. Total weight about 950 lbs with paddles and a cooler.

I have bought several things from etrailer.com and highly recommend them. The only time I've had an issue, their customer service was prompt and very helpful.

However, when I wanted a hitch installed on the van - I went to U-Haul and had them do it. Cost about $350 compared the the near $150 less at etrailer.

I don't like working on the automobile wiring. That's why I didn't do it myself.

I have a fifth-wheel hitch - 18K capacity - which I bought from etrailer.com and installed on a single Saturday. Because it did not involve any wiring.

The hitch you've found is a very good hitch at a good price, however you also need a receiver and hitch ball, and a wiring kit. That will add at least $50 before you can tow.

Quoting Jetsgo (Thread starter):
However, when I get into things like receiver opening, tongue weight, ect, I get lost.

The receiver opening is the square hole in the back of the hitch where you slide in the receiver which has the ball mounted on it, or the receiver from a bicycle race. You use a hitch pin to slide through the hole in the side of the hitch, the hole through the receiver and out the other side of the hitch. You secure the hitch pin with clip or a lock. I would always use a locking pin with something as light and stealable as a bicycle rack.

2x2 is the most common size, but if you have already bought a bicycle race - check the outside dimensions. There are some smaller racks with 1 1/4 x 1 1/4 receivers. Personally I prefer the 2x2 so I don't have to add an adapter.

Tongue weight is how much weight the tongue of the trailer pushes down. 600 lbs means the trailer weighs too much for three people to pick up the tongue and place on the hitch. If you stick to trailers where you can move it yourself - you are very safe.

Tow weight or gross weight is the total weight of a trailer. 4,000 lbs will handle most ski or fishing boats up to near 16 ft in length.

You could also get a small pop-up camping trailer (slide out beds, canvas sides) or even some of the smallest hard side single axle trailers.

The 4,000 lb gross weight limit is plenty strong enough for anything your vehicle can tow.

If you are going to add a trailer heavier than 1,000 or 1,500 lbs - you need to have a 7 pin wiring harness and an electronic brake controller. You have to have brakes on the trailer which work with your vehicle. Adding that much weight in the back without being able to stop on its own is asking for a wreck.

Also if you exceed a trailer tongue weight where you cannot comfortably pick up the trailer tongue - you need a weight distribution hitch. That is a Class III hitch for the vehicle - so it can handle a weight distribution hitch and spread the heavier tongue weight along your vehicle frame.

[Edited 2013-04-12 21:19:22]

User currently offlineL-188 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 29832 posts, RR: 58
Reply 3, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 2546 times:

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 2):
2x2 is the most common size, but if you have already bought a bicycle race - check the outside dimensions. There are some smaller racks with 1 1/4 x 1 1/4 receivers. Personally I prefer the 2x2 so I don't have to add an adapter

I am going to guess with that car his will be a 1 1/4 by 1 1/4. I am not sure if Suburu's have frames but you really need one to bolt to if you are going to pull heavier loads. IMHO unibody cars just can't do it.

My truck has the factory 2" reciever installed with the tow connector. I have never gotten a drop or ball for it so I have never towed anything with my truck. I am looking to get a reciver hitch for my four-wheeler though. I also want to build a couple of cust hitch attachments for the truck and the four-wheeler.

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 2):
If you are going to add a trailer heavier than 1,000 or 1,500 lbs - you need to have a 7 pin wiring harness and an electronic brake controller. You have to have brakes on the trailer which work with your vehicle. Adding that much weight in the back without being able to stop on its own is asking for a wreck.

Yes. It isn't a good thing to get outrun by your trailer. I once saw a Toyota Tacoma that had that happen. He was going down "Break light Hill" (anyone in the Eagle River Ak area will know what hill I speak of) towing a heavy trailer with a Bobcat mini-excavator on it. By the tire tracks it looked like he started to jackknife just before the Eagle River Bridge but managed to keep it on the road until he got past the bridge....It is a pretty decent drop off the side.



OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
User currently offlineGeezer From United States of America, joined Aug 2010, 1479 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 2544 times:

Quoting Jetsgo (Thread starter):
I'm considering having a trailer hitch installed on my 2013 Subaru Outback and feel like I have no idea what I'm doing

The first thing I'm going to tell you isn't what you are going to want to hear; the vehicle you have is NOT capable of towing anything other than a VERY light trailer; there's a whole lot more to towing than just sticking a hitch on a vehicle, hooking a trailer to it, and driving off;

The very first thing you have to consider is.......you don't have a truck; P/U trucks have frame rails under them, and you have something to bolt to that has enough strength to hold a load; your Outback, (unless I'm very mistaken), is uni-body construction, so what frame there is, is actually very light sheet steel formed into a square tube, and is actually spot welded to the body; (making it part of the body); what you need to understand is, the strongest, heaviest hitch you can get is meaningless if you attach it to something that has insufficient strength to carry a load.

Next......even "IF" you get a decent hitch installed, you're going to be trying to pull it with an engine which is not rated to move much more load than the vehicle with a few hundred pounds in it.

Next.....regardless of whether your Outback is an automatic (which I'm assuming it is), or even if it's a stick shift, it's still only capable of moving a few hundred pounds more than the vehicle weight.

If all of that isn't enough to worry about, you need to give some very serious thought to one more problem you will have pulling a trailer; getting it stopped, once you you get it up to road speed. If you doubt what I'm saying, just remove any one of your wheels and take a close look at your brake pads; what you're looking at was never designed to stop (again) much more weight than the vehicle, plus a little bit of "cargo"l (like about 6 suit cases full of clothes.)

You mentioned you "only" wanted to pull a U-haul trailer; U-haul rents a whole bunch of different sized cargo trailers; some of the really smallest ones, they occasionally even rent you a bumper hitch, (assuming your vehicle has a regular bumper, (which almost no cars have any more), but most P/U trucks do.)

I hate to be throwing cold water on your plans, but if you get a hitch on your Outback, then end up burning up your engine, OR your transmission, OR if you get a bunch of weight moving, then have a big wreck because you don't have enough brakes to get stopped............I can assure you, you will wish you had never even thought about trailers.

BTW.......I'm not trying to "ruin your day"..............I'm trying to impart enough information from me to you, so that you can save your day ! You mentioned you have no experience with pulling trailers; I do. 41 years of experience when I retired in 1997, after putting roughly 2,000,000 miles in my log books. ( and I'm still pulling my own 22 ft, 14,000 lb rated tandem axle tilt deck trailer with my own 1 ton Dodge diesel dually P/U truck; ( I have "quite a bit" of towing experience.)

Do yourself a very big favor; look in the phone book under "trailers"; (NOT places that rent trailers, places that sell trailers ) go there......see who ever is the service manager; show him your outback; do NOT give him any indication that you may want to buy one of his trailers; you just want advice; I think what you're going to hear is about the same thing I'm telling you. Understand this; anyone who shows up at U-haul is a potential customer; their only interest is renting you a trailer; if you ask if them if your Outback is OK to pull a trailer.....what do you think they are more concerned about.....your car, or their business ? They are going to say, "no problem", people do it all the time ! Yeah, he's telling the truth there.......people ARE "doing it" all the time! People are ALSO buying new transmissions and motors BECAUSE they tried to use their car for a truck ! ( People are getting drunk, running into trees and killing themselves "all the time" too, but it isn't helping you any.)

If you go to any Subaru dealer and talk to a service manager, he can either tell you, (or look up) what your Outback is rated to be able to pull; I'm going to guess.....not much more than possibly 500 pounds; maybe less; (most U-haul cargo trailers weigh more than that). Maybe a small light single axle boat trailer with a 12 ft aluminum fishing boat........maybe 20, 30 miles each way......that's about it. Here's the easiest way to find out how much weight you can put "in" or "on" your car (Outback) Take a close look at the sidewalls of your tires; some place on there it will say....XXX pounds @ 30 lbs. It's probably going to say something like maybe.......800 lbs. So 4 X 800= 3,200 lbs. How much does an Outback weigh? 2,400 lbs maybe ? 3,200-2,400= 800 lbs of people, "stuff", tank of gas, surf board on luggage rack....that's it ! And you may get by with pulling another few hundred. Believe me....this stuff was all worked out by VERY sharp engineers and designers before your vehicle was built; it's a very good vehicle.....for what it was designed for; which wasn't to be "tow vehicle". If you want to tow trailers, you need a truck.

While we're on the subject of towing trailers, and U-haul.........U-Haul is a very big, nation-wide business; they have "centers" in many big cities; (these actually belong to, and are run by U-Haul ); they also have about skatey eight thousand "dealers" that will rent you a U-Haul trailer, a truck, or a tow dolly; these are ALL independent businesses; some may be "just great".......but MANY should be living in the reptile house at the local Zoo; (because these are the "snakes" ! Here's a typical U-Haul true story; I lived in Cincinnati; got a phone call from my niece in New Hampshire; her daughter (who was going to college in Chicago) had driven her car up to Wisconsin some place with some college boy, to go to a rock concert; (you know what happens at rock concerts) everyone got "stoned"; on the way back to Chicago, the college boy (who was "stoned" blind) was driving; he had a BIG wreck; My niece's daughter was in a hospital in Chicago, the car (somehow) was back in Evanston (N of Chicago, my niece needs it in New Hampshire; I'm "elected". The wife and I drive my 88 Ford extended cab F-150 (with 318 V-8) 300 miles to Evanston, rent a U-Haul tow dolly; load the front end of the full size Chevy onto the dolly; Piece of cake ! Couldn't even tell it was back there ! Plenty of power. we get about half way to Cleveland, now it's starting to get dark; Turned on the lights; all except the dolly; it had a "birds nest" where the wiring was supposed to be. To make a long story short........the U-Haul INDEPENDANT dealer hadn't done "diddly" to the dolly when it was returned; It was a VERY long trip to New Hampshire ! (Most of it was spent screwing around with trying to get lights on U-Haul's dolly; the dealer I turned it into in N.H. was a great guy ! ( Quite UNLIKE the SNAKE in Chicago that rented the piece of crap to me ). And so goes renting from U-Haul. ( My first, last, & ONLY "U-Haul experience".) ( That all happened about 1994 )



Stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result; Albert Einstein
User currently offlinekiwirob From New Zealand, joined Jun 2005, 7824 posts, RR: 5
Reply 5, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 2538 times:

Quoting Geezer (Reply 4):

The first thing I'm going to tell you isn't what you are going to want to hear; the vehicle you have is NOT capable of towing anything other than a VERY light trailer;

Charlie an Outback is rated to tow 2700-3000 pounds depending on it's engine. He not intending to tow 10,000 pound trailers or large boats

Why not just buy the OEM tow hitch, that way you're getting something that was designed specifically for your Outback.


User currently offlinezkojq From New Zealand, joined Sep 2011, 1352 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 2526 times:

Quoting Geezer (Reply 4):
The first thing I'm going to tell you isn't what you are going to want to hear; the vehicle you have is NOT capable of towing anything other than a VERY light trailer

Yes it will and even more so if the trailer is braked - 1800kgs infact, according to the Subaru Website. My neighbours regularly used a 2008 Outback to pull a 6.5 meter power boat , seemingly without any trouble.

That one needs a SUV or pickup to pull a decent trailer-load is generally little more than a well perpetuated myth (depending of-course on one's definition of a 'decent' trailer-load).



First to fly on the Boeing 787-9 with Air New Zealand and ZK-NZE; NZ103, AKL-SYD, 2014/08/09. I was 83rd to board.
User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 7, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 2495 times:

Quoting kiwirob (Reply 5):
Why not just buy the OEM tow hitch, that way you're getting something that was designed specifically for your Outback.

The hitch he has linked above is built for the Outback. The company which builds the hitch is near the highest rated in the US for aftermarket hitches for dozens of light vehicles such as the Outback.

The OEM hitch is $429.95 if purchased with the vehicle. That price plus installation if purchased to add to the vehicle.

My experience is that almost no dealers will install a factory hitch after purchase. The vehicle is usually not built to have the OEM hitch added at anything except during the build process. Of course the OEM hitch will have a much better integration with the vehicle wiring.


User currently offlinecmf From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 2476 times:

One of the projects we started last year is building toy trailer/campers. After more than 20 years and for the first time in USA I'm towing again... and experiencing all the misconceptions and idiotic solutions this country for some reason so often get bugged down with.

Don't worry about people claiming your car can't tow something. Look at what your car is rated to do and follow that. Note that the max weight is with brakes on the trailer. There is a much lower weight if it doesn't have brakes. Don't forget about max tongue weight.

Of course nothing can be easy so trailers with breaks use a different connector than trailers without. Make sure to install the right connector on your car. If you install with brakes you should also get the no-brake connector.

The next thing is to make sure they install the connector on your car so it is accessible. I have seen several installations where you have to fumble under the car or behind some small hole to pull out the connector. Have it installed on a plate.

Then there is the ball. Make sure you get the right size. If you need multiple sizes then get one mount for each size ball. The multi-ball mounts are heavy, takes a lot of space and just generally are a PITA.

Also make sure you get a mount that puts the ball at the right height. If you're going to tow different trailers then get a mount where you can adjust the height.

Make sure you get locks for everything that is removable, that includes the trailer where at minimum you want to put a lock in the coupler but locking the wheels is the better solution. Most locks come with two keys, make sure you bring both at all times. Keep one somewhere in the car and the other somewhere else.

After that it is just the short cables that will drive you nuts...


User currently offlineAesma From France, joined Nov 2009, 6925 posts, RR: 12
Reply 9, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 2459 times:

I went a couple of times with my parents on vacation with a small trailer for luggage and camping gear (like a gigantic tent, common in Italy where people spend 3 months camping, with TV, fridge etc.), towed behind our Peugeot 405 station wagon, well, the lack of frame was really not the problem. The 70hp diesel engine was !

Members of my family have owned camping trailers, one even crashed with it, again not because of the lack of a frame but for a lack of sense, speeding and not being cautious downhill.

I'm sure in the US people tow more and bigger things than worldwide average, but one thing is for sure, they're the only ones obsessed with gigantic trucks.



New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 10, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 2453 times:

Living in Texas I will admit to folks be obsessed with big trucks.

But I've also got friends in my camping club who pull 18,000 lb 42 ft long 3 axle 5th wheel trailers with a Dodge 3500 pickup.

Most of the people we camp with are retirees. About half of them are gone for one or two months in the winter to the Rio Grande Valley or Arizona or South Florida. In June, July and August they head for the Rocky Mountains.

This summer three couples are making 90 day Alaska trips, two in big 5th wheels, and one in a 35 ft long diesel pusher motorhome.

My wife and I are active grandparents - the longest trip we plan to make this year is two weeks with five grandchildren (ages 8 to 16) to a lake in Arkansas.

Though we are planning a seven week to Portland Oregon next summer.


User currently offlinebristolflyer From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 2312 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 2426 times:

Quoting Geezer (Reply 4):
my own 1 ton Dodge diesel dually P/U truck

There are other vehicles that are capable of towing without buying a truck that is capable of hauling a house. As long as you're cautious with what you tow, drive carefully you should be good. I have a friend who used to tow with a Morgan sportscar without any problems.



Fortune favours the brave
User currently offlinekingairta From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 458 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 2411 times:

Watch the movie long long trailer...

User currently offlinebhill From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 1023 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 20 hours ago) and read 2356 times:

One other item to keep in mind. Usually when the towing package is ordered when a car is purchased from the dealer/manufacturer, not only is the hitch kit installed, but a tranny cooler and larger engine oil cooler installed as well.


Carpe Pices
User currently offline4holer From United States of America, joined Feb 2002, 3046 posts, RR: 9
Reply 14, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 19 hours ago) and read 2349 times:

I self-installed an aftermarket hitch on my '07 Subaru Forester. No drilling was required and the wiring harness existed in the back. The vehicle was built for the optional hitch and the hitch was built for my vehicle so I basically just bolted it on. Glad I did because I have fairly frequently rented U-Haul trailers to move furniture and such. Renting one for a few hours runs about 20 bucks!
Install was easy and it looks pretty good.



Ghosts appear and fade away.....................
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