How To Install an Aftermarket Tow Package Hitch Receiver on a 6th Gen Bronco – Factory Ford Bronco 2021-2023+ Trailer Hitch Assembly (MB3Z19D520A) Alternative
There are many different trim levels on the Bronco, and depending on which spec you orders, you may or may not have a hitch receiver.
My Bronco is the trim package labeled “standard,” although I did get a couple of extra features. One of the more notable features that came on my Bronco, usually part of the “mid” package, was the Auto High-Beam Headlamps and a rearview camera with backup assist grid lines. My Bronco is the minimum trim level outside the headlights and backup assist, though. I’ve been steadily fighting my way to the “lux” trim package since I rolled her off the lot… within reason.
What blows my mind about Ford is that the tow hitch receiver and wiring harness are neither standard nor offered on any of the trim levels; Standard, Mid, High, or Lux. You have to add another $595 to your build sheet to get the hitch receiver. This is outside of the trim level you specify. I believe all trucks with 4wd should come from the factory, no questions asked, with a tow-rated hitch receiver. There you go, Ford, take some notes.
Let’s get back on track. After getting the Bronco home, I quickly researched and found some aftermarket hitch receivers from $30 – $170+ and 4-pin wiring harnesses from $20-$100+. I don’t know about you, but “buy once, cry once” definitely applies here. I wouldn’t want someone to recover my Bronco with a 3/4-ton truck all to have a cheap $30 hitch receiver fail.
I decided on the Rough County 2″ Hitch Receiver with a high-quality 4-pin wiring harness from etrailer.com.
Looking back, I would have ordered this USA-MADE Curt hitch receiver. It’s only $30 more for the USA-Made tag. You can buy it from SRQ Fabrications directly.
Find it online:
- Rough Country 2″ Hitch: Check Price
- eTrailer 4-Pin Wiring Harness: Check Price
- Curt USA Made 2″ Hitch: Check Price
- 3,500lbs gross trailer
- 350 lbs. tongue weight
- Grade 8 hardware
- Accommodates 2″ hitch
- 2″ hitch recovery shackle compatible
- 2″ hitch-mounted tire swing compatible
- Hitch-pin recovery compatible
- No drilling installation
- Adds towing capability to non-optioned vehicles
- 1/4″ steel construction with grade 8 hardware
- Durable powder-coated finish
Benefits of a 2″ Hitch Reciever
The main benefit is towing. The 3,500lbs gross trailer weight rating doesn’t yield much of a tow, but at least it’s something. If you’re looking to tow a 1998 Ski Sanger, you can get away with it. However, you should reconsider if you want to tow a new 2022 Malibu Wakesetter 20′ LSV. Regardless of what you choose to tow, it’s nice to know that by having a hitch receiver installed, you can tow at any time. I can’t count how many times I’ve needed to hook up a trailer while living on 7 acres in the foothills with my family.
Hitch-Mounted Recovery Shackle
One of the main benefits of having a 2″ hitch receiver, for me personally, is for an off-road recovery situation. There is no way I would go off-roading without a 2″ hitch receiver. I understand the Bronco has two double-shear recovery points on the frame rail, but that doesn’t equate to a proper recovery setup when off-road. Passenger and driver-side recovery points are great. However, center recovery points are usually preferred for most recovery situations. This is a post for another day, though.
I always have gear like the Agency6 Shackle Block with an ARB Snatch Strap in my recovery bag at all times. It’s important to be prepared on the trail, which means having a hitch receiver recovery point and the gear that goes with it.
Hitch Pin Recovery
An alternative to a traditional recovery point is a hitch-pin recovery. This one is debatable, but I’ve recovered a handful of rigs in the last 10+ years using a hitch pin with zero failure. As long as you’re safe and you understand recovery basics, and you’re using a class 3 rated hitch pin, you’ll be fine. Even if you’re a beginner and haven’t been involved in many recoveries, that’s okay too. Many good posts/videos support hitch pin recoveries and why/how they can be safe, provided you have the right gear.
Hitch-Mounted Tire Swing
If you’re not running a rear bumper with a tire swingout, you may want to consider a tire swing. My personal preference has been the RIGd UltraSwing. I’ve run the UltraSwing on the last three overland builds I’ve owned and it’s never let me down. I highly recommend the versatility and ecosystem that UltraSwing provides. Tire swings are a great alternative to a rear bumper because you can take them on and off easily. Load them up when you need them for a trip, and take them off while cruising around town.
Hitch Install Tools & Materials
- 13mm Socket/wrench
- 18mm Socket/wrench
- 19mm Socket/wrench
- 21mm Socket/wrench
- 22mm Socket/wrench
- 3/8″ or 1/2″ Drive Ratchet
- Dead Blox or Hammer
- 3/8″ or 1/2″ Breaker Bar (optional)
- Loctite (optional for reinstalling)
- Impact (optional)
- Milwaukee driver (optional)
- Pro Eagle Jack (optional)
Step 1. Unclip Driver Side Wiring Harness
Start by removing the license plate light wiring harness connected to the bumper on the driver’s side of the Bronco. Depending on your trim level, you may have more than one harness/connector.
Step 2. Remove 13mm Bolts
There are two 13mm bolts on the backside of the bumper. They are both connected to the body mount sheet metal flange on the passenger and driver sides.
Step 3. Remove 18mm Bolts
There are four 18mm bolts directly underneath the bumper holding the bumper and the double shear recovery points in place. You need to remove four bolts (two on each side). When you pull the bumper off, the recovery points will stay connected to the bumper via a plastic plush clip. You can save these for reinstalling the recovery points and bumper and then add new clips or dispose of them. They are not needed for reinstalling.
Step 4. Support Rear Bumper
To remove the bumper, wiggle the center of the bumper up and down while pulling out. The bumper should break free of the frame, and you can pull it straight off.
The easiest way to remove the bumper would be with a helping hand. With one person on the driver’s side and another on the passenger side, you should easily be able to pull the bumper straight off and set it aside.
Since I was removing the bumper by myself, I decided to prop up one side with the Pro Eagle Jack while I pulled the other side off the frame and out completely.
If you have a helping hand, you can skip to step 6.
Step 5. Pull Back on Rear Bumper
While one side of the bumper is supported on your jack, pull the other side directly out. With the help of a jack, you can support one side while holding the other.
Step 6. Remove Rear Bumper
Once the bumper is off the cross member, you can grab it by the center and set it to the side.
Step 7. Set Rear Bumper Aside
Set the bumper to the side and prepare your hitch install.
Step 8. Prepare Hardware for Hitch
Install the rear hitch receiver using the 1/2″ hardware on the outside and the 9/16″ hardware on the inside.
The 9/16″ hardware uses a 21MM wrench for the bolt and a 22MM for the nut.
The 1/2″ hardware uses a 19MM for the nut and the bolt.
Step 9. Jack Hitch Into Place
To position the hitch receiver into place, I used the Pro Eagle Jack, although any jack with extension should do. The hitch receiver is both heavy and features a tight fit, so the jack helps to position it correctly.
Step 10. Align Bolt Holes on Frame Rail
Knock the hitch into place until the holes align.
Step 11. Apply Blue Loctite
Before throwing the bolts into place, apply some blue Loctite. This is not mandatory but adds a bit of insurance for unthreading bolts when off-roading.
Step 12. Insert Bolts Through Hitch & Frame
Insert the bolts through the cross-member.
Step 13. Tighten Bolts to Spec
Tighten bolts to spec. Depending on the hitch you install, it could range from 100-150 ft-lbs. The Rough Country hitch didn’t mention torque specs, so I torqued to 125 ft-lbs using my Gear Wrench 3/8″ Torque Wrench.
Step 14. Apply Loctite on 18MM Bolts
When reinstalling your bumper, it’s important to remember the blue Loctite on the four (4) bolts holding the bumper and double shear recovery points on.
Step 15. Re-Install Factory Bumper
Make sure you go back and check the 13MM bolts and the 18MM bolts. Also, check the wiring harness connections before you drive off.
Looking back, I would have opted for the USA Made Curt Hitch Reciever or a hitch receiver with the 4-pin connector slot. That said, there aren’t many options out there I like with the built-in 4-pin slot other than the factory Ford version. The other brands on Amazon with names like SNAILFLY will leave you guessing. Regardless, I am stoked that I have a hitch receiver installed on the Bronco.
The tow package for the 6th Gen Ford Bronco includes features such as an increased-size radiator, a towing hitch receiver, and as with most tow packages, a wiring harness for electrical and lighting, trailer sway control, and hill descent control to improve stability when towing, which is an excellent feature to have on a rig this size.
If you’re debating on adding the tow package for another $600 from the factory for strict towing purposes, I recommend adding it. You’re already buying a $60K rig, and features like trailer sway control and hill descent control are worth it. The Bronco is already reasonably small with a low tow rating, so you need all the help you can get if you plan on towing often. Resale with be a bit better for someone looking for it, and it’s good peace of mind when towing demands support.
From the factory, the tow package comes with all the features listed above, so if you want them, you either need to add them from Ford or piece it together yourself.
Stick around for the next one, where we wire in a factory 4-pin connector harness for towing.
Good post, and thanks for the write-up but I don’t think removing the bumper is 100% needed for installing the tow package here.
If you want to install the hitch correctly, then you have to take the bumper off. If you choose to not remove the bumper first, then you’re forced to install the hardware with the head of the bolt from the inside of the cross-member out, instead of the outside of the cross-member in. There is a reason why engineers design the products as they do. The head of the bolt should face the high-strain working areas, especially in a towing or yanking recovery scenario, as the head is right next to the smooth shank and thus is the strongest side… Read more »