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Install a Hitch on a 1999 Honda Accord

I’m not really the truck type. I’m male, I live in Texas, and I even graduated from Texas A&M University in engineering – but I still prefer my 2003 Civic Hybrid. Whatever gets me from point A to point B reliably (with A/C and a good stereo) is just fine … most of the time.

As a homeowner, however, there are occasionally instances when I need a truck. Actually, I can think of quite a few: I borrowed my brother’s little Ford Ranger to haul mulch. I borrowed a friend’s Aspen to move boxes, and another friend’s truck and trailer to move furniture. I invited some friends (with a truck) to come with us to the Pottery Barn Outlet store to get a dresser. I even rented a truck from Lowe’s to bring home sheets of particleboard. Looking forward I see more of the same: sod for the backyard, mulch (every year), a large dining room table (eventually), our grill (if we ever sell it), etc. This doesn’t count the times I have rented (and will rent) a U-Haul.

Speaking of U-Haul, it’s about time I get to my point. While helping a friend move, I noticed how very inexpensive it is to rent a trailer. We’re talking less than $20 for a nice, covered compartment – without mileage limitations or charges. How nice would it be to have a truck that could pull one of those? Er, well- I guess if I had a truck I wouldn’t need one of those. What I mean is: How nice would it be to be able to pull one of those with the car I already have (the 1999 Honda Accord of emergency light killing fame1)? I just need a trailer hitch, right? Or do they even put those on cars?

Comparing options

Yes, and yes. U-Haul does trailer hitch installations on all sorts of vehicles, and there are numerous online outlets from which to buy hitches to install on your own. Being a cheap, price comparing,2 do-it-yourself-er,3,4 this seemed like the perfect opportunity to save some money by finding good deals online and doing the labor myself. Here is what I cooked up on Google:

  • Hidden Hitch Class 1 Trailer Hitch – $1005
  • Draw-Tite Class I Trailer Hitch Receiver – $806
  • 1998-2007 Honda Accord – Class 1 Trailer Hitch – $1507

Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to say I went through a detailed analysis of the costs involved with each of these, there just wasn’t time to wait for them to ship. We had a trip to Austin coming up on the weekend and my wife was inspired to swing by the San Marcos outlet stores8 on the way. There was a good chance our trip would result in the purchase of more than either of our cars could handle – the perfect time to have a hitch. I had less than 48 hours to take care of it, so I went with something between the professional installation and the buy-online-and-install option: buy the materials from U-Haul and install them myself. It’s possible I could have found the same stuff cheaper online, but at least I knew I was saving the installation charges. Here is how I did it, starting with the parts and tools needed, and then moving on to step-by-step instructions.

Parts

I used the following parts, listed with U-Haul part description, code, and price:9

  • Ball; Ball, 2x3/4x1-15/16in, 5000lb; 4924; $8.95
  • Hitch; Hitch1, Honda Accord; 24995; $84.95
  • Pin and clip; Pin & Clip Assy 1.25in RECV; 3130; $1.39
  • Wiring Kit; Converter, 3 to 2 Wire; 13486; $16.95
  • Extension Bar; Kit, Drawbar, Long, 1.25in Drop; 36053; $19.95
    4_article_131_thumb_accessories

    Figure 1. From left to right: extension bar, ball, wiring kit, pin and clip.


    4_article_131_thumb_hitch

    Figure 2. Hitch.

The hitch comes with the following fasteners:

  • Square Hole Plate (x4)
  • 1/2-13 × 1-1/2 Cge Bolt (x4)
  • 1/2 Flange Locknut (x4)
  • 1/2-13 × 1-1/2 Hex Bolt (x1)
  • 1/2-13 Nylon Lock Nut (x1)
    4_article_131_thumb_fasteners

    Figure 3. Hitch fasteners.

Tools

The following tools are needed for the installation:

  • drill (I used a cordless.)
  • stuff to make a ½" hole through metal (I’ll explain in a minute.)
  • large crescent wrench or vice grips
  • ¾" socket wrenches
  • circuit tester ($3.23 at Advance Auto Parts)
    4_article_131_thumb_tools1

    Figure 4. Cordless drill, two bits (to be discussed later), 3/4" socket wrench.


    4_article_131_thumb_circuit_tester1

    Figure 5. Circuit tester.


    Additionally, it would make things easier if there was something to prop up the spare tire cover and the car was positioned to increase access under the trunk (e.g., with the back hanging over a curb or ledge).

Prepare Vehicle

In order to prepare the Accord for hitch installation:

  1. Remove small trim strip from lower lip of bumper. (This may not be necessary. I couldn’t find any trim on my bumper.)
  2. Remove the spare tire from the tirewell. (See Figure 6.)
  3. Prop the spare tire cover up to allow tirewell access. (optional)
    4_article_131_thumb_tirewell1

    Figure 6. Honda Accord tire well, tire removed and cover lifted, prior to any work.

Hang Hitch

Hang the hitch on the bottom of the Accord according to the following steps:

  1. Position the hitch under the car as shown in Figure 7.
  2. Lift the hitch and loosely attach it to the tie-down loop at the very back of the car using the ½" hex bolt and the nylon lock nut. (See Figures 8 and 9.)
    4_article_131_thumb_under

    Figure 7. Hitch on floor under Honda Accord.


    4_article_131_thumb_hookon1

    Figure 8. Hitch bolted onto tow loop.


    4_article_131_thumb_hookon2

    Figure 9. Hitch bolted onto tow loop, hanging.

Drill Holes

Center the hitch, push the hitch up against the bottom of the tire well and mark the locations for four holes. Drill four ½" holes through the trunk floor. The difficulty of this step varies greatly with what tools are available. I had a cordless drill and a kit of attachments and tried various combinations. The following process worked best for me, but I’m sure there are easier ways:

  1. Break through using a spade bit
  2. Enlarge / wallow-out hole using a brad-point drill
  3. Finish hole using the mystery tool (see photo)
    4_article_131_thumb_tools2

    Figure 10. From top to bottom: brad point drill bit, spade big, and mystery tool.

The biggest issue isn’t getting through the metal; it’s getting through the tar-like coating on the upper side. I constantly had to clean this stuff off of my tools, and it was hot, sticky, and sometimes had a jagged edge.

Bolt Hitch

Bolt the hitch to the underside of the car by passing a ½" carriage bolt through a square hole plate, the trunk floor, and the hitch yoke. Use the ½" flange nuts on the bottom side and tighten to 75 ft-lbs of torque.

If you (like me) don’t have a torque wrench, simply estimate the force you apply based on the length of the tool. For example, if you’re using a wrench that is about 1 foot long, you’ll need to apply 75 lbs of force to produce the proper torque.

At this point the spare tire can be replaced and the cover lowered. You also won’t need to get under the car anymore.

4_article_131_thumb_installed

Figure 11. Hitch bolted to bottom of tire well.


4_article_131_thumb_bar

Figure 12. Hitch bolted under tire well.


4_article_131_thumb_tirewell2

Figure 13. Tire well, tire removed, after hitch bolting.

Attach Extension and Ball

A hitch isn’t much good without an extension / ball mount. Once installed, these two pieces become one assembly that can be easily removed and re-attached only when towing.

First, install the extension bar:10

  1. Insert the extension bar into the receiver (i.e., the square opening on the hitch assembly).
  2. Line up the holes and insert the ½" diameter pin.
  3. Insert the clip through the hole in the pin protruding through the opposite side.

Then, install the 2" hitch ball:11

  1. Clean the ball and nut threads of any rust or dirt.
  2. Apply anti-seizing / anti-galling lubricant (e.g., Loctite12) to the ball threads in two places, being sure to cover five or six threads in the area the nut will be tightened.
  3. Insert one of the plastic rings into the nut recess with the flat side exposed.
  4. Insert the ball shank through the extension bar hole and the flat washer.
  5. Thread on the nut/plastic ring combination and tighten by hand.
  6. Use vice-grips or another hefty wrench to tighten the nut until both sides of the plastic ring are squeezed out between the washer and the nut face.(You should be able to remove them with a flick of your finger.)
  7. Install a 1/8" diameter cotter pin through the hole in the bottom of the ball shank and spread the ends.
4_article_131_thumb_withbar1

Figure 4. Extension rod installed in hitch.


4_article_131_thumb_installed_hitch

Figure 15. Ball installed in extention rod.

Wire Setup

A hitch installation is not complete without a trailer wiring harness. The particular harness cited above can be installed via the following:

  1. Open the trunk and pull back the inside cover behind the left taillight assembly. (See Figure 16.)
  2. Remove the electric tape from the wire junction.
  3. Test headlights, taillights and turn signals to be sure all are working properly.
  4. Attach the white (ground) wire to an existing screw on the car body. (See Figure 18.)
  5. Using a utility knife, cut back a small lip of insulation on each wire – just enough to allow the circuit tester to touch bare copper.
  6. Turn on the car lights and be sure the taillights are illuminated.
  7. Use the circuit tester (see procedure below) to find which wire feeds the taillights. (On my Accord, it was the red wire with single blue/silver dots.)
  8. Attach the brown wire on the harness to the taillight wire using one of the wire taps provided. (I found it easiest to position the tap on the wires and attempt to close the "lid" by hand first, then to finish it off by clamping down with pliers. I also tried to install over the lip I cut previously in order to save myself taping time later.) See Figure 19.
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 for the following (wire color on my Accord in parentheses):
  10. * the left turn signal and the yellow harness wire (green with single blue/silver dots)
  11. * the right turn signal and the green harness wire (green with yellow stripe and single blue/silver dots)
  12. * the brake light and the red harness wire (off-white with black stripe and double indian-red dots)
  13. If possible, test connections by hooking up harness to trailer and activating/observing each light function.
  14. Mount the harness box unit using a cable tie or by drilling a 3/32" hole and the screw provided. (See Figure 21).
  15. Replace the trunk liner. (See Figure 22.)
4_article_131_thumb_wiring1

Figure 16. Trunk lining pulled back behind left brake light.


4_article_131_thumb_wiring2

Figure 17. Tape and covering removed from section of wiring above split.


4_article_131_thumb_ground3

Figure 18. Ground wire attached to existing screw on body.


4_article_131_thumb_wiring4

Figure 19. Wire tap hooking in brown wire from kit.


4_article_131_thumb_wiring5

Figure 20. All wire taps used to tie-in wire kits wires to Accord wiring.


4_article_131_thumb_wiring7

Figure 21. Wiring kit harness box mounted to body.


4_article_131_thumb_wiring_final

Figure 22. Wiring kit connector protruding from behind re-attached trunk liner.

Circuit Tester

As mentioned previously, a circuit tester is needed to determine which wires are which. Here are instructions on how to use the model listed in the tools section:

  1. Connect the test lead to the top of the tester. (It should stay in the tester and allow you to depress the internal spring.)
  2. Attach alligator clip to ground. (I used the same screw I did to ground the wiring harness.)
  3. Touch the tester to the wire to be tested while depressing spring.
    The tester bulb will light up if a 6 or 12 volt circuit is found.
    4_article_131_thumb_circuit_tester2

    Figure 23. Using the circuit tester.

Final product

When it’s all said and done, you can store the extension bar and ball assembly in the trunk (for a lower profile):

4_article_131_thumb_hitch_installed_back

Figure 24. Installed hitch (without extension bar or ball) from the back.

Lastly, take note of the following safety precautions:

  • Check the hitch pin and cotter pin for positive locking before towing a trailer.
  • Check nut tightness every time a trailer is hooked-up and at the beginning of each towing day.
  • Remove the assembly when not in use (particularly if it obstructs your license plate).
  • Only use with trailers that have a socket-type coupler of a matching size (2").
  • Never attache a tow rope, chain, cable, or any other similar item to the ball.

Notes

1 Hansen, Brandon. "Killing the Maintenance Required Warning Light in a 1999 Honda Accord." OmniNerd_, 11 May 2007. Accessed August 2008 from "http://www.omninerd.com/blogs/ Killing_the_Maintenance_Required_WarningLight in_a_1999_Honda_Accord":http://www.omninerd.com/blogs/Killing_the_Maintenance_Required_Warning_Light_in_a_1999_HondaAccord.

2 Hansen, Brandon. "Comparing Prices and Encouraging Competition." OmniNerd_, August 2008. Accessed August 2008 from http://www.omninerd.com/articles/Comparing_Prices_and_Encouraging_CompetitionCompetition.

3 Hansen, Brandon. "How to Build a Glass Mosaic Tile Fireplace." OmniNerd_, 3 February 2006. Accessed August 2008 from http://www.omninerd.com/articles/How_To_Build_a_Glass_Mosaic_Tile_FireplaceFireplace.

4 Hansen, Brandon. "How to Install an Underground Sprinkler System on a Budget." OmniNerd_, 15 July 2005. Accessed August 2008 from "http://www.omninerd.com/articles/ How_To_Install_anUnderground Sprinkler_System_on_a_Budget":http://www.omninerd.com/articles/How_To_Install_an_Underground_Sprinkler_System_on_aBudget.

5 "Hidden Hitch Class I Trailer Hitch." eTrailer.com. Accessed September 2008 from http://www.etrailer.com/pc-H~60913.htm?vehicleid=19993708.

6 "Draw-Tite Class I Trailer Hitch Receiver." eTrailer.com. Accessed September 2008 from http://www.etrailer.com/pc-H~24791.htm?vehicleid=19999256.

7 "1998-2007 Honda Accord – Class 1 Trailer Hitch." SuspensionConnection.com. Accessed September 2008 from http://www.suspensionconnection.com/cgi-bin/suscon/CT11290.html.

8 "Prime Outlets." PrimeOutlets.com. Accessed August 2008 from http://www.primeoutlets.com/.

9 Prices reflect those at the U-Haul center at Hwy 290 and Fairbanks in Houston, TX as of July 24, 2008.

10 The extension bar installation instructions are also included on its packaging.

11 The 2" hitch ball installation instructions are included in detail on its packaging.

12 "Loctite." Henkel_. Accessed September 2008 from http://www.henkelna.com/cps/rde/xchg/ henkel_us/hs.xsl/1557_USE_HTML.htm? countryCode=us&BU=ua&parentredDotUID= 000000022U&redDotUID=000000022U&brand= 0000000251HTML.htm?countryCode=us&BU=ua&parentredDotUID=000000022U&redDotUID=000000022U&brand=0000000251.

Information This article was edited after publication by the author on 15 Dec 2011. View changes.
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4 Votes  - +
Hitch Classes by VnutZ

So I was looking at your article and saw where the hitch was mounted – drilled right into the body’s tub. At first I thought, "I sure hope he doesn’t tow anything with that unless he wants his trunk torn apart." Only the fact that it was a model match design made me think that well, it must work. Just make sure you’re not towing anything heavier than 2000 pounds which is all a Class I hitch is rated for.

When I was looking for different rear bumper options for my Jeep, there was a lot to consider in how the bumper was mounted to the vehicle in order to ensure that it would be safe for actual towing. Many Jeep bumpers HAVE what looks like a Class III hitch but is not actually rated for towing – only to have accessories mounted to them like trail racks and bike racks. I finally found a Class III rated bumper based on how it mounted to the frame (not body) and also based on using Grade 8 bolts.

How much does a loaded U-Haul tend to weight anyway?

-2 Votes  - +
My God man! by smcbride

Have you no pride at all? From a engineering point of view, that is the poorest designed hitch, that I have ever seen. Did you buy that hitch in Bryan-College Station? Surely you weren’t born in Texas, I just thought I had seen it all. Tell me you keep this vehicle under lock and key, no way should you ever go out in public. You need to add a disclosure sticker above that hitch that reads, "DO NOT STAND ON OR TRY TO TOW JUST FOR LOOKS". Son of Hitch, anyway you can remove this article? All I did was read it, and I feel like I need to wear a paper bag over my head.

Typed in “2000 Accord Hitch install” and this site popped up and this is exactly the info I was looking for! This writeup was a great help. I really like the style of the U-haul hitch, does not stand out like other more expensive ones.

But one thing I discovered when hooking up the wiring was that if you unravel more tape and look further down (moving towards the front) you will find a connector that has all of the wires needed, even has one for reverse lights if needed, but this looks like it was meant for a trailer adaptor. Pretty sure Honda sells something. Also, I found that using those blue clips in the wiring kit SUCK, using marettes (those things you twist on when doing electrical work but a smaller size) work ALOT better and are probably more reliable.

NOTE: 2000 Accord – my brake light wire was White with 2 brown dots.

To be honest, hooking up a hitch looks very confusing to me. I always go to the local RV service center and have them do it for a certain fee. It can be pricy, but I am too cautious to do something such as this, and I know it will be done correctly at a service center! I had just purchased a 5th wheel hitch from Makarios RV, an online parts store, and had it installed. It is still working great!

I am referring to splicing/testing/tapping wires. All Accords from 1994 to 2002 have the female connector to easily attach the male connector on the wiring harness. As one of the commenters here pointed out, referring to his Accord 2000, you just need to look further along the wiring, up from the taped split (and by the way, you don’t need to remove any tape at or around the split). My Accord 2000 has the same thing.
Of course, all of the above is only helpful if you have the appropriate harness – i.e., the one that has the connector and not simply loose wires. Mine was like that and I was delighted to find the connector eventually :). First I was contemplating going your route, thinking that my Accord is somehow not compliant with the installation instructions…Then I stumbled upon the comment of the guy I mention above and looked further. Voila! I’m a happy camper :).

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