Saturday, May 17, 2014

Front Receiver Hitch Installation

Installation for a 2013 Toyota Tacoma SR5 V6 4x4

I wanted a front hitch for my truck, but I didn't want to change the appearance too much from stock and I wanted a high-clearance unit that didn't extend so far down as to get hung up on a challenging road.

The proper front hitch could also become a legitimate recovery point for the front of the truck, with a shackle insert. I also wanted to have a mount for a front bike rack, as the options for mounting a bike at the rear on a Fleet camper are limited, at best.

This is not a full how-to post, but more a pictorial of the process. If any Tacoma owners want to do this for their truck, I've provided links and details at the bottom of the post which will hopefully be helpful. The hitch bolts onto the frame, no welding or modifications are needed (other than cutting out a section of plastic grill.) All fasteners were included in the kit.

Let's start with a photo of the completed project, then read the captions to follow along.

You can click on the photos for larger versions.

Completed project. You can see the receiver in the center of the lower grill.

Grill removed.

Bumper cover (and little panels under the headlights) removed, exposing the actual aluminum bumper.
If you have the accessory skid plate, that needs to come off to get to the bottom bolts
on the bumper cover.

Bumper and bumper stand-offs removed. Save those nuts.
The hitch will take the place of the stand offs, then the bumper will be reinstalled.

Close-up of mounting studs. Also note the horizontal channel. The end pieces, "inserts," will be
removed before installing the main hitch assembly. I also needed to remove the tow-point bracket
which can just be seen here. The welded loop on the other end did not get in the way.

Here you can see the inserts have been removed and are sitting on the concrete.

Now the main hitch assembly has been installed with nuts just "snug."

A closer view of the main hitch assembly. The bumper will mount with the four 10mm bolts
included in the kit hardware along with the original nuts in the holes seen on the front.

The side brackets mount to the frame using both the sway bar bolts and a new 4" bolt through the frame.
You can also just see the bolt attaching the bottom of the hitch assembly to the horizontal channel.
(I forgot to take this picture at the time, so this cramped view is the result of me laying on the ground
to take the photo after everything was already put back together.)

Bumper re-installed, but now on the hitch, not the stand-offs.
Happily, the bumper cover and grill went back on easier than they came off.

Closer view of the completed install. You cut the center section of the lower grill
to make room for the receiver (and pin & clip). I used a hacksaw blade.
Be careful not to mar the soft black plastic of the bumper cover like I did.

Links, Details & an Important Disclaimer

Link: I chose an assembly made by CGI Offroad Fab of Boise, Idaho specifically for 2nd generation Tacoma's. Here's the part's webpage. I was impressed with the quality of the construction and believe it is rugged enough as CGI built it to hold their custom hitch-mount winch holders. All hardware was included, as well as a hinged license plate holder for those who live in a state requiring a front plate. If you live near Boise, I'm sure Nathan would be glad to install it for you.

Link: Here is the article by forum member Rodney on Tacoma World. It was his post that first clued me in to this hitch and provided enough photos that I began to think I might be able to do this myself. Note, his photos are of his 2011 Tacoma, there are slight differences between that and my 2013 model. Also, read through the comments, as Rodney later realized he took apart more bumper cover than he needed to. There is also a reference in his post regarding a non-standard receiver tube - that has now been taken care of by CGI.

Link: This PDF by the folks at Grillcraft was very helpful in showing me how to remove the grill and bumper cover. Note: there was one additional clip in the fender well, not called out in the PDF as it was for a 2012. They have some awesome looking grills if you want to customize your truck.

Link: I also watched these videos on removing the grill & bumper cover: 2010-2012 Toyota Tundra Grille InstallHow To Install Replace Front Radiator Grill Toyota Tacoma 01-04 and 2012-2013 Toyota Tacoma Status Grille. They were moderately helpful, but not essential.

Hint: You will need a deep 14mm socket to reach the nuts on the bumper stand-offs. I also recommend a half-inch ratchet, as my 3/8th ratchet didn't have enough leverage to break them loose.

Hint: I recommend you take the bumper off first, then remove the stand-offs from the frame.

Hint: The instructions don't say so, but if you have a late model Tacoma, you need to remove the tow-point bracket under the channel on the passenger side of the truck before the main hitch assembly will fit on the studs.

Disclaimer: I'm not a professional. You take my advice at your own risk and responsibility. If you don't think you're up to the job, hire a pro. If you break something, it's your own damn fault. OK?


  1. I assume this is to hold your bicycle rack. Are there other applications, like pulling trailers in reverse?

    1. A strong front recovery point is important insurance and I've got the shank and shackle, but I do hope to modify my bike rack to fit there. Issues of height and clearance differ from a rear rack. Some folks put a cargo carrier on the front - that could be handy, both as the back fills quickly and to balance the rig.

      I might get a hitch mounted winch some day. With the right wiring the winch could be attached front or back, which seems an advantage to me. Other folks attach hi-lift jacks in front.

      Actually, I've read that some folks use them for your very "reason", to help them maneuver their trailers into awkward positions which is easier backwards… frontwards?


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