Trailer Hitch Installation - 2015 Ford Escape - Draw-Tite

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How to Install a Trailer Hitch on a 2015 Ford Escape

Today on our 2015 Ford Escape we'll be installing the Draw-Tite class two 1-1/4" receiver tube hitch, part number 36529. Note, this vehicle is equipped with the automatic rear opening hatch with the foot motion sensor. With the hitch in place, the window for viewing the sensor will be to either side of the receiver tube, as the sensor will not pick up anything that lines up with the receiver tube and flange. As you can see with our hitch installed, our rear motion sensor lift gate still operates. Here's what our hitch will look like once it's installed. As you can see, it's got a fully welded construction for a nice sturdy piece. It's got a nice black powder-coated finish with a square crosstube.

What makes it really nice about this hitch is the main body of our hitch is hidden behind the rear fascia, and the only thing we really have exposed is our class tow 1-1/4" by 1-1/4" receiver tube, our 1/2" pre-drilled pinhole, and our chain holds downs. This hitch is capable of 300 pounds of tongue weight and 3,500 pounds of towing capacity. Next I'll go ahead and give you a couple measurements that will assist you with selecting accessories for your new hitch. From the center of the hitch pinhole to the outermost edge of the bumper is 4-1/2". From the top of the receiver tube opening to the ground is 14". This will assist you with selecting accessories such as a ball mount, bike rack, or cargo carrier.

We'll now go ahead with the installation. To begin our install we first need to remove the exhaust hangers. There's one on each side, and each hanger has two fasteners that secure it to the frame. Let's go ahead and remove those bolts so that we can swing the hanger down away from the frame. Here on the frame rail underneath the heat shield will be two of our attachment points. We'll need to cut the heat shield out so that we can expose the attachment points and allow for direct metal to metal contact with the hitch and the frame.

Using a paint marker I'm going to mark out the section that will be removed. By removing this section of the heat shield it will expose our attachment points and allow the hitch to go directly flat to the frame. Here on this driver side, to make it easier to make this cut, I'm going to remove the heat shield fastener, bend it down, and then cut it out. With our fastener removed we can just bend the heat shield down and make our cut. To cut out the heat shield you could use a cutoff wheel or tin snips. We're going to use our grinder with a cutoff wheel.

To give myself a little more working room I'm going to go ahead and remove the exhaust bracket from the metal hanger. Now to remove the exhaust bracket from the hanger I'm going to hit it with a little spray lubricant and then use a pair of channel locks to simply slide the rubber isolator off the metal hanger. Now with our cutout made and the section out of the way, we can go ahead and put our exhaust shield back up and our fastener back on. As you can see, with the cutout made we now have our two attachment points and the fasteners for our exhaust hangers are exposed. Over on the passenger side we'll be repeating the basic same function. However, there's no fastener to remove. We'll go ahead and mark it and cut it out. Next we need to get our hardware into the frame, but before we can get our hardware into the frame we need to open up the access slot in order to allow our carriage bolt to go into the frame channel. To open it up, it's recommended to use a file. We're going to use a round file bit on our drill. Once we've verified that we have it opened up enough we can start installing our hardware. Keep in mind that each process we're doing here on the driver side will get repeated identically on the passenger side. Now our hitch is going to have a total of six carriage bolts, three on each side that will go into the frame channel to secure the hitch. Each of the six carriage bolts are the same size. We just have to be careful of our spacer block to make sure we put the right size for the right attachment point. Our rear attachment point here in the side of the frame will get the long 3" spacer block. To start we'll take the 7/16 pull wire provided with the install kit and go in the attachment point and out the access hole. Now with our pull wire in place, we'll take the 3"-long spacer block, slide it onto the pull wire, and then up into the frame. We'll follow that by taking the 7/16 carriage bolt and threading it onto the pull wire, and then feeding it into the frame. Once I have both in place, we'll then pull them into position. Now the attachment point for the hitch is going to slide up next to the frame rail, so we're just going to slide the carriage bolt back into the frame enough to get the hitch in place. Next we'll do the center attachment point here in the bottom of the frame. For this one we'll be using the 2" spacer block. We'll go through the attachment point, out the access hole, slide on our spacer block, and thread on our carriage bolt. Feed the spacer block into the frame first, followed by the carriage bolt, pulling both into position. Now for our forward attachment point we've been using the access hole to get our hardware in place, and we're now going to use it as an attachment point. To get our hardware in place we'll use a reverse pull method, taking our pull wire, feed the 3"-long spacer block onto the pull wire, thread on a carriage bolt, then feed the carriage bolt into the frame first followed by the spacer block, and then pull them into position. Special note: make sure that the spacer block is sitting flat with the bottom of the frame, and not over top of the weld nuts for the exhaust hanger. Now with the driver side done I'll move over to the passenger side and repeat the same process to get the carriage bolt hardware into position. Now with all our carriage bolt fasteners in place, we're ready to put our hitch in position. We'll take the hitch, slide it up above the exhaust starting on the passenger side, moving towards the driver side. Then we'll take our pull wires and feed them through the attachment points. Now once we have the pull wires in place I'll raise the hitch into position and pull the side carriage bolt out through the frame. This will help hold the weight of the hitch and prevent it from coming back down. Quick tech tip: at this point I like to go ahead and remove the pull wire and install the conical tooth washer and nut to help hold the hitch in place. Keep in mind, when installing the conical tooth washer, the teeth of the washer will face the hitch. We'll just install it loosely so we still have some movement with the hitch. Now I'll go over to the driver side and repeat the same process with our side frame attachment point. We're just going to leave it loose this time, again so we can move the hitch around as necessary to get all of our hardware in place. Next I'll go ahead and remove the pull wire for our center attachment point. To secure it we're going to use a flat washer, split lock washer, and nut. Again, we're just going to install our hardware finger tight so that we can still move the hitch around as necessary. Next we'll remove the forward attachment point pull wire. This one will get a conical tooth washer and nut to secure it. Next we're going to install the inside of the frame rail bumper flange attachment hardware. This is going to be the 8mm hardened bolt and a flat washer going through the hitch attachment point. We're then going to add enough flat washer to compensate for the frame flange going through the frame flange and securing it with a conical tooth washer and nut here behind the rear bumper flange. Now once we have the bolt going all the way through the outside of the bumper flange, we'll install the conical tooth washer, teeth of the washer facing the bumper flange, and then a nut to secure it. Once we have the driver side done I'll then move over to the passenger side and repeat the same process. Now with all our hitch hardware in place we need to reinstall the exhaust bracket. To secure the bracket we're going to use the new 8mm bolt, split lock washer, and flat washer for each of the four attachment points, two on each side. Put our bracket in place. Go ahead and start our hardware. Then we'll go ahead and repeat the same process on the passenger side and get all of our hardware in place. Now, with all our hardware in place we're ready to go ahead and tighten it down and torque to specifications. We'll start with the 8mm hardware first, which is the two for the exhaust bracket and the one at the bumper flange. Once we have it tightened down, we'll then torque to specifications as indicated in the instructions. Now with everything tightened and torqued to specifications, we'll go ahead and reinstall the exhaust. Once our exhaust is reinstalled, we're ready to hit the road. That will do it for the install of the Draw-Tite hitch, part number 36529, on our 2015 Ford Escape. .

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