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XJ Towhooks

Installing Rusty's Cherokee Towhooks


One of the first additions I made to this Cherokee was a set of front towhooks from Rusty's Offroad For the most part this was a very straightforward install, with only a few spots that briefly confused me. One common (and dangerous) misconception with the Cherokee is that some owners feel they can bolt the towhooks directly to what passes for a frame. Unlike fully-framed vehicles, the XJ gets it's strength from a 'uniframe' design. The frame in front of the body is heavy-gauge stamped steel, but is not strong enough to support towhooks if mounted directly.

Simple handtools are all you need for this install:
  • 15mm wrenches
  • 19mm wrenches
  • Hacksaw blade
  • T47 Torx bit
  • Breaker bar may be needed
  • Torque wrench 0-65ft-lbs
  • Wobbler joints or extensions may be needed in some applications
Basic stuff.  You can easily see the extension toward the rear mounting hole

The Rusty’s brackets are marketed as ¼" (0.25") plate steel, but it does measure out closer to about 0.190”, or about 3/16”. If you decide to build your own, I'd recommend using the 0.25" plate for the added durability.

Anyway, the box arrived within a few short days after ordering it; the towhooks and brackets arrived in a box that had been through a rough transit, but managed to stay intact nonetheless. Inside I found the towhooks and brackets wrapped individually in several layers of an Alabama newspaper, along with a pair of Rusty’s stickers, bag of bolts, sales literature and the instruction sheet that were floating around in the box.

The Vacuum bottle, as seen looking toward the back of the passenger side of the front bumper Behind the passenger's side of the bumper, there is a small football-shaped blimp that needs to be disconnected. This is your vacuum reservoir, and the vacuum line connected to it isn't very long so make sure you get this removed before dropping the bumper. Some Cherokee owners take this opportunity to relocate the vacuum bottle into the engine compartment; mounting near the passenger-side firewall seems to be pretty common.

First step is to remove the line from the vacuum bottle and then remove the bumper. There are three 15mm bolts holding each side of the bumper in place. Two of my nutserts on the drivers’ side were broken, and the "nut" dropped as I was removing the bolts. There's also a T47 Torx bolt under the bumper but don't waste time trying to remove that yet. I knew better, but it looked like such a prime bolt that had to be removed. Of course, my toolbox was lacking in T47 wrenches, so I used the Vise-Grips.

Once the bumper is in place, the bracket can be positioned along the frame. There is a sleeved hole in the frame about 9" back. Place the 4.5" long bolt through the bracket and then into the hole, using washers on both sides. Make sure the bolt goes "in" from the wheelwell, as it would interfere with the swaybar if you go from the engine side out. Snug but do not tighten yet. Use the original three 15mm bolts to hold the bracket in place, but do not tighten yet.

I also took the time to mark the front fascia for the towhooks and make cuts. Until I replace the bumper, I want to have most of the stock appearance on this Jeep, and that includes the fascia or "ground effects" molding below the bumper. I used a pencil to mark the fascia just outside the towhook, and then cut the mat with a hacksaw blade. Cut straight down about 1½", and then fold the fascia over and cut across to make the notch the hooks will go through later.

Note: DO NOT install the towhooks at this time.

Loosen the four T47 Torx bolts on the bumper, and nudge the brackets out about ¼" on both sides. I repositioned my vacuum bottle about ½" outboard as well to help clear the bolts. Line up the bumper and install loosely with the factory 15mm bolts. Once the bumper is in place, torque the three factory bolts and the two Rusty’s bolts down to specifications. Since this step will pull the brackets in slightly, it is essential that the bumper bolts be only loosely fastened.

Once the bracket is tightened, use the T47 again to tighten the bumper bolts. The underside T47 bolts are immediately over the towhooks, which is why the hooks need to stay off until after this step.

Now that the bracket and bumper are tight, mount the towhook using supplied nuts and bolts. An additional socket or 19mm wrench comes in handy here, as the bolts are long, and have Nylock nuts. Run the bolt "up" through the hook so that the nut is behind the bumper. This gives enough clearance behind the hook to put a towstrap on. The towhooks come with a pair of clips that are intended to keep the towstrap on while not under tension. I used to own a different 4x4 with this type clip onthe towhook and they were really a pain to deal with so I left them off during this installation.

Tighten the towhooks to spec, using creative angles and language if needed to reach into the cavity behind the bumper to hold a wrench. Make sure the other bolts are all tight, and you're done!

Thoughts if I were ever convinced to do it again:

  • Plan a longer afternoon to include relocation of the vacuum bottle
  • Swap all Torx bolts for real hex-head bolts

   Check out Rusty's Offroad at:
www.rustysoffroad.com
213 Oak St.
Trussville, Alabama 35173
Phone: (205) 655-8714
Fax: (205) 655-1551

e-mail Jim
created: Nov 10, 2002
Updated January 3, 2004