Tech Tips

Front Tow Hooks

Have you ever been stuck and needed a front-end pull and couldn't get it?  Ever had the need to pull someone from the front and couldn't? Well, if you couldn't before, because of lack of front tow-hooks, now you can.  If you even spend a little time off-road you should equip your vehicle with tow-hooks for your safety and the safety of others.  Trying to strap off the springs or around the brake lines on the frame is dangerous. 

Although FSJ's can have different equipment options, they all share one same sad feature: Nowhere to install front tow-hooks! 

With this Tech Tip, you will be able to install tow hooks on the front of most FSJ's around 1974 and up equipped with stock bumpers and even some aftermarket bumpers. (I believe the earlier FSJ's did not have protrusions at the front of the frame). Following this procedure will take some work, some thinking and a little bit of effort, but it is still a hell of a lot easier than fabbing a new bumper, and definitely cheaper than buying a new bumper.

Special Warning!!!
The instructions listed here involve some disassembly and welding to the frame. The tow hook will be bolted to an assembly added to the frame, which could be expected to accept a force equal to the weight of your vehicle. This modification should only be attempted by an experienced welder/fabricator. Do not shortcut these instructions. These instructions should be done one side at a time and please read all instructions prior to starting the project. 

Materials List:

  • 3/16"-1/4" thick plate steel at least 16" X 16"
  • Misc. nuts and bolts as needed, this varies by vehicle  - grade 5 or higher
  • One set of tow hooks (the best types have clips to hold a strap or chain)
  • Bolts for tow hooks if not included and locking nuts for bolts.
  • Your favorite frame paint.
  • Magic marker. (color choice is open, but black seems to work pretty good)

Tools:

  • Welder (we used a mig welder, but you can use anything that will do the job.)
  • Metal cutting tools, grinder, file
  • Wrenches/sockets
  • Good drill with large bits
  • Face/eye protection
  • Gloves
  • Helper

What to Do:
Examine bumper and determine if it is straight and how it is oriented to frame.  Make a mental note of this for later.  Look under bumper for where the framehorns extend out from the rest of the frame rectangle.  The horns are sort of in an L-shape. If these are not present, than you will not be able to perform this procedure as written. The bumper is usually mounted to a bracket bolted to the outside of the horn.  With the marker, make a mark on either side of the horn on the bottom of the bumper.  Also mark about where the bottom of the horn meets the bumper.  This is to guide a cut you will make later on the bumper.

Remove the bumper from the brackets.  The bolts are probably rusted, so don't be surprised if you break one or more.

Remove the bumper mounting bracket(s) from the frame horns. 

What you should have left is an L-shaped frame extension.  Cut a section of plate to match the top of the base of the L. (the horizontal section).  This piece will probably be around  2" X 3".  Weld this to the top of the bottom portion of the L.  This will reinforce the mounting surface for the hooks.  Make sure that it is secure and stitched on all four sides.

Cut another section of steel about 3" X 3".  This will be used to turn the "L" into a "U".  You may need to notch the plate at the top for clearance to the bumper.  Weld this vertical section at a slight angle into the "U" for a little extra bracing, keeping in mind that you will need enough opening at the top to reach in and hold the nuts for the hooks.

After grinding and cleaning your welds, hold the hooks up to the bottom plate and mark where you will drill the mounting holes.  Don't forget: the nuts should be centered in the channel once you drill the holes, and the bolts should be centered in the field of the plate, not to far back against the frame and not way far out on the edge of the horn.  You'll also need to visualize how far out the hook will stick out from the bumper after you notch it.

After you drill the holes and are sure that you will be able to get the brackets and hooks to bolt up, STOP!  Instead of bolting it together right away, stop, clean and spray the frame horn a nice coat of your favorite rust-inhibiting paint.  After the paint gets moderately dry, bolt the hook in using plastic locking nuts or some other type of locking nut.  You don't want this thing to come loose, and you donít want to have to take the bumper apart to retighten it. Double check that you will have tool clearance to reinstall the bumper.  (On mine I had to tack weld the nut to the bracket for the top bumper bolt and replace the carriage bolt.)  Install the bumper bracket.

I don't feel the necessity of turning the "U" into a completed box.  Someday you may have to replace the hook or get to the bolts again.  Quite frankly, if done well, the hook will be plenty strong. With this setup, my nearly 3 ton vehicle has been winched up out of a canyon with only a slightly bent tow hook to show for it! If anything, I might recommend reinforcing the existing vertical plate on the "L".

After both sides have been formed, get the bumper as close to the mounting holes as possible and eye ball just how far up the hook goes up the bumper face.  Using the marks you made earlier cut a vertical section out of your bumper from the bottom up to this level.  Remember that it is always easier to cut more than put metal back on.  At some point, you should have a vertical rectangle from the bottom of the bumper to just over the top of the hook.  After this happens, flare the cut out so that you will have finger room to attach to the hook and enough room that a strap will not be easily cut. Deburr the edges of the cut or even file them smooth if possible. Don"t forget that sometimes you may be pulled from the side or at a weird angle.

After you get all this done, reattach the bumper and double check that everything is tight and has some clearance.

Go wheelin' - and after your first trip double-check that everything has stayed tight.

David Nothstein