How To Install A European Tow Hook On An American Car

I’ll admit I don’t have a fancy German high-performance automobile sitting in my garage. Now, it isn’t because I don’t respect the precision and engineering that goes into a car like a Porsche GT3 RS. I actually respect the car immensely. The reality is I don’t have a Porsche GT3 in my garage because I don’t have Porsche GT3 money in my bank account. But, just because I don’t have a Porsche doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get to enjoy some of the advantages of German engineering on the modest car that actually does sit in my garage. Even if that advanced engineering is just a simple thing, like a tow hook.

If you look at the front of any German manufactured automobile, you will notice a removable cover in the front bumper. This is for a tow hook, which is mandatory equipment to sell a car in Europe. If you search in the glove box or the trunk you will find a handy OEM tow hook to thread into the front bumper just in case you need to be pulled out of a ditch next to the Autobahn. Those crazy Europeans think of everything — except how to get people to quit smoking.

European cars are required from the factory to have the ability to install a front tow hook. If you are one of those law nerds who needs proof, here is the specific regulation that was put in place in 2010 for vehicles being sold within the European Union: Commission Regulation No. 1005/2010 which states, “All motor vehicles must have a towing device fitted at the front. A ‘towing device’ means a device in the shape of a hook, eye or other form, to which a connecting part, such as a towing bar or towing rope, can be fitted.” All European Union vehicles are sold with a thread pitch inside the front bumper to install a tow hook. Take note here, the thread pitch inside those front bumpers is 12 x 1.75mm.

Many aftermarket companies sell a tow hook for racers that will thread directly into the 12 x 1.75mm right hand thread, which comes standard on a European Union sold vehicle. We scored this OMP kit from I/O Port Racing Supplies.

If you have a Porsche and you are heading to the track and you need to add a tow hook, it doesn’t get any easier than this thanks to the rules of the European Union. However, if you’re a Yank, and you drive an American car, you can order all the cool looking tow hooks you want on Ebay, but there is nowhere on the front of an American car to install them. The crazy part is even if it is an American car that Ford, GM or Dodge also sells in Europe — where they are required to add the tow hook — they don’t sell those same cars in the United States with that option. You see, American car manufacturers work diligently to do this thing they call “making money.” If they can save 17 cents per car by not installing the European tow hook thread in the front bumper, they are going to do it.

The Ford Fiesta is a world car, sold everywhere. In Europe, the Fiesta front bumper has a removable panel and the threads for a tow hook. In America, the Fiesta front bumper cover is smooth with no openings for installing a tow hook and no threads in the metal bumper. Thanks, Ford!

As we were prepping the Ford Fiesta ST for the NASA-sanctioned Tire Rack One Lap of America, we decided it would be a smart idea to install a front tow hook. Unfortunately for us, Ford saved 17 cents and didn’t make life simple for our team. But, we are a scrappy racing team, so we figured we could solve the problem like we do most things, with a drill and a welder. Our plan was rudimentary: drill a hole in the front of the car, weld a nut on the front bumper with the correct thread pitch for a tow hook. Done!

We had to pull the front bumper cover off of the Fiesta because we were installing an upgraded Mishimoto intercooler for more boost. It was the perfect time to drill the front bumper.

We first drilled a small pilot hole through the front grille of the Fiesta where we wanted the tow hook to be installed. Then we used a punch to mark the metal bumper behind the grille. Once the front bumper cover was removed we used a big drill bit and made quick work of the leading edge of the front bumper. Then we used a smaller drill bit, just a smidge larger than our tow hook threads, and drilled a hole through the trailing edge of the front bumper. This is where we would weld on a nut with 12 x 1.75mm threads.

Pro Tip: before welding the nut to the back of the bumper, we used a throwaway bolt, pushed it through the bumper and threaded it into the un-welded nut. This did two things: 1. It ensured the nut’s position was aligned perfectly when we tacked the nut on. 2. It protected our brand new OMP tow hook threads from slag being thrown around as we welded.

Once everything was drilled and aligned, we removed the front bumper bar from the car for ease of access to grind and weld around the back portion of the bumper. The tiny front-wheel-drive Fiesta has things packaged pretty tight up front, it was easier and safer to remove the eight bolts that held the bumper in place than to try and weld in a tight space near the radiator.

Once the bumper was off we went to work with the grinder to clean up the metal before attempting to weld the nut on the back of the bumper. Yes, we should have been wearing gloves for this. Learn from us and don’t do stupid shop stuff.

Once we had things nice and clean, we put the nut exactly where we wanted it welded on, holding it in place with a throwaway bolt to ensure everything was lined up just right. Then we got to work tacking the nut in place. This process involved the usual, “Ouch, that’s hot!” as pieces of slag popped off and hit our skin. This could have been resolved with the proper leatherwear for welding. Again, don’t do stupid stuff like we do at Double Nickel Nine Motorsports for Toolshed Engineer.

With the holes drilled, and rust protectant layer ground off the bumper, and the correct-thread nut in place, it was time to break out the welder and tack the nut to its permanent mounting spot.

With the nut tacked onto the back of the bumper we threaded the bolt in and out of the nut to ensure the threads didn’t get dirtied up or the nut didn’t warp from heat. Everything seemed to work fine and the nut was welded firmly in place.

Don’t judge us for our welds! This wasn’t a roll cage. It’s just a nut on the back of a bumper for a tow hook being pulled from the front of the bumper. It will be fine.

We put the car back together — hoping everything would line up — and then nervously inserted the new OMP tow hook into the front bumper, hoping it would thread in easily. And it did! The time we took to ensure all of the holes were lined up paid off. And it ensured we didn’t have to drill a massive ugly oblong hole into the grille of the Fiesta had we not lined things up correctly the first time. The European tow hook installed on an American car project was a success.

With a brand new, sturdy tow hook on the front of the car, it was time hit the track during One Lap of America. Hopefully, we never have to use the tow hook, but if we do, we know it won’t rip the front of our car off in the process.

I’m sort of a superstitious guy. I felt like if we took the time, money and effort to install a front tow hook, maybe we wouldn’t need it during the weeklong One Lap of America race. At the end of the successful race, I knew I would end up saying something like, “Well, that tow hook project was a waste of time.” But really I would be thinking, I’m so glad we installed that tow hook … just so we didn’t need it.

Image courtesy of Driftpoint Media, Stephen Young, Rob Krider

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