2007 Dodge minivan - hitch installation problems

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Or, how a half-hour job turns into a major project ...

This is with our new-to-us 4th-gen Dodge Grand Caravan. I order a Curt Class 3 trailer hitch a few days ago, and received it today.

Watched a few installation videos beforehand - yay, with the Stow 'N Go setup, just use the existing bolts. No drilling involved, and no fishing bolts through the blind channel with a wire. Good stuff - this will be easy! (Foreshadowing ... cue ironic and ominous music ...)

I drove the back of the van up onto ramps, which gave plenty of clearance. Per the videos, saw on each side the two smaller bolts (15 mm heads, I think) at the rear leaf-spring shackles, and the larger bolt (18 mm head) about 6" toward the front of the van.

Sprayed around the bolt heads liberally with AeroKroil. I know, should have given it a day or so, but I have had excellent results with AeroKroil, so went ahead.

Both big bolts were tight, but did move fine initially. I was very cautious, and worked them back and forth, applying more penetrating oil.

The one came out fine, but on the other side, the weld nut broke off. 😠

GRRRRR! On to the four little guys. All four started OK, but then one sheared off. Arg!

Have packed it in for the day. Plan to pull the rear bumper cover to see if I can get access through the back to the square channel with the broken weld nut. If so, I'll try to replace it with a carriage bolt in a rectangular piece of steel stock.

If there's reasonable access, I'll also spray in a lot of penetrating oil to try to help the little guys.

Has anyone else faced this or a similar situation? Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!
 
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I've installed these hitches a couple times. Never an issue and less than 30 minutes. Of course I have a lift and not much rust/corrosion in these parts around here. Sounds like you have a chore in front of you. Good Luck!
 

Number_35

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I've installed these hitches a couple times. Never an issue and less than 30 minutes. Of course I have a lift and not much rust/corrosion in these parts around here. Sounds like you have a chore in front of you. Good Luck!
I've installed hitches on several vans in the past, including my friend's older Dodge GC, with no problems. His used a different system, whereby you fished the bolt and a plate through the channel, using a wire. Sounds tricky, but works well.

I guess they meant well at the factory, but if they'd put a rubber plug rather than a bolt in these weld nuts, I'd have had no problem. So it goes.

Per the Chryslerminivans.net forums, broken-off weld nuts are a common problem.
 

Number_35

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Pulled the bumper cover off, and gave up for the evening - light was becoming a factor, and the temperature has dropped to 0 C (32 F) with a brisk N wind.

Will try to remove the actual bumper tomorrow to see if I can get access through the back. If so, I'll also spray penetrating oil onto the bolt threads sticking up through the remaining weld nuts.

Will also try to drill out the broken bolt.

Yet another instance of "I wish they'd applied a dab of anti-seize compound at the factory!"
 
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There is always the old drill it out and tap it to a larger size fix. McMaster-Carr sells all kinds of tools, including every tap size made. And they have a special deal with UPS that they get both a very low price and very fast service, and they pass that savings on to there customers. Check out there online site if you need a special size drill bit and or tap.

They would also stock any larger size bolt and nut you need.

Actually if you can just drill it out, you could install a longer bolt and nut ( again available at McMaster-Carr ) and tighten the nut while you have the bumper off.
 

CKN

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I sincerely hope you are not going to pull anything with that vehicle that REQUIRES a class three hitch.
 

Number_35

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I sincerely hope you are not going to pull anything with that vehicle that REQUIRES a class three hitch.
Nope, it likely won't see anything heavier than a 4-bike rack.

However, my friend towed a big tent trailer with his '03 Grand Caravan, and didn't suffer any catastrophic failures. I'm pretty sure sure his had the same engine (3.3). I don't know whether he had the factory towing package.
 

Number_35

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There is always the old drill it out and tap it to a larger size fix. McMaster-Carr sells all kinds of tools, including every tap size made. And they have a special deal with UPS that they get both a very low price and very fast service, and they pass that savings on to there customers. Check out there online site if you need a special size drill bit and or tap.

They would also stock any larger size bolt and nut you need.

Actually if you can just drill it out, you could install a longer bolt and nut ( again available at McMaster-Carr ) and tighten the nut while you have the bumper off.
Thanks, I'll check them out!

Pulling the rear bumper did not offer good access to the frame rail. However, I was able to spray in a lot of penetrating oil.

This evening I was able to move the three remaining small (15 mm head) bolts, but have left them in place for now, as they secure the rear part of the leaf-spring shackles. I'm hopeful I can drill out the one I snapped off.

Got the big (18 mm head) bolt on the driver's side freed up. The big remaining obstacle is the corresponding bolt on the passenger side, where I broke off the internal weld nut. May have no alternative to drilling/cutting a hole in the frame rail for access.

How I wish I'd sprayed in a bunch of penetrating oil, several times over a week, and let it sit before attempting to remove these bolts! 😠

Still learning patience, even at my age.
 

Number_35

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Well, I gave up on this one. Took the van over to Mitchell Welding, local trailer-hitch experts, and they somehow got this done for me. Pleased to have the hitch now, so we can haul our bikes around.
 
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