i have an 03 ext 4x4....without the towing package.. my dealer wants $600 to put a hitch and wiring harness and said i needed a new bumper guard.... i can get one at my local advance auto fot about $200 complete....its a bolt on and i'd do it myself....would i still need a new bumper guard? the advance auto sales guy don't know if id nedd a new bumper guard....anyone put a nonfactory hitch have any advice?
The OEM hitch requires a cutout in the rear bumper cover. Maybe that's what he is referring to. The aftermarket bolt-on hitches I have seen, are below the bumper and don't require any modifications to the bumper cover.
Another consideration is that the factory hitch package comes with an engine oil cooler and a tow rating of 3500#. With an aftermarket hitch and no oil cooler, your tow rating is reduced to 2500#, if memory serves.
I installed a DrawTite hitch on my 2004 Ford Escape and it went flawlessly. A simple coat hanger, some electrical tape, a proper sized wrench, and the hitch package was all I used. Fish three plates and three bolts through the rear of the frame and bolt it on. It took me about 30 minutes, with a second person I am sure it could be done in under 10 minutes.
A aux. transmission cooler can be added as well. The factory tow package is a small receiver. Mine is a full 2" hitch. I use mine soley to hold a bike rack though.
I just went through this with my 2004 V6 Escape, which came without the factory towing package. Here is what I have found from reading other posts, and reviewing the factory literature and the factory service manuals:
1) The from-the-Factory towing package includes the following- a Class II (350/3500 lb) hitch, a 4-pin wiring harness, a towing flasher, and an engine oil cooler/associated coolant piping. (This is not a typical oil cooler that circulates engine oil through a small radiator mounted behind the grill. Rather, it circulates engine coolant through a radiator plate sandwiched between the block and the engine oil filter). The hitch itself is welded on at the factory, rather than bolted on, and is thus not removable (see below).
2) A Factory add-on complete towing package is dealer-available for about $500 list. It includes a bolt-on version of the Factory Class II hitch, a 4-pin wiring harness, a towing-capable turn signal flasher, and the Factory oil cooler/piping.
3) The Factory 4-pin wiring harness is dealer-available separately for about $15. But using it requires buying a Factory towing flasher - about $50. The connector for this Factory harness is under the bottom rear left rear interior trim panel lip. It can be reached (harness can be installed) without removing the trim panel, with a bit of work and a flashlight. You must however remove the rear hatch opening lower plastic trim plate (pops off). The harness itself is easy to snake through the existing grommet opening for it, which lives in the rear floor panel behind the spare tire well. (Non-harness grommet pops right out).
4) The Factory turn signal flasher connector (standard or towing) is a dual five-blade affair. The flasher unit itself lives behind the lower lip of the dash to the far left - right in back of the instrument cluster illumination switch.
5) The oil cooler and piping can also be purchased separately from a dealer(which I did). The cooler is $200, and the piping (listed as a combined unit, has two pipes and three hoses with clamps) is $130. There is no cooler/piping combo available from the dealer, you have to pay (through the nose) for the two separate components.
6) I chose not to buy the Factory towing add-on package because I wanted a class III (500/5000 pound) hitch with a 2 inch receiver box. I installed the aftermarket Draw-tite model - costs $110, and comes with a hitch bar. (This hitch can also be installed below the from-the-factory hitch unit. Looks a bit funny, but works fine and gives you a two inch receiver).
7) An aftermarket hitch can be installed without the Factory oil cooler set-up, but it limits warranty-covered towing capability to 2000 pounds rather than 3500.
8) Aftermarket 4-pin wiring harnesses are also available for about $25, but you need to get a unit that has the module that connects to the rear lights and converts separate brake and turn signals to a combined trailer signal. Doing so allows you to get away without buying the factory flasher.
9) Note that the Factory oil cooler for towing is an engine oil cooler. All Escapes come with a transmission oil external cooler, in addition to the standard cooling unit in the radiator. There are aftermarket engine oil coolers that could be adapted. But I bet the dealer would say they void the engine warranty for towing more than 2000 pounds. That is why I spent $330 to get the factory cooler setup (without the Factory add-on class II hitch).
In summary, I installed the following:
Draw-tite class III hitch ($110)
Factory harness/towing flasher ($65)
Factory engine oil cooler/piping ($330)
Total = $505 (but gives me warranty-certified 3500 pound towing capacity)
Cost of Factory add on kit = $500 (but would only give me a class II hitch)
(It also helps that I can buy the dealer stuff from my local dealer at a 20% discount. But it still was a wash for me - factory add on versus getting a class III hitch. You can buy the factory stuff at a 20% discount over the Internet, but you have to pay shipping. Many local dealers will give a 10-20% discount on large purchases such as this. But you have to ask).