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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I needed a Class III hitch for my 2005 Element and being the thrifty sort that I am, I determined to get one for the lowest possible price and install it myself. After searching in vain for a used model, I came across an Ebay ad for a Class III Element hitch for about $50 less than all competitors and free shipping, so I took a gamble and bought it.

The brand was not specified, but I knew it was either going to be a Hidden Hitch (good!), DrawTite (good!), or Curt (bad!). You know it, I opened the box and it was a Curt -- or at least a perfect Curt replica because there was no sticker on it anywhere identifying it. But it was heavy, sturdy, and beautifully powder-coated.

The Curt Class III hitch for the Element has a bad reputation for difficulty in installing. I was really dreading the process, but was surprised at how simple and un-stressful it was. I installed it completely by myself in my driveway in about 2-3 hours, including a short break. Here's what I did.

1. Included instructions are weak but decipherable https://www.hitchsource.com/images/curt/13574/installsheet/CM_13574_INS.PDF. First, make sure the hitch is not bent and is reasonably square. Mine was bent during shipping but I got it straightened out with a bit of muscle. Then, you need to enlarge the two holes on the INSIDE of the frame rail and closest to the front of the vehicle. After looking at the hole for a minute, the word "reciprocating saw" flashed in my head. I got my $24.99 Harbor Freight sawzall out, put a short bi-metal blade on it, and cut about a 1" long by .75" high bit of metal off from the bumper side of the hole. I could easily fit the handle nut/spacer bar/carriage bolt through that.

2. The instructions say to enlarge the back hole as well. This is unnecessary. Get a 2' length of scrap shielded copper wire or similar and feed it along with the provided "fish wire" (a thin stiff wire that is tightly corkscrewed at the end) through the bottom back hole up to the front side hole that you just enlarged (or you can feed it the opposite way if you find that easier). This sounds much harder to do than it is -- within 15 seconds I had both wires sticking out of both holes.

3. Feed both wires through the provided spacer bar, then screw the carriage bolt onto the corkscrew end of the fishwire. Push the spacer bar into the hole -- it will slide down the wires and be lined up with the back hole where it needs to be. Stick a screwdriver up through the hole to secure and align it, then draw the scrap electrical wire out.

4. Then, gently pull the fishwire through. The carriage bolt will end up at the back hole easily. Then gently finesse it down through the spacer hole and the existing frame hole. Remove the fishwire and then put on the washers and nut to keep it in place.

5. Now, go back to the enlarged hole and insert the handle nut with the nut facing up and slide it in line with the front hole. Screw the hex bolt and washers loosely into the handle nut. (NOTE: I pre-screwed the hex bolt into the handle nut before installation as the handle nut is painted and the threads go on tight the first try. This was very helpful when I went to do the actual install. ALSO -- my kit erroneously provided 4 carriage bolts instead of 2 carriage bolts and 2 hex bolts as required. I found the hex bolts at HD for $1.70 each.).

6. Repeat steps 1-5 for the other side of the frame. By this time, about an hour or so should have passed. You are about halfway through.

7. I put the hitch on my abdomen and slid under the car. Having a rug and padding for your head is very helpful. Then, I pushed the hitch up and secured it loosely to one of the back bolts, taking care to make sure the metal mounting plate for the u-bolt is ABOVE the welded tow-loop on the bottom of the Element's spare tire well. This will hold it reasonably in place, but take care that it does not slip. The hitch weighs about 50 lbs I'd guess and can get you good if you are not careful. If you can have a helper, that is ideal.

8. Try to loosely install the u-bolt as denoted in the instructions. The nuts will face towards the back of the car. Loosely attach the nuts and see if the other side of the hitch lines up with the holes. Mine didn't seem to so I removed the u-bolt and then worked on lining up the remaining 3 bolts, leaving the u-bolt to last.

9. With each of the 4 main bolts loosely attached, I attempted to put the u-bolt on. The angle of the hitch didn't allow enough clearance to push the u-bolt through the hitch holes. I resorted to getting my drill with a small grinder bit and enlarged the u-bolt mounting holes. This might not have been necessary if I had put the u-bolt on first, but I don't know. It added about 25 minutes to the installation. A Dremel or die grinder would also work well.

10. With the holes enlarged, the u-bolt slid through and I started tightening all the bolts in a circular pattern till I grunted. Then I sprayed the areas that I cut/grinded with some paint for rust protection.

That's it. It's not as easy as a Hidden Hitch or Draw-Tite, but it really was not complicated or frustrating, and the hitch sits nicely under the bumper and looks great. If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me and maybe I can help you with advice. Thanks.
 

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Nice write up. Gives someone good facts to decide is they want to pay more for a Hidden Hitch or DrawTite and get a 20 minute install with no frame mods in exchange.
 
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