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I installed a Curt hitch on my gen4 outback, which involved pulling the bumper off, and it was a little scary with how much force it took to pop the bumper clips, but I got it installed with no damage and no need to drill holes.

Now the ascent OEM hitch is a thing of beauty the way it's all hidden and doesnt change the approach angles, so it won't scrape etc. They're for sale on ebay for $340 shipped (excluding the ball adapter).

I've found a youtube of a shop doing the install. Looks okay, but has the whole bumper removal step I dislike.

Who's done it, did it happen without damage etc, and would you suggest it is DIY, or is it a shop job?

Thanks
 

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I've done it. So easy! Keep your rear gate open with seats down to set parts. In the video you mentioned, they messed up big time on two of the clips though: the clips they said they broke. Those clips have a little center part. Use a pokey tool and press them in. Then pop the clip out. When reinstalling those clips, push that center part back out as far as it will go. Then reinstall and push the center part ti flush to lock them in. Repeat; push the center pin in, past flush, to remove.
A second person makes removal and reinstall of the plastic cover a bit easier. I had my wife help, just to hold one side while I detached the other. Then we swapped sides so I could finish with the snap clips.
I highly recommend watching the e-trailer videos on installing a receiver hitch on their Ascent. Not the same hitch but better, more detailed on how to remove and install the plastic bumper.
 

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Lots of discussion in the Towing discussion area in the technical area of this forum. Many folks have self-installed.
 

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Here's etrailer's video on an aftermarket one. Should be similar for the OEM one.
It's not...the OEM hitch integrates into the subframe which helps provide the characteristics best suited to supporting the full 5000 lbs towing load/500 lbs tongue weight for Ascent . Most aftermarket hitches do not integrate like that and just bolt to the vehicle rather than integrate with it. the OEM hitch receiver installation requires removal of the bumper cover, etc., to accomplish the task. There is discussion on this in the Towing forum area.
 
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It's not...the OEM hitch integrates into the subframe which helps provide the characteristics best suited to supporting the full 5000 lbs towing load/500 lbs tongue weight for Ascent . Most aftermarket hitches do not integrate like that and just bolt to the vehicle rather than integrate with it. the OEM hitch receiver installation requires removal of the bumper cover, etc., to accomplish the task. There is discussion on this in the Towing forum area.
No, it does not go into the subframe. The OEM one is attached to the main frame rails that make up the unibody. You know what the OEM one "integrates" into the body? It is bolting it to the existing holes in the unibody frame.

The aftermarket one I linked, requires removal of the bumper cover, etc to accomplish the task. I suspect you didn't bother watching the video.
 

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It's not...the OEM hitch integrates into the subframe which helps provide the characteristics best suited to supporting the full 5000 lbs towing load/500 lbs tongue weight for Ascent . Most aftermarket hitches do not integrate like that and just bolt to the vehicle rather than integrate with it. the OEM hitch receiver installation requires removal of the bumper cover, etc., to accomplish the task. There is discussion on this in the Towing forum area.
The access/removal of the plastic and reinstall is the same and the e-trailer video is much better coverage of that portion. I think the uncertainty tearing down the rather large rear plastic can freak folks out. I certainly did me except for two things; the videos and the fact I've done some major work on past Subaru's. I know they really do a good job with making things easy to work on.
 

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It is attached to the frame rails. It even says it in the install guide, that you linked, step 4: "Align the bracket holes with the holes in the frame rail."

A subframe is something you see holding the suspension and axles, which is bolted to the unibody, with a NVH absorbing bushing. Attaching a hitch receiver to a subframe is too weak, let alone a regular bumper. In a crash the subframe will shear off from the bolts that attach to the unibody, which would ruin Subaru's reputation for crash performance. This is why it is attached to the entire unibody frame, so that the entire unibody can absorb and redirect impact energy around the passenger cell, since a 2-box vehicle would not have a crumple zone, unlike a 3-box sedan, which the trunk is the crumple zone. In the case of towing, the entire unibody takes the load with much of the load taken up by the main frame rails. It's called science.

An example of a rear subframe on the car.
 

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Well, Jim mistakenly called it the "subframe rails". It's "frame rails" like you said. But that wasn't the point. The point is the OEM hitch would be stronger because it's mounted along the frame rails whereas the Draw-Tite (and some other aftermarket hitches too) just mounts onto the end flange of the frame rails where the bumper bar was mounted. As far as I could tell when I did the installation in September, the flange area is just a few layers of sheet metal (thicker sheet metal but still sheet metal) whereas the metal used for the length of the frame rails are way more substantial.

Whether the aftermarket hitches' mounting method can "truly" be rated at 5000 lbs or not I'm not sure. I'm not an engineer. But I'm willing to bet the OEM mounting is way stronger. Subaru designed the car so they know the best way to mount their hitch.
 

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Well, Jim mistakenly called it the "subframe rails". It's "frame rails" like you said. But that wasn't the point. The point is the OEM hitch would be stronger because it's mounted along the frame rails whereas the Draw-Tite (and some other aftermarket hitches too) just mounts onto the end flange of the frame rails where the bumper bar was mounted. As far as I could tell when I did the installation in September, the flange area is just a few layers of sheet metal (thicker sheet metal but still sheet metal) whereas the metal used for the length of the frame rails are way more substantial.

Whether the aftermarket hitches' mounting method can "truly" be rated at 5000 lbs or not I'm not sure. I'm not an engineer. But I'm willing to bet the OEM mounting is way stronger. Subaru designed the car so they know the best way to mount their hitch.
Jim is very adamant about attaching to the subframe, why else would he be arguing about it?

The tongue weight capacity of the aftermarket draw tite is 750 lbs, which is more than the factory designed tongue weight, of 500 lbs. Sounds like a stronger design to me.

The weak pointof the factory designed one are the 2 M14 bolts used by Subaru to attach the bumper beam/hitch receiver to side brackets. Hopefully, Subaru didn't cheap out on the Class of bolt used, since shear strength is important here.

I'd be more confident of the aftermarket one holding 4 fat bikes, cantilevered off of the hitch receiver than the factory one.
 

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There are 3 bolts on each side connecting the hitch bar to the side brackets (6 total). And, IIRC, these bolts are bigger than the 8 that go into the rail flanges. So they may end up about equal in strength. And for the tongue weight, who knows if Subaru underrated their number, maybe for some safety margin.

As for the bolt mounting and shear strength etc. I wasn't worry about the bolts shearing off in the aftermarket solutions. I'm more worry about the mounting area (sheet metal) tearing out starting with some cracks, etc...
 

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Jim is very adamant about attaching to the subframe, why else would he be arguing about it?
So I made a misspelling. I stand my my contention that the OEM hitch installation integrates with the vehicle better than most third party solutions. This has been discussed a lot in the Towing forum area for something like a year and a half now.
 

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Jim is very adamant about attaching to the subframe, why else would he be arguing about it?

The tongue weight capacity of the aftermarket draw tite is 750 lbs, which is more than the factory designed tongue weight, of 500 lbs. Sounds like a stronger design to me.

The weak pointof the factory designed one are the 2 M14 bolts used by Subaru to attach the bumper beam/hitch receiver to side brackets. Hopefully, Subaru didn't cheap out on the Class of bolt used, since shear strength is important here.

I'd be more confident of the aftermarket one holding 4 fat bikes, cantilevered off of the hitch receiver than the factory one.
Seen this argument on the Forester board on OEM versus aftermarket hitch. The big issue is the OEM is designed to work with the crumple zones as they are engineered and the some of the aftermarket hitches for the Forester completely change where the energy in a rear end crash was directed to and would end up warping the frame in a minor rear end collusion over dissipating the energy in the engineered crumple zone.
 

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It (the frame rails) DO hold the suspension components and suspension sub frame. Front end of the rails are connected to the rear suspension frame pieces.

Sorry, the eTrailer hitch is in no way similar or comparable.



It is attached to the frame rails. It even says it in the install guide, that you linked, step 4: "Align the bracket holes with the holes in the frame rail."

A subframe is something you see holding the suspension and axles, which is bolted to the unibody, with a NVH absorbing bushing. Attaching a hitch receiver to a subframe is too weak, let alone a regular bumper. In a crash the subframe will shear off from the bolts that attach to the unibody, which would ruin Subaru's reputation for crash performance. This is why it is attached to the entire unibody frame, so that the entire unibody can absorb and redirect impact energy around the passenger cell, since a 2-box vehicle would not have a crumple zone, unlike a 3-box sedan, which the trunk is the crumple zone. In the case of towing, the entire unibody takes the load with much of the load taken up by the main frame rails. It's called science.

An example of a rear subframe on the car.
 

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The tongue weight capacity of the aftermarket draw tite is 750 lbs, which is more than the factory designed tongue weight, of 500 lbs. Sounds like a stronger design to me.
That tongue weight is marketing nonsense. Their manual itself says it's actually the vehicle specs, meaning 500 pounds. And I'd NEVER try that bolted to the bumper bolts. The car was not designed to carry the tongue weight there.

Heck, the OEM hitch rails weigh almost half as much as the ENTIRE Drawtite hitch.
2971

Then there's the faaar beefier OEM hitch bar.

The Drawtite hitch is inferior in EVERY way except ease of install.
 

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The Drawtite just bolting on at the end of the rails will increase torsional stress on the frame. The OEM hitch carries and distributes that load to the proper place on the frame by bolting into the frame and maintains the safety of the crumple zone engineering you bought a Subaru for to begin with.
 

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After looking at Robert's pix it occurred to me my OEM hitch is in the next room still in the box. So, I fished out those frame brackets he circled and they are 14" long. The engineers that designed the Ascent put the tow load onto two 14" brackets further up the frame and not 8 bolts at the end of the rails.
 
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