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Stock Recovery (Tow) Hook Location?

Discussion in '2001-2005 Explorer Sport Trac' started by Lonnie-S, December 27, 2017.

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    1. Lonnie-S

      Lonnie-S Member

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      I just bought a 2002 Sport Trac a week or so ago. It doesn't have any recovery hooks at front or rear, and I want to have them. I was poking around on the Internet trying to see where the factory hooks were mounted, as I know they were at least an option in 2002. Is this the point where they were installed?

      General location:
      [​IMG]

      Here is a detailed view of the (bolt?) holes I found:
      [​IMG]

      As far as the rear goes, it has a trailer towing rig that should be good to 5,000 pounds. I've seen the recovery hooks that go into the tow bar receiver, but I'm thinking that may not be to smart as I've seen people try and "jerk" a rig free of trouble. Perhaps there's a similar frame-mounted, recover hook setup available for the rear too? What's recommended for the rear recovery setup on a Sport Trac?

      Thanks,

      Lonnie
       
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    3. koda2000

      koda2000 Explorer Addict

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      My OE front ones were bolted to the insides of the frame rails on some rather thin plates that were spot welded to the frame rails. I removed my tow hooks because the PO had apparently crossed the tow straps which broke the spot wells and left the tow hooks bent in toward the center and crooked. When I get around to it I plan to use a hydraulic port-a-power tool to push the plates back into place and drill some holes to add grade 8 bolts to hold them in place before reinstalling the hooks. I don't have any rear tow hooks and don't think they were a factory option.
       
    4. Lonnie-S

      Lonnie-S Member

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      @koda2000

      Thanks for the response.

      Were you able to see the two photos I posted? I'm not able to see them myself. From what you're saying, it sounds like the holes I annotated were not for tow hooks? I wonder what they were for?

      Regards,
       
    5. koda2000

      koda2000 Explorer Addict

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      If I right click on your IMG's and open them in a new tab I can see them. That looks like where my tow hooks attached to (and what's currently bent inwards). It's been several years since I removed them so I can't say for certain. If I get a chance later today I'll look at my tow hooks and frame to see if I can be positively sure that's where they attached. Using those attachment points would put the tow hooks roughly in the center of the bumper cover openings, which is where they're supposed to be. Mine were up against the center vertical bumper cover pieces and crooked.

      Edit:
      Yep, that's what the hooks were bolted to. I couldn't get at where my hooks are stored, but as I recall the part the bolts screwed into was on the hooks (eyes/loops actually) themselves, or a piece attached to the eyes. If you just want to add aftermarket recovery hooks to you truck, that's where you could attach them, though you may need to drill another hole and use one existing hole. Just remember, "never cross the streams".
       
      Last edited: December 28, 2017
    6. 429CJ-3X2

      429CJ-3X2 Elite Explorer

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      Here's a set I have with the factory hardware. These are from an '01 or '02 Explorer Sport, but they're the same as the Sport Trac. And yes, that's where they attach. The steel plates weren't attached (spot welded, etc) to the frame.

      101_2801.JPG

      101_2802.JPG

      101_2803.JPG
       
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    7. Lonnie-S

      Lonnie-S Member

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      @429CJ-3X2

      Thanks for the photos and the information. They look massive. I'm taking it that they're cast based on the complex shape and what looks like a parting line on the ring itself?

      Regards,
       
    8. koda2000

      koda2000 Explorer Addict

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      Yes, they are cast/forged and rather heavy. Do you want to add these for looks or function? If more for the function you can buy much smaller/lighter aftermarket hooks.
       
    9. 429CJ-3X2

      429CJ-3X2 Elite Explorer

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      Yes, they're cast iron. I'll sell the one in the pics and its mate if you need them. My '01 ST came with the hooks and I got a set from an '01 or '02 Ex Sport from the salvage yard for my '02 Sport Trac. These are just extras. I bought them cheap, so even with shipping they might be comparable to what you might have to pay elsewhere. If you buy them from a salvage yard, hooks from either a Sport Trac or '01-03 Explorer Sport will work. I'll post the part # if you like.

      Sometime back - as in probably several years ago, there was a thread in the 2nd Gen Explorer forum discussing factory frame mounted rear tow hooks. It seems like there might have been a few sold, but if so they're extremely rare. They probably wouldn't work on the Sport Tracs anyway with the plastic bumper cover.
       
    10. Lonnie-S

      Lonnie-S Member

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      @koda2000
      @429CJ-3X2

      Thanks for your responses. I'm sorry to be tardy getting back to you, but I wanted to get my facts straight before responding. I took a couple of plastic covers off yesterday so I could get a good understanding of how the tow hook brackets were attached to the frame rails. Intuitively, if you look at the first photos I posted, I understood there was an inherent weakness in the mounting method, and that's why I indicated a brace running side to side in red between them. I realized that if you put a lot of side force on the brackets they could bend away from the chassis rails.

      As the attached photos will indicate, there's an in-built assumption in the design that the towing forces will always be to the front of the car - not too realistic for the real world of being off-road. The first photo is a view looking down after the two covers have been removed. The tow hook bracket is welded continuously on its upper, outside edge to the boxed main chassis rail. It is only welded on the (inboard) side with some small welds in slots. The forward side weld is called out in the photo, as is the top edge weld. It doesn't show here, but the bottom of the tow hook bracket is not welded to anything. It's only attached by the top weld and the small side welds.

      Top View of bracket ==> https://photos.app.goo.gl/UsL4OVdz0C4CKUQ02

      A solid brace between the top of the two brackets (driver's and passengers) would do a lot to prevent separation of the brackets under most conditions. However, there is a through hole in the bracket, and in both sides of the main frame rail such that a person could connect the brackets to a side to side brace PLUS tie the brace to both sides of the mail chassis rails. That would make it pretty much bullet proof.

      Here is a photo from under the truck ==> https://photos.app.goo.gl/UrZtqliCcFW5a2fo1

      I do want functional tow hooks. However, I'm thinking I need to reinforce the two brackets as indicated above. Also, I want a front light bar. The commercial ones like to mount UNDER the plastic bumper trim panel. That's great if you're driving on nice paved roads, but not too smart for off-road. Here is one example of such a light bar:

      Commercial light bar ==> Westin Safari Light Bar

      Given what I want, I think I'm going to have to build it myself. Practically speaking, that means it won't happen for a while as I have some other projects to finish before I start a new one.

      Regards,
       
    11. toypaseo

      toypaseo Flunked daycare Elite Explorer

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      There is actually one on eBay right now, but it's pricey. Missing the mounting hardware too. OEM Ford Explorer Rear Tow Hook F87A - 17A999 - AA (Made in 1998) | eBay

      I have pulled a few in the junkyard, but they are slow sellers on here...
       
    12. Lonnie-S

      Lonnie-S Member

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      @toypaseo

      Thanks for posting. That is a nice looking part. It's going on a chassis rail somewhere. Do you know where it mounts?

      I've noticed several of these explorer parts end in a two character alphabetic codes like AA, BA, CA, etc. Does anyone know how to decode it? From the 4 or 5 examples I've seen thus far, I'm (totally) guessing they relate to the standard Explorer, Explorer Sport, Explorer Sport Trac and Ranger. Does anyone know for sure?

      Cheers,
       
    13. Lonnie-S

      Lonnie-S Member

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      I found one thread for the rear tow hooks and it has photos:

      2nd Gen rear tow hooks ==> Rear bolt on tow hook

      There are also photos of another style hook from an Explorer Sport.

      Cheers,
       
    14. 429CJ-3X2

      429CJ-3X2 Elite Explorer

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      Ford has used those codes since the late 1950s or earlier. They usually designate right vs left, or progressive changes/refinements to the part. Sometimes they did indicate which model the part is for.

      Light bars/grille guards/bull bars bolt in the same holes as the tow hooks, so if you want to install hooks and a bar, you'll need to fabricate something.

      The rear tow hooks bolt into the same holes as a frame mounted hitch on the Explorer. The frame mounted hitch for the Sport Trac is unique to the ST, but I don't know if the holes in the frame are located in the same place. I question whether the Explorer rear tow hooks will work on the ST due to the plastic bumper cover. It would be worth trying I suppose.
       
    15. Lonnie-S

      Lonnie-S Member

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      I noticed in one of the tow hook threads here that a member was using F150 tow hooks on an explorer. They looked pretty darn close to the ones you posted photos of in this thread, but they lacked the height to clear the plastic bumper trim on the Explorer. He just made spacers out of heavy steel plate stacked on top of each other. But the bolt holes matched up. I didn't pay close attention to the part number(s), but using evolutionary parts is just smart manufacturing and saves a lot of engineering/testing time. As you stated, that's probably reflected in the part codes.

      I've pretty much concluded that I'll have to fab something myself to get all the functionality I want.

      The rear tow bar on my ST probably isn't the factory setup. It just does't look to be a Ford-spec'ed piece. It looks a little crude, to be honest, but it's built from heavy duty material and is rated for 5,000 pounds according to the label on it. It does mount to the frame rails, and looks to be in the same mounting location used for the factory rear tow hook. It hangs down lower than I'd like, but is OK for now. I may just go with a receiver hook for right now just to have something available.

      Cheers,
       
    16. koda2000

      koda2000 Explorer Addict

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      I saw a new F150 today with a large shackle installed on his 2" receiver. Don't know he bought it or made it, but it would be easy enough to make one.
       

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