I like to maximize the versatility of my Volkswagens. I drive over 25,000 miles per year, usually alone with some things in the trunk. A car that’s fun to drive and reasonably economical is a great asset to me. I don’t need a truck, but sometimes I need to move things that are either too large or too dirty to put in my GTI. A small trailer is a great alternative for someone who doesn’t want the full-time mileage and maintenance penalties of owning a truck that’s actually used as a truck only a fraction of the time. Towing with small cars is very popular in Europe. The Mk7 Golf platform is a favorite, according to this article. Feel free to read this article if you’re astounded by European towing standards. There is a method to their madness. 😉
I discovered the EcoHitch, by Torklift Central, when I was shopping for my GTI. I chose their 1-1/4″ version for the Golf, model #X7310. It’s rated for 2000 lbs with a 300-lb tongue load and is attached to the car with nine bolts, seven of which are structural bumper mounting points. Its most appealing feature is that it sits higher in the bumper than the competition, which means it has absolutely no impact on ground clearance. One drawback is that more of the bumper skin has to be trimmed. I’m not concerned about that since my EcoHitch is a permanent accessory. I finished it off with this receiver cap.
I was turned-off by an $833 quote from a “certified installer.” I chose to install the hitch myself after concluding that even a certified installer likely would be pulling apart a Mk7 for the first time since small cars with hitches are still relatively rare in the grand scheme of things. Doing it myself cost me $275 for the hitch, $140 for the module/harness, and $25 to rent a lift bay for a few hours, for a total of $440. Having done the job myself, I know whether any shortcuts were taken or if parts were damaged.
The directions that come with the EcoHitch are excellent, as is this video! Here are a few INSTALLATION TIPS that I think will make your installation experience a little better : 1) Use a plastic trim tool to release ALL of the bumper tabs. The directions say to use a screwdriver to release tabs near the tail light openings; 2) Unplug the license plate light and release the cable from its retaining clips (not mentioned in the directions); 3) The directions list bumper cutout dimensions for a 2-inch hitch. I made a narrower cut for a tighter fit to my 1-1/4″ hitch. I measured and cut as I went, so I do not have dimensions to share; 4) The kit includes only one fishing wire. Be careful to not “screw” it onto the first bolt too tightly because it will need to be removed without damaging it and reused on the second bolt; 5) An oscillating tool, such as a Dremel MM20, works great for making fine cuts to the bumper skin.
For lighting, I chose a ZCI Circuit Protected Vehicle Wiring Harness, eTrailer.com item #119250KIT. Rather than “tapping” into each tail light wire, the ZCI module clips an inductive current sensor to each turn signal wire as well as the tail light wire ( the “STOP” wire is not used on the GTI). If current is sensed on a wire (indicating the car’s light is illuminated), then the module lights the applicable trailer light, all without loading the car’s lighting circuit. It’s pretty slick and compatible with just about any car or truck. I ran the module’s 12V lead to my subwoofer panel in the trunk, rather running it all the way to the battery or fuse panel. I passed the trailer connection through a grommet above the muffler’s heat shield. I didn’t find a mounting solution for the connector that I liked. It turns out that simply tucking it into the bumper skin when not in use works great! INSTALLATION TIP: Put the module’s fuse someplace that’s easily accessible. Should the module need resetting (mine has), it’s best to have the fuse someplace that’s easy to remove.
Feel free to ask questions. I’ve shared more hitch photos below. What do I tow? I like small trailers and opted for a 3.5×5-foot utility trailer. I also have a 4×6-foot cargo trailer. Also, here is a handy guide on how to properly load or balance your trailer.
Ready to Transport,
Great read, how much ground clearance do you get with the ecohitch?
Andres – Thanks for visiting! The hitch is 9″ from the ground at its lowest point; the ball is 14″ high with a standard drawbar. I have photo in the album at the bottom of the page. -Scott
Thanks so much for the reply! I am looking at that option but the price is a bit out of my range. I am currently looking at the draw-tite for my 17 GTI, heard of anything of it?
Andres – The Draw-Tite will certainly work. I’m sure it’s a suitable part. I chose the EcoHitch due to it having wider mounting faces and using more mounting bolts. Extra cost is the downside to the additional structure. I can live with that. 🙂 -Scott
What short drawbar did you go with?
Jackson – Thanks for visiting! I have two different drawbars since my two trailers are at different heights. But choosing a drawbar with a “length” (pin hole to ball hole) of 6-7.5 inches will get you the short reach you want. The 9-11″ versions are too long. Let’s see if this link works for a selection of Curt Class 1 drawbars: https://www.etrailer.com/dept-pg-Ball_Mounts-sf-Fixed_Ball_Mount-hs-Fits_1~1%7C4_Inch_Hitch-sz-Class_I-pm-Curt.aspx. Choose the rise you need that will allow your trailer to be level when hitched. Let me know if you need more detail. -Scott
Hi Scott! I really appreciate your blog. I’ve just purchased a mk7 gti and I’m on a similar upgrade path.
Question about your trailer wiring, can you point me to a diagram for the tail lights (i.e. How did you know where to connect the Tekonsha unit)? Thanks!
Mark – Thanks for writing. Sorry to take so long to reply, but I wanted to see if I could find a wiring diagram. No luck. I honestly do not recall how I traced the wiring. First, just know that the lights are easier to unplug if you remove them from the body first. Once unplugged, it’ll be easier to identify the wiring colors. I recall having a hard time being able to see purple with a black stripe vs a similar color combo like black with a purple stripe. Anyway, you should see that some colors are somewhat common between the left and right sides, namely the tail lighting and grounds. From there, you could use a process of elimination. Or, even better, plug in the lights with them in the trunk and simply slip the inductive pickups over the wires until you see the response you need. That’s the beauty of inductive pickups: Non-intrusive connections and testing. I’d check my own connections for you; however, it cannot be done without pulling back the interior. I’d rather avoid that. Feel free to let me know how it goes. I’ll update my site if I ever find myself removing the interior again. -Scott
I’m having trouble installing my ZCI! Could you tell me where the electronics panel in the trunk is that you used? I was going to tap into the power of the rear 12v cigarette lighter now that I switched the front fuse to keep in running.
Also, do you happen to remember the wire colors for the tail-lights? Wiring diagrams are hard to find for the MK7 GTI for some reason. Thanks!
Murray – Thanks for writing. I can see how my description could be misunderstood, especially if you haven’t read about my electronics upgrades. In short, my “electronics panel” is custom-built and not present in any factory car. I’ve changed the wording to say “subwoofer panel” to avoid further confusion. With that said, I think your idea to tap into the rear 12V outlet is a good one since you did the fuse relocation to make it constantly powered. Just keep in mind that even a small trailer can draw around 5-6 amps at night (unless you have LED lighting). This is important if you also use your 12V outlets to power items that may consume a lot of power. Remember, all three 12V outlets are tied to the same fuse. Powering a gaming laptop and a portable cooler, for example, and then tapping the brakes could be enough to blow that 20A fuse. The event is probably unlikely, but it’s safer to do the math ahead of time instead of being unlighted in the dark. Take Care! -Scott
Great reply! The directional arrows on the latches are referred to in the user’s manual as well. Do you remember if you have them pointing towards the lights or away? No luck getting a hold of Tekonsha customer service today. Thanks!
Murray – I forgot to answer your question about wiring colors. To be honest, I don’t recall at all. The good news is the inductive pickups are so easy to install and remove that you can attach them to a live circuit and find the correct wire. I may have done it that way… I don’t remember. In short, turn on the parking lights, then attach the “Tail” lead to a wire on the left light housing and see if it lights a trailer light (or a circuit tester, if that’s what you have). If it doesn’t light, move on to another wire, and repeat until you find it. Do the same with the left blinker. Then move to the right blinker. You won’t need the “Stop” circuit. As for sensor orientation, the arrow on the lid needs to face the lamp. You’ll find it easier to orient the pickups so that the wiring is headed away from the housing, anyway. There’s not a lot of spare wire to work around. -Scott
Murray – I had an error in my answer about the sensors. Please see my edited response.
getting ready to do the install for both the hitch and wiring. Did you need the Tekonsha install kit that etrailer sells? I will most likely be doing the fuse mod and running it to the 12v adapter in the trunk.
Daniel – The only thing the “kit” includes is a long wire to route to the front of the car for power and a crimped butt connector. No need for that if you’re tapping power from the back. But you will need a wire of appropriate length. Thanks for writing! -Scott
Hi Scott, I installed the EcoHitch this weekend and want to thank you for your instructions and photos which helped a lot. Next project is to do the lighting kit. What is the “fuse modification” that allows the 12v outlets to be powered all the time so I can tap into that for the lighting kit? Thanks, Phil Garland, 2017 GTI
Philip – Thanks for writing. The mod can be seen in this video: https://youtu.be/m7We5IU6kds. Be careful about what you leave plugged in to any of your outlets. With the fuse relocated, anything plugged-in can drain your battery. This is true of chargers because they draw small amounts of current even when they aren’t connected to a phone. Take Care, -Scott
Great write up. I’m looking to tow my motorcycle to and from the track with my 2015 VW GTI. I’m an automatic DSG and am wondering of the reliability of the DSG transmission when towing. Are you a manual or DSG?
I have a manual transmission. It is said that the DSG is stronger. I suspect it is certainly true after tuning the TCU. In the UK, the DSG has a slightly higher unbraked towing capacity than the 6MT.
Scott, I am looking to install a hitch on my 2015 VW Golf. I was wondering if you had any problem of the hitch rubbing against the collision bar? Also, were you able to attach the bumper like the way it was before after installing the hitch? What tools did you use for the installation? Thanks!
Kim – I’m not sure I understand your question about the hitch rubbing against the collision bar. The hitch is mounted behind the bar and the bar is then fastened to the hitch using factory mounting bolts. The bumper requires trimming. I used a Dremel reciprocating saw. I link a video in the write-up that shows the installation in good detail: https://youtu.be/yCJ6sBWug3E. Other than the Dremel and trim removal tools, I used common tools to remove the bumper. Thanks for visiting.
Hi Scott, stumbled across your site and it’s been super useful. Appreciate it, and your YT videos! I’m looking to add a hitch to my VW Golf to tow a small trailer/cargo carrier and/or a small aluminum boat. I’m curious why you opted for a 1.25″ hitch over a 2″ hitch. Did you have the trailer already? I’m wanting to sort out all the right systems – and I’m not sure what I select first – find the trailer to go with the hitch or vice versa. Thanks for your help.
CJ – There was a time when Class 1 hitches were available only in 1.25″, especially on small cars. As a result, I already had 1.25″ ball mounts and cargo baskets on hand. So, it was natural for me to select another 1.25″ hitch when I replaced my previous tow vehicle. However, the 1.25″ hitch also provides slightly more ground clearance and *may* hide just a little better than the 2″ version… at least that’s my observation with the EcoHitch on the Golf/GTI. Thanks for visiting.
Scott- Your videos and blog are great. I just followed suit and installed the same hitch and wiring on my ’17. I didn’t have any issues with the wiring install, followed the instructions and it worked right out of the box. Thanks again.- Eric
Thanks! Coincidentally, I just published a new video about my baby trailer. See it at https://youtu.be/gDvo3jwrZno, if you’re interested. Take Care!
Hi Scott, great post!
I have a 2015 sportwagen TDI and I want to install an EcoHitch but I’m a total beginner when it comes to electrical stuff.
And I do not like the idea of running a wire all the way to the starter battery.
Do I understand correctly that I’m left with two options:
1. I somehow connect the harness to the 12v lighter outlet. How exactly? And I hack the fuse panel to make that circuit permanent, while being careful what I plug in it.
2. I place an extra battery in my trunk. What kind? The one you used (https://www.amazon.com/LiFePO4-Battery-Miady-Rechargeable-Maintenance-Free/dp/B089VXSBC6) is probably overkill for me. Something smaller?
Thank you again for the high quality content!
Thanks for writing, Peter! If your trailer has LED lighting and if your needs are part-time, then you can probably get away with splicing the wiring to a 12V plug. From there, you can plug it into the 12V outlet in the trunk whenever you need it; then tuck it under the trunk floor when you don’t need it. What do you think about that?
Thank you Scott!
Sounds like option 1 I listed above. To be 100% clear, I can purchase something like this: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B097Y2FT5H. When I need it, I plug it in along with switching the fuse as in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7We5IU6kds (the same you suggested in another comment on this post)
Indeed, I anticipate needing this very, very rarely if ever. But I want to have it available just in case I need to rent a u-Haul trailer or maybe a small camper under 2000 lbs.
I cannot know in advance whether the trailer will have LED lighting though… Is that a concern? If it is, should I go with option 2 (a dedicated portable battery that I only bring in when needed)? If yes, what particular battery should I choose?
Your plan seems reasonable. As for the LED lighting thought, it’s really not important. My older car had a 10A or 15A fuse for the outlets. Incandescent lighting plus whatever other stuff might be plugged into the outlet COULD be enough to blow a 10A fuse. I think today’s car have a 20-25A fuse there. So, you’ll probably be okay, but should still keep in mind the other things that may be plugged into any of the outlets. Regarding an aux battery, you might benefit from one ONLY if you think you’d park the car with the parking lights on for extended periods. Otherwise, just let the car power the circuit.
OK, I just checked, the fuse is indeed labeled “20”, I’m assuming it stands for 20A.
BTW, here’s a video that explains the fuse hack a bit better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2JXmz-nLPU
I was a little confused after reading this strong recommendation against using the 12v lighter plug: https://www.etrailer.com/question-76391.html
But the more I think about the less I worry about it.
Thanks for all the help! Awesome website and YouTube channel! I’ll be following.
I’m aware of the fuse hack and had used it for a while. After having my aux battery in service for a few months, I decided to rewire that fuse hack so that my 12V outlets are powered only by the aux battery. So, I’ve hacked the hack. 😉 Regarding etrailer.com’s recommendation against using the 12V outlets to power trailer lighting, I can see merit with their concern. Even if the fuse level is sufficient, there’s a difference between connecting a trailer with incandescent lighting for brake/tail, side markers, and ID lighting vs. everything being LEDs. The current draw is even more demanding if the outlet is powering electric brakes or perhaps charging a house battery. Etrailer has to be consistent with their recommendations so that they’re not held to account for someone whose trailer’s electrical load is a bit on the high side. I think I measured my cargo trailer’s lighting load at 1.5 amps, 1.9 amps with the interior dome lights on, just as a point of reference. My exterior lighting is LED. My utility trailer’s load is a tad smaller since it does not have ID lighting (not required) or an interior dome light.
What receiver do you use to tow your 6 x 4 trailer? And is it 1 1/4?
This page describes my hitch in detail. In short, it’s an EcoHitch and is 1-1/4″. My utility trailer requires a 1-7/8″ ball. My ball mount has about a one-inch rise. My cargo trailer requires a 2″ ball. I think I’m using a 2.5 inch rise on that ball mount. If this is Chase, I sent a reply to your e-mail. Let me know if it didn’t come through. My response contains a link and may have been stopped in a spam filter. Thanks for visiting.