Torklift Central EcoHitch

My GTI’s first load: A run to the city dump! 🙂

If you’re familiar with my earlier Volkswagens, then you know that I like to maximize their versatility. I drive over 30,000 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 Volkswagen. A small utility 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.

This receiver cap, purchased from Amazon, fits nice and tight. It won’t fall out.

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 200-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. That is particularly important on a lowered car when traversing steep driveways or uneven intersections. 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 installed the hitch myself after concluding that even a “certified installer” would likely be pulling apart a Mk7 for the first time. Small cars with hitches are still relatively rare in the grand scheme of things. Plus, I was turned-off by a quote from an installer about 165 miles away: $290 for the hitch (marked-up, of course), $240 for lighting module/harness (really marked-up), and $275 for labor, for a total of $833 after TAXES. 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. I think the installer would have done a quality job, but I wasn’t willing to pay so much extra, give up the car so far away ALL DAY, not be allowed to watch any of the work (not even to dip in for the occasional photograph), and never be certain if anything was broken and then concealed during reassembly. Having done the job myself, I know what was done and where.

The directions that come with the EcoHitch are excellent, as is this video! There are a few things that I think will make your installation experience a little better. Here are some INSTALLATION TIPS: 1) Use a tool to release ALL of the bumper tabs. The directions say to use a screwdriver to release tabs near the tail light openings. I cracked a tab before the driver’s side tail light. I could have avoided that by using a tool for ALL of the tabs (I prefer a fine-tip plastic trim removal tool over a metal screwdriver); 2) Unplug the license plate light and release the cable from its retaining clips (not mentioned in the directions, but shown in a photo below); 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. My only wish was for a tool/attachment that could have made very-tightly-radiused turns instead of square cuts. It’s a small attention to detail item; no one notices the flaws in my cuts except for me.  🙂

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.

I like small trailers and opted for Carry-On’s 3.5x5LSHS, a 3.5×5-foot trailer with 16-inch tall mesh sides. Read about mine HERE. I’ve shared more hitch photos below.

Ready to Transport,

Scott

15 Responses to Torklift Central EcoHitch

  1. Andres Palomino says:

    Great read, how much ground clearance do you get with the ecohitch?

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    • Scott says:

      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

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      • Andres Palomino says:

        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?

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      • Scott says:

        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

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  2. Jackson Parker says:

    What short drawbar did you go with?

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  3. Mark says:

    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!

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    • Scott says:

      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

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  4. Murray Best II says:

    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!

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    • Scott says:

      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

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      • Murray Best II says:

        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!

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    • Scott says:

      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

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    • Scott says:

      Murray – I had an error in my answer about the sensors. Please see my edited response.

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  5. Daniel. Maher says:

    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.

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    • Scott says:

      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

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