Recovery Points for Big Broncos

Apr. 28, 1998 By Scott FitzGerald
Recovery Points for Big Broncos
The engineers at Ford must have been pretty confident in the off-road ability of late-model Broncos, because they were never offered with a factory tow hook option. While this is not a problem for most Bronco owners, there are a few of us who do things with them that Ford hadn't planned on. If nothing else, somebody has to pull out those lesser vehicles. 
This article will outline a few ways to add recovery points to 78 and up Broncos. This info will likely also apply to Ford F-series vehicles from the same years. Please keep in mind that vehicle recovery is dangerous. These tips will help you recover vehicles safely, but you are ultimately responsible for your safety and the safety of people around you. Do not attempt a vehicle recovery if you are not confident that you know what you are doing, and that the equipment you are using is safe and proper for the job. NEVER use a tow ball or other object not intended to be used as a recovery point. The results can be deadly.  That said, lets look at some ways to add sturdy recovery points to your Bronco. 

Front End The most common front end recovery point is a tow hook bolted to the frame rail. Notice that I said bolted. Most off-road clubs and organizations will not allow the use of welded tow hooks due to the difficulty in identifying a safe weld versus one that will crack and make a projectile out of the hook. The grade 5 bolts which come with most tow hook kits are strong enough to handle the 10,000 lb rating of most hooks. 

Broncos built from '78 to '91 had frame horns with nice, flat sections which make perfect mounting points for hooks as shown in the picture above.  '92 to '96 Broncos had an "accordion" section on the frame horns to absorb energy during a crash. While this is great for passenger safety, it makes recovery point mounting a little more challenging.
In the picture above, the tow hook was attached to the accordion section by drilling holes through the frame and bolting the hook to the frame. The boxed frame rails on '92 to '96 Broncos necessitates removing the bumper to gain access to the end of the bolts to attach the nuts as shown below.
A very clean solution to the '92-'96 problem is to cut a hole in the bumper and bolt the tow hook to the flat section on the side of the frame rail. When attached this way, the hook will stick out about 2 inches through the hole in the bumper, making if very easy to attach a strap or winch cable to the strap. In some cases, tow points can be attached to accessories like brush guards and winch bumpers, providing that the accessory is firmly mounted to the frame and is rated by the manufacturer to withstand the loads the hook may be subjected to. 
  Back End
Back end recovery can be a little awkward because the bumper usually hangs down below the frame rails. The ideal setup is a class-III or stronger receiver hitch with a clevis mount and a screw-pin shackle. 
  Hooks can be attached to the rear frame rails, but care must be taken to protect the cable or strap from rubbing on the bumper. Another option is to attach hooks to a class-III or higher rated bumper. This option provides more flexibility than the receiver hitch, and also improves access to the recovery point because it is higher up than the frame rail or a receiver.
Food For Thought If none of the above ideas strike you as interesting, consider some more creative methods of safely attaching recovery equipment to your Ford. The use of screw-pin shackles can make using straps more convenient because the ends of the straps are securely attached and won't fall off into the mud. Shackles are especially helpful if you do a lot of pulling because you can leave the strap attached to your truck ready to be quickly attached to some other vehicle. Shackles can be easily used with a receiver hitch on the back end, but attaching them to the front end takes a little more creativity. It might be interesting to try bolting a flat bar to the frame and sticking it out through a hole in the bumper. A shackle could be attached through a hole in the bar, much like the tie down points on military pickups and Blazers.

Summary Your Bronco can be much more fun to use off-highway when you have the proper recovery equipment. Properly mounted tow hooks or other attachment points can improve your confidence and make it easier to test the limits of your vehicle. Improperly mounted points can be deadly. When in doubt, ask somebody with experience, and never use a recovery device you aren't sure about. With a little planning and preperation, you and your Bronco will live to see many off-highway adventures.
Article by:
Matt Kirkwood Contributors:
Scott Fitzgerald - '92-'96 hook mounting. Rick Colombo - Front end hooks and rear shackle. David Bonar - Scanning and logistics. Newsletter
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