Has anyone attached a tow hitch directly to the factory bumper?
ie custom? I was thinking L shaped iron bolted right on. How strong would this be? Would it hold the rated 2000lbs? I figure if you can pull a stuck jeep out of the mud up a hill with a factory bumper you can tow rated stuff to.
The factory bumper is sheet metal, you'd need to bolt any hitch you made directly to the frame and not simply to the bumper. Most aftermarket bumpers are made from 3/16" steel that with the proper design, could handle a hitch mounted and welded into the bumper itself. You just can't do that with the flimsy factory bumper.
I have my tow bar brackets attached directly to my Factory bumper. I have towed about 1000 miles so far and no problems and no evidence of fatigue or bending on bumper.
Towing a trailer doesn't often place much stress on the hitch or what it's attached to. What does cause a lot of stress on all that is a recovery operation where you're stuck and you're being retrieved by something attached to the bumper, or attempting to pull someone else out who's stuck from your bumper. That's where the factory bumper can get completely ripped off as shown in the above photo...
If you live in Michigan can you tell me what your Jeep looks like so I can stay clear of it when you tow?!
You'll spot it. It'll be the one upside in the ditch with holes torn out of the front bumper.
We used to make towbar brackets for jeeps all the time. We made brackets that bolt to the frame. I've seen it done many ways, some trick, some fugly, but the ones attached only to the bumper will start bending the bumper in short order, and once it fatigues it will get worse fast. It can look fine at the beginning of the day and fail the same day. **AT the very least - put some Reallly Large backing plates behind it - all the way across if possible. But I'd get frame mounts done soon as you can.
It's not the pulling a trailer (or jeep) that does the most straining, it's the braking, and with towbars, going around the corners too.
I got a bumper off Ebay for a little more than it cost to buy a Draw-Tite hitch. It has a better departure angle (lower profile) than any stock bumper + Uhaul hitch out there. Towed a Uhaul trailer just fine, also holds my bike rack and snowboard rack. Also yanked a Toyota out of a snowdrift, and towed another broken down YJ a few miles to a station.
Installed it myself:
Added a Jeeperman frame tie-in kit, had it welded on by an auto/muffler shop - 20 bucks cash.
Recently learned to weld and made a tire carrier for the bumper too: