Towbar FAQs

In theory and providing that the towbar is fitted in accordance with the manufacturers instructions, it is permissible to fit your own towbar to your own vehicle as there is no law that a towbar must be installed professionally.

If your vehicle is registered on or after 1st August 1998 the towbar you fit must by law be type-approved to EC94/20.

In practice however due to the complexities of modern vehicles and to provide peace of mind we would always recommend using a professional installer from Towzone to have your towbar fitted safely.

The cost of a fully fitted towbar depends on several factors, including the type of towbar, the electrical socket, and the way it is wired to the vehicle.

Depending on your vehicle type, typically a fixed flange towbar with a 7 pin socket using universal wiring would be the cheapest towbar set-up and would start at around £300-£350 +VAT including all parts and installation.

At the other end of the spectrum a removable swan neck towbar with 13 pin socket and vehicle specific wiring could cost as much as £1000+VAT including all parts and installation.

Obviously, there is no catch all price for a towbar so we would recommend finding a local towbar fitter on the Towzone Marketplace Directory and using our Towbar Configurator to get an accurate cost for your vehicle.

If you’ve never had a towbar before then the world of towbars can seem more than a little bewildering.

The type of towbar set-up you need consists of 4 different elements…

  1. The type of towbar (Flange/Alko Flange/Swan Neck)
  2. Whether it is fixed or detachable
  3. The type of electrical socket you require (7 Pin Single/7 Pin Twin/13 Pin)
  4. The electrical connection to your vehicle (Universal Wiring/Vehicle Specific Wiring)

That adds up to a lot of different variants for different applications.

The easiest way to find out the best towbar for your requirements would be to use our Towbar Designer which will intuitively help you decide by simply analysing your answers to our questions.

Unless you are transferring your towbar from a vehicle that is the exact same make, model, and year we would not recommend transferring a towbar.

The reason being that towbars are type-approved to the specific make, model, and age of the vehicle they were designed for so they would definitely not be transferable in all other cases.

Likewise, we would not recommend fitting a second hand towbar purchased from someone else unless you have it thoroughly tested, checked, and installed by a professional fitter which you’ll be able to find on the Towzone Marketplace Directory.

Yes, as per section 6 of the MOT testing manual the towbar and electrical socket will be tested to ensure that it is in good condition and that it correctly operates the trailers lights.

Where a detachable towbar is fitted but isn’t fitted in place for the MOT then the bracket it sits in will still be assessed.

If the towbar fails these checks then as with any other aspect of your vehicle it could affect your vehicles MOT result.

As with everything else in life, towbars are easy to fit if you know what you’re doing!

The fact is that every vehicle, tow bar and electrics are different means that there are a multitude of problems and issues that could occur when fitting a towbar to your vehicle.

Couple this with modern vehicles having in built towing safety systems and an ever more complicated electrical set-up if you don’t know what you’re doing then it’s not for the faint hearted.

We would always recommend that a tow bar is fitted by a professional installer which you’ll be able to find on the Towzone Marketplace Directory.

Detachable towbars are perfectly safe and are indeed the recommended choice for most modern vehicles.

The benefits of being able to remove the towbar when you’re not towing are obvious, so you just need to ensure that when you reconnect the towbar that it is fitted correctly as per the manufacturers instructions which are normally by way of a simple safety lock.

Just ensure both the towbar and housing are clean before you reconnect and check there is no excessive movement. It really is that easy.

Most cars come with at least one type of detachable towbar (normally Swan Neck towbars, but sometimes also Flange towbars) and the best way to find out is using our quote builder for your local Towzone installer.

The vast majority of cars can have a towbar fitted to them.

Towbars are type-approved to match the vehicle that they are fitted to so in most cases at least one towbar manufacturer will have a towbar that can be fitted to your car.

There are a few exceptions to this rule with some specialist, Quattro, and high performance vehicles either not being able to have a towbar retro fitted after the vehicle has been manufactured.

You’ll find most makes and models of cars that can have a towbar fitted to them on the Towzone Towbar Configurator.

Yes, if you have a detachable tow bar fitted to your car then you can remove the towbar from your car whenever you wish. This has both practical and cosmetic benefits as when the tow bar is removed it cannot be seen by either people or reversing sensors.

If you’re looking to permanently remove a tow bar from your car then we suggest that it’s removed safely and correctly by using an auto electrician or professional tow bar fitter on Towzone.

Unless your a competent electrician we wouldn’t recommend wiring a towbar to a car yourself.

Towbar wiring tends to be the most challenging part of fitting a towbar and the complexity typically depends on the vehicle that you are fitting your towbar to.

If you’re looking to wire a towbar yourself then it’s vitally important to choose the right electrical wiring kit for your vehicle, either universal wiring kits or vehicle specific kits.

Universal wiring kits tend to be the cheaper option and in many cases need a bypass relay to be fitted as well to ensure the vehicle doesn’t detect a drop in voltage as a fault on your dashboard.

Vehicle specific wiring kits are more expensive as they are dedicated to your vehicle and will work seamlessly with your vehicles electrical and safety systems.

Most detachable towbars are incredibly easy to remove and reattach to your vehicle.

Simply push and twist the safety lock on the neck of the towbar under the vehicle and remove the towbar.

Depending on the make of the towbar you may also have a physical lock with a key for added security and an electrical socket that folds up under the vehicle out of sight to make it completely invisible.

You’ll be able to find the right detachable towbar for your vehicle using our Towbar Configurator.

Most towbar mounted bike racks attach directly to the towball of your towbar (either flange or swan neck) in one of two ways…

The most popular is a Clamp Style Bike Rack where the rack fits securely to your vehicles towball using a simple clamp feature.

The second option is a Bolt Style Bike Rack where the rack is bolted to your vehicles towball using an adjustable bolt.

There is also the third option of a Towbar Mounted Bike Rack which is specific to Flange Towbars only where the rack is fitted directly to the mounting plate thus allowing you to carry bikes and tow a trailer or caravan at the same time.

The cost of a detachable towbar varies substantially between various makes and models of cars, however with that said a detachable towbar typically costs around £100-£150 more than a fixed towbar set-up.

The 7 Pin towbar socket is still a popular set-up for many people despite the fact that the 13 Pin towbar socket has effectively superseded it.

Before 2008 single and twin 7 Pin sockets were the most popular way of transferring power from your vehicle to your trailer or caravan and there are still thousands of trailers and caravans on the market that connect using 7 Pin sockets.

If you have a trailer or caravan with 7 Pin connectors we would recommend fitting a 13 Pin socket to your vehicle instead and purchasing an additional 13 Pin to 7 Pin adaptor… this will save you money, future proof your set-up and provide the best of both worlds, by allowing you to safely connect to every type of trailer and caravan no matter its electrical connection.

The 13 Pin towbar socket has become the new standard for towbar electrics partly due to all caravans being produced since 2008 have had to have 13 pin electrics fitted at factory.

13 Pin trailer connectors have a twist lock connector to keep them completely watertight and remove the need for twin sockets due to the fact that there are 13 pins for electrical connections rather than 7 pins in the previous sockets.

Using an additional 7 Pin adaptor with your 13 Pin socket will save you money, future proof your set-up and provide the best of all worlds, by allowing you to safely connect to every type of trailer and caravan no matter its electrical connection.

13 Pin would always be our recommended choice.

A flange tow bar is a tow bar that is bolted to a flange plate, which in turn is fitted to the underside of your vehicle.

Whilst the flange tow bar is less aesthetically pleasing to the eye due to the fact that you can see the bolts which make it look more commercial, the upside is that it tends to be cheaper than a swan neck tow bar and has the added benefit of being able to connect every kind of trailer and accessory.

The type of tow bar you need for your caravan is dependent on whether your caravan has an AL-KO type safety system that helps stabilise the vehicle whilst driving and under braking.

If the answer is yes then you would require either a Swan Neck towbar or a Flange ALKO tow bar.

If the answer is no then either a Swan Neck tow bar or a standard Flange tow bar.

The easiest way to find out the perfect tow bar set-up for your caravan is to use our towbar designer tool!

Please Note: Before purchasing a towbar fitting service or caravan don’t forget that it’s important to know the maximum towing (or train) weight for your vehicle as every vehicle is different.

The type of towbar electrics you need for a caravan is dependant on the caravan you intend to tow.

The caravan will either have a twin 7 Pin socket or a single 13 Pin socket so simply take a look at the lead coming from your caravan and check… if it has a single lead with 13 pins inside then its a 13 Pin socket… if it has twin leads with 7 pins in each then it’s a twin 7 Pin socket. It really is that easy!

If you haven’t done so already the easiest way to find out the perfect towbar set-up for your caravan would be to use our towbar designer… it takes less than 60 seconds and is so easy to use.

This information is really helpful and will help you prior to getting your fitting service booked… which you can do online in the Towzone Marketplace Directory.

In theory, any towbar can connect to any horse trailer but our recommendation would be a fixed Flange towbar due to the heavy application involved.

As with a caravan, you should check whether the horse trailer has an ALKO type safety system fitted to help stabilise the trailer when towing.

A detachable towbar is a type of towbar that can be removed from the vehicle it is connected to when it isn’t required.

Detachable towbars have become increasingly common as they will not interfere with reversing sensors when removed and will save your shins when you inevitably forget that the towbar is fitted to your vehicle!

The only real downside with a detachable towbar is that they are more expensive than a permanently fixed towbar.

The basics of using a towbar to tow a trailer behind your vehicle are simple.

Firstly, you connect the trailer to your vehicle by coupling the towbar on your vehicle with the hitch on your trailer. The two components effectively lock together to ensure that they are safely connected and swivel correctly.

The second part is to connect the electrics of your vehicle with the trailer so that all the lights (brake, tail, reversing etc) work correctly when the trailer is being towed behind your vehicle.

In practice however, it’s important to remember that there are many other factors involved in the safe connection and operation of towing a trailer (such as level ground, trailer number plate, vehicle train weights, reversing a trailer etc) so if you’re new to towing we recommend doing plenty of research and seeking guidance from experienced people or professionals where necessary.

Yes, a tow bar is a modification to a vehicle in the eyes of an insurance company.

The fact is that any modification made to a vehicle after it has left the factory will affect your insurance policy which means that you will need to inform your insurance company if you have a towbar fitted so that they can adjust your policy accordingly.

Whilst this might seem silly the reason behind this is that insurers need to assess any additional risk for accidents or theft that having a towbar fitted could entail.

Whilst it does depend on the insurer in our experience in most cases a tow bar won’t in itself increase your insurance premium however your trailer or caravan will need to be insured separately.

As with all insurance we recommend shopping around for the best deal.

Many vehicles require towbar vehicle coding when a vehicle specific wiring harness is connected.

This coding effectively programs the vehicle so that it realises that it will be towing and will subsequently activate any towing safety functions such as stability control and disconnecting reversing sensors when connected to a trailer.

Any professional towbar fitter should do this as part of the towbar installation although in some very rare cases this might only be available by visiting a manufacturers franchised dealer.

There is no one answer that fits all for this question.

The best tow bar for you is a personal choice that depends on a combination of factors including your vehicle, the main purpose you require the tow bar, and your lifestyle in general.

Perhaps the best piece of advice we can give you before getting your mobile towbar fitting service booked is to try our Towbar Designer which will help you to find the perfect towbar set-up inside of 60 seconds.

This all very much depends on your vehicle and the type of towbar you are fitting.

The fact is that towbar sensors are located in different positions on each vehicle so whilst one kind of towbar set-up might not be picked up by the reversing sensors on one vehicle this may not be the case with another vehicle with the same set-up.

Likewise, if your vehicle has the option of vehicle specific wiring then your vehicle may have the functionality to automatically turn off the sensors when towing.

When it comes to the towbars themselves, a fixed flange towbar is the most likely to be picked up by reversing sensors, whilst a fixed swan neck which is slimmer is less likely to be picked up by most vehicles.

The only way to 100% guarantee that your towbar isn’t picked up by your reversing sensors would be to fit a detachable towbar which can be removed when you’re not towing.

This really depends on why and how you’ll be using your tow bar.

In most cases, the increased flexibility a detachable tow bar offers you outweighs the additional cost involved in having a detachable tow bar fitted.

The fact is that a detachable tow bar can do everything that a fixed tow bar can do but with the added convenience of removing it when it’s not required.

What’s not to like about that!

Likewise, if your vehicle has the option of vehicle specific wiring then your vehicle may have the functionality to automatically turn off the sensors when towing.

When it comes to the towbars themselves, a fixed flange towbar is the most likely to be picked up by reversing sensors, whilst a fixed swan neck which is slimmer is less likely to be picked up by most vehicles.

The only way to 100% guarantee that your towbar isn’t picked up by your reversing sensors would be to fit a detachable towbar which can be removed when you’re not towing.

If you have the right towbar set-up in place and you’re not towing a trailer above the combined train weight for your vehicle then towing a trailer will not damage your car.

Whilst towing won’t damage your vehicle it will put more demand on it… things like the brakes, clutch, and the fuel used will be affected in some way.

How much this demand puts on your vehicle depends on a variety of circumstances including how often you tow, the size and weight of the trailer, the kind of driving you’re doing (eg. motorway or side roads), the terrain, weather, and how you drive the vehicle.

It’s simply common sense really.

Tyres are perhaps the most important safety element of your towbar set-up so it’s a good idea to ensure that you have the tyres on your vehicle and trailer or caravan checked on a regular basis

Many people forget to check the alignment of the tyres on their caravan or trailer but the fact is that when a trailer’s wheel alignment is out, the load is too heavy or the weight is uneven then this can affect the alignment of the tyres on your car.

Ensuring that you tow with these recommendations in mind will mean that your tyres are well maintained and wear safely.

At the time of writing this article (July 2020) if you’re looking for an all electric car that can tow then the only option available is the Tesla Model X SUV which can tow an impressive 2270kgs, however, it will set you back around £78000!

So why can’t all electric vehicles tow? There are a couple of reasons…

The first is that electric cars weigh considerably more than a petrol or diesel alternative due to the additional weight of the battery packs thus reducing the amount they can tow so much that it is almost pointless in doing so.

The second is that towing can damage the electric powertrain of the vehicle as the additional weight of the trailer could provide a lot more kinetic energy than it was designed for which would overload the electrical system.

If you’re looking to save the planet whilst enjoying the freedom that towing brings then the compromise solution would be to look at a plug-in hybrid vehicle that combines battery with a combustion engine which in many (but not all) cases would be able to tow.

The type of licence required to tow a trailer depends primarily on two factors: the maximum authorised mass (MAM) of your combined car and trailer outfit and when you passed your driving test…

If you passed your car test with a category B licence before the 1st January 1997 then you can legally tow any combined outfit of vehicle and trailer up to MAM 8250kgs. This is much more than any current car and caravan combo so in theory, you wouldn’t need an additional licence.

If you passed your car test with a category B licence on or after the 1st January 1997 then you can legally tow any combined outfit of vehicle and trailer up to MAM 3500kgs and the trailer must not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle. If this MAM is to be exceeded then an additional E Test licence is required.

The towball weight (also referred to as noseweight) refers to the maximum vertical weight that can be applied to the towball.

This weight is particularly important as if unchecked it could take too much weight off the front wheels of your vehicle leading to an inability to steer or brake safely.

It’s essential that you understand and monitor the noseweight of your trailer or caravan at all times.

Also, don’t forget that the total towing capacity of your vehicle and trailer is only as good as the towbar that is fitted.

Towbars are rated at different towing capacities so ensure that the towbar fitted to your vehicle has the correct capacity… the vast majority of new towbars fitted to vehicles in the UK are designed to be able to tow up to a combined MAM of 3500kgs.

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