Motabars Guide to Towbars

The days of towbar fitting being a quick fit drive-in drive-out service are well behind us. With sophisticated wiring systems and need for cars to be stripped of bumper and trim for fitting, not to mention strict rules and added technology for increased safety, installation can take up to 4 hours to complete. So it pays to plan ahead and get the job done properly.

Choosing your Towbar

It’s important to consider how often you will use your towbar, and for what purpose, so that you can choose one that suits your needs and vehicle. For example, do you want your towbar to be a permanent or temporary attachment? Your choice may depend on a few additional factors:

Detachable Swan Neck Towbars

These are now the most popular type.

  • AL-KO compatible.
  • Parking/reversing sensors are not going to be triggered when neck is detached.
  • Number plate always remains visible when neck is detached.
  • Needs to be removed when not in use making it invisible on some cars.

Fixed Swan Neck Towbars

Has a more unobtrusive appearance.

  • AL-KO compatible.
  • Is less likely though not guaranteed to trigger sensors.
  • Cannot be fitted with a bumper shield.

Fixed Flange Towbars

Has the ability to use some cycle carries and tow at the same time.

  • Bumper shields can be fitted.
  • AL-KO towballs can be fitted.
  • A choice of towing couplings and accessories can be fitted.
  • Traditional design.
  • Most likely to set off parking sensors.

Choosing your electrics:

All towbars need electrics; it’s the law. It connects all the lighting, charging and safety features of your vehicle with the item being towed, whether that is a caravan, trailer, or cycles. Badly connected electrics pose a safety and fire hazard and can invalidate a vehicle’s warranty.

As car computers and electronics are increasingly sophisticated, we recommend choosing a dedicated electrics kit that is designed for the make and model of your vehicle. Since the early 2000’s, automotive technology moved rapidly forward in introducing network systems in vehicles which allowed the detection of a trailer.

In many cases, not only did the manufacturer design the vehicle to detect the trailer, but created enhanced features within the network, which actually makes it vitally important for the trailer to be ‘seen’ and not ‘hidden’ from the towing vehicle.

The advantage of a dedicated wiring kit is that the vehicle will know when you are towing and can automatically adjust the following:

  • Brake Electronics
  • Engine Electronics
  • Cruise Control or A.C.C.
  • Parking Aids
  • Reversing Cameras
  • Lane Change Assisting
  • Suspension System
  • Engine Cooling System

7 or 13 pin? 
What you’re towing dictates what you’ll need:

7 Pin electrics

Traditional wiring for trailers and bike carriers, sometimes used on old caravans.

13 pin electrics

Primarily used on caravans and replaced twin 7pin electrics 15years ago. However European trailers may have a 13pin plug.

Fitting your Towbar

Once you have chosen the towbar that suits you best, we recommend having it fitted by a professional with up-to-date knowledge, equipment and insurance. The NTTA (National Trailer and Towing Association) has a list of fitting centres that have gone through an assessment and are certified quality secured.

Mobile fitting on driveways is becoming less possible as the job becomes more involved and specialised, and many centres will refuse to fit towbars to new cars anywhere but in their garage.

Having your tow bar professionally fitted will give you peace of mind that your towbar and wiring are safe, under warranty and you are towing legally.

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