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Tow Bar Fitting Information

The following information aims to help you decide which type of tow bar and electrics are most suitable for your vehicle and towing requirements. If you are still unsure and would like some help please feel free to give us a call on 01622 233 355.

Types of Tow Bar

Fixed Flange Ball

The style of towbar is where you have a Fixed Flange Ball bolted to the neck of the towbar with two M16 24mm bolts.

  • Versatile.
  • Can be used with a bumper shield.
  • Usually the Cheapest option.
  • Fits cycle carriers that bolt behind the ball as well as those that clamp onto the ball. So you can carry bikes and tow a trailer / caravan at the same time.
  • Can be used with blade style stabilisers.
  • A choice of towballs, jaws, universal couplings and accessories can be fitted.
  • Can be bulky and unsightly.
  • Likely to be picked up by Parking Sensors.
  • You will require an extended towball if you wish to use an AL-KO stabaliser.

Detachable Flange Ball

This style of towbar offers all the versatility of a fixed flange bar whilst leaving very little if anything of the towbar visible when detached.

  • All the versatility of a fixed flange ball.
  • Fits cycle carriers that bolt behind the ball as well as those that clamp onto the ball so you can carry bikes and tow a trailer / caravan at the same time.
  • Removable when not in use.
  • Parking Sensors will not be activated when towball removed.
  • Can be used with blade style stabilisers.
  • A choice of towballs, jaws, universal couplings and accessories can be fitted.
  • Includes an extended towball (e.g. for use with an AL-KO stabaliser).
  • More expensive.
  • Can be bulky and unsightly when neck fitted.

Fixed Swan Neck

The swan neck style towbar is where the towball is part of the neck of the towbar, this type of bar looks tidier on the vehicle but is not as versatile.

  • Better looking compact design.
  • Compatible with AL-KO stabilisers.
  • Less likely to trigger parking sensors.
  • Cannot be fitted with a bumper shield.
  • Only compatible with bike racks that clamp onto the ball.
  • No other towing couplings or accessories can be fitted.

Detachable Swan Neck

The detachable tow bar looks similar to the swan neck bar when fitted to the vehicle however when not in use the neck of the bar can be unclipped leaving very little or nothing visible when detached.

  • Better looking compact design.
  • Removable when not in use.
  • Compatible with AL-KO stabilisers.
  • Parking Sensors will not be activated when towball removed.
  • Appearance of the car can be unaffected when neck removed.
  • More Expensive.
  • Cannot be fitted with bumper shield.
  • Only compatible with bike racks that clamp onto the ball.
  • No other towing couplings or accessories can be fitted.

Retractable

The towball on a retractable towbar disappears behind the bumper when not in use but remains accessible at all times.

  • Towball simply folds up behind bumper out of sight when not in use.
  • The electrical socket is also retractable so that the entire unit vanishes from view.
  • The towbar is always ready for use.
  • Parking Sensors will not be activated when towball retracted.
  • Compatible with AL-KO stabilisers.
  • Higher cost.
  • Only compatible with bike racks that clamp onto the ball.
  • Cannot be fitted with bumper shield.
  • No other towing couplings or accessories can be fitted.
  • Limited range available.

Tow bar electrics

There are 3 different types of electrics available with your Towbar, the type you require will depend on what you are going to tow.

Single Electrics (12N)

Single Electrics (12N)

This will provide power from the towing vehicle via the socket to the lights on your trailer or caravan. If you are only going to be towing a trailer this type of electrics is all you will need.

You can tow a caravan using only single electrics, but only the exterior lights will function there will be no power going to the fridge or any other electrical appliance in the caravan.

If you will only be using the towbar for a cycle carrier you will only need single electrics to power the lights on the carrier or a lighting board.

 

Twin Electrics (12N/12S)

Twin Electrics (12N/12S)

You will only require twin electrics if you are planning to tow a caravan, this will operate the caravan lights and also provide supplementary power to the caravan for the fridge, interior lights and any other electrical appliance.

This kit will provide you with two sockets at the rear and is suitable for most caravans manufactured before 2008 prior to the introduction of the 13 pin systems.

 

13 Pin Electrics

13 Pin Electrics

13 pin electrics are standard in most other European countries and they are slowly replacing the 2 separate sockets that have traditionally been fitted in the UK. The 13 pin socket performs the same function as two 7 pin sockets but has a single 13 pin socket. Most caravans manufactured after 2008 are fitted with 13 pin electrics.

This type of connection is becoming more popular because it operates all the necessary lights on the caravan or trailer and also allows you to have the supplementary power for a fridge etc from a single socket connector on the vehicle.

13 pin sockets are also used on some vehicles especially with detachable towbars when there isn't enough room to mount two separate sockets.

 

Dedicated Wiring Kit

Dedicated Wiring Kit

Historically the electrical connections for a towbar used to be taken directly from a feed behind the rear lights, however in today’s modern vehicles this is not possible as it interferes with the on board computer systems. There are now two ways that the towing electrics can be fitted to modern cars.

 

Universal wiring or (7 way by-pass as its known in the trade)

Universal wiring is where a 7 way By-pass relay is fitted between the towing socket and the wiring loom of the vehicle

  • Protects the car from any possible damage caused by electrical faults in the trailer or caravan.
  • Excludes the towing socket from the vehicles bulb failure system
  • Sends a signal to either a buzzer or light on the dashboard to indicate that the trailer / caravan indicators are working.
  • Suitable if vehicle is not equipped with safety features such as parking sensors, Electronic Stability Program (ESP) or Trailer Stability Program (T-ESP)
  • Does not communicate with your vehicles on board computer.
  • Can invalidate your vehicles warranty.
  • Does not fit into any existing socket in your vehicle so will have to be spliced into the wiring loom.

Dedicated wiring kits or vsk (vehicle specific kits as they are known in the trade)

  • Plugs into existing socket on the vehicle in accordance with the vehicle manufacturers recommendations.
  • Communicates with your vehicles computer system, so that it knows it is towing, as soon as your trailer / caravan are connected to the electrical socket.
  • Activates Trailer Stability Program (T-ESP) if fitted to vehicle.
  • Cuts out parking sensors and fog lights when towing.
  • Will not affect the warranty on your vehicle.
  • Manufacturers and insurance companies are now insisting that these wiring looms are always fitted.
  • Due to the complex nature of theses kits they can cost between £25.00 and £250.00 on top of the cost of the towbar.

Which wiring solution should I choose?

If available we would always recommend you choose a dedicated wiring kit as it will communicate with the following systems on your vehicle whilst you are towing

  • Brake electronics
  • Suspension system (ASS)
  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
  • Engine electronics
  • Engine cooling system
  • Cruise control
  • Parking aids
  • Reversing camera
  • Lane change assistant
 

‘By-pass’ all the above safety systems is potentially disastrous as your vehicle is designed to behave in a different way as soon as you couple up your trailer or caravan. Why would you pay a premium for a vehicle equipped with the latest technology and then cut corners on the installation of the towing electrics rendering all of these features useless?

Dedicated wiring kits are not available for all vehicles and if your vehicle does not have parking sensors, ESP or (T-ESP) it is not usually necessary to use a dedicated wiring kit.

If you are still unsure as to which option to choose further information is available at www.rightconnections.co.uk or call us on 01622 233 351