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Options When Shopping For Towbars

If you’re considering towing a folding camper caravan or trailer tent or other trailer, it is important to be aware of towbars and the electrics that go with them. To simplify the process, the word “caravan” is utilized throughout but it applies to all trailers unless stated otherwise.

Before 1998, there were no rules to ensure the safe design and installation of towbars. Anyone was able to make just a few parts of angle iron to making towbars. On the 1st of August 1998 (20 April 1999 in Northern Ireland) safety regulations were introduced, which stipulated that new cars that were registered prior to the date of introduction must be equipped with type-approved towbars manufactured in accordance to European directive EC 94/20.

The law requires a sample of every type of towbar to go through an examination that involves a two million cycle test of fatigue that typically lasts for 60 hours. The towbar is then scrutinized by the agency that certifies vehicles in the country in which it is manufactured. If the inspection is successful, the towbar will be issued with an individual number of approval for the type and is then sold as a certified product.

On October 29, 2012, The Directive has been extended, allowing light commercial vehicles that do not exceed 3500kg in Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) as well as all motorhomes built upon commercial vehicle chassis cabs regardless their GVW. The Directive 94/20 Directive also stipulates that the towbar has to be connected to the vehicle by using designated mounting points supplied from the manufacture. Another condition is that towball be mounted in a certain location relative to the mounting points, not at the height of the ground. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer of the vehicle to make sure the towball’s position is in line with regulations. The regulations state that towball and hitch heights for a fully loaded vehicle that is, at GVW. These are included by the Data Sheets glossary.

The 94/20 Directive was changed in the form of ECE (United European Commission of the Nations) Regulation 55. It meets all the requirements of EC 94/20 , but it imposes certain additional requirements including an examination of the second coupling. This is the connection point for the breakaway cable that is used on trailers that are braked. Towbars that conform to the EC 94/20 standard are still approved and can be sold for fitting, use and sale.

EC Approval does not just be used for towbars but is also applicable to electrics used for towing. They must be in conformity with EC Directive 2009/19 (electromagnetic compatibility). Note that this refers to interference caused by radios and not functional compatibility with any particular caravan.
Identifying the capacity of the towing

Every modern vehicle is fitted with the vehicle Identification Number (VIN) also known as the chassis plate. It can be located underneath the bonnet or in the lower part of the door pillar. The figure on the top is an estimate of the maximum authorized mass (MAM) that the automobile is, or in that sense, the weight it is legally able to can be loaded up to. It could be also referred to as”the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW).

The following number will be the Gross Train weight (GTW). It is the maximum allowed weight that can be accumulated by the loaded trailer and the vehicle. Another way to think about it is to say that the figure is the total of the real axle load for each axle. It is not allowed to exceed. The two figures in the last two are the maximum permissible loads of both rear and front axles.

The difference between GTW or that of the MAM is the limit of towing of the vehicle’s total weight. In this case, that we have, the capacity to tow of the Subaru is 3,754kg x 1,945kg . This is 1,800 kg.

In accordance with European rules, a vehicle’s towing limit is defined as the maximum weight that can be towing at:

“The motor vehicle towing the trailer should be able to begin the vehicle combination loaded to its maximum mass five times on an uphill slope of minimum 12 percent within five minutes.”

Thus, since certain A-class roads in the UK and a lot of roads throughout mainland Europe have gradients higher than 12 percent (approximately 1/8) it is recommended not to tow beyond the towing limit set by the manufacturer.

In assessing what you might be able to tow , the Club always ensure that for safety that you adhere to the 85 percent recommended that The Maximum Technically Permissible Load Mass (MTPLM) that the trailer shouldn’t exceed 85 percent of the kerbweight of your towing vehicle. The figure could be increased to 100 percent cent for experienced drivers who are used to the towing process, but shouldn’t be exceeded by more than 85 per cent. The kerbweight figure doesn’t appear on the VIN plate, but should be listed in the manual of the car. It could or might not be identical to the ‘Mass in Service number that is currently displayed in the DVLA Form V5. This is contingent upon whether or not the total weight (75kg) is being included. See the glossary.

Legally the MAM of your vehicle, together with the MTPLM of your caravan, should not be more than the GTW of your car.

Can the vehicle be towable?

It’s important to be aware that some cars aren’t specifically designed to tow and towing them is illegal. According to the Club’s experience, this includes sports models that may be lower or sporting body kits, eco models, and recently, electric and hybrid vehicles. Some require towbar installed, and the Club believes that it is unlikely that the towbar is possible to install following the departure of the factory for new stock vehicles or pre-owned, therefore the vehicles won’t be legally able to tow. A vehicle with no towing limit could appear identical to a vehicle that is with the capability of towing just one difference that it is marked by the plate on which it is registered.

Some examples of these vehicles are those of Ford Ka, Jaguar F type, a few Audi TT, Audi S3 and Skoda. In these cars, The Maximum Train Weight will be either zeros or dashes. Before purchasing, make sure to look over your VIN plates of the vehicle you plan to purchase to determine its towing capacity and other tests the Club suggests for safe and secure towing in our Matching Car or caravan’s Data Sheet. This may involve calling the head office of the business to verify the validity of the information.

Certain vehicles could have the same figure of GTW and MAM. In this instance, when the load of the vehicle is restricted below the maximum allowed amount (MAM) it might be possible to tow the gap between the actual weight and MAM/GTW. In the majority of cases, this would only allow towing the heaviest trailers. To be able to do this, the driver must be aware of how much their trailer and their vehicle weighs. This can be done by going to an open weighbridge.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is the limit of the noseweight of the vehicle towing. This is the highest static force that can apply to the towball of any trailer towbar that is fitted.

Noseweight is essential for stable towing . The most commonly accepted number is that the nominal noseweight of the trailer (or caravan) should be between 5 to 7 percent from its MTPLM. If a caravan has an MTPLM of 1,500kg, this amounts to 75-105kg.

The towbar specialist is a dealer, not a fit.

It is perfectly feasible and legal to put in the towbar yourself however, it’s not something that should be done at a leisurely pace. In addition to ensuring that the correct bolts are placed in the correct holes at the right torque, there’s the entire issue of electrics for a towbar to think about and also the need to take off your rear bumper the crash beam the boot floor, rear lights, etc.

We would advise that the job be done professionally. If your car is brand new it is possible to purchase the factory fitted device installed, or ask the dealer who supplied you with the towbar on your behalf. So, there’s less chance to have any warranty issues should something goes wrong later on. Another thing to keep in mind is that certain cars may require some preparation at the factory and could require cooling equipment in addition in the event that they are utilized for towing. A dealer with a main dealership is the most knowledgeable about the details.

In spite of this, there are a number of excellent towbar fitting firms Some of them will visit you to complete the task. In fact, some major dealers hire towbar fitting services from companies like these. To assist you in selecting one that is reputable, the National Trailer & Towing Association (NTTA) maintains an inventory of QSA Accredited (QSA) towbar fitting firms.

The types of towbars

Towbars are available in two major varieties namely those that have a fixed towball as well as those that have a detachable option. They can be equipped with the flange or swan neck towballs. If you’re worried about the appearance of your rear vehicle, you might want to look into a towbar that has an detachable towball. It could be possible to choose the towball can be removed from sight when it is not being used.

Fixed towballs can be bolted to the towbar. They are used in the UK the most sought-after is the flange style that is mounted using two (or often 4) bolts. They are useful in the event that you want to attach things like bicycle racks bumper shield, a the blade stabilizer bracket.

The majority of detachable towballs are likely to come from the Swan Neck type however, you can also find mount flanges with detachable mounting that are suitable for towballs with flanges. Detachable towballs have locks that can be released quickly that permits the towball to be detached and returned to its original position without the use of tools. The mount is usually vertical, that is, push up to lock. However when space is not available the horizontal option could be utilized. Vertical locking systems leave nothing visible after the towball is removed.

Retractable towbars are a popular choice for factory fitting, they permit the towball in its place when not being used, similar to detachable, but have the added benefit of being connected to the vehicle.

They are towbars that have a permanent fit systems that be extended and retracted behind the bumper on the rear. They can be locked manually and unlocked, electrically activated or a combination of the two . They are accessible from aftermarket tow bar suppliers like Witter. It is also typical for retractables to include a re-usable electrical plug of 13 pins like the one below.

The disadvantages are more expensive and complicated in comparison to the conventional options, but should you be searching for a straightforward towbar that won’t obstruct the lines of the vehicle when it’s the towbar isn’t in operation, the retractable could be the right choice for you.