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When You Need A Caravan Tow Bar

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  • 23-02-2022
When You Need A Caravan Tow Bar

Have you been asking: when do I need a caravan tow bar? This article looks at how to choose and fit a tow bar. We also discuss things to consider when buying a tow bar.

What Is A Caravan Towbar?

Essentially, a towbar is a piece of ironwork forming a connection between other vehicles, such as caravans and trailers or accessories and equipment, onto your current car or tow vehicle.

It is a 50mm iron ball that one fixes onto a towing vehicle so that you may travel with it. Towbar manufacturers pay great attention to detail when curating these tools to be suitable for towing caravans, trailers, older cars, commercial vehicles and bike carriers.

What Weight Can My Car Tow?

Types Of Caravan Towbar

Flange Towbars

Fixed flange towbars are often far cheaper than various other styles; however, they tend not to look as sleek and attractive.

Newly acquired cars have a protrusion that sticks out, making them undisguisable to other drivers on the road.

The fixed flange is an excellent towbar for fitting cycle carriers or bike racks between the ball and flange.

Flange Towbars

You can skillfully remove your tow ball when utilising a detachable flange towbar when it is not in use, which will reduce the appearance of your towbar sticking out.

The detachable flange is talented at not triggering any reversing or parking sensors when you are not in motion.

It also lets drivers fit numerous couplings and accessories for various trips and scenarios.

Swan Neck Towbars

Fixed swan necks have a relatively graceful curve that allows them to appear discreet compared to other types as there is less ironwork on display.

You have the advantage of a neck that sweeps up underneath the rear bumper to hide the structure.

Swan Neck Towbars

The most significant benefit of a detachable swan neck is that when you aren't towing another vehicle, your car will appear as though there is nothing fitted onto it.

Its most considerable disadvantage is that it is far more expensive than any standard flange towbar type.

Vertical Or Horizontal Towbars

For this form of towbar, the tow ball neck is directly inserted into the towbar receptor, and the horizontal is fitted into the side.

Towing Weight And Width Limits

Many cars worldwide tend to have a towed maximum weight and towing height that they can withstand. If you're struggling, you may find this weight listed in the car manufacturers handbook or your towbars specification sheet.

On the other hand, you may be able to discover your vehicle's gross train weight as it is often listed on your VIN (vehicles identification) number plate on your car.

Such is typically underneath the bonnet of your vehicle, or you can find it inside the driver's door.

For those who may be unsure, the weight of your fully-loaded car and trailer together is known as the gross train weight.

You must ensure that the gross train weight does not exceed the stated limits.

Suppose your VIN plate does not list any specific train weight; this means you mustn't attempt to use the said vehicle for any towing activities or long journeys.

You'll discover that the maximum width for most vehicles towing a trailer is 2.55 metres, whereas the maximum length is 7 metres for a vehicle weighing around 3,500kg.

When Do I need A Caravan Tow Bar?

How To Choose And Fit A Towbar

There are three main towbar types, and each is utilised for different scenarios and requirements. These three are fixed flange ball towbars, detachable swan necks and fixed swan necks. It is essential to consider a few factors before picking the right towbar for you:

One of the most significant mistakes is to shift your focus on planning your chosen towbar to accommodate the weight of your desired vehicle, such as the caravan or trailer.

Yet they do not bother to consider how heavy your vehicle will become once fully loaded. 

Many cars can risk having their bodywork severely damaged or even ripped away whilst driving down the motorway or road, resulting in costly repair work of many kinds.

Initially, you want to consider the weight you will be towing at a time; once you find the appropriate tow that suits your desired weight, it will be much easier to find.

If you will never need to tow a caravan, yet you may require a trailer, it's far better to buy a much smaller towbar. However, you also must consider the contents that you need your tow to carry.


After taking the time to consider a wide range of options, including the weight of the towbar, the additional weight and the tasks or vehicles you need it for, you want to make yourself aware of all of the necessary legal requirements:

Ensure that your chosen towbar complies with all the latest EU regulations.

It's vital to select registered vehicles that are thoroughly insured upon or after their construction.

All towbar parts must be secure and safe making them road legal, as to not damage or interfere with other cars and car parts on the road.

You mustn't attach a random towbar to your vehicle, hitch up the caravan or trailer and get straight on the road.

You can utilise tools such as the Alko Stabiliser friction pads to prevent pitching and swinging movements during motion.

Breakaway cables are a legal requirement by UK law when towing any vehicle, as they are carefully designed to pull forward on the brake pedal should your towed vehicle ever become unhitched.

You must ensure that you or a professional tower has fitted towing mirrors onto your pre-existing wing mirrors. In doing so, you can ensure all behind you is seen.

It is paramount to ensure that you can see the perimeter around the towing item.

The height of your vehicle and your trailer's relative height should be equally measured, and this will be easy for some; however, not for others.

It also mustn't block your view of road lights, brake lights, or reverse lights as these could put you, your passengers and other drivers in danger.

Things To Consider When Buying A Towbar

Things To Consider When Buying A Towbar

Types Of Towbar

There are three primary types of towbars available in the UK:


A flange is essential a tow ball that is bolted to your towbar at all times. It is one of the most popular and affordable towbars you can find in the UK.


This type, much like the name implies, can detach completely from your vehicle when you aren't using it. The neck part locks into place on multiple towbar models when in use.

Swan Neck

Swan necks are much like the flange plate type as they must be attached to your vehicle at all times. However, the neck is more like a detachable system, providing a better appearance. They are common across continental Europe, and in the UK, they are only growing in popularity after being introduced by Westfalia.

Types Of Towbar Wiring

Types Of Towbar Wiring

There are various types of towbar wiring and electrics, including single and twin electrics, that you may require depending on your desired use:

7 Pin Towbar

7 pin towbar electrics are most suitable for any towing activity. Such functions provide you with a wide range of requirements for legal towing on UK roads, such as boat and camping tows, cycle carriers, trailers, and horseboxes.


Twin electrics have excellent auxiliary sockets perfect for caravanning trips; it includes battery power and fridge feeds.

13 Pin

13 pin electrics. All brand-new caravans and motorhomes have a 13 pin plug, and there is a wide range of cycle carriers that require 13 pin towbar electrics.

How To Fit A Towbar

Tow bar fittings can widely vary depending on the vehicle in your possession. Plenty of tow bars on the UK market is relatively straightforward to fit and often require no cutting or drilling of the bumper.

Fitting a towbar onto modern cars will be an easy job for those competent at DIY tasks.

However, most of the difficulty comes when using the dedicated wiring kits. When fitting your towbar correctly, it may be best to remove some interior panels from your vehicle and cut them into the car wiring diagram. Ensure you join the towbar wiring harness.

Fitting Your Towbar

Fitting a towbar onto modern cars will be an easy job for those competent at DIY tasks.

However, most of the difficulty comes when using the dedicated wiring kits. When fitting your towbar correctly, it may be best to remove some interior panels from your vehicle and cut them into the car wiring diagram. Ensure you join the towbar wiring harness.

If you feel uncomfortable with such DIY projects and lack experience in wiring your towbar, it is wise to pay a professional towbar fitter to do the job for you.

Most towbar fitting companies can provide customers with a high-quality fitting service at their workshop or depot.

Maintaining Your Towbar

Maintenance of your towing equipment should be essential; most professionals use wire wool to prep the metal.

It helps prevent scratching whilst cleaning and ridding any harsh materials or debris from the metal to ensure it can hitch adequately.

If you need to tow a caravan or other trailer, you'll need a towbar. We can help with any and all enquires regarding towbars, so don't hesitate to contact MotorHome Towbars today.