Towbars, the Law, and Other Important Information
As responsible fitters and suppliers, Solent Towbars provides information to ensure that you travel safely and within the limits of the law, and about some of our manufacturers. Please read this page carefully and check back regularly to ensure that you are up to date with any changes to laws and regulations regarding towbars.
European Law now states that all light passenger vehicles registered on or after 1st August 1998 require a type-approved towbar tested to EC94/20 and towball with suitable D&S values. This is not retrospective and does not affect any vehicle registered before this date.
Fitment of a non-type-approved towbar on a vehicle registered on or after 1st August 1998 could result in prosecution, and in the event of an accident, the vehicle’s insurance could be invalidated.
What Is the Maximum Weight I Can Carry in My Trailer?
For an unbraked trailer, there is a legal maximum of 750kg gross trailer weight, or 50% of the towing vehicle’s kerbside weight – whichever is less. For a braked trailer, the maximum is 3500kgs. Both weights depend on the trailer and its weight restriction.
What Are the Speed Restrictions When Towing?
It is 60 mph on motorways and dual carriageways with a national speed limit, 50 mph on other roads unless there are lower speed restrictions in operation.
Can I Tow in the Fast Lane of a Motorway?
No, you must not travel in the fast lane of the motorway whilst towing unless there are lane restrictions or you are directed by a police officer.
All towbars are designed (with the aid of the latest CAD system) to fit precisely to mounting points and are renowned for their ease of fit and unobtrusive appearance. Once the design is approved and tested to rigorous European standard EC94/20, it is then manufactured by an experienced production team using only certified British steel and finished in a high-quality primer.
Quality management systems cover all areas from design to distribution to ensure customer satisfaction. Our towbars come with full fitting instructions complete with diagram should you wish to fit them yourself.
All type approved towbars carry a label to ensure product traceability and all the information necessary to conform fully to the European standard. Some care should be taken when selecting a towbar to ensure the D&S values are great enough for the model of vehicle required. Again, we are happy to advise on our entire range.
British & European Standards
All towbars comply with ISO 1102 and BS AU 113, which specifies the dimensions and location of the towball to ensure a safe and level towing height of between 350mm and 420mm (ground to centre of towball when the vehicle is laden).
As per EC94/20 the European Regulation, towbars are required to conform to this standard and have a full testing programme underway in conjunction with the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).
Solent Towbars can now offer our customers a complete vehicle-specific wiring service using both wiring and industry-leading diagnostics technology. VSW kits are individually designed on the requirements of each individual vehicle, and, when installed, will ensure any towing-related safety features are active and functioning. Here at Solent Towbars, we have invested heavily in the latest diagnostic equipment.
VSW (Vehicle Specific Wiring)
An increasing number of modern vehicles are now being equipped with electronic systems dedicated to towing*, such as:
• TSP (Trailer Stability Programme) - This detects snaking on a trailer or caravan and uses the vehicle’s braking to bring it back under control.
• Fog Light Cut Out - This turns the vehicle’s fog lights off when a trailer is plugged in.
• Reversing Sensor Cut Out - This deactivates the vehicle reversing sensors when a trailer is plugged in.
• Dashboard Indication - Uses a light to signal trailer indicators are working.
• Bulb Failure Detection - Can detect if a bulb is not working on the trailer.
* Dependent on vehicle make and model
"Vehicle specific wiring is the way ahead, it is more expensive than standard wiring but if you have features built into your vehicle … why not use them?"
The system is fitted using either factory-prepared connectors, original vehicle harness connectors, or connecting directly to the vehicle’s network via the CAN bus and other specified points using automotive-grade connectors.
There are different types of towbars and you should make sure you know which one is suitable for your car and the purposes for which you can use them.
The two-hole flange is the most common type of towbar in the UK. It can be used with a wide range of accessories such as bumper protection plates, cycle carriers, and all types of stabilisers, though they can sometimes pick up and interfere with reversing sensors.
Growing in popularity in the UK, the detachable towbar may appear the same as a swan neck towbar, but you can detach the neck by means of a simple action, leaving very little or nothing of the towbar visible. They are very good if reversing sensors are fitted but, as with the swan neck, you are unable to use a cycle carrier whilst towing and other towball-mounted accessories.
Before you order your tow bar, you need to ensure you have the correct electrics. Please see our guide below to determine your towing requirements and what type your vehicle is.
Single electrics (also known as 12N) are used when all that is required are road lights, such as for a trailer or cycle carrier lighting board.
Double Electrics & Relay
Double electrics and relay incorporate the single electrics plus another socket (also known as 12S) to provide a permanent live feed into the caravan. With the aid of a relay, this allows the fridge and battery charge facility in the caravan to be used, and enables a reversing light to be wired, if required.
13-pin is the new EU wiring that is slowly filtering into the UK. Most used by caravaners, it incorporates the double electrics and relay (12N and 12S) in one socket. All new caravans and some cycle carriers now come with a 13-pin plug. Here at Solent Towbars, we have two other types of wiring for your vehicle:
Bypass/Vehicle Interface Relay
This is a universal fitting for most vehicles. It is a cost-effective way of wiring by means of connecting to the vehicle’s rear lighting looms. All mandatory lights will operate, but no towing-related features will be activated. This system works with bulb failure systems, multiplexed wiring, mixed voltage, low voltage, and digitally controlled lighting.
Please note: some older vehicles will only require fitment of an audible buzzer and not the above relays.
This is specific to the individual vehicles and, when fitted, will integrate into the electrical systems and activate any towing-related features.
The AL-KO can be recognised by its red handle, although there are various styles:
If your caravan is fitted with an AL-KO-type stabiliser, then you will require an additional AL-KO-compatible towball, with an extended neck that enables a more secure and stable connection. The head of the towball should be taken back to bare metal to allow for metal-against-metal grip, and should always be used completely grease-free. This is recommended by AL-KO, and failure to adhere to this recommendation could invalidate your insurance in the event of an accident.
Founded in Sheffield, PCT Automotives is one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of towbars, towing electrics, and automotive products. All their towbars are designed to fit precisely to vehicle mounting points as specified by the manufacturer, and are fully compliant with the European type approval regulations for standardised towbar manufacturing.
With a lifetime guarantee to the vehicle on which it is fitted, PCT towbars are made from certified British steel and come with a phosphate chemical pre-treatment and powder coated finish to enhance both durability and appearance when fitted.
Swedish company Thule has been around since the 1940s, and has manufactured towbars for major vehicle brands such as Land Rover, Toyota, and Jaguar since they merged with the towbar company Brink in 2006.
Thule specialises in all towbar variants, including swan neck, fixed flange ball, detachable, and retractable systems. The company is also the leading manufacturer of cycle carriers, holding up to two to four bikes with ease, and having the added advantage of integrated lights.
Based in North Warwickshire, Tow-Trust Towbars are one of the foremost manufacturers and designers of towing equipment. All their towbars are designed to fit precisely to vehicle mounting points as specified by the manufacturer, and are renowned for their ease of fit and unobtrusive appearance.
Tow-Trust’s towbars are made only from high-quality British steel, and are rigorously tested to ensure they are fully compliant with the European type approval regulations for standardised towbar manufacturing. Their quality management system covers the entire manufacturing process, from design to distribution, to assure high standards and customer satisfaction.
Witter is Britain’s largest and best-known towbar manufacturer. Based in Deeside, North Wales, Witter provides quality-assured towbars and various towing accessories, including cycle carriers, towing steps, and roof racks. To date, it has distributed more than 6 million towbars.
All Witter towbars are made from high-quality British steel and designed using 3D computer-aided design with the latest software. All testing is carried out in-house using Servo hydraulic testing machines and is observed by the UK Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA). Through this rigorous testing, Witter ensures that all their products are fully compliant with the European type approval regulations for standardised towbar manufacturing. All Witter towbars come with a lifetime guarantee, and technical support from the Witter factory.
Please give us as much detail about your requirements as you can, and we’ll answer you as quickly as possible