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Wilmond Engineering Co Ltd.

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Buyers' Guides - Towbars

Buying a towbar or having a towbar fitted can be a daunting process if you have never bought one before. The chances are you will be asked a lot questions which might leave feeling a bit confused. However here at Wilmond we aim to make that process as simple and straightforward as possible. We will guide you every step of the way and explain all the options so you end up with what really need.

The chances are the first question you will be asked is whether you are towing a trailer or a caravan. Many people are left thinking that there are two grades of towbar, one for trailers and one for caravans. This is definitely not the case! All towbars are now tested by the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) or their equivalent in whichever country the towbar is manufactured and will tow whatever the vehicle is capable of. The question relates to the wiring that will be required. This is not quite as simple as it was before the introduction of 13 pin wiring on caravans but it can be broken down into the following options:-

Trailer or cycle carrier – one 7 pin ‘n’ socket

Caravan up to spring 2009 - one 7 pin ‘n’ and one 7 pin ‘s’ socket

Caravan from summer 2009 on – one 13 pin socket.

The only exception to that is some European made cycle carriers come with a 13 pin plug. Then the choice is to have a 7 pin socket on the car and use an adaptor or have the 13 pin with only the road light pins connected. Either way will work fine and should cost about the same.

Then there is the choice of towball style. Again there is no better or stronger version. It will be what suits you best and again we will guide in making that choice. The following is a summary of the four styles generally available. Not all will be available for every vehicle but in most cases you will have a choice of at least three.

Bolt on Flange Ball

The bolt on flange ball is still the most popular style of towbar in the UK.  Competively priced but allowing maximum flexibility for fitting accessories.

Advantages

  • Allows you to fit a bumper guard
  • Can carry bikes and tow at the same time
  • Can use traditional leaf spring stabiliser

Disadvantages

  • Can affect reversing sensors
  • Not as neat as swan necks

Fixed Swan Neck Ball

The swan neck whilst popular on the continent, has never been popular in the UK.  Neater fitting than the flange ball but does not allow easy fitting of accessories.

Advantages

  • Less visually obtrusive
  • Less likely to affect reversing sensors
  • Works well with hitch head stabilisers

Disadvantages

  • Does not work well with leaf spring stabilisers
  • Cannot carry bikes and tow at the same time (except MaxxRaxx carrier)
  • Cannot fit traditional style bumper guard

Detachable Swan Neck Ball

The detachable swan neck is now becoming much more popular in the UK.  Neater fitting than the flange ball but does not allow easy fitting of accessories.

Advantages

  • Less visually obtrusive (often invisible when not attached)
  • Does not affect reversing sensors
  • Works well with hitch head stabilisers
  • Nothing to hit your leg on when removed.

Disadvantages

  • Does not work well with leaf spring stabilisers
  • Cannot carry bikes and tow at the same time (except MaxxRaxx carrier)
  • Cannot fit traditional style bumper guard

Detachable Flange Ball

The detachable flange ball style towbar is relatively new but is quickly becoming popular.  Combines the advantages of the flange ball with neatness and convenience of the detachable swan neck.

Advantages

  • Less visually obtrusive (often invisible when not attached)
  • Does not affect reversing sensors
  • Works well with hitch head and leaf spring stabilisers
  • Nothing to hit your leg on when removed.
  • Can carry bikes and tow at the same time
  • Can fit a bumper guard

Disadvantages

  • Not yet available for all vehicles

We offer towbars from five main European manufacturers who between them supply the majority of original equipment towbars. We will normally select what we consider to the best towbar for each vehicle based on neatness, ease of operation and value for money. However we will be happy to fit one of your choice from the following manufacturers:-

  • PCT Automotive
  • Witter
  • Westfalia
  • Brink
  • Tow Trust

Finally vehicle wiring systems have become progressively more complex in recent years and this is set to continue. In most cases it is no longer possible to just connect straight to the vehicle wiring loom. Whilst a few years ago it was a quite straightforward job, we would not recommend attempting this yourself unless you have been trained in vehicle electronics. However there are a lot of myths out there about towbar wiring, many to frighten you into spending a lot more money than you need to. As Quality Secured Members of the NTTA (http://www.ntta.co.uk/quality_secured/), we will fit what is required for your vehicle. Where it is safety critical or cost effective to do so, we will fit a vehicle specific kit. However there are still many vehicles where a vehicle specific kit can cost up to ten times more than a universal kit but does not give you anything extra other than a slightly neater installation. Modern smart bypass relays are now so advanced they will recognise the vehicle they being fitted to but cost a fraction of the price. Vehicles most suited to vehicle specific kits are those with can bus systems (mainly European manufactured vehicles) and pickup trucks. If you are confused by this, please ask and we will go through all the options available to you.

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