EC94/20 and what it means for towbars

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This guide is to inform towbar uses about the EC directive that is in place for towbars and how it will effect them.

What Vehicles are affected by the European type approval (EC94/20)?

The Vehicles that are covered by the approval are all passenger carrying vehicles up to 3500kg first registered after the 1st August 1998. These are classed as M1 Vehicles, this excludes Light commercials such as vans and pickups and private imports from outside the EU.

What does the approval achieve?

This approval stops vehicles towing unsafely it eliminates towbars being thrown together in someones garden shed and it ensures that towbars are mounted to the correct points on the vehicle to keep them secure. Small cars that are not big or heavy enough to control a trailer now do not have towbars manufactured for them.

How does this approval work for vehicles?

The approval means that all vehicles that are designed to tow have details on the VIN plate. The plate will show GTR (gross train weight) if it is designed to tow. The vehicle will also have towbar mounting points built in to the chassis or other strong points on the vehicle.

How does the approval work for towbars?

Tow bars that are manufactured to the approval have been through vigorous testing to make sure that there is enough strength to tow the weights that they and the vehicle have been designed for. The towbar must also fix to the vehicle on the fixing points that are provided by the vehicle manufacture.

How does the EC approval work for other towing accessories?

All towballs must also EC approved when fitted to a M1 Vehicle most other accessories ie cycle racks do not need EC approval. Drop plates should only be used on towbar that have been tested with drop plates. If a drop plate is fitted to a towbar that is not designed for a drop plate the point at which the load is applied is changed. This can cause problems. Most 4x4 towbars are tested to tow with drop plates.

Why does the EC approval only apply to vehicles first registered from 1998?

The approval was only introduced in 1994 and time was given for the Vehicle and towbar manufactures to design and test their products to the new rules.

What can happen if you do not comply to this legislation?

If the towing vehicle falls in the M1 class, was first registered after 1st August 1998 and it is not approved to tow or the towbar is not EC approved, the implications can be very serious. Should you be found breaking the regulations, first of all you can be prosecuted for an infringement of construction and use regulations, and your insurance can decline a payout in the event of an accident claim.

How do you know that your tow bar / tow ball is EC approved?

If you have a tow ball or towbar and you need to know whether it is EC approved it will have a plate or sticker with the following information.

  • E number this is e and 1 or 2 figures (dependant on the country it was tested in) then there will be a 6 figure number this is approval number and revision.
  • Manufacturer
  • S value
  • D value.

The sticker or plate should never be removed from this item.

Additional information.

In some EC countries this ruling covers other vehicles and started earlier but as long as the vehicle was first registered in the UK and it complies to the UK laws this does not affect you in any way.

The EC approval opened the market up and this means that you will not invalidate any warrantees on brand new vehicles if a non genuine tow bar is fitted to the vehicle.

Swan Neck tow bars are designed and tested with the towball on it so there is no additional markings on the ball section of the towbar.

This approval also specifies that the height of the centre of the tow ball must be between 350 and 420mm from the ground when the vehicle is fully laden.

We try to only sell Bosal Towbars for the following reasons.

  •  These are extremly well manufactured
  • All there towbars are EC approved including towbars for non M1 vehicles
  • Most  vehicle manufactures use Bosal Towbars as original equipment
  • The paint finish is better than most towbar manufactures reducing corrosion.
  • We can sell with confidence

Unfortunely Bosal do not manufacture all types of towbars for all vehicles.


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