Tow Bar Types Explained

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There are several different types of tow bar and each have their advantages and disadvantages as detailed below. The main types of tow bar consists of:
Fixed Flange
Fixed Swan Neck
Detachable Swan Neck (Vertical and Horizontal fit)
Detachable Flange (Vertical and Horizontal fit)
Example of a flange neck type tow bar neck.
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Example of a flange neck type tow bar neck.

Fixed Flange Tow Bar

The most commonly used type of tow bar in the UK is the fixed flange - where the tow ball is bolted to the tow bar with two 24mm bolts. There are also variations of the flange tow bar type that have four or six bolts holes instead of two, allowing for two or three heights when mounting the tow ball. Flange types are the most versatile design of tow bar because they can be used with flange and ball mounted accessories i.e. cycle carriers, bumper protectors,  and all types of stabilisers.  The flange type of tow bar is designed to be permanently in place on the vehicle.

Advantages:
Available for almost all vehicles.
Allows for a choice of different tow balls such as jaw and pin or alko tow balls
The height of the tow bar can be lowered if needed using drop plates.
The most economical option, as they are the cheapest type of tow bar.

Disadvantages:
The tow bar and electrics are permanently visible on the vehicle.
It can be in the way and bash your shins.
Different types of tow ball is an extra cost.
Example of a swan neck type tow bar neck.
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Example of a swan neck type tow bar neck.

Fixed Swan Neck Tow Bars

In the EU the most common tow bar type is the swan neck tow bar. This is where the tow ball and the neck are all one single piece. This type of tow bar is becoming more popular in the UK due to the appearance of the bar looking neater and the increasing need for alko compatible tow bars. This type of bar is a little less versatile than the flange type.  You can either tow or attach a tow ball mounted cycle carrier, but you can’t use both at the same time. The swan neck tow bar can also be used with an alko stabiliser without the need for modification. This type of tow bar is designed to be permanently in place on the vehicle.

Advantages:
Available for most vehicles.
Compatible with alko stabilisers
This type of tow bar looks professional and discreet.
Competitively priced tow bar, slightly more expensive than the flange type tow bar but cheaper than a detachable.

Disadvantages:
Tow ball height cannot be altered.
Alternate tow balls cannot be fitted.
Swan neck type tow bars are visible unlike the detachable type tow bars.
It can be in the way and bash your shins.
Example of a vertical detachable swan neck type tow bar.
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Example of a vertical detachable swan neck type tow bar.

Vertical Detachable Swan Neck Tow Bar

This type of tow bar allows for easy removal and fitting of the tow ball neck. The neck of the tow bar is inserted vertically into the cross beam fitted to the vehicle. To prevent theft or unwanted removal of the tow bar neck it is secured with a lock and key. In most cases the bar is invisible underneath the vehicle when the neck is removed.

Advantages:
Available for a large number of vehicles.
Compatible with alko stabilisers
This type of tow bar looks professional and discreet on the vehicle.
On most vehicles the tow bar is completely invisible with the neck removed.

Disadvantages:
Tow ball height cannot be altered.
Alternate tow balls cannot be fitted.
An expensive type of tow bar.
Example of a horizontal detachable swan neck type tow bar.
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Example of a horizontal detachable swan neck type tow bar.

Horizontal Detachable Swan Neck Tow Bar

The horizontal detachable tow bar is similar to the vertical detachable tow bar as shown above, the only difference being the direction in which the tow bar neck is inserted into the tow bar.

Advantages:
Available for a large number of vehicles.
Compatible with alko stabilisers
This type of tow bar looks professional and discreet on the vehicle.
With the neck removed only a small square receiver is visible.      

Disadvantages:
Tow ball height cannot be altered.
Alternate tow balls cannot be fitted.
An expensive type of tow bar.
Example of a vertical detachable flange neck type tow bar neck.
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Example of a vertical detachable flange neck type tow bar neck.

Vertical Detachable Flange Tow Bar

This is the newest type of detachable tow bar and the bolt-on tow ball works in the same way as a fixed flange tow bar with the tow ball bolted to the neck using 2 bolts. With the detachable flange tow bars you can also remove the neck from the bar using a lock and key system, the tow ball is also an alko ball by default and so is compatible with alko stabilisers.

Advantages:
Allows for a choice of different tow balls such as jaw and pin or alko tow balls
The versatility of a flange, with the convenience of a detachable
On most vehicles the tow bar is completely invisible with the neck removed.

Disadvantages:
The most expensive type of tow bar.
Example of a horizontal detachable flange neck type tow bar neck.
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Example of a horizontal detachable flange neck type tow bar neck.

Horizontal Detachable Flange Tow Bar

The horizontal detachable flange tow bar is similar to the vertical detachable flange tow bar as shown above, the only difference being the direction in which the tow bar neck is inserted into the tow bar.

Advantages:
Allows for a choice of different tow balls such as jaw and pin or alko tow balls
The versatility of a flange, with the convenience of a detachable
With the neck removed only a small square receiver is visible.

Disadvantages:
The most expensive type of tow bar.
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