Towbars and the law, are you aware of the regulations ?

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European type approval 94/20/EC

In the U.K, with effect from 1st August 1998 all Passenger Carrying Vehicles up to 3500kgs Gross Vehicle Weight (M1 Vehicles) can only be fitted with European Type Approved towbars if the vehicle has received European Whole Vehicle Type Approval.

However in other EU countries this extends to commercial vehicles, so if you buy a towbar and

Non M1 vehicles, light commercial vehicles and private imports from outside the EEC do not need Approved Towbars; however, most car and some Light Commercial Vehicles such as vans commonly use the Type Approved Towbar.

Most towbar manufacturers have allowed, in the towbar test and approval application, for the inclusion of various accessories, often by including a spacer in the towbar kit, which is removed when the accessory is fitted. This information should be clearly stated in the fitting instructions. If there is any doubt, you should contact the towbar supplier. This would apply to all accessories that move the towbar rearwards from the towbar.

Design, Testing and Certification
The towbar manufacturer requires the following vehicle data to design a towbar:

  • Manufacturer's specified fixing points.

  • Gross vehicle weight or mass (GVW or GVM)

  • Gross Trailer Weight or Mass (GTW or GTM) that the model of vehicle can tow.

  • This information is included in the Vehicle's Handbook. From this data the towbar manufacturer constructs a test load, called D Value, which will be used to test the towbar. As well as providing the test load, the towbar manufacturer is obliged to include a D value in kn on the towbar identification plate.

"D" Value
The "D" value is calculated as follows:

(GVW x GTW ) / (GVW + GTW) x 9.81/1000 (gravity)= kn

Where GVW is Gross Vehicle Weight, and GTW Gross Trailer Weight.
The maximum D value for an M1 vehicle is 17.7kn that represents a GVW of 3500 kgs towing GTW of 3500kgs.

It is possible to design a towbar that fits the whole range of models of one particular vehicle. Because Towing Capacity is related to GVM then each model may have a different value for D. To prevent overload of the Towing Vehicle refer to the Vehicle Manufacturers' Handbook to confirm the GTW for your particular model.

Towbars can be fitted by anyone so long as they are fitted to the manufactures specification and on passenger vehicles registered after 1st Aug 1998 they are approved the the specifications above.

Below is a quick checklist to make sure that you are buying a towbar which is fit for purpose and complys' to EC legislation.

  • On Private passenger vehicles from 1st Aug 1998 onwards (S Plate) always check that the towbar you are fitting to the vehicle has a type approval plate. This will give the approval number together with the part number for the towbar. So EC countries will ask for a copy of the type approval certificate. Your supply should be able to provide this for you

  • Before selecting a towbar look at the fitting instructions for the towbar to see if the fitting is within your capabilities. Most towbar sellers can provide pre sales advise and we in fact provide links on all our listings to the fitting instructions of the towbars we sell. By asking questions you can tell if your seller has experience of selling and working with towbars, they are not just passing on a commodity for sale. Good pre sales advise will also mean you are likely to get good post sales support.

  • When fitting a towbar if in doubt ask !!! One quick question can save you a lot of time and also ensure that the equipment is being installed to manufactures specification. By selecting a seller which openly offers this support can ensure that a safe installation is made.

  • If you decide to purchase a second hand towbar always ensure you obtain the fitting instructions to install it. We have these available on our fitting instructions website which you can access on any of our listings . This will ensure you are not missing items which can be easily done. If you do not fit the item to the manufactures specification you will be breaking type approval for the equipment on passenger vehicles manufactured after 1st Aug 1998. More importantly this could mean that the item is fitted unsafely and could cause injury if used.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us we will be happy to help, email us at from our ebay shop.

This guide is written by towbarman01 with reference from the National Trailer and Towing Association. Towbarman01 is the user name of Towequipe who has been selling and fitting towbars for over 35 years, and selling on ebay for over 5 years. They are a family company now run by the 2nd generation of the Rowson family and six members of the team our family members.

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