5 June 2006
What is the Difference ??
In the beginning there was only one type of towbar in the UK. That was the two bolt on flange type towbar. This is the one that you still see the most of in the UK. Becoming a part of the EC then brought a free market throughout the member countries which meant from the early 90’s we started seeing different type of towbars in the UK. The purpose of this guide is to help explain the differences between the different towbars available in todays UK.
The Good Old Flange towbar
The Flange towbar has been produced by UK towbar manufactures for over 50 years - ideal for the occasional and seasoned towing enthusiast alike. Manufactured using the most up-to-date equipment. Widely used across the UK the system is ideal for blade type stabilisers and bike carriers which bolt behind the flange ball. This type of ball mounting is normally one of the cheapest to purchase as there is more choice of manufactures. You can also fit bumper protector plates to protect your bumper when hitching to your caravan or trailer. This is fixed on the vehicle at all times and the towbar electric's are normally mounted to the side of the ball. If used with a Alko type stabiliser then a Alko flange towball is required to ensure that there is enough clearance to ensure safe and smooth operation of the stabiliser
The Fixed Swan neck towbar
The Swan Neck towbar has been manufactured for over 30 years, in close collaboration with all the major car manufacturers. It is important to note therefore that the car manufacturers' calibrations are all based on the "swan neck" design. This towbar is more usually seen in continental Europe, but due to its good looks popularity is now growing fast in the UK. The Latest news is that this type of towbar system is now being used by most al-ko towbar stabilisers owners. Please note a given distance is required at 67 mm for this use. The swan neck comes from under the bumper and can either be welded to the towbar or can be bolted on. The electric's are normally mounted under the bumper not to the side of the ball such as it is for the flange type mounting.
The Detachable towbar (Towball)
These towbars are designed for Individual motorists that have an eye for detail. The detachable towbar plays a major role here: the rear design of the vehicle remaining intact. When the ball is detached which is normally by a quick release lever system then there is nothing protruding from the rear of the vehicle.
The detachable ball systems are safe, reliable and easy to use. The number plate always remains visible. This innovative technology has been proven in practice for many years. They are as strong as fixed towbars and can tow the same capacity. More and more motorists are choosing Detachable Towbar Systems because they are easy to use. More often than not, they choose Brink, because they prefer quality and ease of operation.
There are a number of detachable systems on the market from the Bosal AK6, Westfalia Automatic and Brink Mirage systems where the electric's flip under the bumper and the ball mounts under the bumper so when not being used and detached nothing can be seen from the rear of the bumper. In order to achieve this with twin electric's you need to install the 13 pin electric system. This is the European system where the two electric sockets are in one, allowing you to hide the socket when not in use. You then need to use a splitter to bring the connections back to the UK 12n and 12s system.
The other detachable systems on the market is where the ball mounting and socket are just under the bumper, at first glance not in view but can be seen slightly from the rear of the vehicle. People choose these towbars because they do not want an ugly towbar at the rear of their vehicle also they may have reasons that the number plate of the vehicle is in the way for a fixed towbar, they have reversing sensors which will be picked up by the fixed towball or they may not have enough room to park the vehicle in the garage with a fixed towbar attached.
The downfall of these systems is that they are not flexible enough to allow for blade type stabiliser systems so you have to use the Alko or Winterhoff systems. Also if you want to use a cycle carrier then you have to mount it on the towball which means you can not tow at the same time.
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.