Tow bar types explained

There are two different style of tow bars, fixed and detachable, both of which are available in swan neck and flange styles. Choosing a tow bar can be confusing due to the wide variety of options. Tow bars are vehicle specific so the options of tow bar types can be limited depending on the car make and model. However, most modern vehicles have options of all tow bar styles and types.

Flange tow bar types

The most commonly used type of tow bar in the UK is the flange tow bar; where the tow ball is bolted to the tow bar with two 24mm bolts. There are also some variations of the flange tow bar type that have four bolts instead of two. This is the most versatile design of tow bar because it can be used with tow ball mounted accessories i.e. cycle carriers, bumper protectors & all types of stabilisers, all mounted between the tow bar & ball. The flange tow bar is available in both fixed and detachable styles.

Fixed flange tow bar

fixed Flange neck tow bar

Benefits of the fixed flange tow bar are:

• Capable of using accessories like some models of cycle carriers whilst towing
• Price, flange tow bars tend to be cheaper
• Capable of fitting a tow bar and pin system required to pull plant trailers and generators
• Capable of fitting a bumper protector plate
• Capable of using height adjustable couplings, drop plates and spacers to get different towing heights and clearances
• Capable of putting a butterfly step on (mainly used on commercial vehicles)
• Tow ball can be upgraded to be used with an AL-KO stabiliser

Things to consider before purchasing a fixed flange tow bar are:

• Whether or not your vehicle has parking sensors fitted, the parking sensors may think that the tow bar is an obstacle when in reverse
• The look of the tow bar on the back of your car, they are not as aesthetically pleasing as other styles
• Banging your legs on the tow bar when utilising your boot or walking around the vehicle
• Both the tow bar and electrics can be seen when looking at the vehicle

Detachable flange tow bar

detachable flange tow bar


Detachable flange tow bars have all the benefits of a fixed flange tow bar with the additional option to remove when not in use.

Benefits of the detachable flange tow bar are:

• The neck of the tow bar can be removed leaving the vehicle looking like there is not a tow bar fitted and towing capacity is the same as a fixed bar.
• If parking sensors are fitted to a vehicle the detachable Tow bar will not interfere once removed
• You will not bang your legs or trip on the tow bar when utilising your boot or walking around your vehicle when neck is removed
• Capable of carrying any tow ball mount cycle carrier
• Compatible with AL-KO and other friction style stabilisers (once paint is removed off the 50mm ball section)
• Neck mechanism locks to the vehicle to stop it being stolen
• Capable of fitting a tow ball and pin system required to pull plant trailers and generators
• A choice of towing couplings and accessories can be fitted

Things to consider before purchasing a detachable flange tow bar:

• If you lose the neck at any point they are expensive to replace
• Price, detachable tow bars can be more expensive than fixed tow bars and detachable swan necks Detachable flange tow ball necks are heavier than detachable swan necks
• Detachable flange tow ball necks looks less sleek when fitted

Swan neck tow bar types

In the E.U. the most common tow bar type is the swan neck tow bar. This is where the tow ball and the neck are all one piece of the tow bar. This type of tow bar is becoming more popular in the U.K. due to the appearance of the bar looking neater and with the bar being narrower it is less likely to trigger your parking sensors.

This type of bar is a little less versatile than flange style; you can either tow or attach a cycle carrier but you can’t use both at the same time. The swan neck tow bar can also be used with an AL-KO stabiliser without the need for modification. The swan neck type is available in both a detachable than fixed style.

Fixed swan neck tow bar

fixed swan neck tow bar

Benefits of a fixed swan neck tow bar:

• More aesthetically pleasing than a flange style tow bar
• More chance of the parking sensors not picking up the tow bar when in reverse (but not a guarantee)
• Compatible with AL-KO and other friction style stabilisers (once paint is removed off the 50mm ball section)
• Price, is very competitively priced compared to its detachable counterpart
• Capable of carrying all types of ball mount cycle carriers

Things to consider before purchasing a fixed swan neck tow bar:

• If your vehicle has parking sensors fitted, the parking sensors may think that the tow bar is an obstacle when in reverse
• Banging your legs or tripping on the tow bar when utilising your boot or walking around your vehicle
• Some necks are not as adaptable as the flange style i.e. cannot fit height adjusters, steps and couplings
• Towing and using a tow bar mount cycle carrier at the same time is not possible
• Can be more expensive than a flange depending on make and model.
A detachable swan neck tow bar has all the benefits of a fixed swan neck tow bar with the additional feature of being removed when not in use. Allowing for a cleaner look on the rear of a vehicle when not towing anything.

Detachable swan neck tow bar

detachable swan neck tow bardetachable swan neck tow bar

Benefits of a detachable swan neck tow bar:

• Neck of the tow bar can be removed leaving the vehicle looking like there is not a tow bar fitted and towing capacity is the same as a fixed bar
• If parking sensors are fitted to a vehicle the detachable tow bar will not interfere once removed
• You will not bang your legs or trip on the tow bar when utilising your boot or walking around your vehicle when neck is removed
• Capable of carrying any tow ball mount cycle carrier
• Compatible with AL-KO and other friction style stabilisers (once paint is removed off the 50mm ball section)
• Neck mechanism locks to the vehicle to stop it being stolen

Things to consider before purchasing a detachable swan neck tow bar:

• If you lose the neck at any point they are expensive to replace
• Tow bar height cannot be altered
• Alternative tow balls cannot be fitted
• Price, the swan neck type tow bars are more expensive than flange tow bars


Other types of tow bars:

  • Electric swivelling tow bar type

The electric swivelling trailer tow bar system is the newest type of tow bar developed by Westfalia. The tow bar is released by pressing a button inside the car and automatically manoeuvres itself into place. 

  • Vertical detachable tow bar types

The automatic vertical detachable tow bar type is invisible when removed. This type of tow bar allows easy removal and fitting of the tow ball neck. The neck of the tow bar is inserted vertically into the actual tow bar receptacle fitted to the vehicle. To prevent theft or unwanted removal of the tow bar neck a lock and key has been added.

  • Horizontal detachable tow bar types

The automatic detachable type tow bar can be invisible just like the one above. The only difference between the vertical detachable tow bar type and the horizontal detachable tow bar type is the direction in which the tow bar neck is inserted into the tow bar receptacle fitted to the vehicle.

  • Compact detachable tow bar types

This type of tow bar made by Westfalia is a smaller and cheaper version of the vertical/ horizontal detachable tow bar types. The neck of this type of tow bar fits into the tow bar fitted to the vehicle horizontally and like most Westfalia products, this type of tow bar is secured using a lock and key.

  • Pin system tow bar types

This type of tow bar is another similar to the detachable type tow bars. The pin system tow bar’s neck is inserted horizontally into the fitted part of the tow bar unlike other types of tow bar this system does not have a lock and key. Instead it is secured by a pin, which itself is made secure by a leg spring.

  • Nut system tow bar types

This type of tow bar is nearly identical to the Pin System tow bar type. The only difference being where the pin system is secured with a pin the nut system is secured with a nut.

  • Permanently attached tow bar types

This type of tow bar is a Westfalia version of the commonly known flange tow bar type. Both (F10 Welded) and (F20 Bolted) are available, although the bolt type tow bar is preferred to the welded. Fixed Flange otherwise known as permanently attached is the cheapest model of tow bar.

  • Universal HGV tow bar types

  • Towing brackets for HGV tow bar types

Westfalia HGV Towing Brackets are suitable for vehicles up to 3.5 t. The good thing about this tow bar type is that they are fully adjustable in terms of both width and height. This type of tow bar allows fitting to vehicles that do not have a standard type tow bar allocated to them. With many different combinations available to this type of tow bar, this should be your first choice when searching for HGV towing equipment.

 

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