Towbar types explained

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

Flange towbar types

 
Fixed Flange Towbar Fittings

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

Fixed flange towbar

 

Benefits of the fixed flange towbar are:

  • Capable of using accessories like some models of cycle carriers whilst towing
  • Price, flange towbars tend to be cheaper
  • Capable of fitting a towbar 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 towbar are:

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

Fixed flange neck towbar

 

Detachable flange towbar

Detachable flange towbars have all the benefits of a fixed flange towbar with the additional option to remove when not in use.

Benefits of the detachable flange towbar are:

  • The neck of the towbar can be removed leaving the vehicle looking like there is not a towbar fitted and towing capacity is the same as a fixed bar.
  • If parking sensors are fitted to a vehicle the detachable towbar will not interfere once removed
  • You will not bang your legs or trip on the towbar when utilising your boot or walking around your vehicle when the neck is removed
  • Capable of carrying any tow ball mount cycle carrier
  • Compatible with AL-KO and other friction style stabilisers (once the 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 towbar:

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

Swan neck towbar types

Swan neck towbars

In the E.U. the most common towbar type is the swan neck towbar. This is where the tow ball and the neck are all one piece of the towbar. This type of towbar 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 towbar 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 towbar

Benefits of a fixed swan neck towbar:

  • More aesthetically pleasing than a flange style towbar
  • More chance of the parking sensors not picking up the towbar when in reverse (but not a guarantee)
  • Compatible with AL-KO and other friction style stabilisers (once the 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 towbar:

  • If your vehicle has parking sensors fitted, the parking sensors may think that the towbar is an obstacle when in reverse
  • Banging your legs or tripping on the towbar 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 towbar 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 towbar has all the benefits of a fixed swan neck towbar 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.

fixed Swan neck towbar

Detachable swan neck towbar

Benefits of a detachable swan neck towbar:

  • The neck of the towbar can be removed leaving the vehicle looking like there is not a towbar fitted and towing capacity is the same as a fixed bar
  • If parking sensors are fitted to a vehicle the detachable towbar will not interfere once removed
  • You will not bang your legs or trip on the towbar when utilising your boot or walking around your vehicle when the neck is removed
  • Capable of carrying any tow ball mount cycle carrier
  • Compatible with AL-KO and other friction style stabilisers (once the 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 towbar:

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

 


Other types of towbars:

  • Electric swivelling towbar type

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

  • Vertical detachable towbar types

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

  • Horizontal detachable towbar types

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

  • Compact detachable towbar types

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

  • Pin system towbar types

This type of towbar is another similar to the detachable type towbars. The pin system towbar’s neck is inserted horizontally into the fitted part of the towbar unlike other types of towbar 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 towbar types

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

  • Permanently attached towbar types

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

  • Universal HGV towbar types

  • Towing brackets for HGV towbar types

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