How to Look After Your Towbar

How to Look After Your Towbar

There are four different types of towbar available. These are fixed flange towbars, detachable flange towbars, fixed swan neck towbars and detachable swan neck towbars. While all types of towbar are low maintenance, there are certain things you should do to maximise longevity and ensure that they remain safe to use.

The help and advice outlined in this guide will ensure that you spot any imperfections or problems that could compromise your safety.

Do a Regular Inspection

After towbar installation, your towbar is unlikely to need any attention. However, over time, wear and tear may occur, which is why towbars require regular inspection. So, what should you look for?

Check All Towbar Components

It's important to check every component of your towbar regularly:

Visually assess the towbar for any signs of corrosion, fractures or damage.

  • Check the mounting of your towbar is secure, including any supports and fixings such as knuts and bolts. Inspect the locking devices, paying careful attention to split pins. If you have a detachable towbar, inspect the tow ball.
  • Check for any looseness between the tow ball arm and the receiver socket.
  • Check any levers and flexible joints by wiggling each component. Each component should still feel tightly fitted.

Look For Rust

Towbars need to be robust to guarantee safety during use, which is why they are made from strong metal, such as steel. However, one problem this poses is that metal is susceptible to rusting. So, what causes rust to form?

Moisture: Cold and wet environments cause iron and oxygen to mix in the metal of the towbar, causing the chemical reaction that results in rust. If left untreated, the rust continues to build up and spread.

Abrasion: Abrasion happens when grit, dirt and debris from the road cause friction, wearing down the coating of the towbar. If a towbar is already rusty, abrasion can quicken the process of corrosion.

Serious rusting, coupled with abrasion can decrease the reliability of your towbar, even resulting in it falling off completely. So, while small amounts of rust is not a major cause of concern, it will become a serious safety issue if left untreated.

If you notice any rust beginning to appear, take off any rusty flakes with sandpaper or a wire brush. Then, apply a primer to protect from future rusting. You should also repair any damage to the paint finish.

Clean the Towball

You should clean your tow ball and hitch as any grease on these components attracts excess grit, resulting in abrasion. A tow ball should only be cleaned using products such as brake cleaner or white spirit.

Don't Forget Your MOT

Your towbar is inspected as part of your routine MOT test under section 6 'Body, Structure and Attachments.' All types of towbar fitted to the rear of any vehicle will be included, however, towbars fitted to motorcycles are not included.

A towbar inspection as part of an MOT consists of a visual assessment, focusing on any excessive corrosion, fractures and damage. The assessor will look for wear and tear of the tow ball, jaw, hook or eye and will check that all nuts, bolts and pins are secure.

Checks will also take place to confirm that the towbar is securely attached to the vehicle structure, including mountings, supports and fixings. It's important to note that electrical wiring is not part of an MOT test.

Don't Do These Things

While some parts of towbar maintenance require hands-on activity, you can also care for your towbar by avoiding the following:

Don't tow more than your vehicle's load limit, including the nose weight.

If you have a detachable towbar, do not grease the tow ball- only the receiver endNever neglect to have a professional fitter inspect your towbar if you're involved in an accident.

Remember, if you need professional help or advice when it comes to fitting a towbar, you can contact your nearest Witter Service Centre here.