Warmer weather means more opportunity to get out and about and explore the great outdoors. From camping and caravanning to biking and other outdoor hobbies, there's so much we can enjoy right here in the UK.
Installing a towbar onto your vehicle can make spontaneous adventures much easier to plan, giving you more time to live-in-the-moment. But from installation to longer-term maintenance, it's important to consider towbar safety, so your trips can get underway without a hitch.
Fitting Your Towbar The Right Way
Towbar safety starts with understanding two key bits of information:
A towbar is more than just a piece of metal fixed to the rear of your car.
The price of the towbar shouldn't be your main consideration.
How does this relate to towbar safety? Let us explain.
Your Towbar Integrates with Your Vehicle
A fitted towbar can integrate with your vehicle's technology through a wiring kit. There are two main types of wiring kits; vehicle-specific and universal.
Vehicle-Specific Wiring Kit
A vehicle-specific wiring kit is made to fit a specific car make and model. It works in coordination with the vehicle's electrical system without impacting its functionality.
Universal Wiring Kit
A universal wiring kit can be installed in nearly every vehicle. However, it cannot be programmed to integrate with a vehicle's electronics.
It is better to think of a towbar as a piece of technology rather than a tool, especially if you have a modern vehicle with lots of technological features. Using a universal wiring kit to install a towbar onto a more up to date make and model could bypass the following safety features:
Trailer Stability Control
Without a vehicle-specific wiring kit, the trailer stability control is not aware that a caravan or trailer is connected. This means the car doesn't make allowances for the weight it is towing, compromising the stability of your caravan or trailer. Lack of trailer stability control is especially dangerous when driving around corners, or at high speeds, as the trailer or caravan is more likely to sway or 'snake.'
The braking system is operated electronically in many modern vehicles, with faster braking efficiency when towing. However, if a universal wiring kit is used instead of a vehicle-specific one, the trailer or caravan go undetected. This means the extra weight isn't accounted for and the braking distance is not adapted, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
During an emergency stop, the Anti-locking Brake System (ABS) ensures that the wheels do not lock, allowing the driver to keep control of the car. When a universal wiring kit is used, it does not calculate the additional weight of a towed object and the ABS no longer works. This means that when an emergency stop is performed, the driver will struggle to remain in control of the vehicle, endangering themselves and other road users.
Both universal and vehicle-specific wiring kits power your bike carrier, trailer, caravan, boat trailer or horsebox, ensuring that the brake lights, indicators and reverse lights of the trailer are functioning. However, a vehicle-specific wiring kit supports more complex lighting systems that impact safety. For example, if a lamp on the vehicle stops working, the car will turn on a different lamp as a replacement. A universal wiring kit doesn't support this feature, resulting in loss of lighting on the trailer.
Parking aids on newer vehicles help the driver by; warning them when a vehicle collision is imminent, detect a suitably sized parking space and park the vehicle. However, parking aids are ineffective when used with a trailer or towbar, as the system is unaware of the length and width of the towing load. A vehicle-specific wiring kit deactivates parking aids, while a universal kit does not. If the driver is not aware that the vehicle's parking aid is inaccurate, they are very likely to bump into stationary vehicles when trying to park.
Cruise Control (Adaptive)
Many newer cars have Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). A car with ACC has a radar system that measures the distance to the vehicle in front. This enables the car to slow down or brake when necessary, anticipating the actions of other cars. A universal wiring kit means that the ACC system does not adapt to the additional weight of the trailer/caravan when it is attached. This means that the vehicle's radar system does not account for the additional distance needed to the vehicle in front.
The Cheapest Isn't Always the Best
I'm going to buy a second-hand towbar because it's cheaper.
I'm going to buy a universal wiring kit because it's less expensive.
I'm going to fit my towbar and wiring kit even though I'm not confident.
Going for cheaper options could prove dangerous. While it may be tempting to purchase a second-hand towbar, you don't know the history and whether or not it's been properly maintained. If the towbar has been damaged in any way, it may not fit securely to your vehicle, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
A universal wiring kit is cheaper than a vehicle-specific one. If your vehicle doesn't heavily feature modern technology or built-in safety mechanisms, a universal wiring kit may suit you. However, using a universal wiring kit to install a towbar onto a more up to date make and model could bypass the safety features. Safety features usually account for the extra weight that the towbar is pulling. So, while a vehicle-specific wiring kit may be more expensive, a road accident is far more costly.
While you could fit your towbar by yourself following the manufacturer's instructions, most people will struggle to do this and guarantee that their towbar is 100% safe to use. That's why it is best to get your towbar fitted by a professional.
Choose Witter Towbars for Peace of Mind
Witter Towbars has been designing and manufacturing high-quality towbars for over half a century. There are three reasons why purchasing a towbar from us is a safer option:
We are the only manufacturer in the market to produce both towbars and wiring kits that meet vehicle-specific requirements. That means both products are designed, developed and tested to Regulation 55.
We have our very own towbar fitting service. Find your nearest approved fitting service and get your towbar fitted to the highest possible standard.
We have a dedicated helpline available to all Westfalia customers. If you have a query or need advice on towbar maintenance, we are always there to help.
Are you thinking about buying a towbar? Take a look at our resources to find out more about towbar safety
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