Fitting your own tow bar can be a great way of saving money, but before you grab your wallet and buy a tow bar and wiring kit, read the following…

Buying a tow bar for self-fitting.

Let’s get things straight from the start, Tow Bars are vehicle-specific, and each vehicle make, model, and year needs a tow bar that has been designed to fit it. Even the month of manufacture can make a difference in which tow bar is required.

For instance, a Ford Kuga manufactured in May 2018 might have a different chassis design from a Ford Kuga made in June 2018. A slight difference in the chassis design means that a different tow bar must be fitted. To make sure you are buying the correct tow bar it is best to speak with the supplier before ordering. For this reason, buying from eBay or Amazon is not recommended, unless you have been assured that the tow bar you intend to purchase is 100% designed to fit your vehicle.

The issue with tow bars being vehicle specific is also, one of several, reasons to never buy a used tow bar, more on second-hand tow bars later.

The other thing you need to know if buying a tow bar for self-fitting is that the tow bar must be type-approved.

Type approval is a regulation that all tow bars should now have and your tow bar needs this certification to be legal. Most do have a type approval number, however, there are tow bars manufactured outside of the EU that do not adhere to the requirement. It’s essential that your tow bar is type approved as fitting a non-type approved bar can invalidate your insurance and be illegal.

WARNING! If you have a lease vehicle then your tow bar must be fitted by an approved and VAT-registered company. You should not self-fit a tow bar to a lease vehicle.

Buying a used tow bar for self-fitting

If you think a used tow bar might be a great idea to save a few pounds, then think again

We have seen used tow bars for sale from scrap vehicles and accident-damaged vehicles, we’ve also seen second-hand tow bars that have serious rust and metal fatigue, which, if fitted, would be dangerous, plus they would need to be removed to pass an MOT test.

Making sure a tow bar is safe is the number one priority, This cannot be guaranteed when buying used.

Even if you can guarantee the credibility of the tow bar you will still need to purchase new bolts, washers, fixings, and lock washers from the tow bar manufacturer. (These cannot be refitted for safety reasons.)

Self-Fitting a Towbar

Before you start stripping your vehicle down in order to fit your towbar, your first step is to open your tow bar box and double check you have the correct parts.

You then need to open the bolt bag and instructions. Check that the bolts and fixings match what is on the inventory listing on the fitting instructions.

READ THE INSTRUCTIONS before starting! (It’s normally when people read the instructions that they wish they had never decided to self-fit a tow bar.)

Once you have read the fitting instructions and understood exactly what you are required to do, you then need to organise all of the fixings and bolts. Now you can start following the instructions and stripping down your vehicle, in preparation of fitting the tow bar.

Be very careful when removing your bumper, plastic clips that hold the bumper in place can often be broken. Plus watch out for delicate wiring connecting any bumper lights and reverse sensors. (These need disconnecting ideally before removing the bumper.)

Be very careful if the rear lights need removing! These are often difficult to remove and are easily damaged.

If your vehicle has an AdBlue tank, then it is highly likely this will need moving to access the tow bar mounting points in the chassis.

On some vehicles, the exhaust(s) may need to be dropped, make sure that you support any exhaust that is taken off any support.

Once you have assembled the tow bar and fitted it in place then you must tighten all bolts and fixings to the exact torque stated in the manufacturer’s fitting instructions.

See the link below that shows the TowTrust instructions for fitting a Ford Kuga tow bar.

Don’t start putting the vehicle back together until you have fitted the electrics…

Tow Bar Electrics

We don’t recommend people fit their own tow bar electrics unless they have experience.

The complexity of modern vehicle electronics means that connecting the wrong wire or fitting the wiring incorrectly could make your vehicle undrivable.

If you have experience if modern vehicle electronics and feel confident fitting your own tow bar wiring then keep reading…

Towbar Wiring Types.

Before going any further we would like to dispel the illusion that there is such a thing as Plug and Play tow bar wiring.
Plug and Play terminology relates to computers and should not be associated with vehicle wiring. When people use the terms plug and play tow bar wiring they are relating to vehicle-specific dedicated wiring. (Which certainly isn’t Plug and Play.)

Basically, two options. Universal bypass and vehicle-specific dedicated wiring.

If your car has CanBus wiring then you should only fit vehicle-specific dedicated wiring. (Most modern vehicles)

We don’t recommend anyone fitting universal bypass wiring! For safety and reliability, only fit vehicle-specific dedicated wiring.

Just like with tow bars, different vehicle make, model and date of manufacture depend on which wiring you need.

We won’t go into the complexity of fitting a dedicated tow bar wiring loom but we can say that in most cases it involves removing interior panels, determining which CAM feed is needed, depinning and pinning block connectors, and in some cases disassembling dash panels and fuse boxes. It really is not a DIY job (Unless suitably experienced.)

Once the wiring has been fitted you can then reassemble your vehicle.

Before testing that everything is working as it should, you may need to recode the vehicle so it knows that tow bar wiring has been fitted.

Coding the vehicle activates the towing safety features, such as towing cruise control and braking, automatically deactivating reverse parking, and bump avoidance, activating the vehicle’s towing stability features. Plus activating the on-dash C2 indicator (a legal requirement when towing.)

Vehicle Coding is normally carried out by a tow bar fitting company or your vehicle dealership. It is normally included when a tow bar company fits the electrics for you.

Not all vehicles can be coded. In these cases, it is normal for the vehicle to automatically activate the basic towing functions.

To give you an idea of how a vehicle-specific dedicated wiring kit fits see the link below..

Summing up

Fitting your own tow bar is fraught with issues. By the wrong parts and it will be an expensive lesson. Fit the parts incorrectly and any savings will be lost in seconds. (Getting a dealer to replace and code a blown Body Control Unit isn’t cheap.)

From our perspective we don’t recommend people fit their own tow bar, neither do we recommend anyone buys a tow bar and then asks a tow bar company to fit it for them.

For financial and safety reasons we only recommend getting a tow bar fitted by an industry-approved company.

Ultimate Towbars are an industry-recognised tow bar supply and mobile fitting company based in Sheffield South Yorkshire

Fully insured and VAT registered. We offer expert advice and tow bar fitting throughout a large area of the UK.

All of our tow bar fittings come with a written guarantee and fitting certificate.

Keep on Towing

Team Ultimate.