Every tow bar made after 1989 must be type-approved (if you plan to tow with it.)

Type approval is a legal government requirement where tow bar manufacturers have to follow rigid design and testing procedures in order to keep tow bars safe and legal. All modern tow bars that are used for towing have a registered type-approval number, that must be permanently fixed to the tow bar in a visible position. Unless your tow bar has type approval it will be illegal to tow with and would invalidate any insurance. You would also be committing a motoring offence that could cost you your licence. (One reason for not buying and fitting a used towbar is that many do not still have the type approval label still attached to the towbar. This makes the use of tow bar illegal. We never recommend anyone to fit a used tow bar but if you must then you need it to have a visible type-approval label.)

Under the type-approval legislation, tow bars must not be altered or modified in any way. They must also be fitted exactly to the type-approval instructions as stated by the manufacturer.

Type-approval tow bar accessories.

Accessories that attach to the tow bar must be type-approved.

This includes tow balls, drop plates and adapters.

The tow ball must have type approval for mounting to the approved tow bar. For instance, a ball and pin tow ball must only be used on a commercial tow bar, a domestic tow bar would not be type-approved for the use of a ball and pin and the user would be committing a motoring offence.

Drop plates

We see a lot of drop plates fitted to commercial vehicles where the owner wants to tow a caravan. Dr4op plates need type approval and must only be fitted to tow bars that have been designed for use with a drop plate. Fitting a drop plate to a domestic tow bar would be illegal and dangerous. The only way to have a drop plate is by buying a drop plate that’s type approved for your tow bar, check with your tow bar manufacturer to make sure you have the correct type. (All drop plates should have a four-bolt connection to the tow bar flange)

Tow Bar Electrics Type Approval

Although there are no regulations as far as type approval is concerned, there are legal requirements that must be observed when fitting tow bar electrics.

The first of these is the requirement for light functions to match those of the towing vehicle. Brake, side, indicator and fog lights must activate on the trailer when they are activated on the tow vehicle. The reverse light function is not a legal requirement but does make sense for safety.

Also, there must be a trailer light fault function that alerts the driver to a light fault on the trailer. This in basic systems is normally a small buzzer that sounds when the indicators are working. If there’s a fault then the buzzer will not sound, indicating a fault. On newer wiring systems any trailer light fault will show on the towing vehicle’s dashboard display.

To be safe, newer vehicles require type-approved tow bar electrics. These integrate with the car’s complex electrical system and are designed to work hand in hand with the vehicle’s electronics. Safety features such as vehicle stability, engine management, and advanced braking features are activated when towing with type-approved dedicated tow bare wiring. (Depending on the vehicle)

Summing Up…

If your vehicle was made after 1989 then you, by law, must only use a type-approved tow bar, that has a visible type approval label. (if you are going to tow with it.)

Tow bar accessories such as a tow ball, ball and pin or drop plates must be type-approved.

Towbar electrics have no legal requirement to be type-approved, however… fitting electrics that don’t activate the vehicle’s legal towing requirements would dangerous.

Type-Approval tow bars and cycle carriers

If you plan to only use a tow bar for carrying and not towing (towing defined as pulling a trailer with wheels that make contact with the road.) then type-approval is not required. In theory you could have a tow bar made and fitted to your vehicle that is not type-approved .

The problem with an unapproved tow bar would be down to safety. All type-approved tow bars have been meticulously tested to ensure they are safe to use. Towbars are under a lot of stress whether it’s a cycle carrier or a twin-wheeled caravan. So, although in theory you’re OK to have an un approved tow bar, ut isn’t something we would reccommend.

At Ultimate Towbars we strive to keep road users safe and legal.

We only fit type-approved tow bars and electrics.

We never recommend fitting a used tow bar. Apart from the issues around not knowing the history of the tow bar (scrap yards remove tow bars from crashed vehicles and resell them) if the tow bar doesn’t have a type approval label it is illegal and should also fail an MOT test.

If you’re having a tow bar fitted then be safe, don’t take a chance on not having new, type-approved parts fitted.

To get a tow bar supply and fitting price from us please follow the link > Towbar Fitting Price

All the best… Team Ultimate