Basically, there are two options when it comes to towbar electrics… Universal and dedicated wiring.

Universal, as the name implies, can be fitted to all vehicles (not strictly true anymore.) With universal wiring, wires are Scotch Locked onto your vehicle’s wires in order to pass any electrical signal to the corresponding connection on the tow bar electrics socket.

Great for most cars that were built before 1990. Not good for any modern vehicle. Vehicle electrics have advanced considerably since 1990. ABS braking, cruise control, stability control, collision sensing, anti-bump radars, and lane assist. Modern technology in modern vehicles.

Most modern vehicles use CanBus wiring (a network protocol that sends messages between the vehicle’s computer modules) to control which functions are active. Pressing your brake pedal can send a signal down the CanBus wiring to the rear control module that tells it to turn on the brake lights. Signal left and the CanBus passes a signal down the same wire to activate the turn signal. A single CanBus wire can carry signals for several devices.

Dedicated wiring integrates with the vehicle’s modern wiring, this includes connecting to the vehicle’s CanBus wiring.

When dedicated wiring is fitted your vehicle will recognise that dedicated towbar electrics have been fitted and take this into account. In many cases, the vehicle’s software is updated to activate the vehicle’s towing features. These features can include automatically letting the vehicle know it is towing when the tow bar electrics are connected.

When your dedicated tow bar electrics are connected to your bike carrier, trailer, or caravan, your vehicle will know and automatically activate the vehicle’s towing feature. This may include such things as on-dash bulb failure warnings, vehicle towing stability, changes to cruise control, automatic parking assist deactivation, and rear collision control deactivation (these are vehicle-specific features) The advanced electronics of your vehicle work hand in hand with the dedicated wiring to ensure that safety is not compromised by having a tow bar fitted.

If your vehicle is less than three years old then it is essential that you only have vehicle-approved dedicated wiring installed. Fitting unapproved wiring will invalidate any manufacturer warranty on your vehicle. This will cause a major headache if you ever need to take your vehicle to a dealer for work to be completed under warranty.

From a tow bar fitter’s perspective, fitting universal wiring is a lot faster and easier than fitting dedicated wiring, it’s also massively cheaper. And it’s cheaper for several reasons…

  • Invalidates vehicle warranty
  • Does not activate the vehicle’s towing safety features
  • Could invalidate an insurance claim (if the vehicle’s safety features have been bypassed)

At Ultimate Towbars we only recommend that manufacturer approved vehicle specific dedicated wiring is used for tow bar electrics,

As with all safety-specific things, the cheapest is never the best option.

Be safe when your towing.

Happy Towing

Team Ultimate.

For tow bar advice and to get a price just give us a call on 0114 360 7080, or email