How to fit a tow bar?
There are basically 3 ways of getting a tow bar fitted to your car.
- Dealer fitted tow bars either as an option on a new vehicle or by booking your car in to have it fitted.
- Fitting by one of the many tow bar fitting companies. They can either come to you to fit the tow bar at your home or work or sometimes they will have fitting centres.
- You can purchase a tow bar and fit the tow bar and electrics yourself.
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages of each of the three methods and we will cover some of them below
Dealer fitted tow bars
If you are buying a new car or a nearly new car from a dealer and want a tow bar fitted then to get the best price it’s probably best to negotiate this when you are buying the car. Dealer fitted genuine manufacturer tow bars can be very expensive. However, there are some advantages of having a genuine manufacturer tow bar fitted. Firstly, the dealer can’t argue you have invalidated any warranty and if it’s part of the purchase of a new car it should be included in any warranty offered with the car (worth checking though). The second advantage is that it will be integrated with the electrical system often meaning that you can have a warning light on the dashboard instead of the buzzer when the indicators are used. Many vehicles are set up so that the wiring for the tow bar electrics plug in to the car’s wiring loom avoiding the need to splice into or cut any wires in the cars electrical system.
Specialist tow bar fitting company
If you need a tow bar fitted to a 2nd hand car or one that you already own then a specialist tow bar fitter can be a cost effective solution. Shop around to ensure you get the best value for money, we suggest getting at least 3 quotes as we found that prices vary widely. Ensure that the price includes the electrics required for a caravan e.g. fridge and battery charging connections etc.
The tow bar fitter is unlikely to use genuine parts from your car manufacturer as they will have their own preferred tow bar manufacturer that they use. This does not mean that they are in any way inferior tow bars and should not put you off. You may want to ensure that your car warranty is not invalidated.
Tow bars fitted to a vehicle after 1998 must be ‘type approved’ which certifies that the tow bar has been tested to European standards.
Fitting a tow bar yourself
If you are a competent DIYer and are comfortable in carrying out work on your car and familiar with car electrics then its perfectly possible to fit a tow bar to your car yourself. If you do not feel confident then get a garage or a tow bar fitter to do the work for you.
Before fitting a tow bar to your car you need to satisfy yourself that your car is capable of towing and that it’s alright to tow your caravan. The best way to find this out is to look at the manual that came with your car. You can also use our tow car weights section to get an idea. However, you must always check your manual or with the car manufacturer to make sure the information is correct. Once you are confident that your car is suitable to have a tow bar fitted and that its up to the job of towing your caravan then you can order the tow bar and purchase an electrical wiring kit and fit the tow bar.
The tow bar will come with a good set of instructions showing you how to fit the tow bar to your car, where the attachment points are and the best way to specifically fit the tow bar to your vehicle. Typically, all of the screws, bolts and other bits required to fit the tow bar will be included. However, the tools will not be included.
Typically the tools needed to fit a tow bar are as follows:
- Socket set with a good range of sockets from 10mm – 24mm
- Torque Wrench
- Spanners ranging from 10mm – 24mm, or
- An adjustable spanner
- A good set of strong and robust screwdrivers (flat ended and posidrive)
- Stanley Knife / craft knife
- Wire cutters and pliers
- 12volt electric test light or an electrical test meter
- Insulation tape and cable ties
- Electric drill and drill bits as some tow bars require holes to be drilled
- Jigsaw or hand saw as some tow bars require cut outs to be made in the bumper
The tow bar wiring kits can be bought separately as depending on the kit you purchase they may not be included. A tow bar wiring kit is the best way to do this as it will come with all the wire, the sockets, the relays and often the connections and a good set of instructions.
The instructions will tell you what is required for your vehicle and the tow bar you have purchased. You may be able to save money on the tools needed using the links above which allow you to compare tools from a number of different online companies. As a keen Diyer myself I always invest some of the money I save by doing the job myself into buying the right tools for the job. It makes for a better result and makes