Types of Towbar

Tips & Advice

We offer professional towbar fitting in Plymouth from our approved workshop. With our years of experience in towbar fitting, we can advise you on the types of towbar you need for different situations.

Which towbar do I need?

We have 4 different types of towbar available for fitting in Plymouth, all with different advantages. They are: fixed flange ball towbar, fixed swan neck towbar, detachable swan neck towbar and detachable flange towbar.


A fixed flange ball towbar is generally the most cost-effective option and is typically used for all forms of towing/cycle carrying attachments. The main features of a fixed flange ball towbar are:

  • You can tow and carry cycles at the same time.
  • Bumper shields can be fitted; AL-KO towballs can be fitted.
  • The towing height can be adjusted on the four-hole plate.
  • A choice of towing couplings and accessories can be fitted.
  • Electrics normally mounted by the towball.


Fixed swan neck towbars are becoming more popular in the UK but are generally found more often abroad. They have the least flexible design as you are not able to tow and carry cycles at the same time although you can still use cycle carriers. The main features of the fixed swan neck towbars are:

  • Compatible with AL-KO stabilisers without any changes.
  • Can look neater on the back of some vehicles.
  • Less likely to trigger reversing sensors.
  • Electrics normally fitted where neck attaches to main towbar.
  • Cannot be fitted with a bumper shield.


The detachable swan neck towbar are commonly used in the rest of Europe and can be more discrete than the flange fitting due to a slimmer neck and lack of visible bolts. Similarly to the fixed version, the detachable swan neck towbar can use a cycle carrier but cannot tow at the same time. The main features of the detachable swan neck towbar are:

  • Towball is removed when not in use preserving ‘shins’ and the look of the vehicle.
  • Unrestricted access to the boot.
  • AL-KO and other friction type stabilisers can be used.
  • Won’t trigger reversing sensors when not towing (if ball removed).
  • Electrics normally ‘swivel’ up inside bumper for stowage.


The detachable flange towbar is exclusive to Witter towbars and has all the benefits of the fixed flange fitting but with a detachable option to improve vehicle aesthetics. This version is ideal if you use the boot often to avoid grazing your shins and can be beneficial when parking. The main features of the detachable flange towbar are:

  • Bumper shield available.
  • Tow and carry cycles at the same time.
  • The towball is removed when not in use preserving ‘shins’.
  • AL-KO towballs can be fitted.
  • Won’t trigger reversing sensors when not towing.
  • A choice of towing couplings and accessories can be fitted.
  • Heavier than a normal detachable.

When choosing a towbar, you must also consider towbar electrics. Many new cars will require a Vehicle Specific Kit (VSK) or at least a Bypass Relay. Older cars may not need either! A bypass relay system can be an affordable option as it is very efficient and mass-produced but it’s not without disadvantages. It can be installed on vehicles with a bulb failure warning system. A bypass relay is fitted with the towing electrics to temper this problem. It replaces the voltage drop so the warning system on the car will not detect it. A big disadvantage of a bypass relay is that it won’t activate any trailer stability safety features such as T-ESP or TSP. This is where a Vehicle Specific Kit comes in. While it costs slightly more, the advantages more than make up for it. A VSK plugs directly in to the vehicle system and becomes part of the wiring. It is more reliable than a bypass relay as it doesn’t break or splice any cables. A VSK can be fitted to most cars and is now the most common installation. The vehicle manufacturer also recommends using a VSK over a bypass relay system.

So what are ESP and TSP? ESP stands for electronic stability program and is fast becoming a primary safety feature on all vehicles. It is designed to detect a difference between the driver’s control inputs and the actual response of the vehicle. When the system detects a difference, a braking force is applied to the appropriate wheels to correct the vehicle’s path. This reaction is designed to improve stability, especially during severe corners and on low friction road surfaces. This helps to reduce over-steering and under-steering. TSP stands for trailer stability program and is only brought in to operation when the vehicle detects a trailer or caravan being connected. TSP recognises swaying of the trailer and applied braking forces to the appropriate wheels while simultaneously reducing the speed of the engine, ending the swaying movement.

ESP and TSP are becoming very important safety features when using a trailer and therefore we highly recommend using a VSK rather than a bypass relay. We can provide you a tailored quote for your vehicle towbar fitting in Plymouth. Please call us on 01752 341133 to discuss your requirements or click on the link to get a quotation from our Towbar Selector.

What can I tow on my current license?

We often get asked about licences and towing and it’s more simple than you think!

In order to be able to tow a caravan, a driver must hold at least a Category B on your driving licence. If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you are generally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes maximum authorised mass (MAM).

If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 and have an ordinary category B licence, you can:

  • Drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
  • Tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as it is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle (with a combined weight of up to 3,500kg in total)

For more information on driving licence categories visit here.

Note: If you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is more than 3,500kg, you will need to pass a further test to obtain a B+E category licence.

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