Towbar heights: why does it vary from car to car?

Dec 19, 2017 | Towbars

Professional towbar fitting

When installing a towbar for your vehicle, you can easily find that the affixed height differs between makes and models of car. The height at which your towbar and, subsequently, the towball sits is determined by the car manufacturer’s design, rather than your towbar fitter. Whilst some variation is to be expected, there is still legislation (EC Directive 94/20/EC) which governs the acceptable height ranges for your towball and caravan or trailer hitch to be at.

Height ranges

To measure the height of your towbar and towball correctly, you should make sure your vehicle is on flat, solid ground and then measure the distance between ground level and the centre of your towball. To meet legislative requirements, this distance should be between 350mm and 420mm whilst the vehicle is in ‘laden condition’, in other words whilst it is loaded up. ‘Laden condition’ for your towing vehicle can be regarded as fully laden – the maximum gross weight for your car in its vehicle handbook – or conventionally laden – the vehicle weight plus 68.5kg per passenger seat and 6.5kg of luggage per passenger.

The EC Directive 94/20/EC also gives a height range for your caravan or trailer to be at, also whilst under ‘laden condition’ and with the chassis adjusted to be level. This height – from flat ground level to the hitch – should be between 385mm and 455mm. ‘Laden condition’ for your trailer or caravan will be its maximum technically permissible laden mass (MTPLM), also known as maximum authorised mass (MAM). Details of this for this figure will be given by the manufacturer and, in caravans, can be found on the caravan weight plate.

Should the caravan or trailer be level when towing?

Many people think that the caravan or trailer chassis should be completely level when towing. However, this is not necessary. In fact, as can be seen by taking a middle value from the acceptable height ranges, the applicable legislation in fact encourages a somewhat ‘nose down’ towing angle for your caravan or trailer.

What to do if you think your towbar is too low

If you think that your towball is lower than it should be, carefully measure its height to see if it actually falls within the acceptable range – if this is so, you needn’t do anything. If, however, your towbar is EC type approved and too low, you have a few options:

– Check with a professional towbar fitter that your towbar has been installed correctly and that all components are at optimal positioning

– See if your vehicle has an alternative towball fixing location – some have more than one option

– Check your vehicle suspension isn’t worn or degraded

– See if you can adjust and raise your rear suspension, for example with spring assisters

– See if you can alter the trailer/caravan coupling height

What to do if you think your towbar is too high

If your towbar seems quite high, first measure it on stable solid ground to make sure it does in fact exceed acceptable levels. It could be that your caravan or trailer is too low. If your EC type approved towbar is too high, you can either see if there is a different towball location possible with your vehicle or check with with your vehicle and towbar manufacturer to see whether a drop plate is available to you.

Towbar2U provides skilled mobile towbar fitting services to customers across England. With our team of highly trained professionals, we can install towbars safely and efficiently at a time and place which suits you. We stock a wide range of types of towbar to suit any make and model of vehicle. Get in touch with our helpful team today for more information.

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