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Rhino Towbars and Trailers Logo Compact

Guide to Towbars

Confused about all the different types of towbars? What is the difference between a detachable, fixed and swan neck bar? Undecided about wether to choose universal or dedicated electrics?

We answer all these questions and more on this page all about taking the technical out of towbar knowledge.

What is a towbar?

Although this may seem obvious, there is a lot more to a towbar than what you see from the outside of the vehicle. From the outside all you can see is the neck of the towbar (which might be a fixed or detachable neck) however behind the bumper exists the rest of the structure that makes up the towbar.

With modern regulations, towbars are designed to bolt into pre-determined points as specificed by the vehicle manufacturer - this is why towbars today have to be designed with a specific vehicle or chassis in mind.

The electrical wiring is even more extensive and often takes longer to install than the towbar itself, on some vehicles the interior has to be completely stripped to allow access to the vehicles CANBUS network for proper installation.

Towbar Complete Assembly
Fixed Flange Towball

Fixed Flange

The fixed flange ball is your traditional towbar. It's a heavy duty towbar which is ideal for commercial use as it can take a wide variety of aftermarket attachments. The standard twin or four hole plate can take hitches such as multi-height adjustables as well as ball and pin.

  • Check Mark Circle Vector Rugged commercial choice
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Supports wide range of aftermarket accessories
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Can fit bumper protectors
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Some vehicles can fit multi-height adjustable hitches or ball & pin
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Bulky appearance
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Likely to interfere with reversing/parking sensors
Fixed Swan Neck Towbar

Swan Neck

The swan neck gets its name from its appearance. We recommend a swan neck over a fixed flange for most regular cars as it has a much more discreet and sleek appearance, is less likely to interfere with parking sensors and being fixed is a no hassle way to tow.

  • Check Mark Circle Vector Discreet appearance
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Less likely to interfere with reversing/parking sensors
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Reliable hassle free fixed connection
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Can't fit flange (2 / 4 hole) bolted accessories
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Can't fit bumper protectors
Detachable Swan Neck Towbar

Detachable Swan Neck

A detachable towbar is ideal for occasional towing where you wish to maintain the factory appearance of your vehicle to the highest degree possible. A detachable towbar is removable when not towing and can be removed/inserted in seconds. Detachable towbars usually have the same towing capacity as their fixed counterparts.

  • Check Mark Circle Vector When removed towbar fitting is virtually invisible
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Ideal for occasional towing
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Guarantees proper operation of reversing/parking sensors when removed
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Can't fit flange (2 / 4 hole) bolted accessories
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Can't fit bumper protectors
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Bumper cut is sometimes larger to accomadate flip down socket plates
Detachable Towbar

Flange Detachable

The flange detachable from Witter provides all the benefits of a traditional flange towbar with the benefits of a detachable. This design is perfect for those who require the adaptability of a traditional flange design but who wish to maintain the appearance of their vehicle when not in use.

  • Check Mark Circle Vector When removed towbar fitting is virtually invisible
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Ideal for occasional towing
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Guarantees proper operation of reversing/parking sensors when removed
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Supports wide range of aftermarket accessories
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Can fit bumper protectors
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Most expensive neck variant
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector With towball and accessories detachable assembly can be heavy

Electric Sockets Explained

7 Pin Electrics

  • Check Mark Circle Vector Most affordable option
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Provides basic lights
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Ideal for trailers & bike racks
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Does not supply any power feeds
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector No reverse lights
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Not as weatherproof as 13 Pin
7 Pin Socket Vector Rhino Towbars

The 7 Pin socket also known as 12N is the most basic type of electrical towing socket available. This socket has 7 pins in total, and provides electrical connections for the following lights: Tails, Indicators, Brake and Rear Fog.

This connection is less common than it used to be but can still be found on trailers and bike racks. Not all lighting boards may have a rear fog light however the 7 pin socket on the car should still be wired to support one.

Twin Electrics

  • Check Mark Circle Vector Provides permanent and ignition switched power feeds
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Feed for reversing lights
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Common on older caravans
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Bulky design
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Doesn't work well with folding electric socket plates
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Not as weatherproof as 13 Pin
Twin Socket Vector Rhino Towbars

Twin electrics consist of two sockets; the first socket is the same as with a 7 pin and is called 12N, the second socket (often grey or white in colour) is called 12S and provides a reversing light feed in addition to a permanent power feed and an ignition switched power feed. These power feeds are most commonly required by caravans to charge the battery and power the fridge during travel.

The twin socket is an older way to get the power feeds to the caravan and we now recommend that you go for a 13 Pin socket where possible - even if an adaptor is required.

13 Pin Electrics

  • Check Mark Circle Vector Provides permanent and ignition switched power feeds
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Feed for all lights
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Strong secure physical connection
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Weatherproof design
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Adaptor will be needed for twin or 7 pin plugs
13 Pin Socket Vector Rhino Towbars

13 Pin socket has all the functions provided by the traditional twin sockets with the advantage of a much more secure and weatherproof connection. Unlike 12S and 12N sockets the 13 Pin connection twists and locks into place resulting in a secure mechanical connection which also creates a tight weatherproof seal.

Dedicated vs Universal

Dedicated Electrics

Dedicated electrics (also referred to as vehicle specific electrics) are aftermarket electric towing kits designed with each individual vehicle in mind. Dedicated kits provide a factory like fitment and where the vehicle has towing prep the kit interfaces with these.

Dedicated kits are recommended for newer vehicles and are the best option to avoid any future warranty issues.

  • Check Mark Circle Vector Designed specifically for your vehicle
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Factory like fitment
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Uses vehicles towing connections where possible
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Can activate additional functions in the vehicle related to towing
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector More expensive option

Universal Electrics

Universal electrics use a bypass relay which is connected to the vehicles lighting wiring directly. This bypass relay 'senses' the signal being sent to the vehicles lights and interprets these signals to switch internal relays which then send power to the towing socket.

The bypass relay is cruical in modern vehicles as it draws only a miniscule current from the vehicles lighting circuits. When professionally installed universal wiring is a good choice for older vehicles.

  • Check Mark Circle Vector More affordable option
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Supports both LED and Filament trailer lights
  • Check Mark Circle Vector Compatible with most vehicles
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Could invalidate warranty
  • Cross Mark Circle Vector Doesn't connect to car so additional features can't be enabled