Towbar Guide...

Vehicles registered after 1 August 1998

New technology in vehicle manufacture has led to new car cars being much lighter than older cars.  In addition, modern cars only have a few points strong enough to attach a tow bar.  It is always that the proper towbar for the car is fitted otherwise it may fail with catastrophic results.

The European Union have introduced new laws, EC Directive 94/20/EC, that requires cars (or other light passenger vehicles, registered after 1st August 1998 are fitted with a type approved tow bar. 

Type approval summary

  • Applies to ‘S’ registered cars onwards  (i.e. registered after 1.8.1998 
  • Type approved tow bars have been subjected to a test of 2,000,000 push pull fatigue test
  • Type approved tow bars must fit to all the vehicles mounting points
  • Fitting a type approved tow bar to new cars will not invalidate the vehicles warranty
  • If you do not fit a type approved tow bar to a car registered after 1.8.1998 could result in being
    prosecuted under the Road Traffic Act
  •  If you fit a non type approved tow bar to a car registered after 1.8.1998 and you are involved in an accident you may find your insurance is invalid
  • All tow bars must carry  a ‘type approved’ label containing the following information: 
  • Maximum nose-weight
  • Approval number
  • country where the towbar was tested e.g. UK is e11

Exemptions:  The new law only applies to cars it does not apply to commercial vehicles.


Stabilisers are an effective method of increasing safety when towing a caravan.  They are designed to reduce vertical (pitching) and horizontal (snaking) instability.  This is often caused when an outfit is being overtaken or overtaking.  The instability is caused by the air being forced between the two vehicles.  Other caused of instability are: 

  • Driving too fast
  • Side winds
  • Potholes or un-even road surfaces

What types are there?

There are basically two types of stabiliser:

Blade stabilisers fit to the towing bracket and the caravan and use a tensioned blade with two dampers to reduce movement from side to site and up and down.

Tow ball devices often fit to the caravan hitch point and involve replacing the tow-ball on the car

Legal Requirements

Driving licence
From 1 January 1997, new drivers may drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW) with a 750kgs GVW trailer. Towing under a provisional licence is NOT acceptable. If in doubt, contact the DVLA on 01792 772151.

Most vehicle insurance policies will cover you for third party liability when towing, but we advise you to check your own policy carefully.  If you are unsure about cover when towing then contact your insurance company for clarification. 

Speed limits
The maximum speed that a car towing a trailer etc. is 60mph on UK motorways and dual carriageways and 50mph other  roads (providing, of course, there is  no lower speed limit is in force at the time). Vehicles are not allowed to use the right-hand (overtaking) lane of a three lane carriageway whilst towing.

Size of trailer
Assuming that an ordinary car (not a goods vehicle) is the tow vehicle, then the overall length of the trailer, caravan etc. must not exceed 7m, excluding A-frame and hitch . The maximum width of the trailer should not exceed 2.3 m.

Lights and reflectors
All trailers on the road during darkness must have the following;

  • Two red side lights at the rear
  • Brake lights
  • Direction indicators
  • Number plate light
  • At least one rear fog light (if the trailer is more than 1.3m wide)
  • Two red triangular reflectors

All lights must be in proper working order, and correctly fitted to your car's electrics - see below for wiring standards on the 12 'n' and 's' socket.

Tyres and number plates
Wheels and tyres must be capable of carrying the maximum laden weight of the caravan at the maximum speed limit (this varies throughout Europe). Trailers, caravans etc. must be fitted with an approved style number plate.

It is vital that the towing vehicle's rear suspension is not deflected excessively by nose weight on the towball. If it is excessive, steering, stability and headlight alignment will be affected.

MOT certificate
This is not currently required for trailers and caravans. However,  an un-roadworthy trailer may invalidate your insurance and may mean you are committing an offence under the Road Traffic Act. 

It is illegal to allow passengers to travel inside the trailer, caravan etc.

Copyright © 2021
Unit 1, Branksome Buisness Centre
Cortry Close (off Sharp Road)
Branksome Poole BH12 4BQ