What Is a Tow Bar?
A tow bar refers to a tool that is attached to vehicles for the purpose of lifting other vehicles or trailers. Some of the most common types of tow bars include triangle-shaped bars and tow hitches. They both have different designs, but the primary purpose is the same, which is to tow. We will be talking about them in detail in the coming sections of the blog.
Parts Of A Tow Bar System And How Does It Work?
A towing system involves many components which make the process of towing possible. In this section, we will cover each of these components and describe the working of a tow bar.
A trailer hitch is a component that acts as the bridge between the connection of the tow vehicle and the trailer. The component has a structural relevance and allows bolting to the vehicle. It also acts as a point of hooking for the trailer.
There are majorly two types of trailer hitches which include receiver hitch and tow hitch.
A ball mount is among the most common parts in a trailer hitch. It contains a shank and a trailer ball platform and falls under the category of a receiver hitch accessory. The shank of a ball mount is responsible for inserting it into the receiver tube of the hitch. In comparison, the platform acts as a mounting point for the trailer ball.
There are many varieties in the style and the capacity of a ball mount. Some only contain one piece and are stationary. On the other hand, there are adjustable ball mounts as well. Also, know that almost every ball mount comes with a hole in the shank in which it is possible to insert the lock or pin of the hitch.
A trailer ball is a component that is directly in connection with the trailer as well as the vehicle. It consists of a metal ball stem or a threaded shank and allows for smooth corner turns & better traveling experience after connecting to the coupler. You can find trailer balls in different sizes, presenting you with options for the trailer coupler.
A hitch pin is the component of a tow bar system that prevents many parts of a trailer hitch from slipping out. Without this component, these parts would slide out of the hitch receiver tube.
Usually, hitch pins are L shaped, which are designed specifically like that to fit into the hitch receiver. They also consist of a hole to fit in a clip which is shaped like a hairpin. This clip keeps the pin intact to the receiver.
Alongside a trailer ball, a coupler allows the connection between the vehicle and the trailer. It is the front part of a trailer that is designed to latch on top of the trailer ball. Trailer couplers also come in various sizes and allow adjustment as well, making the connection more secure. One important thing is that the size of the ball should match the coupler for proper functioning.
A safety chain is, what the name implies, a chain that ensures the safety of the trailer and the vehicle. It is a long chain that is very strong and does not let the trailer be separated from the vehicle if it ever disconnects while towing.
A common standard in towing systems is to use two safety chains in the setup. These chains are attached to the tongue of the trailer. The hook of the trailer makes the link between the chain and the hitch.
A wiring harness is present at the back of the vehicle, which allows the connection of electrical systems to the trailer. The harness is connected to the wiring of the vehicle for a standard connection. It is a crucial component of the tow bar system but also the part which is often overlooked. The main objective of a wiring harness is to provide power to the lights of the trailer and make them in sync with the vehicle. Providing brakes and a support system is also among its functions.
How Does A Tow Bar Work?
Even though the setup and components of a tow bar system are complicated, the working is quite simple. The bar connects to the front of the RV and then pivots for a smooth towing experience. After the connection between the tow and the towing vehicle is complete, you can venture on a journey with your trailer without any worry.
9 Steps To Setup A Tow Bar
While manual setup will be cost-effective, you may have to worry about safety risks as you will have to take responsibility. Whereas, professionals are more trained and have experience, which makes them a safer option. However, if you are comfortable with setting up a towbar yourself, then you can follow this guide.
You can manually set up a tow bar system using the following steps, or you can call a professional for the setup.
The first step is to ensure that your towing vehicle is standing on a flat surface and there’s plenty of space around it. The space will make sure that you can easily pull off the towed vehicle. One thing you can do is apply emergency brakes on the towing vehicle.
The next step is to check the height of the base plate. Make sure that its attachment is close to the receiver hitch’s height, and there should not be any more difference than 3 inches. You can make use of a measuring tape for measuring the distance from the ground to the hitch receiver of the towing vehicle’s center.
After verifying the height difference, you have to mount the tow bar on the towing vehicle. Take the shank and put it into the receiver of the towing vehicle, securing it with a pin. We would recommend you use the tow bar in the shortest possible position. To avoid any obstruction, you can also fold the arms of the bar to get them out of the way.
Then park the vehicle which you want to add as the towed vehicle behind the towing vehicle. The position of the towed vehicle should be in line with the towing vehicle as much as possible. When the vehicle is in the range of installation of the tow bar system, stop and park it there.
Now, you need to attach the arms of the tow bar. For that, you have to put attachment tabs inside the base plate of the towing vehicle’s receiver. Then attach the arms to the tabs.
Nowadays, tow bars come with extended arms as well, which makes the process of hooking easier. And once the arms are in position, you need to secure the connection using lynchpins.
After installing the tow bar, you need to prepare the towing vehicle for towing. For the preparation, set the vehicle’s transmission and release the steering wheel. Most of the time, the vehicle is placed in neutral. However, you should refer to the vehicle’s manual for the proper flat towing procedure.
Then you should ensure that the tow bar latches are properly in place. To check, slowly pull the towing vehicle forward. Stop as soon as you hear the sound of the engagement of latches of the two bar arms. Don’t forget to check that the latches on both arms are locked into place before you start towing.
In the second last step, you have to attach the safety cables to the base plate links. Crisscross the cables one time when they are beneath the tow bar. Also, ensure that they do not fall on the ground as it can bring out safety-related risks.
The final step involves plugging in the wiring harness to the towing vehicle’s source of power. Connect the wires properly and perform a test to check if they are functioning properly.
This concludes the step-by-step guide to installing a tow bar. However, do understand that this is a generic guide and may not be suitable for every type of hitch due to the differences in difficulty. There may be some other complications as well which can make the installation even more difficult. So, unless you have a proper understanding of the technicalities, going for a professional is the best choice.
Types Of Tow Bars
There are plenty of tow bar types that differ in the way they work, even if the primary purpose is the same. Let’s get you familiar with the types.
Electric Tow Bar
This towbar type is one that is retractable and can work with just the push of a button electronically. You can activate some of the electric tow bars from the inside of the trunk, whereas others offer remote functionality.
Non-Binding Tow Bar
It is the type of tow bar that usually resolves the common complaints that tow vehicle owners experience. The complaint is due to the binding between the tow bar and the trailer coupler, which happens quite often.
The bind can happen because of the tension in the link of the tow bar system. And without a nonbinding tow bar, the driver has to make minor adjustments to resolve the bind.
That is why nonbinding tow bars are becoming more popular. Its features ensure that the bind does not occur. And even if it does occur, it unbinds easily. To make that happen, these two bars are designed with specific shapes.
Swan Neck Tow Bar
A swan neck tow bar is a small-sized tow bar where the shaft of the bar and tow ball come in a single piece. That piece attaches to the hitch, making the process simpler. It is a popular type in many other parts of the world as well due to its compact design and cost-effectiveness. The tow bar provides fixed and detachable options.
Removable Tow Bar
The simple motive of this towbar type is to provide the option of removal of the tow bar to the vehicle owner. It is great for those individuals who do not have regular usage of their tow bars. They can remove and put them in storage and take them out whenever they need.
One of the great features of removable systems is the effortless removal of the tow bar. You can remove these bars by simply unhooking the bar from the receiver hitch by removing the pin and pulling it out of the receiver.
Retractable Tow Bar
It is the type of system that is capable of folding, tucking, or flipping out when not in use. The most common form is the one that can flip underneath the bumper. You can either fold these bars manually or make use of an electric switch to retract them.
How To Choose The Right Tow Bar?
One of the best ways to choose the right tow bar for yourself is to check its rating. A tow bar rating describes the towing capacity of the system. Usually, the rating is available in the instruction manual of the tow bar. It will tell you about the maximum load the tow bar can lift. However, you should also ensure that the towing vehicle and other parts of the tow bar system also have similar capabilities.
How Much Weight Can A Tow Bar Pull?
This question does not have a definite answer as the weighing capacity of a tow bar varies. Tow bars can pull as heavy as 17,000 lbs, and there are those that have a limit of 2,000 lbs. The tow bars are classified into different weight classes according to their weighing capacity. These classes determine the tow bar ratings with the following capacities.
- Class 1: Can pull up to 2,000 lbs
- Class 2: Can pull up to 3,500 lbs
- Class 3: Can pull up to 5,000 lbs
- Class 4: Can pull up to 10,000 lbs
There are other tow bars as well which can pull even more weight. While the capacity of the tow bar does matter, it is also important to realize the capacity of the towing vehicle.
Uses Of A Tow Bar
We know that the primary purpose of a tow bar is to tow. However, the towing system extends to other purposes as well. You can use them to pull
- Flatbed trailers for transporting cars, boats, etc.
- Enclosed trailers for transportation of small-sized enclosures.
- Small homes and camper trailers
- Some tow bars are even capable of pulling truck
Among the simpler setup for tow bars, flat towing is preferred. It is also a cost-effective option which does not require too much modification to the towing vehicle.
Tow Bar Designs
We have already had a look at different towbar types, and the differences between them are due to the way they are designed. The different designs lead them to have different shapes and sizes. Though, the one common thing that they have is the place where they are installed.
The different designs in tow bars include
- Flat tongue bars,
- Complex horizontal hitch (usually for heavier loads)
A standard tow bar looks something like the bar in the image below:
This type of tow bar is a standard one and is universal in every system. There are some other designs as well that are specific to certain vehicles and not usable for others. They are better than standard bars only in the case of specific vehicles. Here is an image of a customized tow bar for Jeep Wrangler for the 2010-2014 models.