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Fixed Flange Tow Bars
A fixed flange tow bar installation is usually the cheapest tow bar option for a vehicle. It is permanently attached to the vehicle and always visible. A tow ball is fixed to the flange by two securing bolts and s and the electrical socket is typically mounted next to the towing ball. The towing ball can easily be removed and changed for a ball and pin or jaw towing receptacle
The main disadvantage of a fixed flange option is that it can be a bulky addition to the rear of your vehicle and if you are in and out of your boot a lot, at some stage you will bang your knee or shin and it does hurt for while.
Fixed Swan Neck Tow Bars
A fixed swan neck tow bar installation is a relatively cheap tow bar option for a vehicle. It is permanently attached to the vehicle and always visible. A single shaft extends from underneath the rear bumper which has the tow ball manufactured at the end of the shaft making it already ALKO compatible. The towing electrics are typically mounted at the lower edge of the bumper and further back from the towing ball making the installation appear a lot less bulky on the rear of your vehicle.
Again, the main disadvantage is at some stage you will bang your knee or shin and it does hurt for while.
Horizontal Detachable Tow Bars
A horizontal detachable tow bar installation is usually the cheapest detachable tow bar option. It can come in a flange or swan neck format. The neck of the tow bar is inserted horizontally in to the receptacle and is easily attached and detached. The electrical socket is mounted similarly to the fixed swan neck tow bar and is usually always visible with easy access.
The main advantage being the towing neck is only attached when you need to use it and the attaching and detaching of the neck is a lot easier than a vertically mounted detachable tow bar.
Vertical Detachable Tow Bars
A vertical detachable tow bar installation is usually the most expensive tow bar option. It can come in a flange or swan neck format. The neck of the tow bar is inserted vertically in to the receptacle and the installation is virtually invisible when the towing neck is not attached to the vehicle. The electrical socket is mounted on a mechanism that allows the socket to swing up behind the bumper.
The main advantage being the towing neck is only attached when you need to use it and it appears invisible when not in use. However, attaching and detaching of the neck takes some practice.
Towing electrics installation options
7 pin (12N) Socket
A 7 pin socket installation (also known as a 12Normal or 12N socket installation) is the minimum requirement for towing a trailer or caravan on UK roads. The 12N socket contains 7 connections that connect the rear lights of your vehicle to the trailer or caravan. The light connections passing through the socket are; brake, left and right side lights, left and right indicators and fog light. The seventh connection is an earth supply for the trailer lights.
7 pin electrical connections are commonly installed using a bypass or smart relay although vehicle specific manufactured kits are becoming increasingly more popular and can cost significantly more.
Twin 7 pin (12N and 12S) Sockets
A twin 7 pin socket installation consists of a 12N socket and a 12S ("S" for Supplemental). The additional 12S socket provides 12 volt power functionality and the reverse light connection to the trailer or caravan. The 12 volt supplies consist of one permanent feed and two switched feeds. The permanent feed provides power to devices such as the automatic stability control (ATC) for a caravan and the switched feeds provide power for a fridge and charging circuit. Twin 7 pin electrical connections are commonly installed using a bypass or smart relay and split charge relay. Vehicle specific manufactured kits are also available, but expensive.
13 Pin Socket
A 13pin socket installation is the newer standard being introduced and is more commonplace across Europe. All newer caravans (2005 onwards) tend to have a 13 pin plug. The 13 pin socket performs the same functionality as the twin 7 pin sockets and can be installed to just control the lighting functions without the 12 volt power functionality if required. The electrical sockets are typically installed with a bypass or smart relay and a split charge relay where 12 volt functional is required. Lighting only or fully functional vehicle specific manufacturers kits are also available.
Vehicle Specific Kits (VSK)
A vehicle specific kit installation is primarily for the newer vehicles which are now very complex with technologically advanced driving and safety systems such as; stability control, self levelling suspension, lane assist, parking camera and sensor systems and adaptive cruise control now standard kit on most new cars. A VSK is designed to connect to the vehicles existing wiring harness via a towing adapter plug usually located in the rear of the vehicle. Some are located at the front of the vehicle and may also require the ECU to be recoded. Some vehicles have already been pre-coded and become active once the VSK is installed. The complexity of new vehicles will most likely lead to all vehicles requiring a VSK for future towing requirements.