EC TYPE-APPROVED TOWBARS
April 2012 onwards Type approved Motorhome Towbars
The law on towbars and motorhomes has changed. Any towbar fitted to a motorhome first registered on or after April 1, 2012 must be EC type approved by law for towing use on that vehicle. However we can still bespoke manufacture Under-run style bumpers with a tow ball & electrics for those who like the protection these bars give and only want to fit a cycle carrier or one of our Scooter carriers but these are not type approved and shouldn’t be used for towing purposes. For none towing use on a Motorhome manufactured after April 2012 see our pre 2012 Bespoke Motorhome towbar page.
As a result of the towbar legislation changes introduced in April 2012 we have sourced the very best in type-approved towbars from the UK and Europe. We are now able to supply and fit type approved towbars to any type of campervan, Motorhome or A class Motorhome.
Auto-trail and Elddis range:
For all your Auto-trail (none Al-Ko chassis models) and Elddis range motorhomes based on the standard Fiat Ducato chassis we supply & fit a UK manufactured flange type towbar from Towtrust which comes with a dedicated 13 pin wiring loom & a 13—7 pin adaptor for those who tow with a traditional 7 pin socket on their trailer or A frame as standard. These are fitted here at our workshops in less than 2 hrs unless additional bumpers or other work is required at the same time?
We can also supply these as DIY kits for the competent mechanic / Auto-electrician but additional bumpers etc are bespoke manufactured and can only be completed here at our workshops.
A lot of our returning customers who have had our bespoke mirror finish stainless covered under-run towbars fitted to their pre 2012 motorhomes sometimes get a little disappointed that they cannot have that style as they like the protection they give but unfortunately there is no type approved bumper style towbars on the market. So, we simply came up with a bolt on additional Mirror finish stainless steel Under-run bumper which can easily be added all though it’s an optional extra now and not built in to the towbar. We still believe they complement the type approved flange towbars and at first glance you would think it was one of our bespoke range. Our customers like the protection this gives to their motorhomes against low-speed car park shunts or bollards that leap out of nowhere!
Al-Ko chassis or Al-Ko chassis extension range:
Most Motorhomes that are built on the Al-Ko chassis like the Bailey’s, Swift Bessacar group, some of the Auto-trail, Autosleeper & Pilote range to mention a few are geared up already for towing and taking various Scooter carriers. The Swift Bessacar group and a few other brands of Motorhome also use Al-Ko chassis extensions which are as good as the full Al-Ko AMC chassis when it comes to towing or taking carriers. So, fitting a type approved towbar to this range of motorhomes is also quite simple and takes under 2hrs fitted & wired, again providing no additional bumpers are required at the same time. We are an official agent for Al-Ko but we stock type approved towbars from Memo Europe, a Dutch company which has been supplying such towbars for many years to comply with legislation which has been in place on the Continent for quite some time. We keep a large range of Memo towbars in stock so booking a fitting time even in the peak of season for an Al-Ko chassis type approved towbar can usual be done with just a couple of days’ notice and certainly with a weeks’ notice. You can see the fixed width Memo towbar fitted to this Al-Ko chassis-based Bailey Autograph.
However as always in the Motorhome industry there are a few Al-Ko chassis motorhomes that catch you out like the biggest part of the Rapido range & most of the latest Hymer Range (unlike the older versions) where the end part of the Al-Ko chassis which is used for towing has been removed so the rear garage can drop down below leaving nothing to attach the type approved towbar too. This is easily identifiable by just having a look underneath and you will see the galvanized chassis stops short of the garage leaving anything from 1.1m – 1.7m of nothing. In these cases, chassis extensions must be fabricated or fitted so the job takes a lot longer to complete. The photo to the right shows our heavy duty Galvanized chassis extension fitted to an Al-Ko chassis based Rapido, if you look close enough you can see the fibre glassed over timber supports for the garage but obviously this is not strong enough to attach a towbar too. If the overhang from where the main chassis ends is over 1.2m long and has no additional cross bearer supports, then we must add additional reinforcements to stop lateral movement. These are what we call towbar to chassis extension triangulation reinforcement brackets. It’s hard to see in the photo but the additional 2 x M12 bolts half way down the galvanized extension is where these are bolted in to a box section that runs to the near centre of the towbar where the swan neck ball bolts on, so a pair gives that triangulation reinforcement that is required.
Carthago range on Al-Ko chassis.
Then we have the Al-Ko chassis Carthago range where the Al-Ko chassis extensions are under 3mm thick or they are not even made by Al-Ko so no towbar holes are present, in these cases the extensions have to be replaced with Al-Ko towable extensions which is a task in its own right as they are bonded to the garage floor. See the photo to the left, if they are like this they will need replacing. In most cases though they do have the genuine Al-Ko extensions like the photo to the right, however if the triangular reinforcement brackets are not fitted in the corners like on the photo they will have to be added but we do stock and fit these on a regular basis, so it’s not a problem they just cost a little more to add them. Then regardless of what chassis extensions are fitted and even though they are bonded to the floor they have failed on many occasions and both Al-Ko & Carthago say you must line out the entire garage with aluminuim chequer plate to spread the load and bolt the extensions through the garage floor and chequer plate lining. We add dowels through the timber floor, so the chequer plate does not crush where it is bolted and the bolts don’t come loose, we also bond the chequer plate down to the garage floor. So, as you can see there can be a full day’s work fitting a towbar to an Al-Ko chassis type Carthago unlike most standard Al-Ko chassis Motorhomes. Unfortunately, we have witnessed some disasters when towbars have been fitted by other supposedly proffesional companies that don’t have the knowledge we do. Getting a cheap job done can also create huge repair bills and possibly fatalities later so don’t do it, always use an Al-Ko recognised centre like ourselves.
Some Al-Ko chassis are not suitable to tow from until they have been reinforced as you may have gathered with the Carthago range. Some of the Hymer range and other brands of Motorhomes that have chassis extensions like the drawing to the left require added reinforcements before we can fit the towbar. If where the extension is bolted to the main chassis only has 2 x bolts, then the L shaped reinforcement brackets need adding as shown. If you see 4 x bolts holding the extension to the main chassis, then no reinforcement is necessary at this point. As mentioned earlier if there are no triangulated reinforcements in the corners then these will have to be fitted as shown in the drawing to the left but if you don’t see the 2 x holes just back of the 2 x holes at 145mm apart where the towbar fits and a further 2 x holes on the rear cross member where the triangular reinforcements would fit then it will have a cross bearer further down meaning these are not required like the photo above showing the swan neck towbar fitted to an Al-Ko AMC chassis on a Bailey Motorhome.
Motorhomes on Fiat, Mercedes, Ford, Renault, Iveco & VW original chassis that don’t have Al-Ko extensions:
This is where the fun starts! As there’s a mine field of different chassis extensions fitted if any? Usual only just adequate to do the job of supporting the rear overhang as intended but not suitable to tow from. We have known chassis extensions to be different on the same brand motorhome of the same year and they are constantly changing so it’s very hard to keep up and know what to expect when they come in, all though this has improved a lot since type approval of Motorhomes came in.
This is where’s Armitages come into their own and why so many dealers and customers use us. We are engineers and fabricators by trade not just fitters so it’s nothing for us to manufacture extensions or various bespoke reinforcement systems to make the chassis suitable to tow from. Over the years we have seen so many towbars and worse still, scooter carriers fitted to extensions that are not suitable at all, it’s shocking and scary what we have witnessed over the years but unfortunately, it’s still going on. We have even witnessed one of our Bespoke towbars made for a pre-2012 model Al-Ko chassis motorhome be butchered, chopped, re-welded and fitted back on to a 2015 Burstner Ixeo motorhome that had very weak Sawiko chassis extension that required reinforcing and no reinforcement work had been carried out. To make matters worse he was about to put a 170kg Motorbike on it which is a big no go with one of these motorhomes, if it wasn’t for him calling me for a spare part for his scooter carrier and mentioning what Motorhome he had just bought, it could have been a total disaster, snapping his chassis, possibly losing his Motorbike down the road and may have even seriously hurt someone. The most unbelievable part of this is, the Dealer, a very large well-known company had this work done by a local towbar fitter, he obviously was not a Motorhome towbar specialist like us.
If you have 3 - 5mm thick channel extensions that looks suitable to tow from we then need to see how well these are connected to the main base vehicle chassis i.e. a Fiat as they are often secured with a small cluster of 3 – 4 bolts on the very end of the Fiat chassis but the extensions can be anything from 800mm – 1.7m long, so hanging a towbar on these will simply break the extension at the end of the Fiat chassis, so we need to reinforce this connection. With the Fiat range we have some special 8mm thick laser cut galvanized S plates to do this as you can see in the photo on the left. This significantly reinforces the connection by going down the chassis and connecting into the holes already in the Fiat chassis further down near where the shock absorbers mount to the chassis creating a large lever effect type strengthening. If the channels are only 2mm thick or 3mm thick but very long, then we would also fit back to back chassis extensions to reinforce the existing ones making them 5-6mm thick and substantially strengthening them. You can see the original 2mm thick extensions in the photo to the right but if you look at the furthest away extension you will see the galvanized lipped channels we have added. As mentioned earlier if the extensions are 1200mm or over then they will also require the triangulation reinforcements which you can just make out in the photo that was fitted.
If we have nothing to work with and there is no way of strengthening what is already fitted, then we have complete chassis extension kits like the 3 photos below showing our complete Fiat Ducato extensions. The 1st photo is a heavy duty 6mm thick extension kit running alongside the original weak extensions then instead of fitting triangulation brackets we have tied both extensions together which achieves the same result. Photo 2 is the same process but using the lighter weight lipped extensions as the overhang wasn’t as great and photo 3 is the heavy-duty extensions simply fitted with triangulation reinforcements as there was nothing else under the motorhome just a blank space.
The Beauty of the Memo range of towbars is one of them is telescopically adjustable to take any width of chassis from 880-1420mm wide so these will fit a variety of Motorhomes. We also have a range of different drop plates to lower the towbar if the rear valance is much higher than the chassis as you can see in the photo to the left. They also have a range of fixed width versions, the most popular one is a 1280-1290mm wide version that we fit to the Al-Ko chassis / chassis extension range as they are neater in appearance especially when fitted to the slightly older Bailey range of motorhomes that have the towbar on show due to not enough spacing behind the rear valance and end of chassis to hide it, as you can see in the photo on the right (the cut out in the body work is specifically designed for the towbar to sit in).
The legal tow ball height is 350 – 420mm to centre of the ball from the ground when vehicle is laden so for unladen vehicles it’s not out of the question to have them slightly higher up to 450 - 470mm if the vehicle is totally empty when it comes in to us. One of the biggest problems with a lot of the new range of motorhomes is ground clearance due to the Motorhome sitting so low to make them more stable on the road this can then be an issue getting the correct ball height and quite often we have seen them lower than the legal height or just within. The problem is most trailers run at around 390 – 430mm so we always do our best to set them to this height, so if the height is low, we can exchange the standard swan neck ball for one that is 50mm higher, problem solved. Sometimes the distance from the chassis end and the rear valance can be longer than usual or the rear valance is deep and continues under the motorhome several cm’s stopping the standard tow ball from protruding out at the back to get a tow coupling on, (minimum legal limit is 65mm from centre of ball to valance) then we have the answer to this also with a swan neck ball that is 50mm longer than usual. We often have to fit this extended neck when customers want our additional mirror finished stainless steel covered Under-run bumper adding to create enough distance for the bumper to sit behind the ball and still leave adequate room to get a tow coupling on to it.
Below you can see an example of the chassis extensions we have to fabricate for some motorhomes.
This particular motorhome required galvanized back to back lipped channel extensions,
reinforced at the Fiat chassis end, then triangulation reinforcement brackets from towbar to chassis extensions.
Click the image below to see more pictures of the chassis extensions we manufactured.
Click here to see some of the extension work that we do.