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Horror story: modified towbar

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Modified towbar 1

Gary from Snuff Mill Garage in Sheffield sent us some photos of a Nissan Micra he tested which shows how not to fit a towbar.

In Gary’s words “A brilliant piece of work showing someone's home made towbar fitting skills and there's no reinforcement in the boot floor”.

There are many different manufacturers of towbars. Designs can vary even for the same make and model of a vehicle.

From 1 August 1988 type approved towbars can only be fitted to passenger vehicles up to 3500kgs if the vehicle has been type approved. However, type approval doesn’t apply to privately imported vehicles from outside of the European Economic Community.

Most manufacturers will offer a fitting service, but fitting can be done independently if the installation is carried out to the manufacturer’s instructions.

modified towbar 2

In this case the towbar doesn’t appear to have been originally made for this vehicle. The mounting brackets are the wrong size and shape which will eventually lead to the failure of the attachments.

Failure of a towbar has serious road safety implications. At best, it could result in a sizable piece of metal being left in the carriageway - or worse a detached trailer.


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  1. Comment by David posted on

    One of the lads at work has been doing his 3 day mot training course and apparently you can have corrosion within 30 cm of a towbar even though it says fail in the manual

  2. Comment by derek jarrett posted on

    Now we are to train ourselves with cessation of the training sites with apparently 3hours a year the standard of testing will only suffer.
    Its pretty much the only time on a refresher course to air your veiws and get answers coz you cant get hold of your local vosa rep when you want one for clarification on a matter of testing

    • Replies to derek jarrett>

      Comment by phil posted on

      I totaly aggree, i this is another cost cutting excecise, i enjoyed my five year training, the scheme is falling to pieces, there gets to appoint when you cant improve things, i think this is a bad move.

  3. Comment by Andy. posted on

    So is this a failure or not , we are not structural engineers ,as said its not insecure and minimum standard applies that is until DVSA get involved after an accident has occurred then maximum standard is applied and the tester is left on his own !!!!!!!!!!

    • Replies to Andy.>

      Comment by Matters of Testing posted on

      Hi Andy,

      Assessing a component's security and the effectiveness of any fixings is often difficult. Particularly if there is no evidence of movement or the fixings and associated structure are not clearly visible, in such cases 'pass and advise' is the appropriate cause of action.

      In this case the photograph shows that the brackets attaching the towbar to the vehicle's structure do not adequately support the assembly, either because they were not designed for this application or due incorrect fitment. Therefore it would not be unreasonable to fail this installation, not for security (RfR 6.6 1) but under RfR 6.6 2 for the mountings being of an inappropriate size and type.

      6.6 2 - Towbar assembly is attached to the vehicle structure using a mounting, support or fixing which is obviously of an inappropriate size or type.



      • Replies to Matters of Testing>

        Comment by Andy. posted on

        Great, unreasonable that really answers my question ! If you can't say it's a pass or a fail then how can we. If this was failed and then had an appeal against it are you saying it could also be passed and advised ? Don't highlight a horror story and scare testers if you cannot give us a straight answer.

        • Replies to Andy.>

          Comment by Andy. posted on

          Also we are taught in our training that there are NO subjective opinions . If this is wrong you need to correct the people who are training us as they are clearly wrong.

  4. Comment by posted on

    I was told you don't know what he is going to use it for so its not insecure so pass and advise it could be bolted to wood as long as it's no insecure pass and advise

    • Replies to>

      Comment by phil posted on

      i totaly agree, yet another grey area, that not a grey area when it suits, i think you can get the general idea about the feelings of testers is not great, Andy is quite correct, we are not structural engineers, wasent it the same with coil springs, that if it was broken and in your opinion it wasen't going to affect the vehicle you could pass it, then that was removed. What realy concerns me is you can fail a towing socket, for insercurity then hang a 28 foot caravan on the back and have shockers that have no damping affect, and because its not leaking its ok how stupid is that..

  5. Comment by Chris posted on

    Type approval 1988?? 1998 more like

  6. Comment by Jim. posted on

    It makes me howl, if they make a comercial variant eg a Discovery 2 van ... fit pretty much what you like. If it has seats in the back it has to be an approved design. I bought an approved drop plate, but could have made my own as its a commercial. Seems a bit odd! As for the one in the photos ... seen and fitted worse with type approval. The rangerover detachable for example, famous for losing the ball when least expected.

  7. Comment by Simon Smale posted on

    The guy will prob just unbolt it for mot and bolt it back on afterwards anyway.

  8. Comment by Barry Chandler posted on

    It's not insecure so it's a pass and advise. DVSA have told us countless times that it's a minimum standard test and we cannot judge, for example, the method of attaching a towbar. It's implying that testers should fail this particular towbar. Where's the RfR?

    • Replies to Barry Chandler>

      Comment by Tony posted on

      I guess it would be this, Sect 6.6 Towbars

      MOI 2. Check the towbar assembly is attached to the vehicle structure using mountings, supports and fixings of an appropriate size and type.
      RFR 2. Towbar assembly is attached to the vehicle structure using a mounting, support or fixing which is obviously of an inappropriate size or type.
      I wouldn't like to pass it.

      Wonder if I could add this to my quota of annual training.

      • Replies to Tony>

        Comment by Andy C posted on

        I would add this to my annual training
        I would have failed it due to how poorly it was secured or not.
        The owner will probably remove it for the test and fit it back after at least if it does fall off it ain't gonna come back and bit you.We all know the ministry always fall on the drivers side on appeal you never win