Towbar Electrics dramatically changed in the past few years, cars are continually becoming more complex and it is vital for garages to stay ahead of the curve. When installing additional systems to your car many people just do not consider how the towbar electrics are installed.
Whether you are using your towbar to tow a large caravan, or simply just to support a bike carrier, you will need some electrics with your towbar.
In the past towing electrics were simply connected to the rear lights of the car, doing this on many modern vehicles can cause hundreds of pounds of damage to onboard computers.
Modern cars are now computer controlled, with advanced safety features, and complex wiring systems. towbar electrics are no longer ‘simple’.
The first step is to decide which type of towbar electrics that you need. There are 3 socket options used in the UK. Single 7 Pin electrics (12N), Twin 7 Pin electrics (12N & 12S), and Single 13 Pin electrics.
Single 7 Pin Electrics
Single 7 Pin Electrics also known as 12(N)
They provide power from the towbar to the lights on a trailer or caravan.
You can tow a caravan using only single electrics, but the interior functions of the caravan, such as the fridge, wouldn’t have power to them. You would also need an adaptor if your caravan has 13 pin electrics.
Even if you will only be using the towbar for a cycle carrier we recommend that you still have a single electric socket fitted so that you can power a light board for safety reasons.
Twin 7 Pin Electrics
Twin 7 Pin Electrics, also known as 12(S), are fitted in addition to single 7 pin electrics if you’re going to use your towbar for towing a caravan built prior to 2008.
The extra grey socket provides power to operate the interior functions of the caravan such as the interior lights, run the fridge and charge the battery while you are towing.
This type of socket has been replaced on caravans built after 2008 in the UK. New caravans now use the 13 pin standard socket shown.
13 Pin Electrics
13 Pin Electrics have been standard in most other European countries for some time. These can be installed as a lighting only version for trailers or bike racks or a full fuction version for caravans.
This is replacing the 2 separate sockets currently used in the UK. The 13 pin socket is essentially the two 7 pin sockets merged in to one.
All caravans manufactured in the UK from 2008 are fitted with an ISO 13 pin connector as standard. This system uses one socket with 13 pins inside, instead of the traditional two separate 7 pin sockets.
13 pin sockets are also used on some vehicles especially with detachable towbars when there isn’t enough room to mount two separate sockets behind the bumper.
If your caravan is fitted with 13 pin electrics we do not recommend using any adaptors or similar as these often cause connection issues ,the only way to gain proper electrical connections is for a 13 pin plug to connect directly to a 13 pin socket.
The next step is to consider how you would like the wiring to be installed. On older vehicles there is a choice between universal aftermarket towbar electrics, and vehicle specific wiring. On some newer vehicles it is compulsory to have vehicle specific wiring to activate safety features on your car.
When it comes to the installation of the wiring, there are two ways that the towbar wiring can be installed on your car.
It can be installed using either universal aftermarket wiring, or using what is known as vehicle specific, or dedicated wiring.
On older cars you have the option to decide how you would like the wiring to be installed, you can choose between universal aftermarket wiring, or vehicle specific wiring depending on your budget.
Vehicle Specific wiring can be more expensive, but has many benefits to justify the cost. When getting quotes for a towbar installation it is important to understand what you are looking for. The ‘cheapest’ way to install the wiring is rarely the best.
On newer cars which often have safety features such as Trailer Stability built in to the car which would only be activated with vehicle specific wiring, we always fit the wiring as standard included in the price that you are quoted. Using universal wiring on these cars would mean that essential safety features are not active when you are towing. In the future all cars may require this type of wiring to be fitted.
To help you make an informed decision, you can click on the images below for further information about universal aftermarket wiring, and vehicle specific wiring.
Universal Aftermarket Wiring
Universal towbar wiring kits were, until the introduction of vehicle specific wiring kits, the standard method for the fitment of aftermarket towbar wiring.
Our universal wiring kits can be installed in nearly every vehicle. The kits can transmit signals related to the tail lights.
Because these are analogue signals, a universal wiring kit cannot be programmed and can therefore not connect to the on-board computer that controls the car electronics. We offer standard 7-pin and 13-pin universal wiring kits.
Vehicle Specific Wiring
Vehicle Specific Wiring, sometimes known as ‘dedicated wiring looms’ or ‘plug in kits’, are becoming ever more popular for towbar wiring installation. To put it simply this is the way the job should be done.
Unlike universal wiring kits, vehicle-specific wiring kits do support the current complex digital systems of your car. They can be connected to the car electronics and are programmable through the on-board computer. We offer vehicle-specific wiring kits for almost every type of car, both with 7-pin and 13-pin sockets.
Each kit is designed specifically for the vehicle that it is fitted to, and rather than soldering or using ‘Scotch Locks’ to connect the towbar wiring, which is the case with universal aftermarket wiring, these kits interface with the vehicle systems in the same way as the vehicle manufacturer intended.
Modifying or Repairing Existing Towbar Wiring
Repairing, replacing and modifying existing towbar wiring installations is one of our specialities .
Has your vehicle been installed with universal electrics and you would like them replacing or has a poor quality installation been carried out in the past ?
Has your towbar only got a single or twin 7 pin electrical installation and you now have a 13 pin caravan?
We also often find ourselves helping those who have ordered a towbar from the internet but have unfortunately come unstuck with what they thought or have been told was a simple job wiring the towing electrics in.
We can also assist customers who’s towbar electrics have failed an MOT test.