Towbars Brisbane – A Beginners Guide to Choosing The Right Towbar

Love to take your boat down to the river for a spot of fishing? Or drive around Australia with a caravan? Well, it’s essential to have the right towbar on your vehicle. Doing so will avoid damage to what you are towing, or the vehicle itself.

No matter what type of trailer you plan on towing, you will need a towbar to do so.

But, towbars come in an assortment of different sizes, weights, and shapes. This can make it very difficult to know which towbar is the right one for you. It depends on what you’re towing and the type of vehicle you drive.

Like most people, you probably have no idea what the difference between towbars is.

Well, no need to worry, we’ve got you covered!

Here we discuss the most important points you need to know about towbars. We help you decide on the right towbar. This depends on your vehicle, what you are towing and where you plan on venturing. We visually present the components of the towbar system. What it looks like and what they are called. We go through the top problems, what to watch out for legally and with regards to your safety. Get started with our beginners guide to choosing the right towbar.

Types of Towbars

Usually, there are four different types of towbar styles to choose from:

– Rear Step

– Flat Tongue

– Horizontal Hitch

– Swan Neck

But, the names given to towbar types doesn’t make it any easier to know what is the difference between them.

Rear Step Towbar

Rear step towbars are designed to be used usually on 4WDs only. This type of towbar sticks out further from the rear of the vehicle than other towbars do. Then a rear step is fitted onto it.

What makes these towbars suitable for 4WDs exactly? Well, they are much better suited for off-road use than a regular towbar. Rear Step towbars also provide better ground clearance. A downside is that they are much heavier, and only manufactured for specific models of 4WDs and utes.

Flat Tongue Towbar

Flat tongue towbars are designed only for lighter vehicles and loads. The flat tongue tow bar incorporates a detachable tow ball. This fits into a horizontal slot on the towbar.

The ‘tongue’ of the tow ball is then secured by using two large bolts. The bolts are placed through the top of the hitch and offer security you can trust and rely on.

Horizontal Hitch Towbar

A hitch refers to the reinforced metal structure attached to the vehicle. A hitch has two components. A Trailer hitch attaches to the vehicle. The receiver hitch slides into the trailer hitch and has a surface for the towball to be bolted on.

The horizontal hitch is best suited for when you need to haul heavier loads. The Horizontal hitch tow bar has a square tongue which connects to the trailer hitch. It is like the Flat Tongue towbar but taken to the next level, and is available in two various sizes:

– 40mm which is for towing medium-sized loads

– 50mm which is for heavy-duty towing

A sturdy metal pin is securely inserted through the side of the hitch to keep the receiver secure. The Horizontal Hitch towbar is also compatible with a weight distribution hitch.

Swan Neck Towbar

Swan Neck towbars are popular in Europe, and Non-European manufacturers rarely use them. A Swan Neck towbar is generally attached to the towbar permanently. This eliminates the need for it to be connected and detached for each use.

Swan Neck towbars have a U-shape or a rounded L-shape. Modern vertical hitch towbars resemble the look of a swan neck, which is how they received their name.

In Australia, it’s often difficult to find these towbars. They most likely will have to be imported from overseas, making them more expensive than other local options.

Choosing the Right Hitch

Now that we’ve covered the different types of towbars, it’s time to move onto hitches. A hitch is a device for the trailer coupling to connect to. A Tow ball is the most common type of hitch.

The touring you plan to do will often decide on the type of hitch you will need for you. Using the right hitch is essential. Selecting the wrong one for your setup could lead to disastrous results. The wrong hitch can damage both your trailer and tow vehicle.

50mm Tow Ball

You are likely to find that most towbars will come with a 50mm tow ball as the standard option. Most trailers come with a 50mm coupling which connects with this kind of hitch.

A benefit of the standard 50mm tow ball is that it allows for a variety of other uses. It is ideal for mounting a spare wheel or attaching bike carriers.

For most towing scenarios, a standard 50mm tow ball is suitable. But, they allow less articulation and swiveling than off-road couplings do.

If you push a 50mm tow ball past its limits, it’s possible that the trailer coupling may completely detach from the tow ball. Otherwise, it may cause damage to the towbar.

Articulating Hitches (Off-Road Couplings)

Articulating hitches are also commonly known as off-road couplings. In the event that your trailer loses control and flips. A full articulating hitch allows the trailer to roll independently of the tow vehicle. This allows the tow vehicle to maintain control and keep the driver and passengers safe. Here is a video demonstration from the Advanced Offroad Trailers Incorporated crew.

Articulating hitches connect to a 50mm standard tow ball. Another option is, if they came with a tongue, they could be put into the hitch receiver instead.

Weight Distribution Hitch

A weight distribution hitch ensures the towing vehicle and the trailer are kept level. Using a standard 50mm tow ball with a heavy trailer can cause the trailer to pull down the back of the vehicle. If this happens, it will cause a dangerous handling and steering problem for both of the trailer and tow vehicle.

Install a weight distribution hitch and tune it. This will ensure that the weight is evenly spread across the chassis of the two vehicles. Without a weight distribution hitch, the weight will be focussed on the tow ball.

This hitch is essential if you plan to drive a heavy caravan.

Weight distribution hitches come in a variety of sizes to suit your trailer. They range from heavy duty all the way down to mini.

Some of these hitches are not designed to work with an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) tow bar, and not all hitches work with all vehicles. It’s important first to check that your vehicle is capable of using one.

Towbar Classes and Why It Matters to You

Towbars are separated into weight classes. The classes are used to measure the tow capacity of a towbar. The weight classes are usually based on the type of towbar as well as the way it is mounted to the vehicle.

It’s important to make sure that you have the right towbar class based on your load and vehicle. Using a towbar to tow more than its weight rating can cause serious damage to your rig. The brakes and handling can become obstructed. By towing too much weight, it puts pressure on the engine. The extra pressure can cause the engine to overheat. The brakes will also wear faster. There is a chance the transmission may also fail. Unseen damage can shorten the life of your vehicle.

Towbars are rated into three different classes: Class 2, Class 3 and Class 4. The class determines the difference between the style of towbar and towing capacity.

Class 2 Standard Towbars

Class 2 towbars are the lightest of all the classes. They can carry a load of up to 1200 Kg. Class 2 is only suited for towing single motorcycle trailers or a small six by four-metre trailer.

Class 2 towbars generally will only use a flat tongue hitch.


Type:  Light-duty

Weight Rating: 1200 Kg

Hitch Type: Flat Tongue

Example Vehicle: Hatchback

Example Load: Small Box Trailer

Weight Distribution Hitch Compatible: No

Class 3 Towbars

Class 3 towbars are made to carry medium weight loads, with a rating of up to 1600 Kgs. They are best suited for towing small boats, multi-motorcycle trailers, and compact cars.

Class 3 towbars are the least popular choice. For a small increase in price, it’s possible to buy a class 4 towbar which can tow more than double the weight.


Type: Medium-duty

Weight Rating: 1600 Kg

Hitch Type: Horizontal Hitch

Example Vehicle: Family Sedan

Example Load: Large Box Trailer

Weight Distribution Hitch Compatible: No

Class 4 Heavy-duty Towbars

The main purpose of Class 4 towbars is for heavy-duty towing, as they have a rating of up to 3500 Kg. When you have a large and heavy load like a caravan, car trailer, horse float, or boat, you will need a class 4 towbar. This is the only class of towbar that is compatible with weight distribution hitches.


Type: Heavy-duty

Weight Rating: 3500 Kg

Hitch Type: Horizontal Hitch

Example Vehicle: 4WD

Example Load: Caravan

Weight Distribution Hitch Compatible: Yes

The specs of each class provide a quick breakdown of each towbar class. This makes it easier to find the correct class for you based on the hitch type and weight rating.

Choosing the Right Towbar for Your Vehicle

What towbar is right for me? How many different kinds are there? What is the difference? I need to tow a trailer. What class is right?

These are some of the questions which are probably going through your mind. Since when did buying a towbar become so confusing?

The easiest way to determine which type of towbar is right for you is to look in the owner’s manual of your vehicle. Or check your vehicles identification plate located in the doorjamb. Each car manufacturer lists how much weight your vehicle can tow. The weight limit tells you which type of towbar is the right fit for you.

There is no point to attach a heavier class towbar to a vehicle which is unable to tow that much weight.

As an example, a small hatchback car may only be able to tow up to 1000 Kg. So using a heavy-duty towbar with a 3500 Kg capacity instead will still be limited to 1000 Kg.

Then there are some vehicles which will only be compatible with higher class towbars.

For example, an SUV which can tow 3500Kg is likely only to have the option to have a class four towbar. People who drive an SUV usually don’t want or need to use a light-duty towbar.

Make sure you always check what your vehicle’s tow capacity is. Also, check that what you are towing will not exceed this capacity. Always select the towbar which is suited for what load you are towing.

First, confirm that your vehicle can tow the load you will be carrying. Then choose the weight class of towbar which is appropriate for your vehicle.

What to Look Out For

When it comes time to choosing the right towbar, there are many factors which you need to consider. It depends on what you plan on towing. Do you only plan on towing a dirt bike on a small trailer to the local track? Then a class 2 flat tongue towbar is sufficient for your needs. But, if you plan to haul a large caravan across Australia, a class 4 horizontal hitch towbar is what you need.

Here are a few things to look out for when choosing your next towbar:

Does The Towbar Meet Australian Standards?

If you buy a towbar in Australia, it must meet the Australian Standard for towbars, AS/NZS 4177. All towbars should be tested in a NATA accredited laboratory.

But what if you plan on importing a towbar from overseas from Asia or Europe? Well, you must make sure that it is compliant. If your towbar is not compliant, you may have an unroadworthy towbar which may be a safety risk.

If you are unsure if your towbar meets the Australian Standard, you can look for the compliance plate which is usually located under the towbar or on the inside frame.

If you aren’t sure, it’s advisable to contact the towbar manufacturer to find out if the towbar is compliant.

What If There Is No Towbar Available For My New Vehicle?

If you’ve just purchased a brand shining new model vehicle, it may not have a towbar available for it yet.

It’s a little-known fact that towbar manufacturers may wish to design a new towbar by using your vehicle. They may also offer a heavily discounted price, or give it to you for free in exchange for using your vehicle.

It’s worth reaching out to towbar manufacturers to ask.

Vehicle Warranty With a Towbar

Are you worried that an aftermarket towbar may void your new vehicle warranty? As long as it meets the Australian Design Standard approval, then the warranty will not be voided.

What if there was an issue or an accident? Then the vehicle manufacturer would need to prove that the towbar was responsible for the fault. If it were the aftermarket towbar at fault, then you need to notify the supplier. They would then follow up the problem with the vehicle manufacturer.

Luckily, you are covered by your comprehensive insurance in either scenario if you buy an aftermarket towbar. Many towbar manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on their towbar.

Will Reversing Sensors be Affected by a Towbar?

Generally, by adding a towbar to your vehicle, it won’t interfere with a reverse sensor or camera system. But each model is different. Some vehicles have very low mounted sensors. It’s possible they may pick up the tow ball. So checking with the towbar manufacturer is highly recommended.

An easy workaround is to remove the tow ball from the hitch receiver when not being used.

Reverse sensors will still go off anytime you are towing a trailer and reversing. Some aftermarket reversing sensors do have a cut off switch installed. But, anyone using OEM reverse sensors will have to just put up with the beeping.

Installing your Towbar: DIY or Professional

So you’ve selected the right towbar for your vehicle and your needs, what next? You will need to decide whether you plan to install your towbar DIY or have it installed by a professional. Both options have advantages and disadvantages.

By using a professional to install your towbar, it’s easier to make a warranty claim. The installer will likely be held responsible in case something was to happen. There are some vehicles which will need cutouts to the bumper to be made. If you don’t feel comfortable to do this yourself, then it’s best to have professional help.

Connecting the wiring looms is a straightforward and simple process. Many people feel confident to do it on their own.

There are many towbars which offer plug and play wiring looms. This has made installation much easier, as well as improved reliability.

Over the last ten years, wiring complexity in vehicles has gotten more complicated. When it comes to DIY installing a towbar, the most difficult thing is trying to find the correct loom to plug into. If it’s overwhelming, then a professional is probably the best option.

With that said, if you prefer to take the DIY approach, first make sure you have the right tools. Then refer to the installation instructions which come included with your new towbar. If you’re still confused, then the manufacturer is more than happy to help you over the phone with any queries.

Installing your towbar DIY does take a bit longer than if a professional fitted it. So it’s a trade-off between saving some extra money or saving some time.

There are some vehicles where installing the towbar is extremely easy. For other vehicles, they can have a complicated setup which goes a bit beyond most hobbyist auto mechanics skills. Modern European cars are usually in this category. If you have a European car, such as BMW, Volvo, Mercedes Benz, Audi, VW, Peugeot, Renault, Range Rover or SAAB. Then it is advisable to have a professional install the towbar.

Genuine Vs Aftermarket Towbars

Wat exactly is the difference between genuine and aftermarket towbars? Are aftermarket products safe and reliable?

Aftermarket towbar brands don’t only offer a lower price. Customer support is better than genuine towbars purchased through a dealership.

A dealership will often need to contact their headquarters if an issue arises. With a lot of headquarters overseas, this can take quite a while.

But, Australian aftermarket products offer far superior customer service than those from overseas.

If you are buying a towbar for an older vehicle, it may be difficult to find genuine parts and an OEM towbar. Especially when it comes to pins, bolts, and tongues. If your car brand decides to stop manufacturing them, they can be tough to find.

This can be a problem with certain car manufacturers. Some OEM towbar designs are not compatible with any aftermarket accessories. Examples include off-road couplings or weight distribution hitches.

Some towbars also have a pin off centre, in a different location. So, an aftermarket tongue with the hitch receiver can’t be used.

Most aftermarket towbar brands provide a lifetime guarantee on their spare parts.

Laws and Legislations Around Safe Towing

There are many different laws and regulations in Australia in regards to towing. Some of these laws and legislation are not commonly known. Before you head out around Australia, it’s important to make sure you are compliant to tow your rig safely.

A Guide To Safe Towing

Towing is a lot more complicated than everyday driving. When you are towing a caravan, it requires you to be hyper-focused. You also need to take greater safety measures than usual.

When you are towing a trailer or caravan, you must ensure that you meet all safety and legal requirements.

The following safe towing guide (PDF, 155 KB) provides information on how to safely drive a vehicle with a trailer. It also covers how to make sure they are correctly equipped.

Obscured Number Plate

A vehicle can have the rear number plate covered while it is towing a caravan or trailer. The caravan or trailer must have its number plate displayed.

A-Frame Towing Guide

A-Frame towing means towing a vehicle which has all its wheels on the road. The towing vehicle connects to the towbar of the vehicle being towed. This then forms a triangular “A” shaped frame – which is how it gets its name.

The A-frame towing guide (PDF, 191 KB) contains more information. It shows how to safely perform A-frame towing of a vehicle with a GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of up to 4.5 tonnes.

Note: The Safe towing guide & A-Frame Towing Guide comply with Queensland legislation. For travel outside of Queensland, consult the relevant state or territory’s laws.

Other unknown laws and legislation in Australia include:

Driving Too Slowly

A lot of people often complain about drivers with caravans driving too slow. But, it’s not illegal to drive slow. If you unreasonably obstruct drivers or pedestrians, you can receive a ticket. Each state has a different rule, so it’s recommended to check for each location you plan to travel to.

You can drive at a speed which is safe and ‘reasonable’ considering the road conditions. But if you are planning to drive at 20 km along the freeway to save fuel, you’re not going to have a good time with the Police and other drivers frustrated with your behavior on the road.

Breakaway System

In every state of Australia, for any trailer over 2500 kg, it is necessary to have a trailer breakaway system fitted which has a backup battery.

A trailer breakaway system is a failsafe which can bring a trailer to a safe stop. It works by activating the trailer’s electric brakes if it becomes disconnected during driving from the tow vehicle.

For trailers registered in NSW, you also need to be able to monitor the battery from within the tow vehicle. This monitor must also have an audible and video alert if the voltage of the battery drops below usable levels.

Number Plate Height

A registration plate must be attached to a vehicle so that no part of the plate is more than 130 cm from the ground. As per the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) 61/02 Vehicle Markings, Section

Do you have a large off-road caravan or camper? Your registration plate may exceed this restriction. There appears to be little consistency around the number plate height rule. If you try and do research, you will be met with confusing information. Also, there are no precise details on how to adjust your number plate. It’s recommended to get out your tape measure and double check you are compliant. If not, then you should contact an auto electrician or auto mechanic. They should be able to provide a solution to ensure you meet rules and regulations.

Towing Speed Limits

Different states have different speed limits for drivers who are towing a trailer.

– In NSW, if your rig exceeds a combined weight of 4500 kg, the maximum speed you can do is 100 km/h

– In Tasmania, the maximum speed you can drive is 90 km/h regardless of the trailer weight

– In WA, the maximum speed limit is 100 km/h regardless of the minimum weight limit

– For other states, you can drive up to the speed limit while towing a trailer

Towing Mirrors

A lot of drivers are unaware of legislation related to towing mirrors.

Rear vision mirrors must provide a minimum field of vision, according to the ADRs, Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule 14/02 – Rear Vision Mirrors) 2006.

If you are towing a full-size caravan with your vehicle, it’s likely that it will restrict your vision. To make sure you comply with the ADRs, you will need to attach extension mirrors to avoid receiving a hefty fine. By installing towing mirrors you need be able to see a clear field of vision behind and around your caravan. If there are still some blind spots, you need to adjust the mirrors until you have a clear view.

Weight Limits

In Australia, the heaviest weight you are allowed to tow by law is the maximum capacity of:

– The towbar or;

– The weight which your vehicle manufacturer has specified in your owner’s manual

It is recommended to check this weight limit and then to weigh your fully loaded rig to make sure you don’t exceed it. To check the weight, you will have to go to a facility called a weighbridge. A weighbridge allows vehicle owners to weigh their entire rig to work out the weight.

All you need to do is drive to a weighbridge, pay a fee (approximately $30), and drive your vehicle onto the scales built into the ground. You can locate your nearest weighbridge here.

Most people have no idea how much is involved in buying a towbar! Now you know what to look out for before buying a towbar. The next step is to start researching them online to find the right one for your vehicle and your needs. Bigger isn’t always better! It depends on what you plan to tow, for the best towbar for your needs.

Are you are unsure of the right towbar for you? Do you have some additional questions? Our friendly and experienced team are here to help! Contact Sandgate Auto Electrics by phone (07) 3269 3158 or schedule a call back at Alternatively email: