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DIY Towbar Installation


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Does anyone have any experience of retro fitting a towbar to a vehicle? 

I have a 2013 Subaru forester that would benefit from a towbar. 

I had initially thought setting up the electrics would be too much for me, noting that having someone do the work seems to be around £700+, including the necessary parts. 

But a trawl around google and YouTube suggests people are doing it themselves. I was most interested to learn that there is a specific towbar electrics plug located under the rear plastics in the boot of the forester. I had visions of having to run wires right down to the front of the vehicle somehow, hence the expertise and costs involved.  However it appears from the videos I've seen that it's only a short run and the wires can be concealed behind the trims and sills. 

Now admittedly the footage I've watched is from the US and Australia, so I'm wondering whether there is anything we have to do here in the UK that makes it a bigger job? 

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Modern cars with bulb fault detector are a pain.

most cars now require a can bus trailer brain to run trailer electrics.

there will be a plug on the car electric harness for this to plug in.

Usually in the boot area but my transit custom it was under the near side front passenger step !

Usually when you have a can bus trailer ecu this will need coding to the car ecu ( local independent specialist may be able to assist)

my last 3 diy installs I have managed to get hardware ( tow braket ) and electric harness / tow ecu from eBay and just pay for the coding at local trailer installer !

any Suberu dismantles may be a good start as well

Agriv8

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Thanks for the response, that's really helpful. 

I've been looking at the actual hardware kits as well this morning and most seem to suggest bumper removal and potentially bumper cutting is required. If either is true then it would be a none starter for me, but there was none of that on the footage I've watched. Wondering what the actual truth is? 

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Before you discont  it

a ****** removal isn’t as bad as it sounds! 2 Audis 1 vw 1 cmax 1 transit 

Have a look online 

again cutting a small square not as bad as it first seems 

But again cost benefit risk is a factor!

 

 

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I have fitted 2. 
 

1 with a plug and play wiring kit and another with a standard scotch lock kit     All cables were run through holes in the frame work with the rubber bung having a hole made in and some plumbers mait to make sure it was watertight
 

all the mounting holes were covered in tape with underseal on and it was a case of 3 hands and a jack to support whilst I bolted it on. 

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13 hours ago, ph5172 said:

1 with a plug and play wiring kit and another with a standard scotch lock kit

Just say no.  Won't work properly with modern cars anyway, and is a ticking time-bomb of unreliability, guaranteed to fail at the worst possible time.  I.e. in a downpour at night on the motorway towing a large trailer....

 

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1 hour ago, udderlyoffroad said:

Just say no.  Won't work properly with modern cars anyway, and is a ticking time-bomb of unreliability, guaranteed to fail at the worst possible time.  I.e. in a downpour at night on the motorway towing a large trailer....

 

This.

The scotch lock kit done properly will work........but only for about twenty minutes!

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Some modern cars with "Stability Assist" actually use the trailer electrics to detect a trailer plugged in and modify the operation of the Stability Assist as needed. 

I had a BMW X5 with a full factory towbar  (ordered by the first owner not me as it was a fortune).  I never used it - but the dealers assured my it was the Dogs Bxxxxxs which is why it was so expensive.  Initially - I thought it was marketing Bulls Poo - but it seems such things are done  https://www.towbarexpress.co.uk/trailer-stability-control

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3 hours ago, JohnfromUK said:

Some modern cars with "Stability Assist" actually use the trailer electrics to detect a trailer plugged in and modify the operation of the Stability Assist as needed. 

I had a BMW X5 with a full factory towbar  (ordered by the first owner not me as it was a fortune).  I never used it - but the dealers assured my it was the Dogs Bxxxxxs which is why it was so expensive.  Initially - I thought it was marketing Bulls Poo - but it seems such things are done  https://www.towbarexpress.co.uk/trailer-stability-control

I believe the subaru has a similar set up, hence the presence of a plug above the rear wheel arch to provide an existing, dedicated connection into the vehicles electronics for use when towing. 

From what I've learned so far, I think it's more the cutting of the bumper that worries me more than the electrics. Some towbars seem to involve a none visible cut, seems to be the removable versions that offer this. Wondering whether that cut is more to do with the wiring rather than the bar itself and tucked away on the bottom of the bumper, but struggling to confirm as nothing on the net to demonstrate exactly what it involves. 

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21 hours ago, London Best said:

This.

The scotch lock kit done properly will work........but only for about twenty minutes!

Perhaps if done by you! My old Rover 75 done this way towed my caravan all over the UK for over ten years. Never a glitch. I do admit that with a modern car the plug in option is best. Although my Rover had bulb failure indication.

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Just now, DUNKS said:

Perhaps if done by you! My old Rover 75 done this way towed my caravan all over the UK for over ten years. Never a glitch. I do admit that with a modern car the plug in option is best. Although my Rover had bulb failure indication.

The scotch lock option never worked for long on my Land Rovers which were up to their axles in damp muck several days/week.

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40 minutes ago, DUNKS said:

Perhaps if done by you!

You are deliberately creating a moisture ingress point in your wiring.   Given that you are not a spy in the 80s, trying to quickly install a wire tap in an office PBX, but rather trying to install a trailer socket to work reliably in the harsh environment of a vehicle, Scotchloks should have no place in your tool kit.

Scotchloks always have been a bodge, and no one should be using them short of some kind of middle-of-nowhere breakdown, and even then, there are better options.

Am ashamed to admit I used them in my Peugeot 306 to install a towbar.  Forgive me father, for I have sinned.  Absolve me from sins of the automotive electrical flesh, and spare my soul from the dark lord Lucas-ifer, and his minions Scotch and Lok

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27 minutes ago, udderlyoffroad said:

You are deliberately creating a moisture ingress point in your wiring.   Given that you are not a spy in the 80s, trying to quickly install a wire tap in an office PBX, but rather trying to install a trailer socket to work reliably in the harsh environment of a vehicle, Scotchloks should have no place in your tool kit.

Scotchloks always have been a bodge, and no one should be using them short of some kind of middle-of-nowhere breakdown, and even then, there are better options.

Am ashamed to admit I used them in my Peugeot 306 to install a towbar.  Forgive me father, for I have sinned.  Absolve me from sins of the automotive electrical flesh, and spare my soul from the dark lord Lucas-ifer, and his minions Scotch and Lok

I see your point but all the connections in any car I have wired up have been tucked away behind the trim in the boot. Nice and warm and dry. Today If I had cause to use quick connectors i think I would go for the Wago type. Better for todays thinner wiring looms.

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13 minutes ago, DUNKS said:

Today If I had cause to use quick connectors i think I would go for the Wago type

Depends which type of Wago you mean of course, none are designed for automotive use as far as I'm aware.

If you mean the lever lift type (221 series), yes they're great, but are hardly sealed, and have a deliberate moisture ingress point, also known as a test probe port.

Screwfix.com - Wago 32A 3-Way Lever Connector 50 Pack (2803R)

But they are good for fixed installations, and my 'away mission sack' always has several of them.  That said, if possible I'd be using some of those solder-filled heatshrink tubes if I had to make connections "in the field", as they require no more than a means to strip the cable and a lighter.

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20 minutes ago, udderlyoffroad said:

Depends which type of Wago you mean of course, none are designed for automotive use as far as I'm aware.

If you mean the lever lift type (221 series), yes they're great, but are hardly sealed, and have a deliberate moisture ingress point, also known as a test probe port.

Screwfix.com - Wago 32A 3-Way Lever Connector 50 Pack (2803R)

But they are good for fixed installations, and my 'away mission sack' always has several of them.  That said, if possible I'd be using some of those solder-filled heatshrink tubes if I had to make connections "in the field", as they require no more than a means to strip the cable and a lighter.

As I said before my boot is not wet or even damp. Wiring up a towbar all the connections are in the dry

Unless of course you own a Landrover.

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31 minutes ago, DUNKS said:

As I said before my boot is not wet or even damp. Wiring up a towbar all the connections are in the dry

Unless of course you own a Landrover.

Home truth: Poor advice of using unsuitable connectors, just because you have had no issue, is still poor advice. 

As a former auto-spark, let me reassure you that damp boots are not just confined to Land Rovers.

Also, I keep talking about moisture, not wet or even damp.  Exposed copper will wick up moisture form the atmosphere.

But anyway, let's agree to differ.  Your old Rover 75 was fine, many won't be.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 19/01/2022 at 08:43, Novice said:

had initially thought setting up the electrics would be too much for me, noting that having someone do the work seems to be around £700+, including the necessary parts.

I don't see how it's that expensive?

I had mine done a few years back, I'm sure it was nothing like that cost

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2 hours ago, Mice! said:

I don't see how it's that expensive?

I had mine done a few years back, I'm sure it was nothing like that cost

Looking at a witter detachable or similar, with 13 point electrics and including fitting is surprisingly expensive. Appreciate you can get other options for less, but not by a huge amount. 

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1 hour ago, Novice said:

Looking at a witter detachable or similar, with 13 point electrics and including fitting is surprisingly expensive. Appreciate you can get other options for less, but not by a huge amount. 

My secretary has found the receipt,  £375 three years ago, big difference. 

lctowbars.co.uk 

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19 hours ago, Mice! said:

My secretary has found the receipt,  £375 three years ago, big difference. 

lctowbars.co.uk 

Thanks, I've contacted them for a quote. 

10 hours ago, ditchman said:

never thought that fitting a tow bar is so complicated now

cant you fit the tow bar nicely ..then take it to a sparkie (auto) to finish off ?

It is an option. I've priced up an OEM towbar and electrical kit and it's not crazy money, but I remain nervous about taking a dremel or similar to my bumper. I'm reasonably practical, but I'd rather not budge it up. Will see what the quote comes back at them weigh up my options. 

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22 hours ago, Mice! said:

My secretary has found the receipt,  £375 three years ago, big difference. 

lctowbars.co.uk 

Quotes are just shy of £500 for fixed or just shy of £600 for removable. A touch less than I'd seen elsewhere, but prices have clearly gone up in the last few years for whatever reason. 

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22 minutes ago, Novice said:

Quotes are just shy of £500 for fixed or just shy of £600 for removable. A touch less than I'd seen elsewhere, but prices have clearly gone up in the last few years for whatever reason. 

I imagine some stuff has gone up if it's coming from abroad but that's certainly a big jump.

I asked at the time about getting a removable one but the fella said there wasn't really much in it, I only tow a couple of times a year and having the tow bar fixed hasn't bothered me.

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