16 February 1996


Most farming 4x4s have a towbar, but not all bars are as tough as they might be. Here specialist Phil Taylor shows Andrew Pearce an easy upgrade

CONSIDERING that the towbar is the prime link between your 4×4 and a trailer of steaming bullocks, that bar had better be up to the job. Particularly as responsibility for any accident rests squarely on the driver.

"A fixed towbar is fine with single axle trailers," says Phil Taylor, "But height adjustment becomes essential when you pull a tandem axle unit. Its the only way to make sure the trailer sits level so axles share the load, and the only way to alter coupling height easily after you throw something heavy in the back of the vehicle."

Maker Dixon-Bate operates at the quality end of the towbar market, offering adjustable models to suit a range of 4x4s and the Shocklink, a quick-detachable box which uses opposed springs to take the sting out of big-trailer pitching. To see how fitting goes we went to the Taylor premises in Hampshire.

"Most modern 4x4s come with mounting points already provided, so DIY fitting is usually simple," reckons Mr Taylor. "But its impossible to generalise, especially over wiring. The best bet is to ask the towbar maker or supplier for a copy of the fitting instructions, so you can see what youre getting into on the mechanical side. On electrics, if the vehicle has air bags or a bulb failure warning system, its probably best to go to a specialist, particularly if you have no wiring diagram. Wrong connections on such cars can be expensive and potentially risky."

A 3.5t universal coupling adds versatility for £48.50, while behind it the black box Shocklink (£266.30) waits to damp sudden weight transfer loads from a tandem axle trailer. Box contains opposed springs.

Left: Main bolts joining vehicle and towbar get the torque wrench treatment from fitter Mark Searle. Although locknutting all fasteners provides a useful guard against looseness, periodic rechecks for tightness are still a good idea – accidents caused by a trailer are the drivers responsibility.

Spreader plate behind chassis crossmember accepts main bolts and is vital for strength. Bolting a drop plate or ball hitch through the thin-walled crossmember can produce

big trouble. Bye-bye trailer, perhaps.

This high capacity Defender provides vacant snap connectors behind one rear lamp to couple rainbow trailer socket wiring – easy work. Other vehicles may be harder. Seal connectors against creeping damp.

Leaving bolts loose as you go makes hole alignment easier, points out fitter Mark Searle. Note Dixon-Bates towbar trademark- a plated finish.