Detachable towbars back in spotlight after separation incident *H&H Plus*

  • A recent incident where a trailer carrying two horses became separated from the towing vehicle on a roundabout has re-ignited debate on detachable towbars. H&H looks at what can be done to keep horses in trailers safer.

    DETACHABLE towbars are back in the spotlight following an incident where a trailer separated from its towing vehicle with two horses on board.

    Aurora Eastwood was travelling her horse and her son’s pony on 19 February when the detachable towbar on her car gave way at a roundabout on the A36.

    Ms Eastwood told H&H the trailer “shot past” her and travelled across four lanes of traffic before hitting a fence and stopping in the road. Horses and humans were unhurt.

    “I looked at the towbar and the only thing holding it to the car is three little pins and that’s it,” she said. “I can’t see how that’s safe. It doesn’t seem strong enough.

    Ms Eastwood added since the incident she has heard of similar incidents occurring and seen threads on caravan forums about vehicles separating.

    Organisation of Horsebox & Trailer Owners managing director Jon Phillips told H&H he hears about incidents involving detachable towbars “all the time” and agreed their failing was a big problem in the caravan world.

    “The biggest problem is the fact they are detachable,” he said. “When you put them into the socket it’s so easy to not get it right – if the socket is a bit dirty, it doesn’t lock in properly – that’s 90% of the problem.

    “People need to look for wear on the towbar too. At the end of the day they’re basic metal – they’re swivelling in and out of the ball joint and they do wear down.”

    Mr Philips added he recommends owners make sure the towbar is attached when vehicles are serviced and attend MOTs.

    “Detachable towbars became part of a vehicle’s MOT test in April 2009, but they are only checked if fitted on the car at the time of the test,” he said.

    “Most people take their vehicle to be serviced every year and it doesn’t hurt to put the towbar on and have it checked too. Have them give you a written report then if it does fall off, you have a comeback. ”

    Suzanne Smith, co-owner of Edinburgh-based Banana Driver Training told H&H she often sees people putting the breakaway cable in the wrong place when hitching up a trailer.

    “If the cable has been looped round the towball and you go over a bump, that breakaway cable could quite easily slip off, in which case you have nothing,” she said.

    “People also need to be aware that a detachable towbar could have a different towing capacity than the vehicle. If you’ve bought one from an unscrupulous seller and not been told – or you’ve bought a second-hand one and don’t realise – you could attach it to your car thinking you can tow the full capacity of your car, but actually your towbar has been rated lower than that.”

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