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Old 17 May 2022, 21:41   #1
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Has anyone fitted their own towbar?

OK so I've ordered my trailer bits and should/could have a useable trailer up and running within a week or so, which is great because I have a week "off" (wife and kids are away) the following week when I hope to use the boat alot. Now I've hit the slight snag that I'm finding it hard to find someone to fit a towbar to my 2010 Ford C-Max at short notice - looks like a month's wait which is annoying.

So - has anyone tried the DIY route? The websites selling them make it sound easy, of course, but the downloadable instructions (especially for the electrics) seem less than clear (to put it mildly). There is the option of purchasing a "vehicle specific" electrics set for a little more money, which I'd be more than happy to do if it makes the install easier, but even that looks tricky. Am I biting off more than I can chew? Generally fairly competent DIY, decent set of tools and a fairly hardcore mechanic living opposite who could no doubt help with the mechanical side of things if required - it really is just the electrics I'm squeamish about. Added bonus: it would also save me about £200 in fitting costs, which would be nice.
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Old 18 May 2022, 06:00   #2
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Interesting timing. I recently bought a 2009 Golf for knocking about in and using as a station car. Now I find myself using it most of the time. I'd forgotten that emotionally needy cars that need to make noises every five seconds, talk to your kettle or soil themselves at a bit of hedge because it's clearly a child about to leap in front of your car are relatively new things and that a basic 2010 car was still just a normal car.

Anyway, it'll be perfect for towing the SIB this summer but also needs a tow bar.

It seems pretty simple to fit the metalwork. Pop the back bumper and lights off, trim the black plastic bottom part of the bumper for the swan neck and socket etc.

I was just starting to look at the electrics. I've noted that there are suggestions to use a box of tricks but I'm not convinced yet that this is needed for just a dumb trailer other than for handling the parking sensors as you're not forwarding anything complex to a dumb trailer other than lighting.

My current thinking is that if one can live with the parking sensors going mental when reversing with the trailer then there is zero need for the electronics. I think the key boils down to whether your specific model needs a bypass relay to stop the car from throwing up a load of dash faults.
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Old 18 May 2022, 07:01   #3
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Fitted a few in my time. Pretty straightforward these days on modern cars as the holes are “usually” pre punched in the chassis. Towtrust are a good brand with good support & instructions. Vehicle specific wiring is “usually” well worth the extra, as the loom “usually” plugs into the rear of the vehicle into a pre installed plug. You may need to have some coding done after fitting, to tell the vehicle that a towbar has been fitted. This will do things like disable the parking sensors/rear fog lights/ when a trailer is plugged in. It may also activate a trailer stability program for the suspension/brakes, depending on what your car spec is.
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Old 18 May 2022, 07:42   #4
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The mechanical bits are easy, as are the electrics on older cars, however on anything with CANBUS (which is most things now) the electrics can throw up a host of gremlins.
I'd recommend a vehicle specific kit regardless for your 2010 Ford (as others have said, it'll probably just plug in). Check though if it has CANBUS - if it does, have a chat with a local auto-electrician to see if any re-programming is needed, or just ask them to fit the electrics.
Your manual will probably mention if you have CANBUS or someone might be along in a mo who knows that year & model
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Old 18 May 2022, 08:13   #5
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I have done two, a Saab and a Freelander. As previously mentioned its pretty simple as the holes are all pre installed so its just a nut and bolt job. Both of mine had plugs on the supplied loom that simply fitted into existing sockets in the car designed for the job. Check your car model as some require cutting the rear bumper, something that I was nervous about as the Saab was new.

Good luck.

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Old 18 May 2022, 17:35   #6
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Did a witter towbar on an x5. Bought the whole kit from witter. Went o for it 3dats before camping holiday and they only sent electronics. No hitch assembly.

Wife found one for £ 150 on Facebook brand new local so we got a full refund and a £150 towbar. Electrics were the hardest because the vehicle specific wiring instructions were not accurate so I spent quite a while on forums identifying CAN cables. If I had believed it blindly it would have been a right mess. The bumper removal was scary but it all worked out fine. Took a day and a half on my own with wiring research on forums.
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Old 18 May 2022, 18:29   #7
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Thanks guys. I think what I am going to do is try following the downloaded electrical install instructions (pre purchase) and pulling off the various panels at the back of my car - and if it all seems to make sense I'll go ahead and give it a go. I quite like the idea of saving money as well in these straightened times!
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Old 18 May 2022, 19:04   #8
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Use a decent kit with plug'n'play electrics.

Towbar electrics on my current car were clearly fitted by that well known garage Bodgit & Scarper in an effort to penny pinch.
Despite there being perfectly good sockets already in place on the wiring harness for the genuine plug'n'play harness inside the rear light cluster the lighting electrics were scotchlok'd into the lighting wires in the same cluster.
Nothing but trouble.
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Old 18 May 2022, 19:45   #9
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Originally Posted by Mattster View Post
Thanks guys. I think what I am going to do is try following the downloaded electrical install instructions (pre purchase) and pulling off the various panels at the back of my car - and if it all seems to make sense I'll go ahead and give it a go. I quite like the idea of saving money as well in these straightened times!
When your tugging at those awful plastic rivets that hold the internal trim bits on, it sometimes helps to give them a gentle warm with a hairdryer or similar ,not too hot though just enough to take away the brittleness , probhably a better tip for winter but worth mentioning .like others fitted a few ,buy the genuine harness ,however i remember one genuine harness where the plug was under the roof lining ,could have been an xtrail
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Old 20 May 2022, 09:27   #10
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I did mine a few years ago when I bought my 2012 Nissan QQ, it took me the afternoon , I think it was a towsure and with the pre drilled holes the most difficult task was removing the bumper. Certainly the plug and play wiring harness was well worth it as it did plug and play. That wasn’t from towsure, just found it on the net. Would always diy if I have the time, even if it means a trip to my local motor factor to get the canbus harness fitted.
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Old 20 May 2022, 10:09   #11
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I've priced up a tow bar for my old Golf. It worked out to be between £140-£240 for the bar and the black box seems to be around £100. Conversely, my local VW indy said I could drop it off at theirs and they had a chap who come in and do it all for £350 inc VAT.

To me that looks like I either do it myself or pay the Govt some VAT for someone else to do it.

The typical trip with the trailer costs me £100 in the Rangie at current prices and under £50 in the Golf. I'll easily do 7 boat trips this year so it'll be a neutral cost in year 1 and arguably cost saving if used for camping trailer and bike rack uses.
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Old 20 May 2022, 10:13   #12
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Is that £350 just for the fitting Tim? That's even higher than the quotes I have had, which are just under the £300 mark (fitting only). Seems high for something that is potentially DIYable, which is partly why I am so cautious about doing it myself - must be some reason they charge so much? Also interesting that neither of the local indy garages we use actually fit these themselves - they both referred me to mobile fitters that they use, one of them said it was because they didn't like getting involved in the electrics.

I'm still strongly tempted to give it a try myself, just trying to play out the worst case scenarios etc. At least in a 12 year old car I don't have the warranty to worry about..
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Old 20 May 2022, 10:24   #13
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The big advantage of the specialist mobile fitter is that they do them all the time & don't have to stand about scratching their heads as to what goes where & hoping the electrics (car AND trailer)work afterwards.

Not that unusual for someone to come into the caravan dealer I do bodywork for to collect their new-to-them caravan only to find that the van system - road lights or van power - doesn't work properly when hooked up to the car.
The van electrics are fine - checked as part of PDI on a test box - & the odd argument that it must be the van is faulty is solved by hooking it up to one of their own vehicles & showing all is fine.
They don't do any car wiring so that leaves the customer having to go back to their fitter.

ETA. If you haven't already have a look at the PF Jones website & enter your vehicle details into the towbar selection section. Should give you an idea of whether vehicle programming is required, whether the bumper needs to be cut.
https://www.pfjones.co.uk/
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Old 20 May 2022, 10:31   #14
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That quote was for the bar, electronics and fitting. It struck me as very reasonable. They can clearly get the tow bar and electrics for less than I can and the fitter must be confident that for him it's a really quick job. It's certainly a simple job if you know what you're doing as it's really just quickly removing the trim, doing your a few bolts and plugging in a box while pressing some buttons on a laptop.

Previously when I'd googled mobile services they had been coming in at over £600.

My job today is going to be to measure some heights from the ground on the likely position of the ball on the Golf v the actual position of the ball on the Rangie. Just because in my mind at the moment I'm imagining some kind of significant difference but there shouldn't be.
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Old 20 May 2022, 10:34   #15
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The big advantage of the specialist mobile fitter is that they do them all the time & don't have to stand about scratching their heads as to what goes where & hoping the electrics (car AND trailer)work afterwards.
Yep - like many one off jobs, if you were doing it for a second time you could do it in a fraction of the time and with none of the frustrations of the first time, but you probably never will!

So the concensus seems to be mechanicals fairly easy (rusty bolt removal probably biggest hassle I am expecting here - famous last words), but electrics could go either way? I'm off to pull my boot liner apart and see what bits I've got dangling in there. If it matches up well to the downloaded vehicle-specific instructions then I'll pull the lever.
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Old 20 May 2022, 10:36   #16
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That quote was for the bar, electronics and fitting. It struck me as very reasonable.
Yes, that is very reasonable in today's market - if I could get it done for that price and fairly quickly then that's what I would do. I can get it done for £400 end of June or nearly £500 but within a week.
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Old 20 May 2022, 10:43   #17
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If I had that kind of pricing differential then I'd do what you're about to do and have a look at the electrical side, get comfortable and then do it myself. For me it looks like the cost of having someone who knows what they're doing is only £100 and then can do it pretty much any time. Given I live in a comically expensive part of England I had to double check the quote.
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Old 20 May 2022, 10:44   #18
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I fitted one to my 2008 Focus. The mechanical bits were very easy. The electrical kit was all scotchlocks and no loom plugs to be seen so I paid £20 quid to my local mechanic to finish the job for me. Definitely saved money
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Old 20 May 2022, 10:46   #19
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I fitted one to my 2008 Focus. The mechanical bits were very easy. The electrical kit was all scotchlocks and no loom plugs to be seen so I paid £20 quid to my local mechanic to finish the job for me. Definitely saved money
I've been wondering about doing similar - a hybrid approach! My local garages don't want to touch the electrics, but there are dedicated auto-elec places around that might. If I did mechanical side and had that as a fall back if I can't manage the electrics then I still think that would save me a few bob.
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Old 20 May 2022, 11:05   #20
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The bar should be easy as it should match to the vehicle mounting points.

On older cars without all the electrickery stuff you would probably get away with fitting a 7 pin 12N socket & splicing the wires into the rear lights of the car as Fergus says. I'm inclined to think as it came with scotchloks it wasn't a plug & play type but one of the cheapie general ebay type things.
You won't have a reversing light as that needs the 7 pin 12S socket as well but on an older trailer you'll probably only have a 12N plug anyway.

BUT modern electrics might throw a hissy fit as it will change the loads for the lights & indicators & the car will think something is faulty & start throwing up fault codes.

In the old days it was usually only necessary to fit a heavy duty flasher unit.
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