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Towbar Height


Tim Mather
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Hi everyone, some help please!

I have just purchased a new RAV4 HEV and had the dealer fit a tow bar for me. It is marked up as a Toyota towbar but they have said that it is actually a Brink tow bar.

My concern is that with my towcar unladen, the height from the ground to the centre of the tow ball is 510mm which seems very high to me.

I am aware of the EC Directive which states that that the tow ball height should be between 350 and 420mm from the ground with the vehicle in a 'laden' state.

My "laden" payload will be approx.155kg of caravan equipment plus myself and one other passenger.

Although I haven't tested it yet, I cannot see the towball height dropping by 90mm (510 minus 420) with my payload to meet the requirements of the EC Directive.

I have attached a photo of my installation plus 2 from the Brink website of how it looks.

Any help or advise would be much appreciated.

IMG_5132.jpeg

IMG_0376.JPG

IMG_0377.JPG

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23 minutes ago, Tim Mather said:

I am aware of the EC Directive which states that that the tow ball height should be between 350 and 420mm from the ground with the vehicle in a 'laden' state.

Were you aware of the clause stating that: "This requirement shall not apply to off-road vehicles as defined in Annex II to Directive 92/53/EEC"?  I suspect that, as an off-road vehicle - based on ground clearance - the RAV4 is exempt from the tow ball height directive. (And, to be fair, they couldn't really fit it much lower down!)

So now your problem is 'simply' to arrange that your caravan can be reasonably level when towed. (And as I don't go in for this towing stuff I can't really help with that! 😉 )

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Hi Philip,

Thanks for your reply, with the current spec of the RAV4 I didn't consider it being an off-road vehicle!

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Hi Tim, I have exactly the same tow-bar as you.

I also had the same thoughts when I first realised how high it was, and, compared to the fixed tow-bar on my previous car, a Skoda Yeti, much closer to the bumper.

However, in use it has proved to be entirely satisfactory. My impression is that the suspension has settled with use and thus lowered the ball height to some extent, but that could be wishful thinking!

I'll measure the current height in the morning and report back.

GDB

 

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Your laden weight also includes the caravan nose weight which will be an additional 70kg (max nose weight for the RAV). I tow a caravan extensively with a PHEV and not had any problems. 

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6 hours ago, philip42h said:

Were you aware of the clause stating that: "This requirement shall not apply to off-road vehicles as defined in Annex II to Directive 92/53/EEC"?  I suspect that, as an off-road vehicle - based on ground clearance - the RAV4 is exempt from the tow ball height directive. (And, to be fair, they couldn't really fit it much lower down!)

So now your problem is 'simply' to arrange that your caravan can be reasonably level when towed. (And as I don't go in for this towing stuff I can't really help with that! 😉 )

I really don’t think a RAV constitutes an off road vehicle in the sense of the legislation…… 

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An earlier topic:

 

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6 hours ago, Flatcoat said:

I really don’t think a RAV constitutes an off road vehicle in the sense of the legislation…… 

Why not?

I certainly won't argue the case but from a quick look at the legislation it appeared that the RAV4 qualified on the grounds of ground clearance, approach and departure angles - but I didn't do a detailed assessment so could be wrong. 😉

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1 hour ago, philip42h said:

Why not?

I certainly won't argue the case but from a quick look at the legislation it appeared that the RAV4 qualified on the grounds of ground clearance, approach and departure angles - but I didn't do a detailed assessment so could be wrong. 😉

This is probably a query for a caravan forum. 

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OK, I've braved the winter snows and here's the current height of my tow-ball.

DSC04432.thumb.JPG.23c40ce5fd1035367d0379e4798c21d2.JPG

 

DSC04433.thumb.JPG.820418d7522690aea28df6f6013ba7cd.JPG

The centre of the tow-ball in 490mm above the ground, so it has settled slightly, but not as much as I thought.

In use it's absolutely fine.

GDB

 

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Just checked mine 465mm, mine is an after market swan neck.

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It is important that, when the caravan is hooked up to the vehicle, the caravan should be either level or slopping downwards TOWARDS the vehicle.

As a recently retired caravanner, I am aware that the regulations for towing can be very confusing to anyone not fully “in the know”.   I used to have a book written by a police officer with towing experience (I think it was titled ‘Towcraft’ or something similar), and was extremely informative. I would suggest looking in quality bookshops for an up to date copy of such a book - it is a well worth buy for drivers who tow.

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1 hour ago, Haliotis said:

It is important that, when the caravan is hooked up to the vehicle, the caravan should be either level or slopping downwards TOWARDS the vehicle.

As a recently retired caravanner, I am aware that the regulations for towing can be very confusing to anyone not fully “in the know”.   I used to have a book written by a police officer with towing experience (I think it was titled ‘Towcraft’ or something similar), and was extremely informative. I would suggest looking in quality bookshops for an up to date copy of such a book - it is a well worth buy for drivers who tow.

Or just some common sense

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5 hours ago, 1928KH said:

OK, I've braved the winter snows and here's the current height of my tow-ball.

DSC04432.thumb.JPG.23c40ce5fd1035367d0379e4798c21d2.JPG

 

DSC04433.thumb.JPG.820418d7522690aea28df6f6013ba7cd.JPG

The centre of the tow-ball in 490mm above the ground, so it has settled slightly, but not as much as I thought.

In use it's absolutely fine.

GDB

 

Hi Gerald, thanks for your post and for taking the time to measure your tow ball height. It was reassuring for me that you have the same towcar and tow ball and have no problems. From yours and other replies I will hitch up my car to the caravan later this week and see how it looks.

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3 hours ago, Oscarmax said:

Or just some common sense

Common sense is obviously a necessity, but that alone is not enough.  If the original poster is already a caravanner, then he may well be familiar with the regulations.  There are one or two which are a bit bizarre.  The strangest one to me is, depending on the year of the tow vehicle (can’t remember cut off year), the permissible distance that the extension mirrors can exceed the caravan width is either 200mm or 250mm per side.   For the life of me, I have never been able to understand why such an law ever came into existence!

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On 12/3/2023 at 5:05 PM, Haliotis said:

The strangest one to me is, depending on the year of the tow vehicle (can’t remember cut off year), the permissible distance that the extension mirrors can exceed the caravan width is either 200mm or 250mm per side.   For the life of me, I have never been able to understand why such an law ever came into existence!

As a new caravanner I decided to do a little research as that was something I didn't know about. I will also measure the height of my removable swan neck towbar for the op.

Towing mirrors are a legal requirement for the majority of cars including 4x4’s. If the trailer or caravan is wider than the rear of the towing car, you must fit additional towing mirrors

if you choose not to fit them the risk is a 3 point penalty on your licence and a fine of up to £1,000 for each mirror infringement

There is a maximum distance of 25cm that the mirrors must not extend beyond the width of your caravan which is reduced to a maximum of 20cm on cars manufactured prior to 26 January 2007.

Mirrors must be E-marked to show that they comply with EU safety regulations if the car was registered after 26tJanuary 2010. This is not a legal requirement if the car was registered prior to this date. It is also an offence to drive with them still attached after disconnecting your caravan.

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Tim, these are the only photos that I have of the caravan attached to the car. You can judge for yourself if the caravan sits at a suitable angle.

IPME9601b.thumb.jpg.a0ba62ed8e80d154e054248e2689738d.jpg

 

EQTR9828b.thumb.jpg.1feec478e98a1c12d2974a15296c5e4b.jpg

 

Having towed for several hundred miles I have found it perfectly stable.

GDB

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15 hours ago, 1928KH said:

Tim, these are the only photos that I have of the caravan attached to the car. You can judge for yourself if the caravan sits at a suitable angle.

IPME9601b.thumb.jpg.a0ba62ed8e80d154e054248e2689738d.jpg

 

EQTR9828b.thumb.jpg.1feec478e98a1c12d2974a15296c5e4b.jpg

 

Having towed for several hundred miles I have found it perfectly stable.

GDB

Looks good to me.  Enjoy it as often as you can, time passes awfully fast - we had to lay up the caravan at the beginning of Covid, and didn’t use it again - both in our late 80s and both suffering bad backs, and continuance of caravanning became a step too far.

We will now holiday in rented accommodation, but the love of caravanning is still there in our memories.  We have had motorcaravans in the past, and did consider this as a second choice, but the relative cramp for space compared to the caravan made this non-practical.

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  • 1 month later...

Good afternoon all,

Well, yesterday I finally managed to get over to my caravan storage, hitched up the caravan and took it for a spin. Wow, the car towed perfectly and was far better than my old 2010 Rav4!

Also, my concerns about the height of my tow ball were unfounded as I think the van sat perfectly on it. I have attached a photo which may look like it slightly nose up but that was without the car laden with everything that we take with us.

Many thanks again for all your help and advice with this.

IMG_5213.jpeg

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Mine looks similar when hooked up but with an empty car. Ride quality apart it is the best tow car I have owned out of 6 in total. 

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Tow Ball and Alko Hitch dimensions

I had a genuine Toyota Towbar with horizontal removeable tow hook fitted by a Toyota main dealer almost a year ago. Brink are the manufacturer according to the installation instructions..
The tow ball height is 500 mm without any people, luggage, carvan noseweight (and all the other crap us caravanners carry). The EC directive 94/20/EC requires the towball centre to be between 350-420 mm from the ground when there are 4 occupants of 68 Kg each (just a dream) and 28 kg of luggage. On my 2017 Swift Conqueror 480 (MTPLM 1550 kg), which has the Alko 3400 Stabiliser, the centre of towball acceptor is 420mm from the ground when the caravan is horizontal. I used the Milenco nose weight gauge and moved quite a bit of stuff to behind the axle to get the noseweight down to 85 kg. I was obviously towing with excessive noseweight with my old Rav4.

Tow ball centre distance from rear bumper of car 73 mm (Alko 3400 requires 68 mm). This visually looks tight but is actually ok.

Actual gap from rubber protector on front of Alko hitch when kooked up is about 12mm which means you have to be very careful when hooking up. Bumper can easily take a small amount of impact but is likely to get scratched. Suggest using a piece of rubber door mat, or similar, hanging out of back tailgate whilst hooking up or some other protective shield such as the Milenco gel pad. Hooking up with the reversing camera is very easy and very precise - so much better than the camera on the previous version (2014 Rav4 2.2 Diesel Automatic). I left the motor mover engaged to hook up but didn't actually need to use it possibly because of the more subtle control of the Hybrid in comparison to an Auo Diesel. Once hooked up the centre of the towball was exactly 420 mm above the ground, the top end of the 94/20/EC requirement.

Towing experience: The towing was fine both up hills and on a dual carriagway without the excessive engine noise mentioned by some reviewers on other forums. It might not have quite the capability of the Rav4 2.2D Auto if you are stuck in a muddy field but the overall towing experience is much more pleasant. I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised. Considering I was happy to put up with a poor towing experience in comparison with my 2014 Rav4 2.2D Auto on a few days of the year for the benefit of having a Hybrid the rest of the time I have been very pleasantly surprised. One bonus was that the rear parking sensors work perfectly even with the tow ball in place. If anyone has any questions I will try to provide the answer.

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What RAV do you have that has an 85kg nose weight?! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

It is supposed to be 80 kg, was typing in a hurry.  Try curbing your aggressive attitude and politely offer the correction for the benifit of other members of this forum as you obviously know everything.

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20 minutes ago, John Allen said:

It is supposed to be 80 kg, was typing in a hurry.  Try curbing your aggressive attitude and politely offer the correction for the benifit of other members of this forum as you obviously know everything.

Woah, what aggression? I think you need to reread your response before getting accusatory! Mine is a simple question to which I still do not have your answer!! For what it’s worth a RAV4.5 nose weight is 70kg so I would still like to know which RAV4 you are referring to irrespective of whether it is 80 or 85kg typo? 

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Apologies Adrian, you are correct. I now see where the confusion has arisen on my part.  The official Toyota towbar installation manual that was a part of the Towbar kit has a page that is marked for cutting out and that particular page shows a Vertical Max load of 85 kg.  After investigating further (prompted by your post) I found the conflicting but correct, information in the vehicle manual and that states as you correctly point out, is 70 kg.  The 80 kg quoted in the installation manual is possibly the maximum safe capability of the towbar itself.  This information in the towbar fitting instruction should be marked clearly as the towbar capability, not the vehicle capability.  It also is only in one language whereas the rest of the fitting instruction is in multiple languages. Once again, apologies and thanks for the education.

 

 

Tow Bar Fitting Instructions - User Info.pdf

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