Thursday, 20 May 2010

Different types of tow bar

Flange Ball: The flange ball towbar is the most common type of towbar used in this country – the tow ball being bolted to the tow bar (using two 24mm bolts). The design of the flange ball tow bar is the most versatile and allows for tow ball mounted accessories such as cycle carriers and bumper protectors to be fitted between the tow bar and the tow ball. As versatile as this style of towbar is, it’s becoming less and less popular on passenger cars due to the swan neck style towbar looking tidier – having said this, the flange ball is the most popular choice for those who use towbars for a living (van, 4x4 and light commercial owners).


• Versatile
• A choice of tow balls
• Drop plates can be used to change towing height
• Can be used with a wide range of accessories


• More likely to set off your parking aids
• Visible electrics
• Can be bulky
• Needs extended tow ball to work with AlKo stabilizer + some Thule cycle carriers

Swan Neck: The swan neck style towbar is the most common type of towbar in the E.U – the tow ball and neck being all one piece of the tow bar. The swan neck tow bar is much less versatile than the flange ball style but is becoming more and more popular here as it looks neater and its narrower neck makes it less likely to set off any parking aids. You can still tow with the swan neck style towbar or use a cycle carrier but you cannot use both at the same time.


• Less likely to set off your parking aids
• Compact and looks tidier
• Mid range price
• Works with AlKo stabilizer without modifications


• No choice of tow balls
• Not compatible with Witter cycle carriers
• Tow ball height cannot be adjusted
• Cannot be used with a bumper guard

Detachable: The detachable style towbar looks very similar to a swan neck towbar but with the added benefit of being able to remove it when not in use by unclipping the neck which leaves little or nothing on view. Due to moving parts the neck and mounting point will naturally wear over time and need replacing which can be expensive.


• The towbar can be unclipped when not in use
• Car appearance can be unaffected by this style towbar
• Causes no issues with parking aids
• Can be used with AlKo stabalizer


• Most expensive
• Cannot be used with bumper guard
• Not compatible with Witter cycle carriers
• No choice of tow balls
• Tow ball height cannot be adjusted

Click here to view the GT Towing website for all your towing, trailer and caravan needs

Monday, 19 April 2010

Choosing the right caravan layout

A growing family can present a difficult choice when trying to get the right caravan layout, fortunately in recent years there has been a plethora of new layouts on the market. These modern caravan designs have helped to make caravanning as a family much more pleasurable and comfortable.

So with all these new options, which caravan layout do you choose? One of the most popular layouts for an ever growing family is a caravan which contains two lounge areas. This allows the kids to have their own area not only during the day but also come bedtime they are a reasonable distance from any disturbance from the adults. The key problem with this layout is for those families with a wide age range or girls who want more privacy. This problem arises due to the rear lounge converting into a double and one pull down bunk above to give a five berth caravan.

A larger, twin axle model can accomadate a bigger lounge to the rear of the caravan that enables two separate bunks for night time accommodation, in turn, reducing the chances of a sibling fallout. Some of the larger twin axle caravans have pull down bunks above the lower ones making a six berth caravan layout. One more option, if you have the tow car capacity is something along the lines of the Sprite Quattro or Sterling Europa 600, both made by Swift. These caravans have fixed bunk beds along the side of the van but still manage to retain a large rear washroom. The one disadvantage with this layout is that the top bunks have a weight limit – though it could be academic as by the time the kids reach the weight limit they will probably be too old to be wanting to go on a caravanning holiday with you anyway!

Click here to view the GT caravans website for all your caravan needs

Monday, 29 March 2010

How To Choose A Bike Rack

If you are looking for a bike rack or carrier to allow you to transport your bikes via your vehicle then you have many options open to you and some key factors you should consider before purchasing one. A Poorly-fitted bike rack can be a safety hazard which could possibly damage your vehicle, be lost or stolen.

To help you make the right choice, we have put together a list of common considerations that we discuss with our customers. The list has been split up into sections - Usage, Bicycles, Vehicles, Safety & Protection, and Cost categories.

How frequently do you need to use the bike rack? Will this change in the future?
You will appreciate having a top-quality, durable, easy-to-carry bicycle rack if you’ll be using it on a very frequent basis. Don’t struggle with a cheap bike rack!

How far will you be traveling with your bikes?
Quality and durability are greater needs for long trips. Long trips may lead to exposure to shifting of the bicycles on some types of bike racks.

How heavy is your bike? Can you lift it by yourself, how high, and can you hold it in position with one hand? Will you be using the bike rack with a partner?
It is important to consider the weight and handling of the bikes for roof racks and some rear-mounted bike carriers. For roof racks it can be helpful to carry along a step stool to stand on when accessing the bicycles.

Where will you park your vehicle when using the bike rack? Are there any space considerations?
If you must parallel park you’ll want to consider the length of your vehicle for rear-mounted bike racks. Height must be considered for roof racks, especially when driving on roadways with low overpasses.

Where will you store your bike rack when you are at home?
If you’ll be leaving it mounted to the vehicle then you must consider space limitations of your garage. Be extra cautious regarding the height of your storage place for roof-mounted bicycle racks.

Do you enjoy other sports and activities?
You may be able to select a multi-purpose rack that will accommodate both bicycles and other types of sporting equipment.

How many bikes will you need to carry at one time?
Most bike racks will carry at least two bikes. We have some bike racks that are rear-mounted that can carry up to five bikes. If you’ll be carrying a combination of adult and child-sized bikes, you may be able to carry the smaller bikes inside your vehicle.

Do you need to carry specialty type bikes, such as tandem, recumbent, or bikes with an odd-shaped frame?
Some bike racks are better equipped to handle specialty bikes.

Does your vehicle already have a hitch or roof-mounted utility rack? What is the load capacity of that rack?
Check your vehicle owner’s manual or call your dealer to learn more about how to use the existing features on your vehicle. Some dealers will even install the bike rack for you.

Will you need to use the bike rack on more than one vehicle?
If your household has multiple vehicles you may want to consider a bicycle rack that will fit on all of the vehicles.

Are you currently renting or leasing your vehicles?
Consider both short-term and long-term needs before investing in a bike rack.

Where on your vehicle would you prefer to carry your bikes?
The two most popular locations are on the roof or at the rear of the vehicle.

Does your vehicle have a spare tire?
A rear-mounted spare tire may interfere with some types of racks.

Are you concerned with protecting the painted finish on your bike or your vehicle?
Padding may be used to cushion between the bike and your vehicle. Be sure to re-check your padding during long trips.

How important is theft prevention?
For hitch-mounted racks, a locking hitch pin is highly recommended. We sell locking hitch pins in our Accessories department. If you’ll be leaving your bikes unattended on a trip (parking lots, campgrounds), you may want to consider a locking cable to keep your bikes secured to the bike rack. It’s best to park in a highly-visible area. No rack is completely protected by a locking mechanism.

How much are you willing to invest?
Rear-mounted bicycle racks tend to be less expensive.

Is this a short-term or long-term investment?
Consider the advantages of a top quality, durable, easy-to-use bike rack when making either type of investment.

Bike racks are generally broken into two main categories: roof mount and rear mount.

Key Features/Details:
• Provides better protection against damage to the finish of bike frame
• Best for carrying tandem and recumbent bikes
• Requires an existing crossbar system on roof of vehicle
• Keeps bikes out of the way
• Bikes must be hoisted to car roof. A small step-stool or ladder may help reach a high vehicle roof
• Requires care when traveling under low-clearance bridges
• Roof mounted bicycles will create wind-resistance
• Might consider covering handlebars or saddle to protect from bugs

Three Main Types: Trunk-mounted, Hitch-mounted, and Spare Tire bike racks
Most popular location for carrying bicycles

• Modest price, wide selection available
• Precautions must be taken to protect the bikes from rubbing against each other during transit as this will damage the finish on the bikes or the vehicle
• Also protect the bike tires from the exhaust pipe on the vehicle
• When driving the vehicle, caution must be used when parking to account for the extra length off the rear of the vehicle

Rear-mounted bicycle racks may have an added swing-away or fold-down feature. This allows you to access the trunk or rear cargo area without completely removing the bike rack.

1. boot-Mounted Bike Carriers
Most trunk-mounted bike rack systems use a set of adjustable nylon straps to carry the bicycles. The straps hook to the top of the boot lid, under the boot lid or bumper, and sometimes to the sides of the boot lid. The straps must be securely tightened at all times. The straps should be re-checked frequently, especially after loading the bicycles and at stops along the trip.
Key Features/Details:
• Fits sedans, hatchbacks, minivans and SUVs
• Bikes are positioned close together, so care must be taken to protect the paint finish. Foam blocks or pieces of foam pipe insulation may be inserted between bikes.
• Very portable, low cost, easy to use, easy to store
• Bikes only need to be hoisted to waist-level
• Some exposure to damage to vehicle finish because a portion of the rack rests against the boot lid. The rack is padded to protect against damage. Be sure your vehicle is clean of any grit to prevent scratching from friction.

2. Hitch-Mounted Bike Carriers
Hitch-mounted bike carriers are a very stable and secure way to transport bicycles. They have many great features and eliminate many of the negatives of other types of bike racks.
Key Features/Details:
• Available with a carrying capacity of up to 4 bikes. Capacity is limited by the maximum tongue weight that the hitch and vehicle can carry.
• Easy to install and remove, great choice for long or frequent trips
• Connects to vehicle through the use of a receiver. If your vehicle doesn’t come with a pre-installed receiver you will need to have one installed.
• Use of receiver provides a very secure and stable attachment that keeps the rack from shifting or moving during travel
• Bikes are carried away from the vehicle to prevent damage to vehicle finish
• Prevents theft of rack because a locking hitch pin can be used to secure the rack
• Available in two styles: tube-top or tray rack. A tube-top carries the bike by the frame. A tray rack has a tray that the bike tire rests in and stands upright.
• Bikes are carried parallel to the vehicle

3. Spare Tire Bike Racks
A spare tire bike carrier attaches to the spare tire on the rear of the vehicle.
Key Features/Details:
• Available with a carrying capacity limit of 2 bicycles, due to strength limits
• Carrying arms collapse or fold down when not in use
• Some models have a centering mechanism to balance the load of an offset tire
• Use caution to ensure that brake lights are not impacted by the rack

Pickup truck bike carriers are available in multiple varieties:

1. Rods or bars that mount across the truck bed with quick release brackets that hold the bike’s front fork with the wheel removed.

2. Quick release mounting brackets that bolt to any flat surface, including a truck bed floor, sidewalls, or to a piece of lumber laid across the truck bed floor.

Key Features/Details:
• Protects the paint finish
• Quick attachment and release of bicycle
• Multiple bikes may be carried in truck bed
• Locking mechanism is available with some models
• Some options require no drilling and allow the bike tire to remain attached.

Bike racks for campers are available in ladder-style mounts, bumper mounts, and hitch-mounts. You may also use some strap-style bike racks on campers. Roof mount bike racks are another option, however carrying bikes on the camper roof could damage the camper’s fiberglass or vinyl roof.

Click here to view the GT Towing website for all your towing, trailer and caravan needs

Thursday, 25 March 2010

A Guide On How To Choose The Correct Tow Bar Wiring Kit

How to Choose the Correct Towbar Wiring Kit:
You may have noticed after purchasing a tow bar that there are many tow bar wiring kit options available to you such as the basic, low cost, universal kits to the more expensive but dedicated tow bar plug in wiring kits. First of all you should consider what the main purpose of your tow bar is, for example do you plan on towing a caravan or perhaps you are only going to be towing a trailer to move items around. Once you have decided on what you plan to use your tow bar for you can make an informed decision on which tow bar wiring kit best suits your needs.

Different kit types:
The universal electrics kits usually require cutting into your vehicles electrics – if you do not feel comfortable doing so then please contact a tow bar fitter and get them to do it for you.

Single electrics or 12N electrics can be used with cycle carries to power the cycle carrier lighting board which is needed if the cycles or carrier blocks the view of the rear car lamps. 12N electrics main use is for towing trailers.

N Usages:
• Trailers without Leisure batteries
• Boat trailers
• Cycle carriers
• As a fly lead on clip on cycle carriers

N diagram:
12S electrics are commonly referred to as the twin electrics socket and has a grey cover. They are used in conjunction with the 12N socket when towing caravans, trailer tents and anything similar. The 12S electrics are used to charge the leisure battery, the charge for this is taken from the towing vehicle charging system via an automatic split charging relay so that both leisure battery and vehicle battery have sufficient power. The 12S socket also contains a power feed for the reversing lights on the caravan.

S usages:
• Caravans with a leisure battery.
• Trailer tents with a leisure battery.
• Catering trailers with a leisure battery.

S wiring diagram:
The newest style of towing socket are 13 pin towing sockets which, as of September 2008, all caravans manufactured will be wired up with 13 pin plugs that meet ISO11446 (international standards organisation) and the U.K. representative B.S.I. (British standards institute) requirements. This 13 pin socket is also more adaptable for detachable tow bars that have a spring mounting single socket plate which can be folded up behind the bumper so that it is invisible.

• If your car has a 13 pin socket and your caravan has 2 x 7 pin towing plugs (12N + 12S) you can purchase a conversion lead (MP603) to allow you to tow.
• If your caravan has a 13 pin plug but your car has 2 x 7 pin sockets (12N + 12S) you can purchase conversion lead TF1360 to allow you to tow.

You should also be aware that dedicated plug-in kits are vehicle specific. These kits will simply plug-in to your cars existing electrical wiring and although the best option if you are trying to fit your self they are also the more expensive option, costs can sometimes be as much as five times the cost of the universal equivalent.

Click to go to the GT Towing website and browse their huge range of Caravans, Trailers, Towbars and BBQs

Friday, 19 March 2010

Ifor Williams Trailer Safety Checks

The Ifor Williams trailer operator or the driver of the towing vehicle, if different, has the responsibility for the safe operation of the Ifor Williams trailer and needs to carry out the following checks:
• If the Ifor Williams trailer is laden is the load correctly distributed i.e. Not too much or too little nose weight?

• Is the load within the Ifor Williams trailer's official payload? - i.e. Not overloaded.

• Is the actual gross weight being towed within the towing vehicle manufacturer's recommended maximum towing limit (whether braked or unbraked.)?

• Is the load correctly secured?

• Are all the lights undamaged and working correctly?

• Are the 7 core cable andplug undamaged?

• Is the correct number plate fitted? (both registration number and style)

• Is the breakaway cable or secondary coupling undamaged and correctly connected, to a suitable point on the tow bar or towing vehicle?

• Are the tyre pressures correct and all tyres free from cuts, bulges and with adequate tread, (including the spare)? Tyres must have a continuous tread depth of at least 1.60 mm on cars, light vans and trailers, across the centre three-quarters of the wdth (1mm for other vehicles)

• Are you satisfied that the wheel nuts/bolts are tightened to the correct torque?

• If required are the mudguards in satisfactory condition and secure?

• Is the Ifor Williams trailer correctly coupled to the towball or pin?

• Is the coupling height correct? I.e. Not excessively nose down or nose up.

Follow the golden rules of towing:
• Make sure the Ifor Williams trailer is level when coupled to the towing vehicle

• Make sure the nose weight is between 50 and 100kg (unless trailer is very light.)

• Make sure the tyre pressures are correct.

• Are the jockey wheel and any corner steadie or prop stands fully wound up and secure?

NB. Check the correct operation of damper and brakes as soon as possible after commencement of journey.
The same safety checks could be applied to any other trailer. Excerpt is from the NTTA website.

Click to go to the GT Towing website and browse their huge range of Caravans, Trailers, Towbars and BBQs

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

BBQ’s – Gas vs Charcoal

Convenience: Gas barbecues get the nod in this department. Some mornings you wake up to stormy clouds, rain etc – the last thing on your mind is having a barbecue. Come late afternoon the sun is shining and a barbecue suddenly becomes a good idea. If your using charcoal you will possibly need to clear ashes from your last barbecue or that you have run low or out of charcoal. Even when you have everything you need you will have to wait around 40 minutes before being able to cook over charcoal.

Authenticity: Purists will say the authentic smoky taste that charcoal provides must be present if you want to consider yourself a true barbecuer. There is something special about creating and keeping a fire going on your charcoal grill, however who says you have to do what purists say?

Taste: Again, purists would argue that the smoky flavour a charcoal barbecue imparts is the best. However, if you own a gas barbecue you can still get those flavours with the help of a smoker box and some wood chips.

Space: Another way to help decide what barbecue is right for you is to consider where the barbecue is going to be sited. A small charcoal barbecue can fit on most patios and balconies. However there are more and more gas barbecues being made that can fit in smaller places.

Grilling: Something else to consider is how you plan to barbecue. Slow and steady or hot and fast. If the latter is what you are thinking then a gas barbecue is your best bet.

Cost: Finally there is cost. Gas barbecues are generally more expensive than charcoal. So if you don’t want to spend a lot of money then charcoal might be the answer. However, keep in mind that charcoal is the more expensive fuel. You can easily spend
£4.00 a cookout on charcoal while gas might cost around £1.00 per cookout. So while it might be cheaper up-front, charcoal won’t save you money in the long run.

As you can see there is no right or wrong when it comes to selecting your barbecue. It’s a matter of taste, time and cost.

Excerpt from sizzle magazine.

Click here to view the GT Towing website for all your towing, trailer and caravan needs