Using a towbar can be risky and dangerous if not done correctly, so it’s important to have sturdy, high-quality equipment in order to ensure the safety of yourself and everyone else in your vehicle and on the road. In your search for the right towbar, you may have come across two of the most popular brands–Witter Towbars and Westfalia Automotive.
Witter and Westfalia are now owned by the same parent company, Horizon Global, leading many towbar enthusiasts to speculate that they’re more similar than previously believed. However, Westfalia offers a slightly larger selection of towbar designs, some of which may be better suited to your needs.
If you’re in the market for a towbar, read on to learn more about the various types offered by the two companies, how the manufacturers compare, and how to decide which one is right for you.
What Is A Witter Towbar?
Witter Towbars was founded in 1950 by its namesake Colin Witter. He started the company to meet the demand for easy-to-fit towing brackets to pull caravans and trailers by those enjoying increased leisure time in Britain after the war.
The company now focuses on providing high-quality products in several areas, including towbars, bike racks, caravan movers, electrical kits, and more.
Many customers trust Witter Towbars, especially because of the ‘Shield of Safety’ and a lifetime guarantee that the manufacturer offers on all products, so you don’t have to worry about them falling apart or getting damaged shortly after you start using them.
In terms of towbars, Witter Towbars offers two main types: flange and swan neck. Each of these also comes in two varieties: detachable and fixed. The price of towbars can be based on several factors, but it generally varies consistently by type, from most to least expensive:
- Detachable flange towbar
- Detachable swan neck towbar
- Fixed swan neck towbar
- Fixed flange towbar
Flange vs. Swan Neck Towbars
Flange towbars, also known as bolt-on towbars, have traditionally been Witter’s specialty. They’re generally considered more versatile than swan necks, as you can switch out the tow ball as needed without uninstalling the entire towbar.
They’re also compatible with a variety of accessories that you might want to attach to the back of your vehicle, including:
- Stabilizers: These add-ons can help neutralize the movement of your caravan created by external factors. The first main type of movement is pitching, which is a vertical movement from a change in terrains like a pothole or a dip in the road. The other kind is called “yaw,” which is a side-to-side movement that can result in complete loss of control. A stabilizer can restrict the movement and the caravan to reduce instability.
- Tow steps: Also known as hitch steps, tow steps provide a stepping surface on the back of your vehicle. You may be able to install them underneath the towbar or between the towball and the bumper.
- Bumper protectors: These can be installed in front of your car’s bumper to prevent damage to your vehicle when attaching a trailer or loading equipment onto the towbar.
- Bike racks: These frames can attach to your towbar to allow you to carry bicycles on the back of your car.
As a matter of fact, Witter flange towbars can even allow you to tow and carry bike racks at the same time. While Witter swan necks can also carry bike racks, they can’t do it at the same time as towing.
Swan necks are also generally incompatible with a lot of add-ons. However, they are better fitted than flange towbars to Alko stabilizers, which are often used on caravans to create the right amount of distance between the caravan and the vehicle’s bumper.
However, flange towbars are typically bulkier and therefore uglier than swan necks, which are considered more sleek and discreet. They’re also less likely to trigger parking sensors, which can be a common inconvenience for those who use flange towbars.
Using a swan neck, therefore, makes it easier to reverse into tricky spots, which can make it less work for the driver.
Fixed vs. Detachable Towbars
Fixed towbars are typically seen as the simplest option. Compared to the detachable types, fixed towbars have fewer components to set up, so you don’t have to worry too much about the maintenance after the installation. As long as the bolts and welding are strong, there aren’t any other factors to worry about.
However, that doesn’t mean that detachable towbars are bound to break or malfunction. Witter detachable towbars also have safety guidelines in place to ensure that your device is ready to go before you load anything.
If you need help figuring out how to attach your Witter detachable towbar neck simply and safely, I’d recommend checking out this 2-minute YouTube video from Witter Towbars:
Some towbar enthusiasts preach that fixed towbars must be the safer option, saying that they don’t trust anything that can be removed to reliably pull along a load weighing several tons.
However, manufacturers like Witter Towbars assure customers that detachable towbars are just as safe and sturdy as the fixed types and that you can trust the safety lock to prevent the neck from being removed.
Detachable towbars can also be a great option for those who only need to use their towbar a fraction of the time that they’re driving. Taking off your towbar when you’re not using it can make your vehicle a lot more visually appealing. You can even get a foldaway plate for the electrical socket to cover up evidence of the towbar completely.
Aside from aesthetics, one of the biggest complaints that fixed-bar users have is constantly banging their shins and knees on the attachment when they’re not using it.
While this is completely avoidable and not a huge detriment, it can get pretty annoying. Since removing the towbar means that nothing underneath the car will stick out, you won’t have to worry about this with a detachable towbar.
Witter Towbars Quality
Witter Towbars claims to meet high standards of quality for all of their products, including their towbars. The company uses 3D CAD systems to design every component of the towbar, from the nuts and bolts to the protective finish.
The grade of steel is specified for each type of towbar, and every design is tested thoroughly before release.
Witter says that all of the towbars for passenger vehicles from August 1998 and later are EC Type approved and certified by the UK Vehicle Certification Agency.
You can also verify their quality by looking at the label with a unique serial number and Type Approval Information from the factory, indicating that the device has passed a rigorous set of standards.
Installing Witter Towbars
Witter Towbars also offers complimentary delivery and fitting within the UK when you purchase their towbars. While you can technically fit a towbar on your vehicle by yourself using an instruction manual or YouTube video, that can be risky and time-consuming. It’s a lot safer and easier to get a professional to help you.
When you buy from Witter Towbars, they try to make the process as convenient for you as possible. Customers have the option to drop off their vehicle at a local center for a workshop fitting or to choose a time and place where fitters will come to you for a mobile fitting.
However, if you live outside the UK, you might have to hire your own professional fitter or install it yourself.
Even if you’re hiring a professional to fit your towbar for you, it’s always a good idea to look through the fitting manual and research the basic process of fitting your particular device.
Although hiring someone means that you don’t have to do any of the work yourself, knowing the process can be useful in asking questions and getting a sense of what your mechanic is doing.
What Is a Westfalia Towbar?
Westfalia Automotive has been around for even longer than Witter Towbars. Founded in 1932, the company is known as a pioneer in the towbar industry. The former managing director Franz Knöbel highly acclaimed for inventing the ball towbar at the time of the founding.
The company also invented the detachable towbar in 1987, making it the resident expert in the industry.
Like Witter Towbars, Westfalia Automotive offers a wide range of towbar options, as well as other products like wiring kits, cycle carriers, and power springs. When it comes to towbars, it offers an impressive selection of over 1,700 towbar models.
Its website boasts that its products are made in partnership with leading car vehicle manufacturers, meaning that every towbar is designed perfectly to fit with the vehicle it’s made for.
In addition to carrying fixed and detachable flange and swan neck towbars, Westfalia also offers a variety of retractable types.
Retractable towbars are often seen as the most “luxury” type of towbar. They require the least amount of manual work, and they’re almost like a cross between fixed and detachable towbars. Like with its fixed counterpart, you never have to fully remove your retractable towbar from the vehicle.
At the same time, you can easily move it out of sight when you’re not using it, just like a detachable towbar.
For these reasons, the retractable towbar offers a lot of the same benefits as the detachable towbar, such as preserving your vehicle’s appearance when you’re not using it, as well as letting you avoid shin bruises.
However, it also allows quicker and easier setup when you need to use it, and leaving it attached to the vehicle means that you don’t have to worry about finding storage or remembering to bring it with you.
Westfalia Automotive carries both electric and manual retractable towbars. The towbar has a mechanism that allows it to swivel in and out from underneath the vehicle, either by hand or with the push of a button.
It also includes the safety measure of sounding a warning tone to let you know if it’s not locked in place securely. On top of that, the towbar also has an electrical socket on its neck, which makes it simple to connect the vehicle to the trailer or cycle carrier.
Retractable towbars are typically more expensive than fixed or detachable types, especially for electric varieties. Still, many find that the hefty price tag is worth it for the convenience and quick setup.
There’s been some debate within the industry about the safety of retractable towbars, as their use of electric motors and hinges can pose an added risk of failure.
Some are also concerned about the lack of information available about the reliability of retractable towbars, especially since they’re fairly new to the market. However, others say that the safety of retractable towbars is comparable to that of high-strength fixed towbars, especially since you never have to take them off of the vehicle.
One way or the other, no matter what type you choose, your towbar always has a chance of falling or getting damaged, which is why it’s important to double-check your equipment.
In addition to checking all fixings and parts for wear, tightness, and damage, try to clean it on a regular basis. You can use brake cleaner or white spirit, along with a cloth to wipe away dirt. This quick upkeep can prolong the life of your equipment and ensure safety.
Westfalia Automotive Quality
Westfalia Automotive also claims to follow a quality-assured process for all of their products. In addition to using 3D CAD systems to design the prototypes, the manufacturer also puts them through a series of tests to the Europe Type Approval requirements of Directive 94/20EC.
The products are tested using servo-hydraulic test rigs to test the products to OEM or original equipment manufacturer standards. Westfalia claims that this level of testing is especially rigorous for aftermarket products.
Installing Westfalia Towbars
Like Witter Towbars, Westfalia Automotive includes the cost of fitting in the price of its towbars. Because they’re both owned by Horizon Global, customers of both Witter and Westfalia can drop off their cars to one of the same group of centers to have their towbars fitted to their vehicles.
What Is the Difference Between Westfalia and Witter?
Witter Towbars and Westfalia Automotive are both very trusted suppliers in the industry. While Westfalia Automotive has been around for longer and is traditionally more of a pioneer in the industry, Witter Towbars has been a leading towbar manufacturer in the UK for many years.
Because they’re both owned by the same company, you can find both manufacturers’ full selection on the Witter Towbars website. They offer the same perks and benefits like complimentary fittings and free delivery within the UK. They also serve the same 53 car manufacturers, including the following:
Based on the comparable quality of both suppliers’ products and the relationship between the two of them, the difference between the brands shouldn’t be a huge factor in which towbar you buy. Rather, your decision on which to get should probably be based more strongly on the towbar design that fits your needs over than the manufacturer that makes it.
Which Is More Suitable for You?
Many towbars are specifically built to be fitted to a particular make and model of vehicle, meaning that not every car is able to use every type of towbar.
If you’re set on getting a towbar from Witter or Westfalia, the best way to find the right one for you is to go to the Witter Towbars website and search for your vehicle. You can do this either based on the vehicle registration or by providing the make, model, and body.
The search tool will suggest a variety of towbars from either Witter or Westfalia that are compatible with your vehicle. From there, you can decide which type is best suited to you based on your towing needs.
How To Decide Which Design Is Best for You
Towbars from Witter Towbars and Westfalia Automotive can be pretty specialized, so there’s a chance that you won’t have much of a choice in which style to purchase, depending on what vehicle you have.
Some car models will only have one or two compatible towbars, while others won’t have any at all. However, if you’re lucky enough to have options, here are some guidelines to use to make your decision.
A Fixed Towbar Could Be the Best Choice if:
- Your budget is tight, or you don’t want to spend too much money
- You use your towbar most of the time or have a vehicle basically dedicated to towing
- You would like your towbar ready to be used at a moments notice
- You don’t want to have to check up on several components that could possibly fail on a regular basis
- You want the convenience of being able to “set it and forget it” instead of attaching and detaching your towbar as needed
A Detachable Towbar Could Be the Best Choice if:
- You only use your towbar a fraction of the time that you use your car
- You care about the aesthetics of your vehicle
- You’ll be concerned about your towbar getting in the way when you’re not using it
A Retractable Towbar Could Be the Best Choice if:
- You’re looking to splurge on your towbar purchase
- You use your towbar pretty often but want to be able to tuck it out of sight when you need to
- You don’t want to have to worry about detaching and reattaching your towbar
- You don’t want to have to worry about losing or forgetting your towbar when you’re not using it
You Might Want To Try a Flange Towbar if:
- You don’t mind a bulkier, more conspicuous appearance
- You like to use accessories with your towbar, like bumper protectors, tow steps, or stabilizers
- You need to tow and carry bicycles at the same time
- You want to use different towballs with the same towbar
You Might Want To Try a Swan Neck Towbar if:
- You want a slimmer, neater look for your towbar
- You don’t want to add on any accessories
- You don’t need to carry bikes and tow at the same time
- You don’t need much versatility
- You don’t want to worry about accidentally setting off parking sensors
Where To Find Towbars From Witter and Westfalia
Additionally, when you order directly from the website, you can get free delivery and fittings within the UK. However, you may receive a discount if you opt-out of the complimentary fitting option.
However, if you live outside of the UK, you’ll have to pay an extra fee for shipping and will have to take care of fitting on your own. However, you may be able to find the towbar you need through another avenue online.
For example, Amazon.com offers a few different options for Witter and Westfalia towbars, like this Witter Towbars Fixed Flange Commercial Towbar for Ford Transit Van or this Westfalia Automotive Detachable Towbar for Ford Focus Turnier.
Amazon can be a great option for getting a deal on international shipping with possibly quicker delivery. However, it can also have limited stock available, and you have to triple-check that the option you choose will be compatible with your vehicle.