Towbar Legislation

Type Approval 94/20/EC - Mechanical Couplings.

The introduction of a type approval procedure for mechanical couplings is intended to harmonise standards of their construction. It should also ensure that, in concert with other whole vehicle type approval provisions, the fitment of couplings complies with the recommendations of the vehicle manufacturer in terms of the most appropriate mounting points and methods of fitment to help avoid damage to the vehicle.

The measure will also contribute to the harmonisation of standards throughout the EC and assist in achieving a single market. UK and European manufacturers of such equipment will compete on level terms with regard to performance and construction requirements.

Use of Mechanical coupling devices 96B

Type Approval 94/20/EC - Mechanical Couplings.

  1. This regulation applies to every light passenger vehicle first used on or after August 1st 1998 in respect of which an EC certificate of conformity has effect.

  2. No person shall use or cause or permit to be used on a road any vehicle to which this regulation applies unless any mechanical coupling device which is attached to it complies with the relevant technical and installation requirements of Annexes I, V, VI, VII of Community Directive 94/20(a) and is marked in accordance with Annex I to that Directive.


  1. Any light passenger vehicle registered in the UK on or after August 1st 1998 ('S' Registration) will require a type approved towbar and towball (when fitted).
  2. Light Commercial Vehicles and Car Derived Vans are not covered by Type Approval. (LCVs continue to be exempt and are unlikely to be covered for the next 5 years or so).
  3. This legislation will not be retrospective, therefore any vehicle registered before August 1st 1998 will never require a type approved towbar (e.g. 'R' registered vehicles will never require type approved towbars).
  4. Any vehicle requiring an approved towbar also requires an appropriately approved towball. Towball 'D' and 'S' values must match or exceed the towbar 'D' and 'S' values.

Type Approved towbars and towballs can be identified by the presence of a Type Approval label which must be visible even when the product is fitted to the vehicle. This label will have as a very minimum, the product code, a 'D' value, an 'S' value and a European approval number in the form e11 00-01234. These labels must not be removed or defaced as this will invalidate the towbar manufacturer's warranty and would result in the towbar or towball not being identified as Type Approved.

Type Approval 95/54/EC - Electromagnetic Compatibility

With effect from 1st October 2002, all active electrical components sold in the aftermarket and fitted to light passenger (M1) vehicles manufactured on or after 1st January 1996, where the vehicle has been issued with a European Whole Vehicle Type Approval certificate, must comply with directive 95/54/EC (electromagnetic compatibility). This includes towbar electrics.
Failure to comply with these regulations results in breaking the law.

The Translation

  1. If a light passenger (M1) vehicle manufactured on or after 1st January 1996 has towbar electrics fitted to it, on or after 1st October 2002, those electrics must be type approved to directive 95/54/EC.
  2. Any vehicle manufactured before 1st January 1996, or which does not carry an EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval certificate of conformity, remains exempt from these regulations.
  3. If the towbar electrics were fitted before 1st October 2002, the regulations do not apply to the original fitment, i.e. there is no requirement to re-fit existing installations.
  4. Commercial Vehicles remain exempt from these regulations for now.

Type approved electrical products must be clearly labelled with country of certification (e11 for UK) along with the product approval number. Any products which do not carry a label to this effect are not type approved. PCT Automotive labels will also carry a product code and batch number to ensure traceability in accordance with our ISO9001 certification.
For further information about Type Approval please visit for the NTTA Safe & Legal Towing Guidelines.

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