Having a tow bar means greater convenience and load capacity, and thus, increased transport possibilities, independence in travel and a wider choice of holiday locations. All thanks to equipping vehicles with a towing hitch and investing in a trailer or a trunk. A longer trip with the hook is a dilemma whether to leave the device when not pulling the trailer or remove its protruding part. This is not a problem with most hook models. Theoretically, driving with the device installed is also safe nowhere in Europe. However, it is worth knowing the possible consequences of too deep faith in unified regulations.
A well-chosen car hook enables safe use of caravans or transport trailers. Therefore, it is worth trusting specialists in this matter. Currently, the market of towing hitches offers a choice of different types of hooks. What will ultimately be installed in our vehicle depends mainly on its technical capabilities, individual needs and the wealth of the wallet. However, saving when buying a hook is not advisable. The higher price of the product means its good quality and the use of the latest technological solutions. High quality significantly increases safety when towing a trailer, while the latest technological solutions can be useful when the hook is not used.
Legal regulations in force on Polish roads do not require the removal or retraction of the protruding part of the towing hook. The regulations only prohibit driving on roads with a hitch ball that restricts the visibility of the license plate or fog lamps. In addition to purely legal aspects, it is worth considering the impact of the installed device on the safety of other road users. Even a minor collision with a vehicle with an unfolded towbar can have serious consequences, both for the perpetrator of the collision, where the towbar can penetrate the vehicle deeply, and for the injured party, where the towbar permanently attached to the vehicle frame may, in the event of a collision, affect the statics of the vehicle after the impact. With this in mind, manufacturers of towbars compete in providing newer and newer solutions to the market. The most modern models of car hooks combine functionality, safety and ease of use.
- There are many modern solutions available on the market of car hooks that enable quick and easy removal of the hitch ball when it is not in use. The most popular products are hooks dismantled horizontally and vertically - says Robert Lichocki, sales director of Brink Group in Poland. - Depending on what we care about the most, we can choose a hook whose handle is imperceptible without the ball mounted or one that is extremely easy to use - adds Lichocki.
Although Polish regulations do not currently provide for the requirement to dismantle or hide the protruding ball of the towbar, the situation may be different outside our country.
Through Europe with a hook
When reaching the western border, many drivers of vehicles equipped with a towing system wonder what to do with the protruding ball. Some dismantle it before crossing the border. Others, following previous experience, leave the ball mounted, putting only the so-called "Red cap" - a protective element increasing the visibility of the protruding part of the hook. Both solutions are legal. In the case of road checks in countries where it is forbidden to move with an unused ball, Polish drivers may refer to additional regulations protecting their rights as users of roads not registered in a given country. Namely, the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.
- The Vienna Convention guarantees drivers to travel within the territory of the signatory states with vehicle equipment that is valid in the territory of the country of registration of the vehicle. Hence the possibility of moving with a towing hook not towing a trailer, only with a protective "red cap" - explains Paulina Chmielińska, tourism and information specialist PZM INFO - In practice, however, it is advisable to comply with the regulations in force in a given country - adds Chmielińska.
In the event of an inspection and receiving a ticket, the driver may refer to the provisions of the aforementioned Vienna Convention. However, practice shows that not always referring to the provisions results in the automatic cancellation of the mandate and termination of the control. It may turn out that the driver will be obliged to accept a ticket and pay a financial penalty. Only after accepting the mandate, you can appeal against it, referring to the Convention. However, it is a tedious and lengthy procedure.
Problems may also arise in another situation - when while moving with the protruding ball of the hitch, we are hit by a car behind us. If such an event takes place, for example in Germany, the insurance company may apply for us to cover part of the costs of repairing the damage to the perpetrator's car. Although it was not us who brought about this event, the hitch mounted on our car caused more extensive damage than if the vehicle had been driven without it.
- The solutions used in modern, disassembled towing systems allow the user to quickly remove the hitch ball without the use of additional tools. If we have such a model, it is worth saving ourselves unnecessary problems and costs and complying with the regulations in force in a given country - sums up Lichocki.
Video material - inserting and removing the vertical detachable towbar by Brink:
Professional installation of the tow bar
Most new cars have towing systems fitted at the factory. The largest manufacturers of car hooks cooperate with car designers long before the launch of a new model on the market.
- Already in the design phase, representatives of Brink contact car manufacturers in order to create a hitch that best suits their new model - explains Robert Lichocki, sales director at Brink Group in Poland. - The result of this cooperation is a towbar dedicated to a specific model, designed two years before the car appeared on the market - adds Lichocki.
If your car is not factory-fitted with a towing eye, then nothing prevents you from fitting the towbar on your own. There are search engines for available products on the manufacturers' websites and on the websites of authorized points of sale and installation of towing systems. After selecting the car model, type (e.g. SUV or station wagon) and production date, we will be presented with hooks adapted to our vehicle. Now, the decision which hook we choose depends only on individual needs. The choice of the towbar should be consulted with an expert, and the assembly should be left to a qualified mechanic who will install the towbar in a properly equipped workshop. A professionally mounted hook will give us confidence that when leaving the trailer on the road we will not endanger ourselves and other traffic users.
The toll collection system when driving with a trailer
When driving on roads with a trailer, we must also remember about the obligation to pay tolls for selected sections of toll national roads. Since 2011, the obligation to pay has also been imposed on drivers of vehicle combinations consisting of a passenger car and a trailer, the permissible total weight of which exceeds 3.5 t (GVM> 3.5t).
How to check if the obligation to pay applies to us? It is enough to add up the GVM of the car and GVM of the trailer, which can be found in their registration certificates, and more precisely in the F2 box. If the obtained value exceeds 3.5 tons, we must take additional measures so that our trip does not end up with unwanted penalties.
First of all, we need to obtain additional qualifications, thanks to which we will be able to drive this type of vehicle combination (category B + E or additional Code 96). The next step is to register in the viaTOLL system, which is used to collect tolls. During registration, we will receive a special viaBOX device. Proper installation of the device in our car is very important, because it is thanks to it that the tolls for the toll sections of national roads we cover are added to the system. If the fee is not charged due to a malfunctioning device or a lack of funds in our account, financial penalties will be imposed on us. They can be from 250 to 500 PLN. The final value of the penalty depends on whether we were able to pay at least part of the amount for the distance traveled (PLN 250), or whether the fee was not charged at all (PLN 500).
When deciding to install a towing system, remember about its proper use and compliance with additional regulations, so that unforeseen fees or stressful road checks do not overshadow the numerous benefits associated with having a towing hitch in our car.