Installing a towbar and related items should be left to an expert if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re handy, however, a ready-made towbar kit isn’t hard to fit and will save you at least a few hundred dollars, if not more. It just takes patience, a clear, dry workspace with plenty of light, and the right tools.
We fitted a Kia accessory towbar to the Kia Rondo 7. This application doesn’t have a great towing capacity (1400kg on the manual Kia; 1100kg on the auto), but it uses a box hitch design that is common with the more heavy-duty applications usually seen on tow vehicles. It is also one of the simplest examples of towbar fitment for a modern vehicle – with a towbar kit that has all mounting fittings and instructions and a vehicle that already has towbar mounting points ready to go.
Often you’ll need more than a towbar, electrics and brake controller before christening a vehicle with its first van tour. A stand-alone transmission cooler is often an additional manufacturer’s recommendation or even a requirement, as some tow vehicles may not be up to the job without it. Rear shocks may need to be replaced with heavy-duty items. There are always exceptions to the rule. This towbar fitment was relatively simple with towbar bolt-up points already fitted at the factory, but some applications require you to drill holes through the rear box sections so that you can bolt up the towbar.
While many modern bumper designs don’t allow for a hitch and have to be cut to fit the bar, others are already equipped with a towbar cutout. Not all towbars are suited to heavy-duty towing applications and the addition of load-levellers. Sometimes an aftermarket heavy-duty towbar is the solution. So, do your homework and consult the experts if you’re not sure.
1. ASSEMBLING KIT & TOOLS
Assemble the towbar kit and tools required. If you don’t have a set tool list supplied with your towbar, you will at least need a socket set, screwdrivers (Phillips head and flat) of various sizes and shank length, a torque wrench and a tape measure.
2. DISASSEMBLY AS REQUIRED
Disconnect the vehicle battery and remove any components at the rear of the vehicle required for access while fitting the towbar. In this case we had to remove the Rondo’s taillights and rear bumper bar and bumper supports.
3. REMOVE BUMPER SUPPORTS
Remove the bumper supports if necessary. This is a common step for later cars with plastic bumpers, as the towbar in effect becomes a structural support itself.
4. PREPARE BUMPER FOR CUTTING
Prepare the bumper for cutting, using the materials supplied or by measuring the centre line yourself. If you are unsure, mark your measurements on the bumper and take it to the vehicle to see if it matches up.
5. CUT OUT BUMPER PIECE
Cut the plastic bumper with either a small cutting tool as we use here or hand cut with a fine-blade hacksaw (which is time-consuming, but you’re less likely to make a mistake).
6. MODIFY VEHICLE COMPONENTS
Modify any vehicle components as required and refit – here the Kia’s exhaust shield had to be removed and a section cut out to allow room for the towbar.
7. BOLT TOWBAR TO FRAME
Fit the towbar up to the vehicle, insert the mounting bolts and torque to specifications. This can be done solo but it is a lot easier with a helper, as towbars are typically 20kg-plus.
8. WIRING UP LOOM
Wire up the trailer connection, in this case with the supplied loom. If no loom is supplied, then you’ll need 4mm-gauge insulated copper wire and clip connectors.
9. REFITTING BUMPER
Refit the bumper and other components removed prior to bar fitment and re-torque to the manufacturer’s specifications.
10. LAST BITS & PIECES
The last bits and pieces: secure the trailer connector, bolt up the towball and secure the hitch to the receiver with lock and pin (and tighten the anti-rattle bolt, if fitted).
MEET THE AUTHOR
Phil is a long-term vehicle tow-tester and also the former owner of a 1979 Viscount Grand Tourer, which he restored before selling it to make room for his next project: a mid-1980s Windsor Windcheater.
Phil has been a motoring writer for more than 20 years. He has tackled most automotive and technical subjects throughout his media career, which has seen him contribute to such illustrious journals as Caravan World, Camper Trailer Australia, Wheels, 4X4 Australia and Motor.