Upgrading your 4WD's towbar
Our project tow vehicle Ruby gets a towbar upgrade.
Picture this: you’ve spent months or years perfecting your touring 4WD. It has the roof rack solar panel, a secondary battery tucked away in the cargo-area drawers. You’ve fitted heavy duty suspension, a steel bullbar, $1800 worth of all-terrain tyres and more. In short: you’ve spent a bucketload on a vehicle that, should you sell it, would never be worth what you’ve put in.
And then along comes that perfect camper for the perfect price. The only sticking point: its towball weight exceeds the load capacity of your towbar sacrificing stability on and offroad.
But sometimes, a vehicle’s manufacturer will allow a towbar to be fitted with a higher rating. The 80 Series LandCruiser is a case in point.
INCREASED TOWBALL MASS
Long-time readers might be familiar with our project tow vehicle Ruby. This old, red rocket hasn’t seen much action lately, passing her time in the garage while she waited out the winter. But with the weather warming up, it was time to get her on the road.
Her towing capacity, however, has always been limited. The early 80 Series has a Toyota-imposed maximum towball mass (TBM) of 113kg unsuitable for some hardfloor and hybrid campers.
Any 80 Series built after August 1996, however, had a revised TBM of 350kg and braked towing capacity of 3500kg.
But what about all those 80s built beforehand? Hayman Reese’s towing technical support specialist Gary Gardiner said Toyota retroactively revised the towbar rating of this vehicle, allowing Hayman Reese to produce a towbar (part number 01508R) that would upgrade the legal towball mass of the early 80 to a healthy 250kg.
Officially, this towbar is legally rated to 350kg/3500kg, so it can be bolted to the later 80s; but those earlier models are limited to 250kg/2500kg.
"Not all vehicles can be fitted with a towbar that would upgrade their towball mass," Gardiner said. "There has only been a handful of vehicle manufacturers that have re-rated a vehicle post-production. It is therefore very important to check with the vehicle’s manufacturer to see if it’s been re-rated or given a higher rating. At the end of the day, it is the vehicle’s manufacturer that sets the rating."
For peace of mind, it’s preferable to have a professional install your towbar. In Ruby’s case, it took less than an hour to install, as it’s a simple, swap-over job with no wiring to tail-lights, and so on, involved. As you’d expect, everything lined up precisely, with no on-the-fly modifications required. A bolt here, a skinned knuckle there, and the job was done.
Hayman Reese has a towbar or towbar upgrade for the majority of vehicles that are registered in Australia. With its manufacturing headquarters in Keysborough, Vic, the majority of the company’s bars are made here, too.
The name Hayman Reese is synonymous with camping in Australia. Such has been the company’s support of the Australian caravan industry, the industry’s highest honour – the Eric Hayman Award – is named after its founder.
Eric Hayman began the company about 63 years ago. His first product? Towbars. As time has ticked by, the company has kept up with the needs of Aussie travellers, producing everything from its market-leading range of weight distribution hitches, to brake controllers, bike carriers and even lockable hitch pins.
So what goes into producing a Hayman Reese towbar?
"We do a two-million-cycle fatigue test, which can take up to five days, with the towbar being tested to its extreme on our test rig to ensure it exceeds all requirements," Gardiner said. "The test results are reviewed and as long as the bar meets or exceeds the post-test requirements, the bar goes into production."
With vehicle manufacturers releasing new models to the Australian market every year, Hayman Reese works to stay on top of any changes to a model’s towing capacity, including the all-important ball weight.
"If a manufacturer changes a rating, we will revise the ratings of our products as quickly as possible – we have to design and test our towbars to comply with the Australian Standards and Australian Design Rules," Gardiner said.
Check out the full feature in issue #95 December 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.