Warning after corroded towbar fails
A warning has been issued to motorists to urgently check the condition of their towbars after a corroded bar on the rear of a vehicle failed in dramatic fashion while attached to a boat trailer. However, every f leet manager with any vehicle, large or small, that has a towbar should be vigilant against corrosion, whether the vehicle is in contact with salt water or not.
The towbar was severely corroded and snapped completely in two whilst in use, but fortunately it happened in a parking lot and not on the open road and there was no other damage or injuries. The severe corrosion is attributed to the vehicle constantly backing into salt water when launching and recovering the boat – which had gone unnoticed during use.
The incident came to the attention of Best Bars Ltd, the largest manufacturer of original equipment towbars and vehicle accessories in the country, and its CEO Stephen de Kriek says it is a warning that all towing motorists should heed and they need to be vigilant about checking their towbar, towbar tongue, towball, coupling and trailer regularly.
Whilst it was fortunate there was little damage and no injury, the consequences could have been much worse if it had taken place on a busy road, says de Kriek.
“Towbars are a critical link between the vehicle and trailer and it is vitally important to make sure that all the components are in good order. Whilst they are robust steel parts, they are not exempt from requiring regular inspection and at times, maintenance and TLC.”
The forces exerted on a towbar can be huge – most motorist never look twice at their towbars, and perhaps do not realise that all towing equipment should be inspected periodically. Safety of all road users is paramount and towing motorists are encouraged to regularly check for signs of wear and tear or corrosion.
“Signs of damage or corrosion may mean the set-up is unsafe and once this is discovered it should be remedied before towing. Inspection is especially relevant when the vehicle is being used in a marine environment, especially if the towbar, towball and coupling are immersed in salt water. It’s very corrosive and, as this example clearly illustrates, without regular care it will eventually eat away even the best grades of steel, seriously weakening the parts and eventually leading to a failure.
“My advice would be to conduct regular checks, remove the towbar tongue, check the towball, the coupling, the safety chains and D-shackles for excessive wear and tear or corrosion. If damage, significant wear or corrosion is noticed, it may be unsafe. Should inspections raise doubts or corrosion is severe, the equipment should be inspected by an expert and either replaced or repaired by a professional.”
The condition of towbar or trailer components should be confirmed by a reputable mechanic, WOF / COF inspector or professional towbar technician.
If the towbar shows excessive wear or corrosion, de Kriek strongly advises replacement with a brand new towbar designed and made to NZ Standard 5467. Motorists should look for this reference on any new towbar they purchase, it is an endorsement that the towbar has been designed and tested to a high level. Not all towbars sold in New Zealand meet this standard, he warns.
De Kriek also advises motorists to stay away from purchasing second-hand towbars, especially from internet auction sites, as there is no way to verify their history or condition. Many of these are sold with worn, or no, fasteners at all, nor any fitting instructions giving the correct fitting sequence, fastener sizes, fastener torque settings or towbar recommended mounting points – thus leading to the potential to be incorrectly fitted.
“Fitting a towbar is not a job for the enthusiastic layman with little knowledge of what is required, it is a safety critical component of a motor vehicle and should be fitted by a professional in accordance with the manufacturer’s fitting instructions,” he adds.
Best Bars supplies its towbars to leading new vehicle distributors, franchised dealers and selected specialist companies in Australasia. All towbars made by Best Bars are designed, tested and manufactured to NZS5467 or higher standards required of genuine accessories. Towbars are made from premium NZ steel plate and sections that have been mill tested to specification. All fastenings are high tensile and the product goes through an eight tank pre-treat and paint process for protection from the elements, including a zinc phosphate treatment prior to two coat painting.
Each towbar design is put through a series of bench and on-vehicle tests by special machinery developed by Best Bars. Testing replicates up to two million load cycles and static loading up to 1.5 times the towbar’s maximum rating to ensure products are designed with an extra safety margin. The Best Bars factory is also accredited to the international Quality Standard ISO/TS 16949, Environmental Standard ISO14001 and is ACC Tertiary Accredited for OH&S practices.
Best Bars has built up a wealth of knowledge and expertise on towbars over the past 35 years and now designs and makes towbars as original equipment for many vehicle manufacturers both in New Zealand, Australia and beyond.