A Guide to Buying Toyota RAV4 Towbars and Hitches

Whether you’re hauling a caravan through the Australian outback with your RAV 4, or you’re just taking the dinghy down to the local lake, you need to make sure you get a reliable, heavy-duty towbar. Towbars are available in a variety of weight classes, sizes and shapes, making it difficult to know which one is best suited for your Toyota RAV 4 and the loads you’ll be towing.

Choosing the right towbar is crucial for having an easy time getting from point A to point B and back safely. That being said, here are the different types of towbars and the factors you’ll need to consider before buying Toyota RAV4 accessories.

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Towbar Styles

Towbars come in 4 styles – horizontal hitch, flat tongue, rear step and swan neck.

  • Horizontal hitch towbars are meant for hauling heavy loads. They use a square tongue which connects to the hitch receiver. Horizontal hitch towbars are available in two basic sizes – 40mm and 50mm. 40mm models are used to tow medium-sized loads, whereas 50mm models are used for heavy-duty hauling. In order to keep the towbar secured to the receiver, a metal pin is inserted through the side of the hitch. Horizontal towbars are compatible with weight distribution hitches.
  • Flat tongue towbars are designed for lighter towing. They feature a detachable tow bar that goes into a horizontal slot on the tow bar. The “tongue” is then secured using two large bolts through the hitch.
  • These bars are designed for 4×4 exclusively. They protrude slightly further from the back of the 4×4 where the rear step is fitted. These towbars provide superior ground clearance, making them ideal for off-roading. However, these towbars are heavy and only compatible with certain 4x4s and utes.
  • Swan neck towbars are typically made for the European market, and they usually feature a permanently attached tow ball onto them. They usually resemble a rounded L- or U-shape, hence their name.

Towbar Classes

Besides coming in a range of styles, these Toyota RAV4 accessories are also divided into a few “classes” that define their weight hauling capacity. This is typically determined by the style of towbar and how it’s mounted to your Toyota.

  • Class Two – Up to 1200kg
  • Class Three – Up to 2600kg
  • Class Four – Up to 3500kg

However, these numbers can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Moreover, your Toyota owner’s manual will outline how much your specific model and make can tow, which can help you determine the ideal towbar for you. There’s no point in buying a class four towbar if your vehicle can’t handle it. On the flip side, vehicles that can do heavy-duty hauling may only give you the option of a class four towbar.

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Hitches

Hitches are the part onto which the coupling connects to. The type of hitch you need will be decided by the type of touring you’ll do. If you use the wrong type of hitch, you might run into problems. For instance, you can’t have a conventional hitch and expect it to perform well off the beaten trail. Off-road hitches can move further out than conventional hitches, allowing for extreme horizontal and vertical articulation, which is essential when going through steep declines and inclines.

Weight Distribution Hitches

These hitches are designed to level the towing vehicle and the caravan or trailer. If you connect a heavy trailer or caravan on the back of your Toyota and it starts pulling it down, you’ll experience handling problems that can lead to hazards. But if you install a weight-distribution hitch, you can tune it so that the weight is spread evenly across the chassis of both vehicles, instead of focusing it only on the tow ball. Most experienced caravanners won’t tow their caravan without a weight-distribution hitch. Again, these accessories are available in a variety of sizes to suit your needs. However, check your vehicle to ensure it’s capable of using one, as some aren’t designed for use with an OEM towbar, and some vehicles can’t use one at all.

ADR Compliance

The towbar you choose should comply with AS/NZS4177, which is the Australian Standard for towbars. That being said, if you intend on buying a towbar from overseas, particularly from Europe or Asia, you’ll need to double-check and ensure it’s compliant. Otherwise, you’re risking the safety of yourself, your vehicle and everyone else you share the road with. The compliance plate is typically found under the towbar or somewhere on the inside frame.

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Other Towbar Accessories

Typically, towbars come with everything you need, but there are some accessories, such as ball covers, and spare parts, such as pins that you might want to buy as well. Towbar scales and brake controllers are also common accessories to caravans and trailers. Towbars are also available in multiple configurations, but your best bet is going for a plug and play one for easy setup and use.