Today, the complexity of the electric systems present in modern vehicles means that fitting towbar electrics is now much more difficult than in the past.
First, it is important to choose the right electrics to suit your towing vehicle, whether that be a caravan, trailer, cycle carrier or something else.
The Types of Towbar electrics:
There are three towing electric socket types to choose from, depending on your towing vehicle. These are single 7 pin electrics, twin 7 pin electrics and single 13 pin electrics. For trailers, where you just need to run your rear lights on the trailer, normally a single 7 pin electrics socket is required. However, if you need to run a leisure battery in a caravan, you are more likely to need a twin 7 pin electric socket (which is two 7 pin sockets) or a 13 pin socket (which is the standard in the EU). In order to distinguish between the two, you will need to check your caravan for the correct plug connection.
After you have confirmed which type of towing electric socket fits your towing vehicle, you need to decide on a towbar wiring kit. There are also two types of these; universal towbar wiring kits (which are available for all vehicles) and dedicated towbar wiring kits (which are vehicle specific).
Universal electrics have been the standard method for connecting the towing vehicles electrics with the trailer or caravan being towed. They are compatible with most vehicles and are cheap, quick to install and will support the basic electrical functions needed for towing. However, the functionality of a universal wiring kit is limited, and in most modern vehicles, a bypass relay is required to ensure it all functions correctly.
Dedicated wiring kits (also known as vehicle specific towbar wiring kits) are made specifically to your vehicle. They also do not usually come in the twin 7 pin variety, normally either the 7 or 13 pin variety. They are typically more expensive than universal wiring kits. However, they offer several significant benefits over universal wiring kits. Firstly, they protect the vehicle warranty whereas, in a universal wiring kit, the same protection is not offered. They also disable the towing vehicles parking sensors whilst towing and will allow the vehicle to automatically activate any built-in safety features (such as any trailer stability programs etc.). In addition, they are also a lot simpler and easy to fit.
Particularly for vehicle specific wiring kits, the towbar electrics kit and socket that you require will depend on the age, make and model of your towing vehicle (whether that be a car, van or truck), what you are towing and the sockets which are fitted to your towing vehicle and the caravan or trailer that you are towing.
You’ve chosen what pin socket is required and what wiring kit works best for your requirements and your budget, you then need to fit this to your towing vehicle.
Features of a Pin Socket
There are two types of pin sockets, 7 pin and 13 pin. 12N (normal) electrics provide the legal lighting requirements via a 7 pin plug which includes the indicator, fog and brake lights. 12S (supplementary) electrics provide added electrics through an additional 7 pin twin electrics plug and are normally used in caravans. These include reverse lights, interior lights and power the fridge etc. in a caravan. The 13 pin sockets and plugs combine both the 12N and the 12S electrics in one plug and are more common on newer model cars, trailers and caravans.
Check your Towbar Socket Wiring
Wiring codes for 12V & 12V 7-pin & 13-pin connectors
Once you are certain that everything is wired up correctly from your towing vehicle to the caravan, trailer or other equipment that you are towing, using an electrics tester is the best way to check that your wiring is correct and that all the electrics are functioning properly. If you have a trailer, a good way to do this is to use our 7 pin and 13 pin electrics tester which only requires one touch to check the sequence of lights and comes with an 7 pin to 13 pin adapter so that it is compatible with both 7 & 13 pin connectors.