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Towbars & The Law - Any Progress?

Claud leGrand

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Hi,

Have just read several threads that explain that whilst the Elgrand is perfectly capable of towing, UK (Euro) law does not permit it, seemingly because being designed for the Japanese domestic market (JDM), Nissan doesn't specify its suitability and towing capacity, and so the UK type approval doesn't include towing. Further, whilst the average copper might "turn a blind eye" and not prosecute, VOSA might just do so, given that the VIN plate doesn't include a Max. Authorised Mass (MAM) figure. Also it transpires that whilst insurers may accept a towbar if it's declared, they cannot authorise its use and might wriggle out of a claim if it's shown the law has been broken/ignored, even if they've accepted the declaration.

So, many owners carry on regardless, presumably fingers' crossed, however as both our acts or our omissions can make us culpable, this could prove a foolhardy approach, even though no actual cases have yet, apparently, been reported.

My question is simply this... is anything being actively done to get this sorted, to be within the law? Is there anything that can be done?

Sorry if this is by now a yawn-inducing topic, but it's important to me because I need to tow (small caravan and trailer) and won't knowingly ignore this sort of thing simply because the law appears to be an ass. With 50+ years stain-free* driving under my belt, it may mean I won't get the lovely Elgrand I'm aspiring to, after all!

(*Correction - I did get nabbed doing 34 mph once :( )
 

Ian H

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There really ought to be a way of achieving this. After all commercial vehicles can have significant modifications done by third parties, e.g. adding axles, changing plated weights including train weights etc., so there must be some process to accommodate this. I have had a brief look at this, and it may just require an extra non-removable vin-plate with the chassis number stamped on it and the towing weights. I have not looked at the legalities of this yet.
 

Chris T

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I'd more inclined to make sure your insurance company are happy with it, can't see the police ever being bothered to stop you let alone actually prosecute.
 

Claud leGrand

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There really ought to be a way of achieving this. After all commercial vehicles can have significant modifications done by third parties, e.g. adding axles, changing plated weights including train weights etc., so there must be some process to accommodate this. I have had a brief look at this, and it may just require an extra non-removable vin-plate with the chassis number stamped on it and the towing weights. I have not looked at the legalities of this yet.
I'll give VOSA a call next Monday-ish and see what they say. Thanks.
 

Claud leGrand

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I missed that one, Phil. Oops. Thanks for taking the trouble - an interesting assertion from Watlings. I don't suppose they'd have published that unless they'd confirmed it somehow, so I'll give then a call too, just for piece of mind. More anon.
 

Phil

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I missed that one, Phil. Oops. Thanks for taking the trouble - an interesting assertion from Watlings. I don't suppose they'd have published that unless they'd confirmed it somehow, so I'll give then a call too, just for piece of mind. More anon.
You're welcome Claud. It's a handy little summary from @Biffo :)
 

Claud leGrand

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Apologies to anyone who might have wondering about this thread... unfortunately, a family calamity knocked a big hole in my timeline!

I've now phoned the DVSA (VOSA) and was advised to email their technical officer for a definitive response, but as and self-identifying message presents more of a problem for me than an anonymous phone call, I think I'll hold back on that one, for now at least.

I've also called Watlings and was reassured (I think) by hearing that so far they're not aware of any Elgrand owners having been challenged by an enforcement or MoT authority for using one of their towbars (max. design towing-weight 1500kg). Their position, I was told, is that because the Elgrand has not been homologated (no type approval) and there are no similar UK or EU models to which it can be compared, the current regulations don't apply and therefore can't be enforced. So, no further forward, but at least some reinforcement of what's been previously stated.

I then followed-up with calls to Towbars Direct, who sell the TNiS2 towbar, and Tow-Trust, who make it, and both echoed the same message as above. They also explained between them, in a nutshell, that there are no specific fitting specifications or testing requirements for towbars designed for non-homologated vehicles, so our reliance as users is on the expertise of the designers and manufacturers, who in turn seek to ensure that towbar strength, fittings and performance are consistent with their perceived understanding of the vehicle's construction and capabilities (which, Nissan, of course, do not specify). In other words, they hopefully design "over-the-top" to ensure suitability and safety. Tow-Trust don't (can't, without info from Nissan) determine a maximum towing capacity, suggesting instead that users apply the pre-EU British Standard approach of not exceeding 85% of the vehicle weight.

Whilst I'm content that what I've reported is what was said to me, I would advise other owners to make their own checks to ensure their own understanding of this somewhat grey area.
 

Lize

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Mines got a Watling tow bar on it which previous owner had fitted at huge expense. Unfortunately I can't find the paperwork but if it will only tow 1500Kg then that's pretty low. I don't tow with the Elgrand and will likely take it off at some point.

Maybe you could ask a VOSA test centre whether an IVA test would help. I only know that on USA vehicles which have vehicle weight plates and which exceed UK towing laws they put a sticker next to it with 3500Kg written on with a biro. This doesn't help with Japanese imports without weight plates but it does indicate that its something they consider, I suspect though that they just rely on the manufacturers plate.

Also, I think an IVA would lead to the tax bracket being recategorised and fall into the higher level rather than the cheaper import one. Not sure whether IVA also includes emissions tests which would satisfy ULEZ (does anything) if that is of use to you (there's a post about that).
 

Ian H

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... suggesting instead that users apply the pre-EU British Standard approach of not exceeding 85% of the vehicle weight.
The 85% was never a standard, or law etc. It was merely a guideline issued by the caravan club many decades ago, and was a good recommendation based on the handling of cars and caravans of the time.

The maximum towing weight, or in todays speak we use gross train weight (GTW), is determined by the maximum weight the vehicle can successfully start from rest on a 1:8 hill three times in five minutes without fail. Handling, structural strength, Horse power or other considerations are not assessed. Most vehicles when running solo are designed to be able to restart on a 1:3 slope when fully loaded. This means that the permitted GTW when towing will usually be approximately 2.25 times the maximum loaded vehicle weight, i.e. you could tow a trailer that weighs 1.25 times the weight of the fully loaded tow vehicle. So I would expect an Elgrand as a minimum to be rated to pull around a 2.5 ton trailer when fully loaded, and nearly 3 tons if the Elgrand is empty. However bearing in mind the power of the 3.5 V6, and the help of 4x4 for grip, I suspect it may be able to better that in practice...
 

Claud leGrand

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Thanks for those further helpful and informative replies ... and to all who've contributed. If I might dare to summarise:
  • The current law's inadequate and may not be applicable at all;
  • Enforcement authorities don't seem much fussed about it;
  • "Official advice" seems to be to not tow with a vehicle unsupported by a maker's relevant weight specifications - or only tow something that weighs zero kg (!)
  • Elgrand's would seem to be well-capable of safely towing loads greater than their own weight, but this hasn't been officially determined or confirmed;
  • Towbar manufacturers hopefully know their business and provide products up to the job;
  • Prevailing custom and practice hasn't so far, as far as I'm aware, led to any reported (on this site) major mishaps, challenges or prosecutions;
  • An owner could choose to seek approval via the DVSA for their own vehicle, if they so wish - costs and consequences unknown;
  • It's our choice ... and risk. Let sense, reason, discretion and good fortune prevail!
[If I've missed something worth adding, please say.]

NB: Whilst mentioned in passing, this thread hasn't further considered any potential adverse effects of towing on the vehicle itself, which concerned owners might also wish to explore further. Same applies to insurance cover, which is arguably the most important aspect for an owner to be sure about, after safety considerations.

PS: My very own black 2009 E51 3.5 AWD HSW is leaving Japan as I write. Can't wait! :cool:
 

malcolmyz85

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@Claud leGrand all this has been covered loads of times , and one thing u missed off your list officially it is illegal to tow with a Elgrand or any car without a train weight on its vin , yes police don’t seem to bother about it but best to check with insurance before u tow cus that’s where a problem could arise , I’m not after a argument, I actually tow with my Elgrand and have done for about 4 years , it’s abit like speeding, if u get caught and done u have no argument, u have to decide for yourself, enjoy your bus
 

Andy916

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Mines got a Watling tow bar on it which previous owner had fitted at huge expense. Unfortunately I can't find the paperwork but if it will only tow 1500Kg then that's pretty low. I don't tow with the Elgrand and will likely take it off at some point.
Hi @Lize,
Possibly interested in your tow bar if you do end up taking it off.
I'm weighing up options for towing in the future, likely with a farm-worthy 4x4, but possibly with my NE51 instead.
Also interested to pop over to Thetford and take a look at your suspension at some point, but been busy lately!
 

Snoo

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It's there on the government site.

"If your VIN plate doesn’t list a train weight, you should not use your vehicle for towing."

It's up to you whether you adhere to that.
 

Ian H

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If it was illegal it would say 'must not' instead of 'should not'
 

Snoo

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If it was illegal it would say 'must not' instead of 'should not'
That certainly applies to the Highway Code.

This is one of those issues that will run and run until someone gets made an example of.
You pays yer money you makes yer choice.
 

Lize

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Hi @Lize,
Possibly interested in your tow bar if you do end up taking it off.
I'm weighing up options for towing in the future, likely with a farm-worthy 4x4, but possibly with my NE51 instead.
Also interested to pop over to Thetford and take a look at your suspension at some point, but been busy lately!
Its definitely coming off, just a matter of when I have time and its not raining!
Just drop me a message if you are due over this way, I'm pretty flexible.
 

Kermit

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Its definitely coming off, just a matter of when I have time and its not raining!
Just drop me a message if you are due over this way, I'm pretty flexible.
Is it wrong that I am in awe of you? It is soooo bad that I am impressed with the knowledge you have as a female. It shouldn't make a difference if you are male or female I know but still... Impresses the hell out of me.
Sorry if this offends anyone.
 
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