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A tow bar ( or trailer hitch in the USA ) is a device attached to the chassis of a vehicle for the purpose of towing a trailer or other vehicle. In the European Union, towbars must be a type approved to European Union directive 94/20/EC to be fitted to automobiles first registered on or after 1 August 1998. The ISO standard tow-ball is 50 mm in diameter and conforms to the BS standard BS AU 113b. The ISO standard has been adopted in most of the world outside North America.
There are two main categories of ISO tow-ball - the flange fitting and the swan-neck which has an extended neck fitting into the tow-bracket. Swan-neck tow-balls are often removable for convenience. Some manufacturers are introducing retractable tow-balls as an option.
Across Europe around 25% of vehicles have tow-balls fitted - but in the Benelux region and Scandinavia between 70 and 90% of vehicles have tow-balls. In the UK the popularity of caravans is responsible for a high percentage number of 4x4 (SUV) type vehicles being fitted with tow bars.