Tow bars and towing regulations in Spanish territory
The rules and regulations regarding the fitting and use of tow bars in Spain are very different to the UK. If you need to tow a trailer or indeed a caravan then these must be fitted by a qualified person in a workshop and be in compliance with Spanish Laws. There are many restrictions and rules and often can only be fitted to certain types of vehicles.
In 2011 Spain made a change to the former regulations which were that they were simply an accessory which could be added to a vehicle but the new “anti-tuning law” standardised this from the European Directive which changed the fitting of one from an accessory to what is now known as a major reform to the vehicle.
It follows then that all tow bars have to be of an approved type and one authorised for a particular vehicle, they have to be fitted in certified workshops (with industrial registration of which there are not that many on the island) and who are able to issue the owner with a technical report/certificate of installation, which is a legal requirement for a car to pass its ITV.
There are two types of tow bars. One is a fixed ball hook with a removable ball latch. As the name suggests the tow bar cannot be disassembled or manipulated in any way as it is also forbidden by law. In light of the new laws any action one might consider for their tow bar is likely to be a manipulation of a major reform which can only be done legally in an authorised workshop.
The other type and more common is a removable ball latch. As its name suggests it is legally detachable and consists of a fixed element and an easily removable part some of which are semi-automatic, or by a thread or by automatic pressure and ball rotation. There are other types of removable tow bars which can be retracted into the vehicle, but these are normally factory fitted and will form an integral part of the vehicles construction.
When tow bars are not being used they can cause damage to another vehicle or person as they are not always visible, normally painted black and when reversing into a car parking space they are below your line of sight and can and do on occasions cause considerable damage, especially in the event of a rear end road collision or to a person making their way through parked cars in a poorly lit car park. As I have mentioned above a fixed ball hook tow bar cannot be manipulated in any way and therefore it stands to reason that it cannot be removed when not in use, unless done by a qualified mechanic on a permanent basis. There is also no legal requirement to remove a tow bar when not in use. The removal of a removable ball on a tow bar is not a legal requirement but many people do for their own and other driver’s safety.
A legal requirement however applies that no tow bar fitted, whether it is fixed or removable, can interfere with the visibility of the rear elements of a car such as the number plates and lights. Article 9 of the Ley de Seguridad Vial ensures that these items MUST be visible at all times and in no way obscured from vision.
You must also remember that in Spain only officially approved tow bars, those for towing a trailer or caravan can be used. The quite common use in the UK, of using a rope to tow a car is not permitted nor indeed “A Frames” and vehicle to vehicle tow bars or any other unapproved device are prohibited by Spanish Traffic laws.
So if you want to fit a tow bar to your car do not buy one in the UK and fit it yourself as you could find yourself in a whole host of trouble. This Spanish law does not apply to tourists towing caravans for holidays so long as it’s within the laws of their country and then said vehicle has not been on Spanish soil for more than six months.