Buying a Boat, Step One

Step one – fit a towbar to your car.

If I’m to buy a boat, I’m going to need to be able to tow it back from wherever I buy it. So, after getting a €615 quote from Finglas Ford, I decided to buy a Bosal detachable towbar (€180) and wiring kit (€60) from and fit it myself.

Well … “myself” might be a slight exaggeration … I actually went down to Waterford yesterday to my ould fella, made him cancel his Saturday morning golf and spent the entire day with him figuring it out.

Here’s a rough summary of the steps it took to fit it to me ’06 Ford Focus:

  1. Jack up the back of the car and remove both back wheels for easier access. Otherwise you’ll have to just work around the wheels.
  2. Remove most of the panels from the inside of the boot – the carpet, spare wheel, panel at the back of the car and soft panels on either side.
  3. Next remove the bumper – there are two screws underneath the car, another couple either side of the boot opening, a couple of torx screws in the rear wheel housing and, finally, behind the wheel housing cover there’s a small bolt. With all them removed, you should be able to pop off the bumper and detach it from the cables for the reverse and fog lights.
  4. Now detach the “bumper insert” – a big chunk of metal held on by three nuts underneath on each. You won’t need this again.
  5. In its place, slide in the towbar frame and fasten it with the four nuts and bolts supplied.

Here’s what the towbar looks like attached and detached.

Detachable Towbar

That’s the easy part, believe it or not. Now you need to fit up the electronics.

In the wiring kit, you get a black relay box, a length of 7-wire cable with a connector for the relay box and another length of 7-wire cable with a socket at one end which gets fitted to the hitch. The basic idea is that you need to locate 7 wires – left/right indicator, left/right park, brake, fog and reverse – and connect each the wires to first length of cable using snap-on connectors.

However, things are complicated slightly by the fact that the relay box itself needs its own independent power source direct from the batter. So, you need to take a feed from the fuse box, get it out of the engine compartment, through the car and into the boot.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find each of the 7 wires – for the 2 indicators, 2 parking lights, fog, brake and reverse – by tracing the wires back from the bulbs to a convenient place to tap into them. We removed the sets of light holders on either side of the boot and traced the first 4 wires from there. The other three we traced from the bumper connector. Use a digital voltmeter, turn off all lights except the one you’re testing, find the live connector and trace the wire back.
  2. Once you’ve located where you’re going to tap into the wires, decide where you’re going to put the relay box. We put it in back left hand side of the boot, down low, behind the paneling.
  3. If you’re going to tap into wires on both sides of the boot – we took the left indicator and park from the left side and the rest from the right side – strip the first 7 wire cable back, split out the wires for each side, wrap them together in insulation tape and feed from the relay box to your tap-in points. Then use the snap-on connectors to tap into the wires.
  4. Next, bore a hole – above where you’re going to fit the wiring socket to the towbar – into the boot compartment. Fit the grommit to the hole and feed in the other end of the cable from the socket and wire that up to the other side of the relay box.
  5. Now locate somewhere in the fuse box to take a permanent (i.e. still live when the ignition is off) live feed. We took it from a “bus bar” in the auxiliary fuse box in the engine compartment next to the battery.
  6. Connect a wire from this point to the supplied little fuse box and from there feed it back out of the engine compartment all the way through the car to the boot. We removed the battery and were able to pass the wire into the car through the hole where a bunch of other wires went, out above the central fuse box underneath the glove compartment, tucking it under the panels below the doors on the passenger side and into the boot.
  7. Now connect the ground wires from the relay box and the towbar socket to a ground source.
  8. Finally … tidy up all the wires and put back the bumper and all of the panels.

Here’s a shot of where we took a live feed from the auxiliary fuse box.

Live Feed

Other notes:

  1. You need quite a selection of tools for this – spanners and sockets/wrench for 6mm to 19mm, torx screwdrivers, voltmeter, wire strippers etc. etc.
  2. Don’t forget to bring the “lock nut” for removing your wheels if you have one. Yes, I forget mine.
  3. Be careful not to assume that a certain colour wire means the same thing everywhere – you need to physically trace the wire – e.g. the wire in the bumper for my reverse light was green/black, but in the boot compartment it was green/orange whereas green/black there was an indicator.
  4. If you do disconnect the battery, you might need a code to get the stereo working again. Don’t expect to be able to ring your dealership on a Saturday evening and get it.
  5. You might run down your battery with all the messing about. That happened with me and we thought we’d seriously screwed something up when relays in the two fuse boxes started making awful sounds and the ignition often wouldn’t turn and, when it did, the engine wouldn’t start. In other words, have a set of jump leads handy.
  6. The relay box that came with the wiring kit makes a sound when a trailer is hooked up and the indicators are on. Don’t worry, this is just to give you peace of mind that the lights are working. It doesn’t sound when there isn’t a trailer hooked up.

4 Responses

  1. You’re nuts

  2. And who’s fault is that?

  3. now on to step two – getting the laser and blogging about the first outing on the water

  4. tris: yes, indeed … I’m on it! 🙂

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