DIY Tow Bar Pins & Clips

DIY Tow Bar Pins and ClipsI run constant ads for used tow bars. Not only so but I keep a sharp eye for tow bars at swap meets. Sometimes, I get lucky.

If I get a tow bar which is missing the Pins and Clips, or the Pins are rusted, I make my own from what I can obtain at a good hardware or one of the large “box” hardware stores.

I purchase J-Bolts/Anchor Bolts from the hardware or builder’s section for these. When Neva and I went recently to buy one for this article, we found them in the nail section of a large “box store” in the hardware department. Buy J-Bolts which are galvanized to prevent rusting. (2 of these cost me, including tax, $2.32)


Anchor Bolts are used for slab foundation buildings. When the cement is still wet, these are inserted with the bent piece down. The threads remain showing. When the cement has dried, the sill plates and other plates will be bolted to these J-Bolts.

Buy J-Bolts which are longer than what you need. I purchased Bolts that are just shy of 8-1/4th inches in length. This way, the threads can be removed so that you can drill the Holes for the Hitch Pin Clips–which also can be purchased at these same stores. A pair of Clips cost me $1.30, including tax.

The Hitch Pin Clips which I use are 5/32nds of an inch in diameter by 2-15/16ths inches long (measure on the straight side) and are bright plated.

Each Bolt comes with a large washer and nut. These can be put with your other saved-for-that-obscure-project parts.

Or, if you wish, you can purchase the shorter J-Bolts and use the threads and the nuts which come with the J-Bolts.
I like the Hitch Pin Clips better–no need to carry wrenches—or risk losing parts. Also, if you use nuts, the nuts can spin loose if you don’t use two nuts and double-nut them against one another. And, you’ll need that large washer when you install the Pin on the Tow Bar, if you use nuts.

I cut the Anchor Bolt at 6 inches. That removes the threaded portion but leaves a little meat at the end past where the Clip Hole will be drilled.

DIY Tow Bar Pins and Clips

For the Standard Beetle Tow Bar…the finished Pin should be 6 inches long. This will allow ample room for the Clip Hole to be drilled. The Clip Hole should be drilled about 7/8ths inch from the cut tip of the Pin. The Clip doesn’t want to be slammed against the Tow Bar Flange. If there is any doubt about where to drill the Clip Holes, check the Pin against your Tow Bar before cutting the Pin or drilling the Clip Hole.

DIY Tow Bar Pins and Clips

I drill the Holes so that the Clip will be at the same angle as the bent end of the Pin.

Drill the Clip Holes just barely larger than the diameter of the Clips. I used a 3/16th inch drill bit for this purpose (a new one cost me $2.70 with tax). To start the Hole, find center on the Pin and strike using a center punch to make a slight depression so that the drill bit won’t “wander”.

Be sure to drill the Hole straight through the Pin—this is where a drill press is a great help. Dress the edges of the new Hole a tad to remove burrs.

If you have a motorized grinding wheel, use it to touch-up the cut tip of the Pin. And, lightly bevel the edge of the tip—just to make it look nice.

DIY Tow Bar Pins and Clips

The total outlay for me for this project was $6.32, including tax. I see where a Pin Kit can be purchased Online for $6.99 plus shipping. But, you also have to wait for the shipment to arrive. Besides, if you like to be a bit creative, this is an easy project and produces a useful result.

DIY Tow Bar Pins and Clips
Happy and Safe Towing!

Posted by Jay Salser

My wife, Neva, and I have been driving and working on VWs since 1976. In fact, we raised our family in these cars. Now, we are retired and enjoy VWs as a hobby. The ’67 Beetle always has been our favorite year. We own a '67 Beetle and a '68 Karmann Ghia.

  1. Richard A. (Dick) Diaz April 21, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Jay, I just was given some of those after my VW mechanic watched me crawl under my wife’s Karmann Ghia with a 9/16 socket and box end wrench to unhook the tow bar! After about five minutes of wrenching, cussing and twisting my body I crawled out and he was standing there with two bolts and hitch pins! Later, when I re-hooked the tow bar, I used my new pins and in about half the time, zero cussing and minimal twisting I was done!

    I really like having my own tow bar! Gives me the ability to move either my ’67 Bug, or wife’s ’70 Ghia without need ing help!

    1. Good article, Jay!

    2. Hello, Dick…Like you, I learned the hard way. In the early days of our VW experiences, we tried towing VWs by cable, etc. What a crock! Once I bought my first tow bar (for $20 bucks) I was addicted. I am never without a tow bar for either a Beetle or SuperBeetle. I’ve used the nut-and-bolt hitch pin solution and, again, like you, I found such freedom by using the pin and clip method. Some years ago I happened to note that J Bolts can be purchased cheaply. I made up my first pin and clip set and now keep a couple of sets on hand. Also, I keep a couple of the clips in my tool box for emergencies. Happy towing, Dick! jay

  2. Jay , make sure they are case hardened for strength not just steel. BOB

    1. Hello, Bob…The original pins are not case hardened. They simply are steel pins–and, I wonder if they aren’t just J Bolts themselves perhaps with a chromed plating, etc. Some that come with the tow bars aren’t even plated. I’ve been using these for many years (scores of vehicles for hundreds of miles) without any incident and with no bending of the bolts. The force of towing is lateral, not vertical. But, I can appreciate concern over being safe. In fact, the tow bars themselves are not treated steel and come with a warning not to be used to back a vehicle being towed–the bar arms will bend. jay

  3. Making your own pins for towing is really a good idea. I appreciate you for posting such a motivational type of post on web.

    1. Thank you for your Comment! Over the years I have bought used tow bars to refurbish and then to resell. Many of them came to me sans pins and/or clips. I tried different methods until someone pointed me to the J bolts. That settled it for me. I keep an extra pair in my tool box, just in case. Happy Motoring Down Under! jay

  4. EDDIE QUINONES June 2, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    i am fixing my java green beetle and i need to know what was the color for the door panels and the seats i really appreciate if some one can tell me if is supost to be black or off white thanks

    1. Hello, Eddie…Check this Samba Link for compatible colors for your Java Green Beetle:

      Scroll downwards to August 1966 and begin going through until you find the Java Green Column. I usually see Java Green associated with the 87 Gazelle panels and upholstery. I cannot say for certain if all Java Greens have that color for the interior. It is a “coveted” color scheme though, I think.

      Was there none of the interior in your car when you acquired it? jay

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