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Old 12-06-2002, 02:35 PM   #1
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Breakaway switch

I have seen many references to the breakaway switch that, as far as I know, for the most part sits on the tongue of the trailer .When I picked up my travel trailer there was no wire hooked to the breakaway switch and hence I think it is inoperable. The wheels on the trailer turn and the brake controller in the tow rig works. I have not really examined for loose wires etc.. So, my question is whether or not it is really imparative to have an operable breakaway switch if all the other connecting equipment is modern and up-to-date and in good working order. I also notice that someone made reference to legal requirements being variable. I'm curious as to whether or not anyone can speak with authority with respect to that question. I am particularly bothered by the concept of vandalism causing damage to the switch and for the electrical system.

P.S. Bobby, if this is a piggyback please put it where it belongs.

Brouck
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Old 12-06-2002, 03:29 PM   #2
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Breakaway switch

Greetings Brouck!

The breakaway switch is required safety equipment in many (if not all) states. The switch receives its power supply from the trailer's house battery, and the switch is wired into the trailer brake wiring. The pull cable often needs to be adapted to the combination of trailer/tow vehicle. I know that the pull cable had to be replaced on my recently acquired Minuet as it was too short to reach a suitable attachment point on my Suburban tow vehicle - - while in process, it was discovered that the existing switch was inoperative so it was replaced as well (less than $75.00 for the entire installation).

Unless you are a frequent victim of Murphy's Law, you might get away without having a breakaway switch - - but in the event of a hitch failure the lack of an operable breakaway switch could quite possibly be grounds for legal proceedings. I happen to be a regular friend of Murphy's Law, and have been through two safety inspections when traveling - - this was along busy secondary highways, and several officers were stopping every vehicle headed my direction and inspecting vehicles for required safety equipment. In each of these instances, the inspections were basically visual - - on the trailer, they checked for safety chains in use, presence of breakaway switch (connected to tow vehicle with electrical wires routed to trailer), verified that LP tank valves were off, that all functions of tailights were operational, and that there was adequate tread on the tires - - on the tow vehicle, the checked to see that all lights were operational, that the horn worked, verified adequate tread depth on tires - - I was rather shocked that they didn't check the operation of windshield wipers and/or defrosters.

The only potential exception that I can envision to this situation would be in a state having historical or antique vehicle recognition for travel trailers - - in such instances if the device wasn't a part of original equipment it MIGHT NOT be required if proof were available that it wasn't required at time of production. I don't happen to live in a state that recognizes the collectability of travel trailers so this is not something that I have encountered - - I do know that there are situations where something like this would apply to collector cars, such as electric turn signals - - are not required on cars not so equipped originally where I live, but the owner then must give proper hand signals (granted, this would only apply to cars that would now be approaching 50 years of age) when traveling.

Kevin
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Old 12-06-2002, 03:45 PM   #3
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BREAKAWAY SWITCH

Brouck,

The function of a breakaway switch is of safety. Should your trailer become unattached to the tow vehicle the breakaway switch will activate the electric brakes and slow/stop the trailer. No matter what the condition of your hitch, ball, or break controller you should have the breakaway switch hooked up.

I saw an example of this played out on a city street. The trailer was hooked up at night with poor light. There was a ball cover on the ball and it was not removed. When the trailer was hooked up to the truck, the trailer was not secure. The trailer hitch came off the ball. Fortunately it was at slow speed. The breakaway switch did it's job and stopped the trailer. Some minor damage was sustained. And it could have been much worse.

Bottom line - Be safe get it hooked up.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Action
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Old 12-06-2002, 03:47 PM   #4
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what?

Kevin,

Sounds like the "safety inspections" they used to have here in Texas, which were found to be unconstitutional.

What do they call it, Unreasonable search and seizure??
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Old 12-06-2002, 04:16 PM   #5
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Breakaway switch

RE: Safety Inspections

I had no objections to the safety inspections, in fact they increased my travel confidence knowing that at least some monitoring is being done. My understanding is that so long as every vehicle is stopped at one of these inspection points, it is legally permissible.

RE: Trouble-Shooting and Installation Information for Breakaway Switches

I ran across a website with what seems to be some good instllation and trouble-shooting instructions for the breakaway switch at:

Breakaway Switch Installation Instructions

The above site was difficult to access just prior to my post - - I don't know if it was with my connection or the site itself.

Tekonsha also has an instruction page at:

Tekonsha Breakaway Switch Installation Instructions

Kevin
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Old 12-06-2002, 04:25 PM   #6
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safety

speaking from personal experiance, get it hooked up!

your natural reaction when your trailer falls on to the safety chains is to slam on the brakes.

the break away switch will keep the trailer from rear ending you and puting you out of control.

this happened to me at work, the latch on a pintle hitch was not closed. i was able to stop safely, with a lot of tire smoke.

whole lot better than causing a bad accident.

john
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Old 12-06-2002, 06:31 PM   #7
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gratitude

Thanks for all the good advice and references. It looks like I best deal with this situation before getting back on the road in the spring.I shudder to think of all the other stuff I've yet to learn.
Brouck
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Old 02-16-2003, 10:02 AM   #8
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Breakaway switch

The person that we brought our AS from broke the cable when he drove off without unkooking it, he got so mad he cut the wires and took it out of line so I will have to check it out to see if it works, what size of cable do I need to fix it? it looks like a bicycle brake cable size.
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Old 02-16-2003, 10:11 AM   #9
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brass or plastic?

gene

is the pin brass or plastic?

either way, replacements can be had at most camping/trailer places.

get an extra one and toss it in your rig.

i've had them mysteriously disappear before.

john
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Old 02-16-2003, 02:17 PM   #10
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A word of caution, when a breakaway switch has been activated.

You have less than 5 minutes, to deactivate, or, push the pin back into the switch.

If you do not, you can and will overheat or burn up the magnets.
Also, especially on the older trailers that had smaller spindles, you can detemper the spindles. This is assuming that the battery has a full or near full charge. If your plugged into city power, a costly repair will surface very quickly.

Should the old small spindles be detempered, an axle replacement will be the only fix.

Damage such as this, is not covered by an insurance company, since the loss was not sudden, accidental, or direct, but in fact, long term. Long term to an insurance company can be a matter of minutes, or less.



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Old 02-16-2003, 02:22 PM   #11
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Angry magnets

andy is correct! it was new magnet time for me!

the guy at the park said he caught it with the weed wacker!

now it stays tightly coiled when not in use!

john
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Old 02-16-2003, 02:34 PM   #12
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John
He broke the eye where the the s hook I think is supposed be. I think by the looks of the switch it came with the AS.
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Old 02-16-2003, 02:41 PM   #13
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gene,

most of them just have a loop in the end.

if you cannot repair it soundly just get a new one.

some people put dog chain clips in the end. i just pull it out and loop it around the bumper of my truck then plug it back in.

that way it will activate even if the whole hitch reciever parts company from my truck.

john
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Old 02-16-2003, 03:19 PM   #14
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Breakaway switch

The breakaway switch cable should "NEVER" be hooked to the ball mount or to the ball, or for that matter the hitch.

Should any of those fail, you will lose the trailer, AND, the breakaway switch cable will never be pulled.

The proper attaching point or location of the breakaway switch cable, should be to the tow vehicles frame, or the bumper.

Also, breakaway switches should be replace every so many years, as they do corrode on the inside, and when the pin is pulled, "nothing happens."

Testing the breakaway switch should be done often.

Pull the pin, pull forward a few feet, and if the switch is working, it will apply full braking. Remember though, you have 5 minutes to reinstall the pin, or you will burn up the magnets.

Good way to test your brakes as well, before you get on the road.


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