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Old 12-07-2014, 12:34 PM   #1
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1967 20' Globetrotter
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Troubleshooting Trailer Breakaway Switch

I have an electrical breakaway switch mounted to the frame of my Airstream and connected to the tow vehicle designed to activate the trailer brakes if the trailer were to become disconnected from my vehicle.

If you pull out the connection on the trailer side, the trailer brakes fail to activate. If the connection is plugged in or pulled out, same result either way....no trailer brake activation. This used to work fine.

The battery unit shows full charge.

Any ideas where to start looking?

Thank you.
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Old 12-07-2014, 12:44 PM   #2
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The breakaway switch is a simple, single pole switch with power coming in one side and when the pin is pulled, power going out the other side to the brakes. The power to the switch comes from the battery in the trailer, so if you have no power to the switch, start tracing it back to the power distribution panel, or the battery.
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Old 12-07-2014, 12:49 PM   #3
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First make sure the brakes work normally when applied at the tow vehicle.There should be a fuse for the break away switch. Start there to see if you have juice, Do you have a manual or electric jack. They often run off the same circuit as the breakaway switch. Then check the connections in the 7 way box inside the coach. A wiring diagram will be very helpful.
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Old 12-07-2014, 05:06 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumatic View Post
First make sure the brakes work normally when applied at the tow vehicle.There should be a fuse for the break away switch. Start there to see if you have juice, Do you have a manual or electric jack. They often run off the same circuit as the breakaway switch. Then check the connections in the 7 way box inside the coach. A wiring diagram will be very helpful.
The breakaway set up is independent of both tow vehicle and trailer. It has it's own battery mounted to the tongue.

The brakes do work as I check them as I leave the lot with my brake controller.

I have a manual jack.

Where is the fuse?

Maybe replace battery? But it showed full charge.
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Old 12-07-2014, 06:17 PM   #5
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I just checked my 67 which I have not done any work on yet. The breakaway switch looks like a small metal can. The pin fits into the end. Do you have a photo? I am not sure where or even if there is a fuse.

You could save yourself some peace of mind by just buying a new breakaway switch. Probably a fuse and fuse holder come with it. They are generic and cheap.. I wouldn't trust my trailer to an old switch that may or may not work when you need it.

Also in my set up the breakaway switch is powered by the trailer battery which is not on my tongue but inside the trailer. I think this is the original set up.
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Old 12-08-2014, 05:26 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Lumatic View Post
I just checked my 67 which I have not done any work on yet. The breakaway switch looks like a small metal can. The pin fits into the end. Do you have a photo? I am not sure where or even if there is a fuse.

You could save yourself some peace of mind by just buying a new breakaway switch. Probably a fuse and fuse holder come with it. They are generic and cheap.. I wouldn't trust my trailer to an old switch that may or may not work when you need it.

Also in my set up the breakaway switch is powered by the trailer battery which is not on my tongue but inside the trailer. I think this is the original set up.
It's four years old. So maybe look for a fuse or buy new battery.
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Old 12-08-2014, 08:37 AM   #7
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If the brakes work normally when you apply the brake pedal in the car (or move the lever on the brake controller), replace the switch. If no brakes when car brakes are activated, you have to trouble shoot the electrical circuit to find out why the brakes are not getting power. Likely culprits are wiring near the brakes either wearing or shorting out, the connector with the vehicle or the fuse and wiring inside the trailer.
I start with the easiest first. Inspect the wiring visually to see if there are shorts or loose connections.
Second, with a test light, ground one probe on the vehicle and place the other probe on the brake prong inside of the vehicles connector. The light should light when the brakes are applied. If not troubleshoot the wiring and controller inside of the tow vehicle.
Third, place the probes on the wiring going in and out of the breakaway switch and pull out the switch. The light should light. If no light, you have a blown fuse or loose connection inside in the trailer.
There is wiring and a fuse inside the trailer at the front street side. Access may be difficult as the area is blocked by furniture.
If the fuse is blown there. You have a short which must be found. The likely culprit is the wiring and connectors under the vehicle. They are exposed to the weather and road hazards.
I trouble shot a similar problem but my brakes had been worked on so I took a short cut and started under the vehicle and found a pinched wire. There is very little clearance and a powerful floor jack is a big help to get work space.
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Old 12-08-2014, 01:03 PM   #8
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something I do with my pull away wire. I hook it to my truck, under the tailgate. Never hook the end to your hitch or bumper (if your hitch is hooked to the bumper). If the hitch fails, and your break away wire is attached to it, the trailer and hitch will continue merrily down the road, into the ditch or into traffic and you will be left wondering why your gas mileage has suddenly increased. As to replacing the switch, These are around $20.00 and are very easy to replace. One black wire and a new pin and wire. Do not tighten the holding bolt, allow the switch movement so a tight turn doesn't pull the pin out and lock your brakes.
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