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Old 12-28-2003, 07:48 AM   #1
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Who needs breaks?

I towed our 66 Safari home without working breaks on the trailer. It's been in the drive since that time. Soon I'll be bringing it to a dealer two hours away. I'm just wondering what the potentional danger is in towing without any breakes on the trailer. It didn't seem to be a problem on the first trip. Any thoughts?
Thanks,
Bob Ward
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Old 12-28-2003, 08:07 AM   #2
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Brake wear

It is considered unsafe but you can compensate somewhat for that by slowing down and giving yourself plenty of room to stop.

What you will not avoid is the Wear and the potential to ruin your tow vehicle brakes.

Your tow vehicle brakes will be bearing the load of that 5000 pound trailer. Your tow vehicle was not designed to do so. The brakes and rotors will excessively heat up and that will in turn eventually warp if not crack or even lock up your brakes. An extreme case but the possibility increases considerably.

A temporary thing is not TOO bad but a measure to be taken is get those Brakes working soon.

Good luck,
Smily
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Old 12-28-2003, 08:32 AM   #3
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Biggest potential danger is not being able to stop!

My biggest fear is someone pulling out in front of you. That extra few feet of stopping distance afforded by the trailer brakes could mean life or death, or at the very least thousands of dollars in damage, not to mention liability.
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Old 12-28-2003, 08:56 AM   #4
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Bob,

The trailer brakes are a fairly important part of the trailer.

When the dealer delivered my new coach, they didn't have any sway, weight distribution, etc.....but they had the brakes and lights connected.

They delivered it with a HUGE Dodge Ram 3500 dually and although that could probobly stop both units very well, it does point out that there is some level of control that the brakes do provide.

I would make sure that while at the dealer, that he/she repair/replace the units brakes if they don't work and get a Prodigy brake controller or a Jordan as they seem to be the most popular two out there. I have the Prodigy and it is a great unit. Most of the time, you can't tell it actually is doing anything, until you turn it off and try to stop with out it...then you know the difference.
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Old 12-28-2003, 10:03 AM   #5
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Who needs breaks?

Greetings Bob!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstream ownership!

There are two potentially serious issues at play here. Lack of brakes is serious as is the possible related issues of the point at which the wheel bearings were last serviced.

I don't know which would worry me more lack of brakes or the possible consequences on a single axle trailer should a wheel bearing sieze while in-transit. Even on a tandem axle trailer, the damage resulting from a siezed wheel bearing can be quite significant.

Lack of functioning brakes is a serious issue in a number of ways. In Illinois, trailer brakes are legally required for all trailers in excess of either 2,000 or 3,000 pounds gross weight - - haven't checked this regulation for several years since I no longer own any small utility trailers. Secondly, especially in urban traffic, you never know when you will need ALL of the potential stopping power available to your combination - - just when you think all would be safe something strange can happen - - I was in a State Police directed "convoy" of Airstreams parading into the Rally Grounds in Sioux Falls, South Dakota when a small Honda Accord cut me off - - it took all of the stopping power of my Suburban as well as my Overlander to keep from becoming a new deck lid ornament on the Honda Accord (the driver of the Accord was shocked to be issued a citation for improper lane usage). The third issue that would worry me operating a trailer without functioning trailer brakes would be controlling yaw from passing semis or gusting winds - - I know with my single axle Minuet it was an absolute necessity to have the brakes to pull the trailer into line when it decided to try to dance after series of tandem trailer semis passed us on the Interstate on the way home following purchase (the only time that I didn't have working sway control - - brakes yes, sway control no).

It could be something as simple as replacing the end on the trailer's umbilical cord to get at least some brake action on the trailer. I am not inclined to do much of the repair work on my trailer, but this is one thing that I was able to accomplish using the diagrams and information available from Airstream and the manufacturers of the current tow vehicle end of the equation. The color coding for the wires on your Caravel can be found at:

Airstream 1966-81 Bargman Plug Wiring Information

The typical tow vehicle end wiring information can be found at:

Bargman Plug - Tow Vehicle Side Wiring

It might be a long-shot, but cleaning the wiring terminals and connections and verifying correct connections might just get some functionality from your brakes. I know that corrossion caused inconsistent operation of the brakes on both of my coaches at one time or another.

Good luck with your Caravel!

Kevin
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Old 12-28-2003, 11:12 AM   #6
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Towed with brakes too

Like Bob Ward I too towed my Airstream home about 8 miles without an umbilical hookup (and trailer brakes). I took it slow and the previous owner followed me home to protect my backside.

I didn't know a thing about trailering or Airstreams at the time. I had rented large UHaul trailers on occassion and connected up. The original Airstream manual made no mention of brake controllers. UHaul didn't have them either, so the idea of brake controllers was new to me when I signed onto this forum. I still do not fully understand them. Are they absolutely necessary? How do you connect them up?

So far I set up the right umbilical connection and tested the lights but haven't tried towing anywhere.
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Old 12-28-2003, 11:55 AM   #7
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Who needs breaks?

Greetings Davydd!

Quote:
Are they absolutely necessary? How do you connect them up?
Yes, a brake controller is a necessity with any Airstream that has electric or Excella Hydra-Vac Brakes. There are a variety of brake controllers available in three broad groups - - Mechanical (require tapping into the tow vehicle's brake master cylinder), Timed Actuation (increase braking action based upon length of time tow vehicle's brake lights are illuminated), and Pendulum Action (the unit contains a tiny pendulum whose movement is used to sense the rate of decelleration and increase braking action in relation to that rate). The type of brake controller chosen will in part dictate the difficulty of connection - - each controller will be accompanied with detailed instructions for installation. With your late-model tow vehicle, it may be as simple as purchasing a wiring harness to connect the controller to the existing trailer towing wiring (assuming that the vehicle has the factory trailer tow package) and wiring up the Bargman connector at the rear bumper.

Brake controllers are available from a variety of sources on the net, from many auto parts retailers, and from virtually any source that sells any kind of trailer with a gross weight exceeding 2,000 pounds. I am rather shocked that your U-Haul dealer didn't have brake controllers as I know all of the U-Haul representatives around here sell controllers, but they also sell and install trailer hitches. You will notice quite a difference between the electric trailer brakes and the hydraulic surge brakes on U-Haul trailers - - there is virtually no "chatter" from the electric brakes as is quite common with the U-Haul trailers when they are lightly loaded.

Depending upon the model of brake controller chosen, one can be purchased installed from about $100 to $400. A search of this Forum using the string "Brake Controllers" will return a number of threads discussing the wide variety of brake controllers currently available.

Kevin

P.S.: If you double-check your '66 Caravel owner's manual, I believe that you will likely find about two or three paragraphs discussing the "recommended" Reese hydraulic brake control unit to be installed in the tow vehicle as well as mention of the variable resistors that may be needed on the tow vehicle to ajust the braking action available. Both my '64 Overlander's manual as well as my '78 Argosy Minuet's manuals have virtually identical paragraphs in this regard. The hydraulic controllers are generally discouraged in modern tow vehicles with anti-lock braking systems, but they were considered "state-of-the-art" when our trailers were new.
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Old 12-28-2003, 01:07 PM   #8
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Hello All - My husband too had to tow our Minuet home without trailer brakes and was a nervous wreak all the way. He immediately purchase and installed a Prodigy on arriving home.

Here is a quote from a previous thread called "Some towing Q&A for a Newbie":

31 states require brakes on at least one axle (2-wheel brakes) on trailers over 3000 lbs. GVW and 11 states require brakes on both axles (4-wheel brakes) on trailers over 3000 lbs. GVW. In addition, 3 of those states that require brakes on trailers over 3000 lbs., require 4 wheel brakes on trailers over 4,000 lbs. The remaining states that do not require brakes per se have regulations that require the ability to stop the combination without sway from a specified speed over a specified distance.

Very important to be safe and not sorry!!!! Leigh
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Old 12-28-2003, 07:45 PM   #9
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If you get into an accident and they find you had no trailer brakes and you knew it, they will find you at fault. Insurance companies can get weird trying to find a way for you to pay and not them. You will have a lot of explaining to do !!!!
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Old 12-28-2003, 09:05 PM   #10
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Re: Who needs breaks?

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Bob Ward
I towed our 66 Safari home without working breaks on the trailer. It's been in the drive since that time. Soon I'll be bringing it to a dealer two hours away. I'm just wondering what the potentional danger is in towing without any breakes on the trailer. It to getdn't seem to be a problem on the first trip. Any thoughts?
Thanks,
Bob Ward
[/QUote
Bob, just one thought, and it's name is Murphy.
Chances are, you will get away with it. However, it borders on being dangerous. All it would take would be one person to dive in front of you, and stop dead (the operative word would be dead).
I towed my little 20 footer about 5 miles, at 35 miles per hour, with a F350 doing the towing and stopping.
I would try my absolute best to get some kind of brakes working on that trailer before towing it, even if it is only one wheel (still not the safest, but better than nothing)
Something I haven't seen anyone else mention is the possibility of jacknifing. The trailer will be pushing your tow vehicle with all it's weight and inertia, and all you would have to do is turn the wheel slightly, and the trailer will attempt to push the rear of your tow vehicle the rest of the way around. Now that I have probably given you nightmares for weeks...
Terry
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Old 12-29-2003, 11:42 AM   #11
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Towing without brakes, is simply "LIFE THREATENING."

It might be yours, your families, or an innocent victim. Pick one that you would be comfortable with, can you????

ANY insurance company will nail you to the wall, "FOREVER", as will an innocent victim.

Our highways have no room for foolishness.

If anyone would think that towing a trailer "without brakes," is OK, then surely that same person would not mind driving a vehicle without brakes. I wonder!!!!!

Andy
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Old 12-29-2003, 01:25 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the feedback. I'll do my best to fix the brakes before bringing it to the dealer. If I can't then it will be at the top of the list of things for the dealer to take care of.
Thanks,
Bob Ward
P. S. The trailer has been emptied of appliances and furniture so the weight should be about 2300 LBS.
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Old 12-29-2003, 04:17 PM   #13
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A 2300 pound trailer is one thing setting still.

In motion, even at 30 MPH, it has far more energy than most people think. That weight, at 30 mph, out of control, will do far more than scare you.

Ask "ANYONE" that's been there and done that, especially when they were warned ahead of time.

Andy
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Old 12-29-2003, 06:02 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Ward

P. S. The trailer has been emptied of appliances and furniture so the weight should be about 2300 LBS.
2300 pounds is more than a Geo Metro. Imagine one of them hitting you at 35 mph...
Terry
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