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Old 08-12-2017, 12:12 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by DreamStreamr View Post
What length, relative to the safety chains, do you use for the breakaway cable on your rig?

Statutes, standards, and recommendations spell out the requirement for a breakaway switch on travel trailers like our Airstreams. The setup length of the cable is not specified in U.S., Canada, or U.K. statutes or standards as far as I can detect. Fred Ettline writing in Blue Beret in May 2006 (Phred Sez) makes a reasonable argument for making the breakaway switch cable longer than your safety chains. Equal-i-zer, HaHa, and Reese seem silent on this issue (perhaps either because it is not specifically a hitch issue or it would add unneeded liabilities to recommend upon?).

And a good writer named Tim writes on his pop-up camping web site some pros and cons of the cable shorter or longer and wisely, perhaps, tells you to pick one of the two. On a caravan this summer one of our deparkers was adamant in his contention the breakaway switch must activate first, not last, in the event of accidental separation of trailer and truck (decoupling). He even (I am terribly ashamed to share) reported me to the Region III Safety Officer. I'll try to let you know how (if and when) this resolves.

Granted, if the decoupling was caused by the tow vehicle's hitch failure, the chains almost certainly aren't connected anymore. We would probably all agree upon full breakaway switch activation to stop an out-of-control trailer. But what if the trailer decouples partially but not completely from the tow vehicle? What if the drawbar comes out of the receiver or the coupling comes off the ball, or the ball came off? What if the trailer becomes unhitched as you tool down the highway and the trailer coupler or hitch head now are resting upon the safety chains? "Hey dad, the trailer just ran into the back of our truck again!"

If your breakaway switch immediately engaged upon decoupling, you will engage all the trailer's brakes at full capacity. If, and this is where I tow most, you are on dry pavement, the trailer brakes will probably produce an intense and sudden stress upon the safety chains, loops, and hooks. And you will produce a sudden and surprising yank back on the tow vehicle. One or the other of these things, it seems, would likely create severe and perhaps unnecessary vehicle control issues, particularly if you happen to be on a curve just then. Are these good things?

Which length breakaway cable do you choose, and what's your rationale?
First off if your hitch becomes disconnected and your safety chains are hooked to the hitch you had the setup WRONG! According to USDOT specs the safety chains must be attached to the vehicle frame and not the hitch or bumper in case of a catastrophic hitch failure. Speaking from first hand experience I had a trailer come off the ball on a work trailer that is (I admit abused). If not for the safety chains it would have been a mess. The chains did exactly what they are designed to do. The tongue of the trailer dropped down on the chains and held it up so coupling didnt dig into the ground. I was able to slow down and keep it in control to get stopped. Trailer was loaded with about 145 bags of mulch so it wasnt a light load. Only damage to truck or trailer was some tailgate and bumper damage. We shifted the load around, hooked trailer back up and continued on to the job that day. I personally dont want the trailer brakes to engage in the event of hitch problems unless it completely separates from the tow vehicle.
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Old 08-12-2017, 12:27 PM   #44
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[..

I maybe I wouldn't need a complete lockup of the trailer brakes, but need to 'feather' them, etc...

Lots of good things to think about on this thread...[/QUOTE]
If it comes off the ball you dont want to feather the trailer brakes. Lightly apply brakes until trailer bumps up against TV and slow and constant slow down from there. If you are trying to feather brakes on trailer you will be in a mess very quickly because remember your trailer is just hanging out back there on the chains This approached worked amazingly well on my trailer ball seperation. If breakaway switch had been shorter than chains as many are advocating on her then i probably would not have had as little damage to my truck or as good of and ending as we had that day.
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Old 08-12-2017, 01:37 PM   #45
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Hi

If you want to conduct multiple experiments, here's what you need to do:

Case A:

Get the system up to 65 MPH
Pop the trailer off the hitch ball
Lock up the brakes on the trailer

Case B:

Get things up to 65 MHP
Pop the trailer off the hitch ball
Retain brake control via the umbilical

Try this a few dozen times with each test case and see what works best. Vary the road conditions and maybe some other things as you do the testing.

Given the "many thousands of dollars" damage per test plus risk of life issues involved with the testing, I doubt anybody will ever run those tests. Roll a few Airstreams / total a TV or three in the testing and you could break a million dollars.

To me, having the safety chains do a "full load snap" does not sound like a really good idea. Of course, having the trailer off the ball is most decidedly not a good idea. Things are already really bad if that happens.

As long as the umbilical is longer than the safety chains, it's sort of a non issue. If the chains have broken, the umbilical is not going to hold anything at all. Safety chains, the umbilical, then breakaway vs safety chains, breakaway, then umbilical does not matter at all.

Backing up a bit, how does this happen in the first place:

1) The ball breaks (it shears). Yes this does happen.
2) The shank breaks (I haven't seen this one)
3) The pin holding the shank in comes out (yes this also happens)
4) The pin holding the shank shears (never seen this one either)
5) The "clamp" holding the ball in the hitch comes loose (yup, that one happens).
6) The "clamp" holding the ball never gets fastened (probably the most likely)

So there are a variety of ways for this to go down. None of them are pretty. However you route this and that understand each of the above. You want the breakaway cable to be free of "entanglement" in each case. Having it rip off the TV and not activate would be the ultimate bad end to a really bad day ..... The same basic things apply to routing the umbilical.

Bob
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Old 08-12-2017, 02:16 PM   #46
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According to the video I watched. YOU WANT the trailer brakes to engage if it becomes uncoupled as it will hit and dance side to side and, eventually turn on its side.

As for the trailer brakes and electrical connection to the tow vehicle- The trailer brake connector, if I understand correctly, is independent of the tow vehicle. It will apply the brakes and stop. That would pull the tow vehicle to a stop as well.

I noticed that my break away cable is too long. My chains are not 4-5' long. The break away cable is 48" but then it also requires tension to snap off and engage- almost 5 feet. It looks like my only option is to loop it back on itself at a knot I will create on the cable.
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Old 08-12-2017, 03:33 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by DreamStreamr View Post
I read through the two earlier threads about breakaway cable lengths. No one provided science-based rationale for the breakaway cable to be shorter than the chains. One poster recalled Reese guy (Doug Showker, maybe?) at Region 6 Rally saying to shorten the breakaway cable. Another poster weighed in later and said, yeah, he heard the same but also heard the context -- the breakaway cable length, if excessive, can snag on road hazards and activate. But the cable length still, apparently, is longer than the safety chains.

In the absence of science, Airstreamers seem left with a large body of anecdotal evidence and need to carefully make their own decision. I'm hoping someone will turn up scientific evidence or bona fide manufacturers' recommendation for one method or the other.

Until then I'm keeping my chains short and crossed and snapped securely onto the hitch receiver eyes. I'll keep the breakaway cable longer than the chains. And I want to keep the cable free from snagging on anything, if I can. I'll test the breakaway switch at least monthly by pulling it then quickly checking for compass needle deflection at each wheel. Takes just over 60 seconds, and provides the benefit of knowing the pin will release and seeing activation of each wheel's magnet.

My two cents worth - - - What d'ya think?

Jim, you asked this question back in '08... but having read the replies... it bears review, IMO.

Folks... IF your tailer begins to SWAY... everyone knows (or should know) that the fastest way to stop sway is to apply trailer brakes. The WORST thing to do is apply vehicle brakes first or primarily. Simply getting "off" the accelerator can create dangerous sway in such situations.
APPLY TRAILER BRAKES TO STABILIZE sway!

If your trailer's hitch malfunctions and disconnects from the ball.... or if your ball breaks or comes off the receiver... the main purpose of the safety chains is to prevent the trailer from becoming a "loose cannon" on the highway and killing someone. THOSE SAFETY CHAINS will not have a rigid location (like the ball did) for your trailer to pivot-upon... and YOUR TRAILER WILL SWAY... and may sway SO VIOLENTLY that it can roll the trailer and maybe also ROLL the Tow Vehicle as well!
THE BEST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN if your trailer socket comes off the ball... is your trailer brakes WILL APPLY. That is what you WANT!
It will immediately counteract any sway tendency... and it will immediately give the tow vehicle a "tug" which will keep the two relatively IN-LINE...also WHAT YOU WANT!
If you are steering in a curve.... EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY that your trailer brakes apply FIRST. Your trailer will continue to FOLLOW your vehicle closely only if the trailer brakes are ON and the safety-chains are TAUT.
By applying TV braking and steering the two connected vehicles will come to stop safely and UNDER CONTROL!

The WORST thing you want is a "loose" connection between a swaying trailer and a wagging TV....which is what you will have until the trailer brakes are applied. If your breakaway cable is too long you will be out-of-control and endanger yourselves AND the public.

Bottom Line: You want your breakaway cable to be shorter than your safety chains, but not so short as to activate in tight turns. AND... you want your safety chains sufficiently strong and securely attached to the TV that the two vehicles CANNOT SEPERATE in the event the ball-hitch connection fails.

Any other imagined scenario is contrary to good judgment and safety. I.E., weakened safety chains. THINK about that. Do you want your trailer to over-run your tow vehicle? It can certainly happen on downhill slopes... AND... it's downhill slopes that place the most strain on the triggers of most hitch-sockets on the trailer. If the socket comes off the ball in a properly-rigged setup...the trailer will apply brakes and help slow the trailer AND the TV... EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT. Same as all other scenarios.
Safety chains should be rated to handle and EXCEED the weight and stresses of sudden dis-connects. Their attachments should NOT USE ordinary hardware-store hardware. Hardened, heat-treated high-grade hardware ONLY.

Hope this helps.
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Old 08-12-2017, 04:28 PM   #48
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Hi

Does fully locking up the trailer brakes at high speed actually stabilize things or does it simply flip over the trailer quicker?

Bob
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Old 08-12-2017, 05:04 PM   #49
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Hi

Does fully locking up the trailer brakes at high speed actually stabilize things or does it simply flip over the trailer quicker?

Bob
Excuse me, Bob... but you usually at least make attempts to explore or be informative when you post in these forums...but THIS is one of the most useless rhetorical questions you could have possibly made. If you are as knowledgeable as you seem to portray yourself...then you'd know better than to ask that question in that manner.

Since when does applying brakes make trailers "flip over quicker"? Answer: If the trailer is still attached via safety chains...applying trailer brakes will pull the chains taut and slow both vehicles. Doh! It has NO tendency to "flip over quicker".... as your rhetorical question seems to suggest is the only possible result.
YOU are the one recommending in an earlier post to make multiple attempts with various scenario-based braking experiments. When you finish up...why don't you come back and post your findings?
It's a simple matter.... Go unhook your trailer-ball, rest the A-frame on the safety chains... speed up to highway speeds... and use the manual control to apply the trailer brakes and see what happens. What you THINK will happen?

Additionally, the vast majority of these trailers have drum brakes which are electrically activated and which are NOT the most aggressive form of vehicle brakes. Unless on dirt/gravel or wet/slick pavement it's unlikely the brakes will actually lock-up at all.... in all likelihood all that will occur is the trailer and TV will both slow down straight-ahead.
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Old 08-12-2017, 05:08 PM   #50
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If the brakes can keep the tires from moving, the trailer will move faster to whichever direction it wants. Rubber melts, trailer surfs. Takes more data past that, but rollover is likely due to sideways movement. Locked tires just adds an element. (Remember that drums aren't quite able to accomplish extended lockup; and each drum differs).

Hitch tension is what matters more.

Research subject is "slip angle". CapriRacer and Tireman9.
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Old 08-12-2017, 05:47 PM   #51
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Excuse me, Bob... but you usually at least make attempts to explore or be informative when you post in these forums...but THIS is one of the most useless rhetorical questions you could have possibly made. If you are as knowledgeable as you seem to portray yourself...then you'd know better than to ask that question in that manner.

.
I guess Bob knows how to push your button, huh?

This all boils down to the question of whether the trailer brakes can actually lock up the wheels on dry pavement at highway speeds... let's say 65MPH.
Does anyone have any knowledge of this?
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Old 08-12-2017, 06:30 PM   #52
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THE BEST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN if your trailer socket comes off the ball... is your trailer brakes WILL APPLY. That is what you WANT!
After watching the two videos and reading your post I totally agree! That is what started my quest for the proper connection and length of that cable.

In Vinnie's Airstream live chat video, he shows why, in most cases the break away cable would NEVER detach- it is WAY TOO LONG in his Airstream example Kristy (of LoLoHo) stands there agast as he shows how long it stretches out before disconnecting way passed the chain length.

as for the trailer scenarios in the previous posts, if the trailer brakes are applied via the break away, yes they may lock and skid a bit but it would also be pulling at the connected tow vehicle holding it in a controlled direction by the chains. It really would be a "more controlled" situation than having the trailer bumping back and forth with the nose in the asphalt. You would not be able to use the truck brakes without damage. The answer is the break away. We tested mine today at 20 mph. My truck was stopped by the trailer. This is really important for OUR safety. While I do agree that a loose trailer should be stopped, I believe that is secondary to the primary purpose of the brake away cable- to stop the trailer while on the chains. When I was a teenager we had our boat come unhitched. The ball lock was not fully engaged and flipped up while in tow. It started bouncing against the car bumper- back when they were made of metal!

Yes, trailer brakes will lock up. I did this when in an avoidance manuever in Tampa a few years ago. I slammed on the brakes when a driver zoomed around me, then went right in front of me and hit is brakes to look for an opening to change lanes again.

One side of my trailer brakes locked, I believe only one wheel but still, it did. There was a side movement of my trailer and a terrible tire squeal. It released when I began to accelerate again. Regardless, if the trailer became unhitched and the brakes were applied, remember too that the pulled tow vehicle would be a resistive force to move the trailer and truck in the direction of original motion. What would be a bad move is to use the tow vehicle brakes. BTW, as I mentioned., the trailer brakes do not require the umbilical cord for the brake away switch- just for lights or coordinated braking with the truck.
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Old 08-12-2017, 07:08 PM   #53
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I guess Bob knows how to push your button, huh?

This all boils down to the question of whether the trailer brakes can actually lock up the wheels on dry pavement at highway speeds... let's say 65MPH.
Does anyone have any knowledge of this?
My trailer brakes will not lock up at 25 mph, much less at 65. If the brakes are adjusted as per every recommendation I have seen, they will not lock up unless you are on a slippery surface. If you are driving 65 mph on a slippery surface, you probably shouldn't be out there.

I'll adjust my cable to be slightly shorter than my chains.

Al
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Old 08-12-2017, 07:11 PM   #54
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After thinking about it more and reading Rods post, I have to agree that you want the trailer brakes to engage, hence the lanyard for the breakaway switch should be short enough to make that happen when the chains are still intact.
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Old 08-12-2017, 07:13 PM   #55
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my trailer brakes will not lock up at 25 mph, much less at 65. If the brakes are adjusted as per every recommendation i have seen, they will not lock up unless you are on a slippery surface. If you are driving 65 mph on a slippery surface, you probably shouldn't be out there.

I'll adjust my cable to be slightly shorter than my chains.

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Old 08-12-2017, 07:30 PM   #56
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After thinking about it more and reading Rods post, I have to agree that you want the trailer brakes to engage, hence the lanyard for the breakaway switch should be short enough to make that happen when the chains are still intact.
Thanks to Vinnie, I was digging the Airforums for solutions.

Yeah, the problem is "how much shorter" it should be. I have been toying with the idea and searching the Internet. There are three videos I found so far. They loop the cable through the closest chain connection and back to the ring on the switch if possible or tie a knot in the cable and hook it there if it cannot reach. The example though is a straight cable and they show the slack is just less than the chains.

Yes, unless you have disc brakes, they can/will lock- perhaps I could be wrong with electric brakes but the old style drum brakes could lock. which is scary, I just had my brakes adjusted two weeks ago on my Airstream. They were WAY off- weak and they still locked a few years back. I had never checked the adjustment (just wear) and I doubt the original owner did either. Interestingly one of them was about right and I bet that was the one that locked up that day. Another story, I locked the brakes on my teenage car, a Volkswagen Beetle. I was too dumb to know how to regain control, I slid on cinders off the road focused on stopping rather than getting control by tapping the accelerator. Thank God for disc brakes, at least on cars/trucks!
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