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Old 04-29-2017, 01:24 PM   #1
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1954 22' Flying Cloud
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1967 24' Tradewind
manerba del garda , Italy
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Emergency decoupling what doing

Hi folks,

what should you do in case of decoupling while towing? I know breakaway switch will slow down the trailer and chain keep the link with the towing vehicle I guess I'd feel a stroke and swerving so instinctively my foot is already going to the it the right procedure? did you face similar experience in the past?


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Old 04-29-2017, 03:12 PM   #2
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I had a 2500 lb trailer come off the ball on the interstate. The chains held the tongue up. I eased off the gas and let the rig coast to a stop on it's own. I did not brake. Neither trailer nor truck suffered damage

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Old 04-29-2017, 03:20 PM   #3
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I've always looked at the connection of the chain to the trailer frame and felt it was designed to hold the trailer if it were a mild event, like if it just dropped from the hitch, but break away entirely if the trailer went into a violent roll or flip. It just doesn't look that strong, at least it could be made much stronger.
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Old 04-29-2017, 04:10 PM   #4
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I would gently apply the trailer brakes, gently steer and as possible coast to a stop. When you come to a full stop exit your tow vehicle and kiss the ground.
Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine.
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Old 04-29-2017, 05:58 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Lumatic View Post
I would gently apply the trailer brakes, gently steer and as possible coast to a stop. When you come to a full stop exit your tow vehicle and kiss the ground.
What he said.
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Old 04-30-2017, 08:08 AM   #6
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1954 22' Flying Cloud
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is there a rule about chain's amount or just not too short not too long? Thanks for your replies!

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Old 04-30-2017, 08:45 AM   #7
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One point about the OP's comment on breakaway switch. I always thought that the breakaway switch should be set up such that it won't trigger unless the chains fail and the trailer is totally free from the tow vehicle. At least that is the way the length of cable on my break away switch is set up. Wonder if that is correct? I think so.

As far as dealing with the situation I agree with what others have said - if I ever sensed that my trailer was disconnected except for the safety chains, I think my course of action would be to do everything very gently in braking to a stop!

Whether I would have the presence of mind to do that in a real life emergency remains to be seen, but I do think it would be the wisest course of action!

In fact, if the safety chains are holding properly, I am wondering if the best thing to do would be to get off the accelerator and gently apply just the trailer brakes (manually) to slow the rif down as you pull over?!

Would take a lot of calmness and resolution!
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Old 04-30-2017, 11:40 AM   #8
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"I know breakaway switch will slow down the trailer and chain keep the link with the towing vehicle"

ONLY if the cable to the breakaway switch and safety chains have been properly set up. I would want the cable to the breakaway switch to be slightly shorter than the safety chains. That way, if the trailer comes off the ball, the crossed safety chains should keep the trailer hitch from dragging on the ground and, the shorter cable should be pulled out thus activating the trailer brakes. If your trailer's brakes are properly adjusted, you shoud feel them as they activate and slow your trailer. Gently slow the tow vehicle while pulling off the road where it's safe to do so.
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Old 04-30-2017, 01:21 PM   #9
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this is the key reason to insert a cotter pin through the hole in the coupling latch. I had never thought of it but after witnessing a decoupling I now do this every time . Safe travels. jon
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Old 04-30-2017, 01:48 PM   #10
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Ok, folks. I'm not a dangerous person, just a person who has towed trailers for hundreds of thousands of miles over 40 years. With that said, I've had a trailer come off my tow vehicle four times in my towing career. Here is what you will do and what you should do . . .

My worst event was towing an 18' inboard-outboard speedboat with a single axle trailer with surge brakes. The coupler wore over time (I told you I towed alot) and popped off the ball while rounding a gentle curve with a succession of oscillating bumps in the road. Just the right combination to pop off. First thing I heard was grinding and scraping. Thinking it was a blown tire, I applied the brakes. I was immediately rear-ended by the boat dragging along by the chains. It raised the rear end of the Taurus station wagon and nearly jackknifed the rig. I hit the gas and the front wheel drive vehicle pulled the rig straight again. Then I hit the brakes lightly thinking I could slow it down faster than coasting. Got rear-ended a second time and again a near jackknife. At that point I realized using the brakes was not possible. I coasted to a stop as the trailer kept jerking around and banging into the tailgate of the Taurus. When I came to a stop, the ambulance that happened to be following me stopped to see if everyone was alright. They helped me put the trailer back on the hitch and I towed the boat about 10 more miles to my destination. Bottom line is Do Not Touch the Brakes! (but you will). The Taurus did have minor tailgate damage from the winch post hitting, but the chains took the brunt of the force. I was traveling about 55 MPH when this happened.

The other times were less eventful.

I lost a small utility trailer at about 30 MPH. One of my co-workers hooked it up and forgot to put the pin in the coupler. The only damage was the tongue jack was destroyed.

I lost a 5000# equipment trailer because I forgot to latch the coupler. No damage, just embarrasing. This was at 20 MPH.

I lost a 15000# dump trailer with an excavator. Luckily, this happened while exiting a gas station at the curb hump. I think in this case the tongue bottomed out and the ball popped off. I immediately tightened the coupler ball nut. Again, I think wear caused the ball to be loose.

So each time the trailer fell to the ground and slid under the tow vehicle as I stopped. I had surge brakes which don't apply with a switch in all but the dump trailer. I think the chains held the dump trailer short of pulling the brake switch.

On my Airstream, I loop the emergency brake cable around the chain connection on the hitch and back to the lock on the coupler. If my Airstream ever comes off, the brakes will apply while the chains stay connected. I believe you want the brakes to apply while the chains are connected. I do not believe the chains will break. They never broke in any of my experiences. So I want the brakes to engage while the chains are dragging the trailer.

Hopefully my experiences will help anyone who gets into an unfortunate situation where the trailer comes loose from the ball.
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Old 04-30-2017, 01:51 PM   #11
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My F250 dash display tells me that my trailer disconnects all the time while driving (much info on forums). I just keep going and sooner or later it will reconnect itself.
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Old 04-30-2017, 03:10 PM   #12
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Seems to me that the chains should take up the first loss on decoupling. If the breakaway switch activates it will put full ( possible locked-up) brakes on and you will need to drag the trailer locked wheels and all off the road across how many lanes of traffic???? That i one reason the umbilical needs to be sufficiently long to remain intact if the trailer drops onto the (CROSSED) chains. You get to apply trailer brakes lightly to keep the rig in a straight line. The breakaway switch is to lock up the wheels in case of a complete loss of the trailer. I have seen utility trailers travel nearly a 1000 feet down the road once disconnected. One actually dug the tongue into the ground and did a somersault after traveling what seemed like an eternity.
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Old 04-30-2017, 06:34 PM   #13
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I have my breakaway cable set long enough that it will not activate unless the trailer becomes completely detached from the vehicle.

This arrangement is in agreement with the directions of: The RVDA-RVIA Service Technician Certification Program
"Since the pin must be pulled to activate the brakes, the cable from the breakaway switch pin to the tow vehicle should be longer than the safety chains. This arrangement will ensure the cable is the last connection to be broken upon separation of the trailer and the tow vehicle. If the pinís cable was shorter than the safety chains, separation of the trailer and tow vehicle will activate the brakes while the tow vehicle and trailer were still connected by the safety chains. The braking action will add additional force to the safety chains and likely cause the safety chains to break."
Grant Davidson
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Old 05-01-2017, 06:40 AM   #14
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Similar to AirMiles, we had a total disconnect because of a major pavement buckle, thankfully at low speed on an entrance ramp. The immediate reaction is to brake, we did, and the AS slid into the rear of the TV. Chains and emergency brake worked as designed, but did not keep the tongue jack from jamming into the pavement....had to be replaced. Were this to happen at travel speed, I would focus on control of the TV and brake lightly. It is a scary occurrence.

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