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Old 10-11-2006, 11:43 PM   #1
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Breakaway switch.

If you read my recent thread "Cooked??" you shared in my relief that a defective breakaway switch on my '66 Tradewind 'saved' me an expensive (4 on my AS) brake magnet replacement. Briefly... I had discovered that the pin that activates that switch was acidentally pulled and not discovered for 5 days.

I can't help but wonder how many of you have experienced the real advantage of that switch on your Airstreams. Does any one have that terrifying time when your trailer for whatever reason becomes detached from your TV on the road? Do those wimpy looking chains fail too? Are those breakaway switches like your smoke alarms that are never, hopefully, needed and never as in my case tested occassionally?
Neil.
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Old 10-12-2006, 02:59 PM   #2
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Never seen an Airstream untethered but growing up near the Chesapeake Bay I have had occasion to see large trailered boats walking their safety chains side to side with growing amplitude untill the 'crack the whip' moment when everything comes apart. I can only imagine if the break-away cable was properly sized to activate brakes from a fully charged battery that oscilation would not have occured...
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Old 10-12-2006, 03:04 PM   #3
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I tested mine at the begining of the season, found it to be defective, and replaced it.
It does seem a bit "overly redundant"...a backup to a backup. but the law requires them on any trailer that has brakes, in most places.
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Old 10-17-2006, 06:09 PM   #4
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When I unhitched this Sunday after a weekend camping, I noticed the wire cord that is connected to the break away switch that you attach to the chain hook was frayed and broken. Must have been dragging on the pavement during tow. Not sure where to purchase new.

Larry
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Old 10-17-2006, 06:18 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mickleton
When I unhitched this Sunday after a weekend camping, I noticed the wire cord that is connected to the break away switch that you attach to the chain hook was frayed and broken. Must have been dragging on the pavement during tow. Not sure where to purchase new.

Larry
Larry,

You can either purchase an new breakaway switch or go to the local hardware store and purchase a piece of wire cable and the clips to make new loops on the end.

Bill
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Old 10-17-2006, 06:26 PM   #6
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Thanks Bill, will replace.

Larry
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Old 10-17-2006, 07:50 PM   #7
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If you bring the switch and hook to an old timey hardware store they will do the cable for you. Instead of screw cable clamps they will use the brass or lead crimp type. I had mine done 6 months age - Parts were more expensive at Home Depot and I would of had to buy the crimp tool. Mom and Pop Hardware did it all for $3 and a smile.
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Old 10-17-2006, 07:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clancy_boy
If you bring the switch and hook to an old timey hardware store they will do the cable for you. Instead of screw cable clamps they will use the brass or lead crimp type. I had mine done 6 months age - Parts were more expensive at Home Depot and I would of had to buy the crimp tool. Mom and Pop Hardware did it all for $3 and a smile.
For the crimp on style, I used a 2 1/2 lb hand sledge and a steel bar as an anvil and beat the clamp. I also did that with a 20 foot piece of plastic covered cable for a lightweight security cable to keep various items from walking away from the trailer.

Bill
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Old 10-17-2006, 11:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clancy_boy
If you bring the switch and hook to an old timey hardware store they will do the cable for you. Instead of screw cable clamps they will use the brass or lead crimp type. I had mine done 6 months age - Parts were more expensive at Home Depot and I would of had to buy the crimp tool. Mom and Pop Hardware did it all for $3 and a smile.
Those little crimp types are called Nicopress sleeves and installed with a dual action overcenter type crimping tool. We use them to make cable lanyards to capture pit pins, dust caps, etc.

Kip
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Old 10-18-2006, 06:38 AM   #10
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Any sailboat hardware, sailmaker or rigging place can do it!
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Old 10-18-2006, 06:44 AM   #11
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RV stores all seem to sell spare pins with cables already attached.
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Old 10-18-2006, 08:47 AM   #12
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Unless your trailer brakes are adjusted PERFECTLY, the breakaway switch could cause more problems than it solves. For example, if your roadside brakes were tighter than curbside and the trailer became detached, your trailer would "steer" itself into oncoming traffic. If the opposite, it would leave the roadway and end up who knows where, into a pole, a vehicle waiting at an intersection, children waiting for a school bus, etc. Draw your own conclusions from these facts, as to whether a breakaway switch is a good idea.
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Old 10-18-2006, 09:13 AM   #13
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don't you think you would feel the effect of such an unbalanced brake condition, while driving with the trailer still attached?

Like I said earlier, the law requires that it be there. I don't really live in fear that some day, I might get 5 to ten in the state penetentiary on a breakaway cable wrap... ...but I don't want to temp fate, either.
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Old 10-18-2006, 09:40 AM   #14
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My Airstreams' 35 year old brakes will lock all four wheels up effortlessly. A breakaway application should not be gentle - skidding and smoke with the trailer chiseling into the pavement with the hitch tongue.

If the safety circuit is sound, untill the magnetic fields propagate in the coils there is essentially UNLIMITED 12V amperage flowing through a short circuit so the wheels locking up should be nearly instant. The biggest concern I have is that van tailgating me (driven by a Nun and full of Orphans) will be wearing my trailer as a hood ornament as the trailer will be coming to a full panic stop w/o warning if it jumps off the hitch and chains fail.

Proper operation of a breakaway circuit means NO current limiting.

1) Implies a fully charged battery.
2) Breakaway switch contacts clean & sound so no resistance there.
3) No light weight conductor cables.
4) Soldered & weathertite harness splices @ hub pigtails & inside belly shell.
5) Remember there is no brake controller in the circuit now.

Yes, trailer may wander from the luck of a bounce but it would still be better than a shiny aerodynamic 2-ton juggernaut passing you going down the hill and beating you into town...
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Old 10-18-2006, 01:59 PM   #15
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I like the idea of a small, separate 5 AH battery just for the breakaway switch.

The voltage would run down before the spindles or magnets could be overheated.
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Old 10-18-2006, 03:12 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkerfoot
Larry,

You can either purchase an new breakaway switch or go to the local hardware store and purchase a piece of wire cable and the clips to make new loops on the end.

Bill
I have used a good heavy fishing leader.

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Old 10-19-2006, 12:24 AM   #17
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Cable attachment?

This may be a dumb question but by the time I meet any of you you will have forgotten that I asked it. So where on the TV is the 'accepted' breakaway cable connection? I hook mine to my TV bumper. I figure one of the several ways to lose a trailer is the hitch separating so I won't hook the cable end to the rings provided for the safety chains.......Oh, I guess I answered my question.
Thanks. Forget that 'I' asked.
Neil.
Oh, by the way my 'defective' breakaway switch (See post "Cooked??") turned out to be a severed onnecting wire.
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Old 10-19-2006, 09:28 AM   #18
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This may be a dumb question but by the time I meet any of you you will have forgotten that I asked it. So where on the TV is the 'accepted' breakaway cable connection? ...
NOT a dumb question. Its been discussed before, and like alot of similar issues, opinions vary.
I think it depends on your particular tow vehicle somewhat. The philosophy that the breakaway cable should be connected somewhere other than where the trailer is connected sounds good...but its not so easy to achieve in all cases. The idea is that if the receiver seperates from the truck, and the breakawy cable is connected there, the switch would never be activated. Ok...but I can't even imagine the set of circumstances that would have to occur for that to happen. And with some vehicles, if it DID happen, it would take the bumper with it. have you noticed that with some newer trucks, the bumper actually wraps all the way around the receiver? if that comes off, its going to go straight back, and rip the bumper off with it. connecting the cable to that kind of bumper isn't going to give you any advantage at all.
the reciever isn't just going to "fall off". The only thing I can imagine that would cause it to suddendly become seperated from the vehicle would be an impact so huge, neither tow vehicle or trailer's wheels would be touching the ground, and brakes wouldn't be effective, anyway. Both vehicles would be rolling end over end.

now, the coupler popping off the ball? sure. The single pin holding the draw bar/hitch head in the receiver? yeah, I can see both of those failing. But the receiver isn't attached to the truck by a single, solitary piece of hardware.
still, you never know. my truck was recalled for some kind of potential "fault" in the hitch. The dealer installed different/beefier support brackets to overcome some sort of known weakness. So...I've gone as far as buying and eye-hook to put "somewhere"...its not at the top of my priority list, but I haven't been able to come up with a good spot to attach it on my truck yet. My receiver is below the bumper, but not very far below. an eye-hook attached to the underside of the bumper would protrude down into the path of the exiting receiver. above the bumper would interfere or look funny, or be difficult to attach securely..
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Old 10-20-2006, 07:29 AM   #19
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to the bumper

Neil,
Here's where I put mine. This is a stainless steel eye hook through a hole that was already there. Makes it really easy to hook up and verify prior to driving off.
Marc
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Old 10-25-2006, 01:42 AM   #20
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Neil,
Here's where I put mine. This is a stainless steel eye hook through a hole that was already there. Makes it really easy to hook up and verify prior to driving off.
Marc
Thanks, that's a good Idea. My TV is a '70s car with a very sturdy STEEL bumper. It does wrap down and under so a hole for an eye would work.
Neil.
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