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Old 01-03-2003, 08:55 AM   #1
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Question Towing Without Breaks?

Hi Folks,

I just bought an 18', 1970 Caravel, number B18T0J108.

It is listed as 3000 lbs. gross weight and I need to move it a few hundred miles of mostly straight highway. I just put on new tires and do not know if the breaks work.

My question is how safe or unsafe is it to tow it home without using the on-board electric breaks. (I have a friend with a gigantic GMC monster to do the towing and I do plan on getting the lights, etc. working, but I'm nervous not knowing the answer to this question.)

I do plan to inspect/repair/replace all systems, but I need to get it here first.

Thanks for your advise.

Matthew

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Old 01-03-2003, 09:14 AM   #2
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to brake or not to brake

Does the truck you will be towing with have a brake controller on it? If so it would be just as easy to try the brakes since you will need all lites on the trailer to work to be legal anyway. I have found that most problems with trailer brakes are just loose or disconnected wires. You should tear them down and inspect them when you get to your destination though. All said your tow vehicle may be large enough that you won't even need the brakes, of course that may be illegal in your area. I towed my 22' Argosy without brakes for 100 miles or so when I first picked it up but I had a 3/4 ton truck and no hills.

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Old 01-03-2003, 10:17 AM   #3
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Hi Chas,

Thanks for you help. The towing truck does not have a controller. I have looked over the trailer and see a number of loose wires and would prefer not livening up the 12VDC just to drive the breakaway. What I'm hearing from you is just take it easy and be careful, but only for that initial transport.

I absoultly will insure the chains are secure.

Thanks again.
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Old 01-03-2003, 10:25 AM   #4
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Towing without brakes?

Greetings Matthew!

Welcome to the Forum and the world of Vintage Airstreaming.

I concur with Chas in regard to planning to try the brakes to see if they work. On both my '64 Overlander and '78 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Meter, the brakes worked perfectly once everything in the wiring was straightened out.

Vintage Airstream and Argosy trailers often are not wired to the current standard for connectors so you will need to be prepared to rewire the trailer end to match the tow vehicle. On my Airstream, the previous owner assisted in that operation; on the Argosy, I was on my own. Even as a do-it-yourselfer klutz, I was able to install the new trailer end and get everything working properly on the Minuet in less than two-hours. It is quite possible that the Caravel that you are picking up will have a round pin connector rather than the flat blade style connector that is more common today so you may be faced with either adapting or replacing the trailer end in order to be operational. The modern connector will be labeled with the color codes for the wiring - - my notes indicate the following:

White Terminal = Ground
Blue Terminal = Electric Brakes
Green Terminal = Tail/Running Lights
Black Terminal = Battery/Charge
Red Terminal = Left Turn/Stop Lights
Brown Terminal = Right Turn/Stop Lights
Yellow Terminal = Backup Lights

The above color codes should correspond to your tow vehicle's standardized wiring, but the colors will be different on the Airstream. The easiest method is to disconnect each wire from the trailer end and test its purpose with a 12-volt battery and aligator clips - - I used the battery from my garden tractor and the troubleshooting operation took less than 2 hours. The above operation resulted in full functionality of brakes as well as tail light systems, but the clearance lights needed additional attention before they were functional.

Another potential pitfall of towing the rig home is hitch height. If you are towing with a sport untility or most large vehicles, you will need a hitch with enough drop to keep from raising the tongue too high which result in dragging the rear bumper on the ground when uneven terrain is encountered - - depending upon where the dump valve is located, you might drag off part of that assembly if it points down toward the ground at the rear of the trailer as the one does on my Minuet - - I know this from experience as I drug the protruding part of the valve off of my Minuet as I exited the previous owner's driveway (fortunately the driveway was dirt so the damage wasn't as severe as it might have been).

Also, you may need to consider the need to have supplemental trailer towing mirrors for your tow vehicle - - the standard mirrors (even on my '99 Suburban) are not legally adquate for trailer towing. I have tried both the CIPA slip-on mirrors and McKesh clamp-on mirrors and prefer the McKesh mirrors as they provide a much better view of the surrounding traffic and obstacles.

Check the following URLs for some additional information on troubleshooting the car to trailer connection:

Standard 7-Blade Trailer Connector Wiring:

Troubleshooting the 7-Blade Connector Wiring

I would definitely encourage you to try to get the safety equipment fully operational as it is a question of liability should an accident occurr (IMHO).

Good luck with your new Caravel - - you are sure to find that it is an excellent sized trailer for impromptu trips.

Kevin
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Old 01-03-2003, 10:52 AM   #5
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Slow down

And realize that your stopping distances will be much longer than if you had trailer brakes.

And lastly in the society that we live in you will be deemed at fault in any situation for towing (knowingly) defective equipment and not doing anything about it.

Life is a risky place. Be careful.

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Old 01-04-2003, 10:41 AM   #6
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Cable Layout

Responding to Kevin...

Thanks Kevin, I have the original cable with the Caravel and found a posting of the pinout someplace on-line (can't remember where now, unfortunately). It is entitled "7-Way Plug for 1966 through and Including 1981". Its a round connector with a big honking center terminal. The terminals themselves are all about 1/4 round pegs with one larger index pin (ground).

According th that, there is a discrepancy with your pinout: They have it as this:

White Terminal = Ground
Blue Terminal = Charge Line*** (center connector)
Green Terminal = Tail/Running Lights
Black Terminal = Backup Lights***
Red Terminal = Left Turn/Stop Lights
Brown Terminal = Right Turn/Stop Lights
Yellow Terminal = Breaks***

where *** = different from yours.

I just thought I'd throw that out there in case anybody has more input.
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Old 01-04-2003, 11:36 AM   #7
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Towing Without Brakes?

Greetings Matthew!

What you have found is the Vintage Airstream pin-out, and this is different from the current industry standard for the tow vehicles which is the pin-out that I included. This in addition to the round pin connector terminal is the reason that I suggested that you might want to be prepared to install and wire a new connector to match the new tow vehicle/trailer standard. (The round-pin connectors are still available, but the flat blade style is the preferred item with the modern pin-out standards.) I checked my records and the pin-out color codes that you have are what should be found on the trailer, but they will not match up to the current industry standard found in current blade type connectors - - the information that I have was posted by Charlie Burke to the Vintage Airstream Club Discussion List. I have quoted from his message at the end of this message.

There are a number of reasons that you might want to have the trailer wired to today's standard. 1.) It will simplify wiring the tow vehicle end - - if you have the factory connector it won't need to be changed. 2.) If you wire tow vehicle to match trailer, you won't be able to easily tow other trailers - - I often rent a car hauler for use with my collector cars and it wouldn't work with the "Airstream standard" of the 1960s. 3.) If you plan to tow any other trailers owned or retned, they will likely be wired to the modern pin-out standard. I have rewired my trailer connectors to the current standard to simplify the towing equation.

I have done this with both my '64 Overlander with the help of the previous owner, and with my '78 Argosy Minuet. Even with minimal assistance from the previous owner (light spotter) the rewiring of the connector on the Minuet took less than two-hours and provided me with working trailer brakes and functioning tail lights - - didn't have clearance lights but within a few miles most of them had begun to function as well.

Quote:
Airstream's wiring code back then had three wire colors different from the current code. This difference can be found on 1966-81, except those built to Canadian spec's in 1969. The differences are:

Yellow is the brake output rather than backup
Black is backup lights rather than charge line
Blue is the charge line rather than brake output

The others remain the same as today's standard, which is:

Red is left turn and stop
Brown is right turn and stop
Green is marker lights
White is ground.
*The above is an excerpt from a message posted by Charlie Burke to the Vintage Airstream Club Discussion List on June 18, 2000.

Good luck with your project!

Kevin
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Old 01-04-2003, 11:36 AM   #8
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new/old

matty

i think kevin's post shows the new standard, and your post shows the old.

if you were to match the wires you have to the new standard everything should work on the first try.

that is assuming nothing was changed on your trailer over the years. might want to have some spare fuses along just in case...

lotsa luck!

john
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Old 01-04-2003, 11:48 AM   #9
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in addition,

kevin is correct about "standardizing" your plug.

one other thing you may want to consider is with standard(new) wiring is if you ever have a break down.

you won't have any trouble hooking your trailer to a friends or passerby's truck to get off the freeway as many tow companys will not haul a truck with a trailer on it.

in my immediate family we have 4 trucks all wired to the new standard, any one of them could (and have) tow my trailer. if my truck were disabled.

we also have a full size wells cargo car hauler that is wired the same.

that way when we travel in a group any truck can pull any trailer.

john
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Old 01-04-2003, 12:05 PM   #10
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Thanks

Wow,

You guys are really taking care of me. I feel like I'm in good hands. Thank you so much.

I will rewire the towing end of my factory cable to the current standard. The old towing end connector is corroded anyway and needs replacement. It does have spade type connectors and does not look original. I think somebody may have already done the rewire, but it is a sloppy job (overcut shroud, pealing tape, etc.) I'll rework the entire cable from the trailed connector on. I'll stop by an RV place and get a current industry standard tow end connector and do what you say.

Thanks again! You are making me feel really at home and like I may have a chance of getting this project done.

Matthew
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Old 01-07-2003, 11:44 AM   #11
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I have towed my 26' airstreams w/o brakes and I do not advise doing it. On one trip from the deer camp to home, it started to rain very hard. When I had to come to a stop, the trailer pushed my truck about 30 feet through an intersection before coming to a stop. Luckily, it was in a rural area with no other traffic. In dry weather, I haven't had any problems.

I would definitely hook up the trailer brakes.
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Old 01-23-2003, 05:07 PM   #12
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Towing wihtout brakes

Last summer, I forgot to hook up the vacuum connection for my vacuum power disc brakes, so I had no brakes in the trailer. I have a 31' Excella and tow with a 2001 Suburban 1500 series 4wd. I pulled from Charlevoix, Michigan to Grand Rapids (roughly 200 miles) without incident.

I don't recommend it, it is illegal, but it can be done.
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Old 01-23-2003, 07:51 PM   #13
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This past summer I towed with everything hooked up, but set the brake controls to disable the Voyager from controlling the brakes, because I didn't like the way it worked. I was able to use the manual lever anytime it was needed. Hopefully my new Jordan will arrive soon, and I won't have a problem this season.
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Old 01-23-2003, 10:24 PM   #14
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I tend to be a bit more relaxed than most folks about towing -- lotsa years towing lotsa stuff, including 20 years pulling doubles. I've towed dozens of travel trailers many thousands of miles without brakes. Just don't go too fast, and be ESPECIALLY careful going downhill -- always use a lower gear and go slow. I know that many people wouldn't tow without brakes. To each his own. No question, it's better to have brakes -- but they not at all essential, IMHO. However, if you are not comfortable towing without them, don't do it.
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Old 01-24-2003, 02:34 PM   #15
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No brakes Towing

I been towing for a long time. My tow vehicle is a Ford F350 one ton crew cab long wheel base, diesel powered. This is a great puller. I have towed all over the west into, up and down thru the Great Rocky mountains. The 6% grades are not a challenge. The 1979 Airstream is not a difficult towing task. The truck brakes are more than needed to tow. Brake lites are not connected to trailer brakes. I have the trailer breakaway switch connected to the house batteries. The most important task for any action is the plan. Basic survival skills dictate driving plans. It is necessary to know about trailer towing. Make lots of panic stops so as to know and understand what can happen.
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Old 02-14-2003, 10:23 AM   #16
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Question Just bought A/S: brakes, what brakes?

Hello, and thanks for so much information. This is my first post...as well as my first trailer.

I just bought a 1960 24' A/S and will be retreiving it in two weeks. I live in Illinois, and will be towing it back from the Gulf coast in MS. When I asked the seller about brakes, he said he didn't know anything about them, and even if they were on it, he didn't use them.

I have made plans to have the wheel bearings repacked (based on posts elsewhere), and to have the lighting and tires looked at. I asked if they did brakes, and yes they do, but I didn't (and still don't yet) know what is in the trailer.

The owner has converter the A/S to a weekend home: no water tank, no gas, no 12v system, no valve on the black water tank. So, I have some challenges to revert back to a self-contained unit. But that also means, no 12 volt system for break-away braking as I understand. Hmmm.

On another note, I will be looking for advice on towing the beast, with or without brakes! In addition to my first trailer (other than a pop-up in the 70's), I will be buying and driving a used pickup on that same trip: a '92 K2500 6.5 turbo diesel with 5 sp granny manual, 3.43 posi rear. Please point me to appropriate forums for help in that area! Thanks.
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Old 02-14-2003, 11:36 AM   #17
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Phil and/or Sue, (Or Pa/oS)

I can tell you about my experience and then I can tell you about the rules and/or the law.

First the legal aspect. No one would say or recommend towing with out brakes. In fact if you were involved in an accident you could be found liable even if the cause was not your fault if you were towing with out proper equipment. (Or in some states illegally)

With that said. I bought a heavier trailer (a Overlander) fully equipped with all of the systems intact. And towed it from Indiana to Arizona with out brakes. The tow vehicle was a full size 1/2 ton van. I was very careful in speed and following other vehicles. (based on results successful too) With that in mind, know that you are towing a vehicle that has not been towed in a while. Things like shocks, tires, and lights may not be up for the trip with out some attention. I towed my trailer with cracks in the sidewalls and planned on stopping to buy new tires if the emergency occurred. It did not however, I risked damage to the body of the trailer, should a blow out or tread seperation occur. In towing the load braking was my last concern. Vibration was the issue for me. And it did loosen up many things inside the trailer. Although it did make it there in one piece.

So you will be the owner. You will take the risks. And you will be the one responsible. Given your description of the towed load and tow vehicle, my opinion is you should not have an issue with braking given prudent operation.

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Old 02-14-2003, 08:34 PM   #18
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Smile Owners Have Responsibilities...

Action, thanks for your input. I am hoping that the A/S (or is AS ok?) has brakes, and that they can be made operable in one day by the repair shop. I already have plans to take it in for bearing repack, as well as tire and lighting checkout/repairs.

If the brakes are there but non-operable, I may not want that shop to fix them, but instead may need to take it to an A/S dealer. There is one in Illinois 3 hours from home, on the route that I am taking. So, I will talk with them once I know the status of the braking system on the trailer.

Regarding the device that brakes the trailer if the trailer breaks away from the tow vehicle (I cannot remember what it's called), my understanding is that it requires 12 volts from the trailer internal 12 volt supply. Since there is no 12 volt system in the trailer anymore, I cannot possibly get that to work without extensive work.

I will have a lot of work to do to rebuild the self-contained aspect of a travel trailer with this A/S (since there is no gas, no water system, no drain valve on the black water tank, and no 12 volt system), I will be spending lots of time reading and tracking others projects.

Thanks again for your input. I have been concerned about brakes (or lack thereof), but apparently can live without them for this trip if need be. I'll be taking possession Sunday, 3/2/03! (without the kids!!!)
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Old 02-14-2003, 09:27 PM   #19
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Brakes are easy....

They are not Airstream specific. If they are "Brand X" brakes there is a good chance that you can go to any trailer sales dealer that has a parts department and buy Dexter Brake Plates. They are around $80 each, and are most likely held on the axle with 5 bolts.
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Old 02-14-2003, 10:37 PM   #20
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You can get a small self contained breakaway system which will mount on the tongue and has it's own 12v battery. I have seen them used by the outfits that tote mobile homes.

I have got the Alco brake and backing plates on my Overlander. I got them at a local utility trailer supply for fifty dollars a piece and they bolted up with no problems. My brother turned the drums at his shop, he did both surfaces on each of them and said I owe him big time, took him half a day.

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