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Brake away and safety chains

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Joseph

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Brake away and safety chains
« on: March 03, 2020, 12:19:48 pm »
I've recently seen a few large M/H's pulling heavy toads with no safety chains. All had the brake away system installed. I spoke to one of the owners and he told me if you have the brake away installed you do not need the safety chains/cables and vice versa. This is something I've never heard before nor have I been able to find any information stating either way. If it had only been one I'd seen I would have written it off but I've seen several set up this way.

Does anyone here know what's what and any official site on requirement variations?

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Engineerlt

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2020, 06:03:15 pm »
That is pretty interesting, I went with RoadMaster equipment and they told me to be legal in all states I needed the safety cables and a braking system. Maybe these people are just traveling to states that don't require both???

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mikeh

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2020, 07:21:24 pm »
Wow!  Based on personal experience I can't recommend towing without safety cables--break-away system or not.

My second long trip with my new RV and new tow set-up last year.  Traveling south in Florida on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike--just about to merge onto US1 down to the Keys.  Late afternoon, heavy traffic, running about 65 on the inside lane.  Felt a twitch, glanced in my outside mirrors, and saw about 1/3 of my Jeep Cherokee sitting outside the plane of the RV in the passenger side mirror.  It was trailing straight and steady, but I happened to be on a long bridge with no shoulder and the Jeep was running about 6 inches from the concrete bridge railing.

I managed to gradually slow the RV and was fortunate that an exit was only about a quarter mile away.  Made the exit and found a good-sized vacant parking lot in an industrial area.  During all the maneuvers the Jeep stayed to the right of the RV, but tracked steady and straight behind me.  I found the pin missing from the tow bar connection to the Jeep on the passenger side.  The driver side connection was fine, and the Jeep was being towed by the one tow bar arm on the driver side and the safety cable on the passenger side.  The driver tow bar arm was skewed way over and the passenger safety cable was taunt.  When the pin dropped, the Jeep had moved as far as the safety cable would permit, but could go no farther, and simply towed straight behind me from that point--it was well outside the plane of the RV.  My break-away had not stretched enough to activate, since the Jeep didn't come loose but had just moved to the side.

I have no idea what could have happened with the pin.  It was securely fastened with the hairpin clip in place, and I always check the hookup at every refuel and other stop.  It had to have either broken or somehow lost the retaining clip and worked out.  I didn't have a replacement at the time, but unhooked the toad, located a NAPA, and was able to buy one.  Have put about 5000 towing miles on the rig since then with no additional problems.

I'm not sure what would have happened had I not had the safety cables hooked up--but it wouldn't have been good.  With only one tow arm attached, being pulled from only one point off center, the Jeep would have surely whipped around in that heavy traffic.  I suppose the other arm might have broken and the break-away then activated the brakes, but there's no way the situation could have worked out as well as it did.  I've had my one allowable "beginner's luck moment" and I learn quickly.  You'll never see me towing without my safety cables.

Mike


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Engineerlt

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2020, 08:02:34 pm »
Hello Mike
Great story, I forgot to lock one of the locks that secured the tow bar to my Jeep Cherokee. I was wondering what would have happened if the lock had fallen out and the pin came out. Now I know, thanks for the information and glad it worked out for you.
Lance

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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2020, 11:25:13 pm »
mikeh,

You cannot rule out tampering.  That is why, where possible I use locks instead of pins.
Ron (& Irene) Dittmer

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2 Lucky

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2020, 08:07:31 am »
I've recently seen a few large M/H's pulling heavy toads with no safety chains. All had the brake away system installed. I spoke to one of the owners and he told me if you have the brake away installed you do not need the safety chains/cables and vice versa. This is something I've never heard before nor have I been able to find any information stating either way. If it had only been one I'd seen I would have written it off but I've seen several set up this way.

Does anyone here know what's what and any official site on requirement variations?
I found several websites that list the weight at which towed equipment needs supplimental braking, but nothing listing safety chains. But if you look at pretty much any individual state or province laws, chains or cables are required (and common sense!)
Some states (like Colorado) require vehicles towing another vehicle to stop a port of entry and weigh stations...I'm pretty sure they are looking at your safety equipment when you drive through.
If I ever see a toad without safety cables or chains I will surely ask the owner about it. Keep in mind, it is the laws of the state you are in, not where you are licensed that matter. 

Dougn
Riding the fine line between bravery and stupidity since 1952.

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Joseph

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2020, 10:55:35 am »
Mikeh, are you sure your safety chain was even in play? If youíd had a brake away would that have engaged your dinghy brake instead?  Two years ago traveling thru Denver in heavy traffic a 1 ton truck loaded with construction equipment pulling a concrete pump had a failure. The coupler itself came apart. Weíre roughly 30 yards behind it in traffic moving at 35-40 mph. When that pump came undone and it cradled in the chains that pump whipped that one ton truck around like it was a rag doll. If he had been doing 65-70 mph Iím betting on a death toll. Fortunately there was only a lot of squealing tires and one fender bender that I saw. Now if it had a brake away instead the brakes would have applied and even though it may not have stayed in its lane it would have come to a quick stop.

If only one arm comes disconnected on a dinghy set up would the brake away even be applied?
So whatís the answer? I have no clue, just wondering after seeing multiple rigs with only the brake away. Also how long are everyoneís safety cables ? Iíve seen some coiled safety cables like ready brake being 80Ē so if only one arm com disconnected how much will it help?

I do check my connections at every stop right before taking off, never right upon arrival. Even so things that look to be in good condition can let go.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2020, 03:32:18 pm by Joseph »

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Joseph

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2020, 10:57:58 am »
2 lucky, Iíve never stopped at a port of entry weigh station in Colorado or any other. Iím betting there too busy to bother with M homes. Iíve seen many with trucks backed so far up the freeway they light up the sign closed till they get thru the back log.

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mikeh

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2020, 03:31:19 pm »
Mikeh, are you sure your safety chain was even in play? If youíd had a brake away would that have engaged your dinghy brake instead?  Two years ago traveling thru Denver in heavy traffic a 1 ton truck loaded with construction equipment pulling a concrete pump had a failure. The coupler itself came apart. Weíre were roughly 30 yards behind it in traffic moving at 35-40 mph. When that pump came undone and it cradled in the chains that pump whipped that one ton truck around like it was a rag doll. If we had been doing 65-70 mph Iím betting on a death toll. Fortunately there was only a lot of squealing tires and one fender bender that I saw. Now if it had a brake away instead the brakes would have applied and even though it may not have stayed in its lane it would have come to a quick stop.

If only one arm comes disconnected on a dinghy set up would the brake away even be applied?
So whatís the answer? I have no clue, just wondering after seeing multiple rigs with only the brake away.

I do check my connections at every stop right before taking off, never right upon arrival. Even so things that look to be in good condition can let go.

Joseph---

In my incident the safety cable is what stopped my Jeep from getting even more out of alignment than it did.  My tow setup was almost new--a Roadmaster Nighthawk tow bar about 4 months and a thousand miles old.  It did have a break-away system to set the toad brakes in case of separation, but in this instance since one side of the tow arm stayed attached, the distance between the RV and the toad did not increase enough to pull out the break-away trigger.

When I lost the passenger side pin, that side of the tow bar simply dropped loose and that let the toad free to move side to side.  I haven't tried to figure out what type of force caused the Jeep to move or swerve to the curb side instead of toward the middle of the highway, but it moved a long way over--when I looked in the passenger mirror I could see about a third of the Jeep outside the side of the RV.  When I finally got the rig stopped, the toad was in about the same position as when I first noticed it.  The remaining driver side tow bar arm was attached and at an acute angle.  While the driver side safety cable still had plenty of slack, the passenger side safety cable was stretched tight as fiddle string.  Basically the one tow bar arm on the driver side and the one (tight) safety cable on the passenger side still provided two attachment points pulling forward on the front of the Jeep.  If there had been no safety cables, there would only be the one off-center pulling point from the remaining tow bar arm and that would undoubtedly have caused the Jeep to flop around back there.  I'm guessing at that point the strain on the remaining arm may have broken something causing complete separation.  The break-away would have activated then, setting the toad brakes, but in that heavy traffic the damage would probably already be done.

Mike

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Joseph

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2020, 03:38:30 pm »
Mike how long are your safety cables? Some of the coiled cables are 80Ē long.  Thatís much longer than the length of one arm. Thatís why I canít help wonder what good it does if only one arm comes loose.  So is the brake away worth the cost of admission? Whatís the odds of both arms coming undone? At some point itís over kill.  Myself I find cables are enough.

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mikeh

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2020, 04:51:25 pm »
I didn't measure the full length of my coiled safety cables but I'm sure you're right that they are at least 80" long.

However all 80" don't come into play; on the Nighthawk tow bar (and likely others), the safety cable is routed through the tow bar itself.   It exits right at the point that the extendable arm of the tow bar exits the tow bar housing.  Because of that arrangement, even with the cable fully uncoiled, there is only about 30 more inches of cable available past the end of each tow bar attachment point when the bar arms are fully extended and locked into towing position.  That means that in the case of my incident, with the driver side bar still attached, my Jeep could trail behind the RV until that 30" was used up and then both attachments--the one bar and the one cable were tight.  There's some geometry involved which makes it a little difficult to try to put into words, but it makes sense when you see it.

As mentioned earlier, the break-away does not come into play if only one arm drops.  It would trigger in case of complete separation of the RV and toad, and probably also if both arms drop and the toad is connected by just both safety cables.  From that perspective I agree with you.  I'm glad to have both the safety cables and the break-away, but if I can only have one I want the safety cables.

Mike

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Joseph

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2020, 09:20:49 pm »
I havenít seen those with the cable running thru. My blue ox didnít have them nor does my Roadmaster tow bar. Sounds like a good system .

Iím looking at going to the ReadyBrute elite tow bar, they donít appear to have the cable going thru the bar or attached to it as well.

Iím going to pass on the brake away. It would require several other items to fail prior. Of course if some new law jams it down our throats Iíll comply.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2020, 09:27:20 pm by Joseph »

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Joseph

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2020, 10:05:34 pm »
Mike, what type of aux braking system do you use? I had intended to install a ready brute elite but on further inspection itís not feasible with the beefed up bumper and winch system on my Jeep.   

Presently considering going with the stay n play duo but nothingís in concrete.

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mikeh

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2020, 11:07:06 pm »
Joseph--below is a "copy and paste" of part of a message I posted a few months ago during an earlier discussion of tow systems:

"Since I had no previous RV towing experience (although I had previously towed trailers) I did extensive review and research on towing setups before I committed to one.  My arrangement is Blue Ox baseplates, a Roadmaster Nighthawk towbar, and the SMI Stay-In-Play Duo brake system.  I really like the Stay-In-Play Duo.  I knew I wanted a permanently installed brake system, since I didn't want to have to move the brake system in and out of the tow vehicle and adjust it each time I hooked and unhooked the tow.  The S-I-P provides a permanent, out of sight installation--you never know it's there, and to tow you just hook up the towbar and flip one switch in the Jeep.  Has progressive and proportional braking--it applies the toad brakes at the same level you're applying the RV brakes.  Requires two signals to activate the toad brakes--first the RV brake system must activate and then the accelerometer must sense deceleration--so eliminates inadvertent applications of the toad brakes.  I have been highly satisfied with the effectiveness of the braking of my rig and how it performs."

After a year and quite a few thousand towing miles I stand by my statement on the Stay-In-Play.  The install needs to be done right of course, but other than one toggle switch below the dash (and the box under the hood) you can't tell a system is installed.   I just hook up, flip one switch, and go.  So far I'm completely happy with it.

Mike

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Joseph

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Re: Brake away and safety chains
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2020, 11:58:14 pm »
Mike, Thanks that pretty much what I read everywhere. Iíve yet to find anyone having any real issue. One last question, did you need to add a charging line to maintain your jeeps battery?

The install itself doesnít look bad as well.