You should be worried, but I'm not sure if the topic is worthy of "freak-out status" or not. I realize that I am on a thin line between presenting information and presenting a product. The task becomes even more difficult as I have used most systems on the market and the experience has only made me personally believe in the SMI products more. I am not in way trying to you or anyone else which system to purchase Honestly, I wish that everyone at least had something , but I do feel it my duty to provide accurate information that allows you and everyone else to make you own decision, not the marketing departments' decision. That said, here is the unbiased response to your last post...
First, to make sense out of this discussion, we must separate SMI from M&G. There are similarities, but also major differences.
M&G-Activation for the brakes of the towed vehicle comes from a four-inch cylinder mounted behind the master cylinder that moves brake fluid. Every vehicle (more or less) has a different cylinder as the master cylinder is different. Relocating the master cylinder also results in the need to rebend the brake lines and frequently requires the relocation of the battery, fuse block, air intake, etc. of the towed vehicle. Activation air pressure comes from the relay valve on the back of the coach and is unprotected.
Air Force One-Activation for the brakes of the towed vehicle comes from a 3.75"x0.875" cylinder mounted on the brake arm of the towed vehicle (above the pedal). As for the vacuum assist, a nylon tee is place in the rubber vacuum hose on the brake booster. Since all vehicles have similar brake arms and brake boosters, there are no special parts needed, or vehicular modifications. Activation air pressure comes from the relay valve on the back of the coach and is protected.
Now that we have that understanding, I will try my best to answer your questions.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">I can't tell if it has hydra-boost brakes or not </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
To determine which system your truck has, simply look at the firewall where the master cylinder is (where you add brake fluid).
If there is a black "drum" type reservoir between the firewall and the master cylinder, you have vacuum-assisted brakes. If this is the case, you will also notice a hose coming out of the reservoir at the 10 o'clock position that goes to the intake manifold.
If the master cylinder appears to mount directly to the firewall, and there are two hoses that go to the power steering pump, then you have a hydra-boost braking system.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> It needs to be tailored and adapted to literally 100s of vehicles. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
For M&G, this is true. If this is to be said of Air Force One, then one must be fair and say that the box brakes must be tailored and adapted to fit the hundreds of brakes pedals on the market. Air Force One is just as universal as a box brake, but it is definitely not as portable.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> I doubt any major auto manufacturer will warrant your braking system after being modified. It will be a case of finger pointing as to what system failed. I have been involved in a number of instances where a manufacturer will NOT honor a warrantee on a modified system. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
Of the thousands and thousands customers that we have, I have not heard of one denied warranty claim. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act prevents a dealer (that provides a warranty) from not upholding the warranty because of the addition of an aftermarket part. It can be viewed in its entirety here.
This act clearly puts the burden of proof on the dealership, not the customer. Here are a couple of "for instance's":
1) You put in a brake that energizes the vacuum assist in the towed. Your vehicle develops vacuum leak and is running poorly (this actually happened to the president of SMI). You take the car to the dealer and describe the problem. In order to deny the claim, they MUST implicitly PROVE that the aftermarket part was at fault. In the case of the President, the Dodge dealer did not even mention anything about the system. In this case, the dealership would fix the problem under the warranty.
2) You put in a box brake the sticks on and burns the brakes off of your car. The dealership would look at the vehicle and easily be able to prove that it was user error/abuse and you would be liable for all repairs.
In either case, the average dealer is not going to give you trouble unless they think that they have a good case. Customer satisfaction is very, very important to the auto dealership. If a dealer has too many upset customers, they will get their status yanked in a hurry. They are not going to just throw out allegations. You don't have to believe me, call and ask them; they are very serious about how the manufacturer views them.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> ...but what about the installation </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
Just like the box brakes, SMI and M&G have many self-installers. You are correct; no aftermarket part manufacturer is going to warrant a third-party install. Whether it is a 12v coffee warmer or a braking system, there is no possible way to supply a warranty on the product's installation. If the person installing the breakaway switch on the box brake grounds the power wire out and causes damage to the vehicle's electrical system, the manufacturer (e.g. BrakeBuddy, Roadmaster, etc.) is not going to fit the bill. They simply can't. Most reputable dealers carry at least a 30 day warranty on the work. Our factory installs carry a 90 day warranty.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> ... and it fails because a fitting wasn't tightened properly. Then what? </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
Fortunately, SMI does not tie into the vehicle's braking system so this simply cannot happen. The ONLY connection in to the vehicle is a barbed tee put in to the rubber vacuum line of the towed vehicle. M&G does tap in to the vehicle's hydraulics so it is a hypothetical possibility, although I have never heard of a case of an M&G system failing.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> ...but it seems the worse case scenarios might be putting flat spots on tires or burning up brake pads. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
Now this is one I have heard several cases of. Unfortunate for many, this is not the worst-case scenario. A majority of the case of burned up brakes are a result of the unit malfunctioning without the coach notification coming on. About half of the cases I have talked to only had brake pad and tire damage, but the other half had much worse damage. Pulling a vehicle with the brakes on causes extreme friction, and in turn, heat. This heat is transferred to the extremely flammable brake fluid, causing it to boil. The now over-flowing fluid makes contact with the over-heated braking system of the towed (which is now well over 500ΒΊF) causing it to ignite. At this point, the rims and tires are melted, the rotors and pads are shot, the calipers are seized, the ABS module and sensors are melted, the integrity of the master cylinder and brake lines are at best compromised, and the front of the vehicle is on fire. Yes, it DOES happen.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> Either way I would be out possibly another $1500 for a new toad braking system dedicated to the new vehicle. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
The beauty of all SMI systems is their universality. Whether you are towing a VW Beetle, a Ram 3500, or anything in between, your SMI will go right in without any special parts. Just like a box brake, you would remove the breakaway switch off the front of the car and the operating unit. Obviously, removing the box is going to be more simple. Actually it will already be done, as it must be removed every time you are done towing.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> Brake Buddy and Even Brake systems are substantially cheaper than installed systems. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
I cannot speak for M&G, but the Air Force One is just under $1000. As far as other units on the market: The BrakeBuddy Classic is $1149.00, the BrakeBuddy Vantage is $1399.00, the EvenBrake is $1332.23, and the Blue Ox Apollo/Luxor is not currently in production, although there are still some available for purchase.
Keep in mind I am not trying create spin in one way or another, but there are some definitions an RV`er must know in order to make an educated decision. "Terrain Sensing Technology" and "Surge Suppressor" are the two most common terms you will see. This is a thought process that "inertia only" systems must use to determine what type of inertia is present. A pothole, a dip in the road, braking the coach, and falling off a cliff all create inertia, but how does the brake know when to turn on? It must think; and thinking takes time. All inertia only systems have this delay to some extent or another. It is just the nature of the beast. Depending on the manufacturer, this "thought process" takes anywhere between 1-3 seconds. One second at 60 mph is 88 feet, and 3 seconds is 264 feet. Some times the difference between a fatality and everyone going home safe is one foot. Just earlier this week, someone (using one of the 3 second variety) was in an accident. No injuries, just damage to the coach and the other vehicle involved. He said "I slammed on the brake and the **** thing never even turned on." It was in slower traffic, so the accident didn't exceed three seconds. He stopped less than one foot after impact. No doubt, an operable supplemental brake would have save at least one foot of stopping distance. Instead, he now has a $1000 deductible to pay and his premium will go up. This doesn't happen to everyone to be sure; but for him, which brake was less expensive?
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> Installed systems cost near $1000, there is installation ($500), and then there is the cost of getting to the installers (maybe you have to travel 200+ miles and stay at a RV Park overnight) which could be another $200 or more. Self-contained systems can be delivered to your door. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
$500 is about right to install the M&G system, but I do know for a fact that most of our dealers charge $200-$300 for the Stay-IN-Play model and $300-$400 for the Air Force One, while about half of our customers are "self-installers." Do keep in mind that with any braking system, you at least have to install a breakaway switch on the front of the car that most dealers charge 0.5-1 hour for.
There were a lot of questions in your last post, so let me know if I missed one if you need any clarification.
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