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Old 10-05-2010, 11:12 AM   #1
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Towing weight and brake question

Last week we finally purchased a 2003 used 27' Bigfoot and took off for our first trip across the Cascade Mts in British Columbia.

The Bigfoot has a V-10 E-450 Super duty Cutaway, abd we had a towing system installed by the dealer. We are towing a Honda CRV with all 4 wheels down, and carefully following the directions in the Honda manual for doing so.

The Honda weighs about 4300 lbs, abd the CGWR of the Bigfoot is 20,000 pounds with a GVWR of a max of 14,050, so I figured all was well. After a 7 hour drive, however, when we reaqched the campground to unhitch, we smelled a burnt odor at the back of the Bigfoot/front of the Honda. We had just completed about a 15 mile descent from the Mts, mostly in 2nd gear.

What are we doing wrong? We did not have any breaking system installed in the Honda because most of our friends with RVs told us they were superflous, and the Honda's manual was silent on the issue and the salesman, when our of the hearing of the service manager, also said they were not necessary.

Is it burning breaks we are smelling? Are we too heavy?

We will be making the same drive back tomorrow. Should we unhitch and drive separately?

Thank you for any quick advice!!
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Old 10-05-2010, 11:27 AM   #2
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Sorry about the troubles you're having but I think you've gotten some really poor advice. Toad brakeing systems ARE indeed needed to safely operate your rig. Personally i would suggest that you disconnect and drive the vehicles seperately until you can find out what's going on with the smell you detected.

I would also get your coach weighed ASAP. It's not at all uncommon for manufacturers of smaller gas coaches to produce units which are nearly at their GVWR at the time they roll off the line and it's easy to get overloaded which would certainly have over stressed the brakes on your rig.

Good luck and be safe.

Rick
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Old 10-05-2010, 11:29 AM   #3
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Not sure about Canada, but in most US states, it is a requirement to have a supplemental braking system for that configuration. Not to mention smart for safety reasons.

Heck, a 15 mile mountain decent.... I'd probably unhitch my MH and toad (with a braking system) and drive seperately.

Be safe. Your life and the family's are too precious to risk.

Safe travels.
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Old 10-05-2010, 11:49 AM   #4
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In addition to a braking system for the CR-V you need a break-a-way feature that will stop the CR-V if it breaks away from the RV.

I have towed Honda CR-Vs about 108,000 trouble free miles. My 1999 CR-V weighed 3240 pounds and my 2007 CR-V weighs about 3600 pounds. I use a Brake Buddy, but there are many excellent braking systems to chose from.
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Old 10-05-2010, 12:17 PM   #5
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Your friends were wrong. Ask them if they will insure your rig and the lives of your family if your MH brakes fail.
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Old 10-05-2010, 01:24 PM   #6
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OK, I know I'm going to take some heat on this but each State in the US has there own requirements as to when you need a braking system on your Toad, not to be confused with TRAILER towing. The same thing applies with Canada, each of the Provinces have their requirements. It is usually based on the weight of the Toad. At the OP's wt. of his MH and the WT. of the Toad It would be to his advantage and his safety to set the Toad up with a braking system.
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Old 10-05-2010, 01:49 PM   #7
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I tow a 2006 CRV and I have the SMI Stay-in-Play brake system. When you plug the lights in you are ready to go. I wouldn't tow any Car without an auxillary brake system no matter what the law is.
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Old 10-05-2010, 02:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgtjoe View Post
OK, I know I'm going to take some heat on this but each State in the US has there own requirements as to when you need a braking system on your Toad, not to be confused with TRAILER towing. The same thing applies with Canada, each of the Provinces have their requirements. It is usually based on the weight of the Toad. At the OP's wt. of his MH and the WT. of the Toad It would be to his advantage and his safety to set the Toad up with a braking system.
All very true but the OP didn't ask what was legal... he asked what he needed.
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Old 10-05-2010, 03:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgtjoe View Post
OK, I know I'm going to take some heat on this but each State in the US has there own requirements as to when you need a braking system on your Toad, not to be confused with TRAILER towing. The same thing applies with Canada, each of the Provinces have their requirements. It is usually based on the weight of the Toad. At the OP's wt. of his MH and the WT. of the Toad It would be to his advantage and his safety to set the Toad up with a braking system.

Neither Ford or Workhorse makes any designation as to what you're towing. They both say When towing over XXX lbs auxillary brakes are required. Ford in particular sets the limit at 1,500 lbs even if the combined weight is under the GVWR. In no case should the towed weight exceed the capacity of the hitch nor should the combined weight of the motorhome and toad exceed the GCWR.
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Old 10-05-2010, 03:19 PM   #10
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You will probably find that in the owners manual Ford says over 1000lb you need brakes on anything you tow. I agree with getting your coach weighed, fully loaded. I would not be surprised if it was around the 14,050 GVWR limit.

Good Luck!
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Old 10-06-2010, 08:40 PM   #11
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The brakes on your Ford chassis are designed to stop the GVWR weight, not the GCWR. You were pushing 14,050 lb brakes with an 18,300+ lb load down that 15 mile descent. It's not surprising they were hot and smokey - lucky they didn't overheat and fade away.

I think your friends gave you very poor advice on the toad brakes. Anything you can do to improve the braking of a motorhome and toad is a GOOD THING.
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Old 10-07-2010, 10:38 AM   #12
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Thank you all for your replies. We will have a braking system installed before our next trip. Will you please comment on which system is the easiest to use? There are so many at so many different prices!

We are home safe and sound, having it made it back over the mountains.
My husband is NOT a manual reader, but I am, and the Ford manual made it very clear that one should downshift descending a long steep mountain, and I made him read that section. He had been downshifting to go up. It took us an hour longer to get home, but this time, we did not smell burning brakes.

The use of downshifting to slow down a vehicle has me confused. If the car you are towing with the motorhome has a braking system, and you use downshifting to slow down the motorhome, what will be the effect of using downshifting instead of the brake when descending mountains?

We did stop at a weigh station and the state trooper who was there explained how to calculate our weight and helped us to do so. The total of our motorhome and car, fully loaded as we had just purchased gas 10 miles earlier (but with the fresh water tank only 1/3 or less full and nearly empty holding tanks) was 17,800 with the GCWR of 20,000 pounds.

Thank you, Gary especially, for pointing out that the brakes are only rated for the 14,050, not the 18,000 pounds. Can you please explain in equally simple terms to this female non mechanic what is rated at the GCWR?

Was downshifting OK?
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:24 AM   #13
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Lightbulb What gear ?

One very simple RULE for selecting the right gear when driving 'down hill' is, that you drive down hill with the same gear as 'up hill'.
e.g.: 2 up means 2 down and you should be ok.

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Old 10-07-2010, 11:46 AM   #14
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Hi begete,
I am the "other" Gary. To answer some of your last post questions:

1. I us a braking system called USGEAR. Go to Unified Tow Brake and read about it. I use it because to hookup or unhook the system from the coach, it is one plug. Your hubby should enjoy that.

2. A toad breaking system is activated when the coach service brake pedal is depressed. Down shifting will require fewer activations of the coach service brakes. This is good. If the coach brakes are not being used then neither are the toad brakes. The USGEAR system, mentioned above, does allow the driver to activate the toad brakes without activating the coach brakes.

Down shifting on a decent is the first choice for maintaining the best speed for the decent. Sometimes this is all that is needed. Other times the service brakes are also needed. When descending consider stabbing the service brakes. (Like in the Hitchcock movie). This means, when braking is required, press the service break pedal hard (like stabbing). This will slow the coach quickly. Release the service brake pedal and let the downshift continue to control the speed. Stabbing the brakes will allow them to cool between uses.

3. GCWR is Gross Combined Weight Rating. This is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) + the towing capacity the manufacturer states on the sticker on the wall behind the driver's seat. This is usually the towing rating for the hitch. An example is my coach has a GVWR of 32K. The manufacturer says the GCWR is 42K. My hitch is rated at 10K.

One should never exceed the GVWR or the hitch weight rating. An example is just because my coach GCWR is 42K does not mean the coach can carry 42K lbs. It can carry a maximum of 32K lbs (the GVWR).

In addition to all this there is the individual axle weight rating and then the weight on each wheel. My coach rear axle weight rating is 20K. The actual weight is 19730 lbs. This means any thing new going into the coach, goes as far forward as possible or something needs to come out of the coach. FYI I have about 1500 lbs available on my front axle.

If you have the opportunity to get the weight for each wheel, by all means do so. Knowing the weight on each wheel will allow tire pressure to be set correctly.
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