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Old 09-27-2013, 07:38 PM   #1
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Why does Winnebago not recommend surge brakes?

I am in the process of setting up for towing with a 2011 Winnebago/Itasca Navion J with a 2010 Honda Fit (automatic). I was very interested in the ReadyBrute Elite tow bar system with the built in surge brake.

Winnebago, through my Navion manual, and in a discussion I had today with a Winnebago tech, does not recommend use of surge brakes due to stress on hitch receiver. In talking with NSA (ReadyBrute) today, the staffer indicated that to his knowledge Winnebago is the only company with such a recommendation. (I got the sense from the Winnebago tech that this was a company-wide prohibition, not exclusively for the Navion though I could be mistaken.)

As a non techie I would think that ANY braking system would involve some forward movement of the toad and related movement of the tow bar unit. This is unless both brake systems were completely integrated as some are.

A couple of people have indicated to me they have towed with the Ready Brute with a Navion and Winnebago MH without any issues.

This issue is important of course as a separate braking system will run $1000-$2000 with install, depending.

I would appreciate any advice or thoughts on the matter of the Elite tow bar and surge brakes and tow bar/hitch impacts.


John and Margo
North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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Old 09-27-2013, 08:07 PM   #2
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I think the Winnebago people are blowing smoke up your skirt here.


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Old 09-27-2013, 09:12 PM   #3
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I just googled Winnebago and surge brakes and only came up with a document dated 2008 that stated Winnebago recommended against using surge brakes, stating it may cause excessive stress on the hitch receiver or the frame where it's attached. I could not find anything in my Winnebago/Itasca owner's manual concerning surge brakes, nor could I find anything in my Workhorse owners manual. I know there are a lot of people out there towing with no brake system at all for the towed vehicle. I think any brakes, including surge brakes, put a lot less stress on the hitch and frame than having no brakes at all. I feel safe with using the ReadyBrute and it's surge brake. My wife and I have both commented that when towing our Captiva that we seem to be stopping in the same distance and using the same brake effort on the brake pedal as we did stopping without a towed vehicle. I just don't really think the car with the surge brake is adding any appreciable stress to our hitch or frame. I would definately be interested in a scientific test of the combination and the amount of extra stress using a surge brake adds to our RV.
Steve & Nancy
2005 Itasca Sunrise 33', W20 Chassis, Ultrapower, Henderson Trac Bar
2012 Chevy Captiva Sport AWD, ReadyBrute Elite Tow Bar, Blue Ox Base Plate, Protect-A-Tow
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Old 09-28-2013, 06:13 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by TXiceman View Post
I think the Winnebago people are blowing smoke up your skirt here.

That or they're really shy of that hitch's weight rating?
1997 37' HR Endeavor, 275hp Cat, Freightliner
03 CR-V Blue Ox, Ready Brake
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Old 09-28-2013, 06:47 AM   #5
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Here's a couple paragraphs from the 2013 Adventurer Operators manual.

If a towing “brake system” is required, we
recommend that a “modulated” towed vehicle
braking device be installed. This means that
when the motor home brakes are applied,
whether hard or soft, a mirror effect occurs in the
braking of the towed vehicle. In other words, the
more force applied to the motor home brakes, the
more force will be applied to the rear vehicle’s
braking system.
We do not recommend the usage of a “surgestyle”
braking device. The usage of a surge brake
(especially when coupled with a hitch ball
located outside our recommended limits) places
excessive stress on the hitch. This abuse of the
ball mount and the hitch may cause premature
hitch assembly failure.

When I talked to a customer service rep about this he mentioned that Winnebago had some problems over the years with hitches they purchased. To improve the quality they started manufacturing their own a couple years ago. According to him the new hitches are 50% stronger than the ones they were purchasing.

Given the fact that I've seen posts here about people using drop receivers as long as 13", those that believe brakes are an expensive luxury, and still others attempting to tow 6,500 lb vehicles with a hitch assembly rated for 5,000 lbs. It's pretty obvious there are some people who willing to take chances.

Winnebago is putting forward a set of recommendations that will keep the towed vehicle and related equipment well within the limits of the motorhomes they build. With todays lawsuit happy society they're not going to recommend anything that could potentially contribute to equipment failure and/or injury.
2013 Adventurer 32H
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Old 09-28-2013, 06:55 AM   #6
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When we had our Aluma trailer custom built, one thing I had to have was surge brakes. I can pull it with any toad also and they don't have any brake controllers and don't need them. And we have the same F53 Ford chassis that Winnie uses. Other options we got were upgrade to 4800 # axles from 3500 and to 15 inch wheels which gave us bigger brakes. Front rock guard, tilt bed, tool box on the tongue, extra tie downs and spare tire with all aluminum wheels. And torsion bar suspension. We love the surge brakes. But we don't have a Winnie.
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Old 09-28-2013, 07:15 AM   #7
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Surge brakes had the ability to "chuck or chuckle" I forget which word it was. This was a situation where they would brake too hard then release then brake then release etc. under hard braking situations. This caused a yanking action from trailer to car. I believe the newer units have refined this out of the system. I only had it happen once and that was with an empty boat trailer, it chirped the trailer tires a couple of times.
2008 Bounder 38P F53 24/30K V10, 2013 Kia Soul Basic 6 speed manual, Ready Brake Elite tow system (previous equipment 1996 Pace Arrow Vision w/Acme Dolly)
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Old 09-28-2013, 07:41 AM   #8
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I would think the only extra stress on the receiver is the amount of force required to activate and maintain the surge brake. Which in most cases would not be much, so I do not know where Winnibago is coming from in its statement. But there is more latency in surge brake activation vs other more direct activated braking systems.

I would think that if a vehicle is rated to tow a specified weight. Then that hitch should be able to handle the force of stopping that load. (This is an assumption because I have not actualy seen any studies in this regard nor have I done any investigation on this matter but we all know there are laws that state brake requirements.)

With brakes on the towed vehicle operating correctly, there should be minimal extra force on the hitch when stopping with a surge or any braking system that is adjusted properly.

I had an Air activated brakenaster system on my toads for class A's but now use ReadyBrake with a B+, it works great, even for my Smart Car at about 1850lbs where generaly the law in most jurisdictions does not require toad brakes for such a light tow veh, I have toad brakes for additional safety and it also puts less stress on the RV brakes.

In case of the OP configuration. I recommend ReadyBrake. It is simple and works without any electrical components.
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Old 09-28-2013, 04:17 PM   #9
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If you are doubtful why don't you take your Winnie to a certified frame shop and have them inspect it. worse case scenario would be to add a reinforcement bar to stiffen the hitch. We had a hitch on our Yukon from Gm. I don't know who put it on but it was a shoddy job. when we started and stopped I could feel a added jerk motion. took it to a Truck shop that could do frame straighten and they added 2 bars and we never had the problem again. Safe travels.... ed
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Old 09-28-2013, 04:55 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Brockx View Post
Surge brakes had the ability to "chuck or chuckle" I forget which word it was. This was a situation where they would brake too hard then release then brake then release etc. under hard braking situations. This caused a yanking action from trailer to car. I believe the newer units have refined this out of the system. I only had it happen once and that was with an empty boat trailer, it chirped the trailer tires a couple of times.
If this happens there is too much fiction in the slide that applies the brakes.
Some surge brake units are adjustable and it makes all the difference in the world when they are set for the right weight.

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brake, brakes, winnebago

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