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Old 08-27-2009, 05:10 AM   #1
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Value of Break-away Feature

I noticed that some toad brake systems have a break-away feature. These add considerably to the cost.

Given that there are safety chains besides the tow bar, is this feature really worth it?

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Old 08-27-2009, 06:11 AM   #2
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That comes in the same category as a fire extinguisher. If you don't need it you feel it wasn't necessary but when the need arises it becomes very important. If you read on here and on you will find some places where welds broke, bolts broke or came loose, or other problems and the breakaway helped the people. In some states and provinces it is required by law. Would you want to be the one who's toad came loose and killed someone?
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Old 08-27-2009, 06:45 AM   #3
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I cannot put a price on safety and the cost of anyones life. Considering the amount of money tied up in the motorhome and the dinghy, the cost is not worth considering. I am an engineer and I like safety.

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Old 08-27-2009, 07:09 AM   #4
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You don't need it until you need it, then you wish you had it! It is like insurance.

Hitches have failed, chains have failed also, especially when they are not installed around the frame of each vehicle. IMHO the peace of mind is worth it.

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Old 08-28-2009, 05:14 AM   #5
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Thanks - good reasons
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Old 08-28-2009, 07:17 AM   #6
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It wasn't all that long ago that a westbound motorhome on SC 378 was traveling with a toad toward Myrtle Beach and it broke away from its tow bar. SC 378 is a 2 lane 55 MPH road. When the vehicle broke away it cut into the oncoming vehicle lane, struck another vehicle head on and killed the occupant.

Everyone in the motorhome was safe. make sure that everyone is as safe as possible when you tow a 2000 + pound vehicles down the road.

Auxiliary brakes, break away switch and safety cables are a system and are inseparable.
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Old 08-28-2009, 08:52 AM   #7
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Back to the actual cost of the breakaway feature, we bought the Brakemaster 9160 which included the breakaway hardware. Buying that package and installing it myself was actually cheaper than buying a package without the breakaway and having someone else do the installation. I thought that it was important to understand how to troubleshoot the aux. brake system and putting it on the vehicle myself gave me an in depth understanding of the system. I recently moved our Brakemaster to our new toad. It was a good reminder about the system and exactly how it works.

I'm not too worried about a towbar failure as I believe those to be relatively rare. I am worried about my doing something dumb and causing the toad to get loose. To me, the most critical thing that I do while RVing is the toad hookup. Having the breakaway feature gives me a little more piece of mind that if I did make a mistake, there is a mechanism that will help to deal with it.
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:00 AM   #8
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My solution to the breakaway risk was a bit different. I have the Brakemaster system without the independent breakaway feature. The reason is not so much cost as the difficulty in mounting the aux air cylinder in my toad. Therefore I'm relying on the safety chains as the back-up in case of tow bar failure. There is, however, more than a bit of evidence that the receiver hitch on the coach can fail or breakaway from the chassis.

What I have done is looped a second safety cable around the receiver hitch and a frame cross member, so that the toad safety cables can still do their job even if the receiver should come loose or break apart somehow. I still have one possible point of failure that I need to address: the welds on the loops where the safety cables attach to the receiver. They are beefy, but it is a potential single point of failure that I would like to eliminate. I'm thinking I would like to add an independent point of attachment to the coach frame, but haven't come up with a good scheme for doing so yet. I may just add a cable from the end of the current safety chains back to a coach cross member. That would only require about 8 feet of cable or chain for a one time solution.
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:30 AM   #9
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Re: Break-away cost.. The switch can often be purchased for well under 20 dollars, and the wire to hook it up. however I do not know if the "system" included compatibility with the switch or not (I forget if the replacement switch was 8 or 11 dollars when I had to replace mine)

If the hitch fails, and the safety cables/chains hold, then the break-away feature is at best, worthless

If however the hitch fails in such a way that the safety cables fail as well.. You are going to be very happy your towed did not cross the median and do a head to head with an oncoming car killing all inside.

This is why you should have a break-a-way system

In some states. I believe (Without researching) they are required on trailers over xxx pounds. (xxx varies from state to state)

And, I did check the laws in the State of Michigan thanks to another question in another forum.. In Michigan a Trailer is ANY vehicle WITH or without motive power which is designed to carry goods or passengers where the weight of the vehicle does not rest (primarily) on the towing vehicle

(The word Primarily was my addition)

So a car, in tow, IS a trailer.
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Old 08-28-2009, 12:53 PM   #10
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If you could have installed it and didn't and there's an accident, be ready to sign over your assets to the survivor's family.
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Old 08-28-2009, 01:11 PM   #11
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Ideally you want the breakaway cable to be just a bit longer than your safety cables. That way, if the toad comes loose and the cables hold, the breakaway probably won't trigger. But if the cables fail, the breakaway kicks in and stops the car.

As Gary says, the receiver hitch can fail or come loose from the MH. There are also too many cases of the baseplate coming loose from the toad. Both are more likely than the tow bar coming apart. Shortly after I bought my Blue Ox they added safety cables between the base plate and the toad frame. Safety cables on the base plate, safety cables on the hitch, and safety cables between the MH and the toad -- lot's of potential to go wrong!!

Years ago I lost a trailer on a truck I was driving. The oversized load prevented me from even seeing the trailer except in a sharp turn. The guy behind me provided the eye witness account. The hitch broke, turning the trailer loose with the ball still in place. The safety chains held for about three sways of the trailer before they came apart (apparently inadequate??). The trailer (apparently too light in the tongue when loaded) followed me down the road for a few hundred feet before it went off the shoulder and down an embankment where the tongue finally impaled itself into the ground and flipped the trailer. The trailer could just as easily have gone into the other lane and impaled another vehicle.
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Old 08-28-2009, 08:21 PM   #12
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I am convinced - it's worth the money.

The break-away puts the toads brakes on heavily. It doesn't seem that this would prevent the car from vearing over into another lane. It seems like it will just reduce the totla rolling time and reduce the likelyhood.

In any case, it's better than a rolling car with no brakes applied.

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Old 08-28-2009, 08:37 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by RV Roamer [Gary] View Post
My solution to the breakaway risk was a bit different. I have the Brakemaster system without the independent breakaway feature. The reason is not so much cost as the difficulty in mounting the aux air cylinder in my toad.
Gary, We also had a problem of a place to mount the aux. air cylinder for the Brakemaster. I "piggy backed" mine onto the air cylinder inside the car. If you need a picture email me direct at It eliminates to "where to mount it" problem and it works just like it should.
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