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Thread: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

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    Moderator danemayer's Avatar
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    It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    When's the last time you checked the Emergency Breakaway Switch? That's the one that energizes your trailer brakes if the trailer were to separate from the tow vehicle. There's a ripcord (wire) from the pinbox that you attach to your tow vehicle when hooking up.

    Mine was last tested almost 3 years ago when disc brakes were installed. Yesterday, I had the bearings packed and brake pads replaced. When the tech went to finish on the brakes, he pulled the rip cord - and nothing happened. So he hit the switch a few times in case it was stuck. Nothing. So he stuck his screwdriver in to short the contacts and the brakes fired up.

    I don't know how long I was towing in an unsafe condition. Possibly thousands of miles.

    So today I got a new switch and installed it. Tested it and it works as it's supposed to.

    From here on, I'll be checking the switch operation more frequently. Just pull the wire and the brakes should immediately activate. If you're hitched, it's like doing a pull test, but you don't manually hold the brake controller.

    Don't leave the brakes energized for more than a minute or so. It's bad for the drum brakes and bad for the disc brake hydraulic pump. And you can run your battery down.

    So, I have to wonder if I'm the only one who hasn't been testing the breakaway switch?


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    Senior Member SLO's Avatar
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    Re: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    Haha. Just read this and immediately went and tested mine. All’s good. We’re on a road trip to Alaska. Thanks for the reminder.


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    Senior Member carl.swoyer's Avatar
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    Re: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    Quote Originally Posted by SLO View Post
    Haha. Just read this and immediately went and tested mine. All’s good. We’re on a road trip to Alaska. Thanks for the reminder.


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    Well thank you Dane!
    I'll be checking mine tommorow.
    You know even though we sometimes get ruffled feathers on this forum, when you put all that aside ,.... This is what makes the Heartland forum incredible.

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    Senior Member BLR's Avatar
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    Re: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    Downtown Willets CA. LOL.. they worked great..

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    Re: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    I think the last time I checked mine was when pulling into a parking lot off of a busy highway and the cord caught on something in the bed. Yep, they worked just fine as I set halfway off the highway sticking out into traffic. I did not know I could still climb over the side of the truck bed like that!

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    Re: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    Had the cord catch in in-laws 5er back in '03/'04 area when trying to pull out of site. Could not figure out WTH happened, another camper noticed it, plugged back in and away we went. Then with our own 5er, to be perfectly honest, I never checked in the 12 years we owned it. With new one, will have to once it comes back from the body shop.

    Thanks Dan for the tip/reminder!!

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    Senior Member oldelmer1's Avatar
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    Re: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    If your camper is sitting in the driveway, how do you know the breakaway is working or not when you pull the cable out?
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    Senior Member LBR's Avatar
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    Re: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    Quote Originally Posted by oldelmer1 View Post
    If your camper is sitting in the driveway, how do you know the breakaway is working or not when you pull the cable out?
    You could pull the breakaway pin and listen closely at each tire/brake assembly.....you should hear at least one of the magnet assemblies being energized.

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    Senior Member Bogie's Avatar
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    Re: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    You could use a compass to check the switch/brakes. After pulling the breakaway switch, bring the compass close to the bottom of the drum on each tire (where the magnet is). The brake magnet will cause the compass needle to point directly at the energized magnet. This will also allow you to make sure the magnet is working on each wheel.
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    Fulltime TXBobcat's Avatar
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    Re: It's Time to Test the Emergency Breakaway Switch on Your Trailer

    Great Idea Dave.. It has been a long time since I tested my emergency brake system..

    However, something to think about, While I was in Bowling Green KY at a Life on Wheels Seminar a guy was going to demonstrate how to check the emergency brake and pulled the cable. He went to his truck and put it in gear and showed how the trailer wouldn't move. But when he went to insert the plastic wedge back into the device it immediately melted the plastic wedge. The box got so hot and would not turn off that he had to cut the wire to the brakes. He put in a new emergency switch.. So not saying this will happen to anyone but be aware that if you do have a plastic wedge you could have a similar problem...


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