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Open Roads Forum  >  Dinghy Towing  >  Supplemental Braking Systems

 > Braking system required?

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georgelesley

Tennessee

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Posted: 02/09/21 05:38am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Y-Guy wrote:

The issue is that the question is a bit more complex then one might think, and comes up here often.

There are some State laws that are very clear about towing trailers based on the weight of the trailer For example one site I checked says that for Texas you are supposed to have breaks if your trailer is over 4,500# - what's not called out specifically is when does a towed vehicle qualify (if at all) as a trailer. This is where it gets a bit crazy so I am not going to debate that aspect. But for me I'd say anything I tow behind my motorhome is a trailer (for me). So when I had my ATV trailer I had breaks, chains and breakaway system. When I pull my boat, same thing. For for my Jeep I'd want those same features, again this is for me - as the laws can be interpreted different.

Your question won't generate a specific yes or no answer regarding at what weight should you have brakes based on the motorhome hitch or capacity. Yep more grey area, isn't this fun? [emoticon] Some of the various State rules get into your ability to stop at a certain distance. Again your question would seem like a simple answer should be available, but I've never found it. My Winnebago owners manual doesn't address it either.

To be honest it's going to come down to your own judgement, some basic understanding of your State laws and risk potential. You could talk to the Texas Highway Patrol and they might help you, or you might get more run around. I really wish there was one clean cut answer to give you. If it helps, and you want some good material to put you to sleep here is the RVIA Trailer Brake Requirements by State.


If a trailer weighs XX lbs, and a toad also weighs XX lbs, even if the state law is vague, the laws of physics still apply. A fact that as a former insurance agent, I am sure insurance companies would be quick to note as they happily deny your claim. To me, the risk/reward is out of balance.


George & Lesley
2014 Itasca Sunova 33C, 2019 Jeep Cherokee Lattitude Plus toad, Demco/SMI towing system

JRscooby

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Posted: 02/09/21 06:32am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

wjschill wrote:

Just a simple question.....

Thanks George..

Take a break, Bumpy


No, it is not a simple question.
First, no state law can repeal the laws of physics. More weight at a given speed takes more brake or more distance to stop. Many think think they can control the distance, are willing to bet somebody else's life on it.
Then there can be no break-away system on the toad without a brake system. When a driverless car goes across a playground because it came un-hooked does it matter to the parents of the kids injured the car weighs 2500 or 4500 lbs?

enblethen

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Posted: 02/09/21 06:32am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Chart indicates "trailers"! A towed motor vehicle is not a trailer by definition. Only place a towed motor vehicle shows up is under section dealing with wreckers.
I am not saying you don't need one. All I am saying is you need to look into your own situation and make your decision based on your states requirements and definitions.


Bud
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Bumpyroad

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Posted: 02/09/21 06:34am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

georgelesley wrote:



If a trailer weighs XX lbs, and a toad also weighs XX lbs, even if the state law is vague, the laws of physics still apply. A fact that as a former insurance agent, I am sure insurance companies would be quick to note as they happily deny your claim. To me, the risk/reward is out of balance.


this, plus the additional monetary loss in a civil suit.
bumpy





mowermech

Billings, MT

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Posted: 02/09/21 08:36am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have researched this question considerably over the years. This is what I have found: 1. Nearly every state has a list of legal definitions. 2. Many states do not consider a towed motor vehicle to be a "trailer". 3. Many states do not require a braking system on a towed motor vehicle. 4. Nearly every state has a Braking Performance Law. You MUST be able to stop your combination of vehicles on a hard dry clean surface within a certain distance from a certain speed. Here in Montana that law is MCA 61-9-312. It is also in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). 5. At 60 MPH, if a kid or dog or deer runs in front of you it is entirely likely that you will not get your foot on the brake pedal before you hit whatever it is. IIRC, you will travel something like 168 feet before you begin to stop! So, the idea of making an emergency stop is a moot point!
So, there is very likely no legal requirement for brakes on your towed vehicle IF you can meet the braking performance standards. AFAIK, nobody has ever tested braking systems to see if THEY will meet the Braking Performance Standard. In fact, I have never read ANY tests of braking systems by independent testing people (Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, etc.)
As for physics, lawsuits, etc. I have no idea. I have never read of any such lawsuit, but that doesn't mean they haven't happened.
So, the bottom line is, IF you can meet the Braking Performance Standards promulgated in YOUR state laws, you probably have no legal requirement to have brakes on your toad. Morality is entirely up to you!


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Grit dog

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Posted: 02/09/21 10:21am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

JRscooby wrote:

wjschill wrote:

Just a simple question.....

Thanks George..

Take a break, Bumpy


No, it is not a simple question.
First, no state law can repeal the laws of physics. More weight at a given speed takes more brake or more distance to stop. Many think think they can control the distance, are willing to bet somebody else's life on it.
Then there can be no break-away system on the toad without a brake system. When a driverless car goes across a playground because it came un-hooked does it matter to the parents of the kids injured the car weighs 2500 or 4500 lbs?


Correct, not that simple, as the OP obviously doesn't have a bunch of towing experience under his belt, or the question wouldn't be asked.

But consider this. Is one automatically unsafe because they can't stop their vehicle as fast as the best vehicle on the road? Or are they unsafe if they can't stop as fast as the heaviest vehicle on the road? Or are they unsafe if they cant stop as fast as possible for their given vehicle?
And what determines how fast that should be? Is it reasonable to expect one to upgrade good functioning, but older brakes to some aftermarket "better" system, because it's "possible" although maybe not physically or financially reasonable?
Is it unsafe to drive my truck with 37s on it because it won't stop as fast as one with stock size tires? What if I have better brake pads and an exhaust brake to aid in the process (yes I know EBs aren't functional in panic stops)?

After considering all this, who are you or anyone else to determine what is super safe, what is "normal", what is marginally safe and what is egregiously unsafe? Because it sounds like most of the folks here jump straight to egregiously unsafe.

Why is that?
Lack of knowledge?
Poor driving skill?
Increased reaction times due to old age?
Bad experiences in the past?
Maybe excessive knowledge, a subject matter expert on braking? (Not likely as that would be followed up by data not conjecture about tying your kids to your front bumper...)
Is it totally unfounded and just "feels" right...or wrong?
Belief in sales pitches?

I mean, you don't know if someone's rig is at their gvw (assuming optimal braking is designed for that unit and gvw). What if the rig and the toad are under the gvwr? Is it safe then?

Why do sub 3000lb trailers generally not even come with brakes? Millions of them zooming around every day. I don't see them crashing into other cars. It must be legal, right? An entire industry couldn't be building and selling illegal unsafe trailers legally, could they?
What is the difference between towing a 2600lb toad or a 2600lb cargo trailer with no brakes? Is the onus on the trailer owner to immediately upgrade their trailer even though it doesn't need brakes BY LAW?

The whole point of this, is you can't idiot proof everything in the world and a certain amount of caution, training and knowledge is required to do anything other than just breathe and defecate. Those things will happen automatically no matter how unskilled one is.

An educated decision and a little responsibility go a long way and well, some folks just should mind their own business.
I can't stop people who can't parallel park a Prius from driving a motorhome. Will brakes on their toad make them safer? Idk, maybe, but they'll probably side swipe you or a phone pole before they rear end you, because jamming on the brakes in an emergency situation is a pretty basic skill/reaction.


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Rick Jay

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Posted: 02/10/21 12:49pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Whenever this issue comes up, there's always a good banter of legal, required, tested, etc. Many good points are raised and made by most.

My personal thoughts are that additional braking is a good idea, and having a break-away system makes sense. But that's just me.

So...when it was time to equip our Odyssey to flat-tow behind our gasser Class A, I did my own research and here is what I found. For the model year of our motorhome, both Ford and Workhorse said in their owner's manual that auxiliary braking systems were REQUIRED on anything being towed over 1,500 lbs. Our Odyssey is about 4,450 lbs. So we were way past THAT.

At that point, it didn't matter to me what any individual State requirement was, the manufacturer of the chassis of my motorhome said that auxiliary brakes were needed. So I installed them. And yes, I can tell a difference in stopping whether the brake controller is on or off.

While I'm not one to be easily "spooked" by "what ifs" and "going to court", etc., I did figure it would be pretty easy for even a dysfunctional lawyer to find the same statement I did in the manual.

So, my answer is, check the owner's manual for your chassis and/or motorhome and see what the manufacturer says.

But in my personal opinion and thoughts, auxiliary braking systems are just a good idea. Period.

Stay safe!

~Rick


2005 Georgie Boy Cruise Master 3625 DS on a Workhorse W-22
Rick, Gail, 1 girl (24-Angel since 2008), 1 girl (19), 2 boys (21 & 18).
2001 Honda Odyssey, Demco Aluminator tow bar & tow plate, SMI Silent Partner brake controller.


wjschill

Texas

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Posted: 02/10/21 02:59pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OP here....Thanks guys.

To set things straight, I've been driving and towing vehicles for over fifty years.(without incident) My dw and I traveled full time for three years towing a 35 foot fiver.

I have always been over cautious when it comes to safety. Both my boat trailers were ordered with surge brakes even though the weights were much below the required level here in Texas.

Yes, we are looking to purchase a class a mh, and we'll have a toad, at some point. And yes, I will have a braking system for the toad.

My original question came to mind when I saw several dp's towing toads as small as the "Smart" cars....not much larger than a golf cart. The tow bars and break-away cables were in place, but I just wondered if they all went the extra mile for the complete setup.

Also, I've seen our neighbors from south of the border driving and towing a vehicle, mostly with others in a caravan, headed back home traveling down I-59. I seriously doubt they had the complete set up.

So, my question was in general, and I don't need to "sacrifice safety for a few bucks." I have plenty of both.

Happy travels to you all....


KillingTime

robatthelake

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Posted: 02/11/21 01:06pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

For many years I towed a smaller suv behind our motorhome. It had a decent Tow bar ,as well as safety cable attached securely to the frames of both vehicles.
I did not have an auxiliary braking system and frankly never experienced any issues in nearly 15 years and many miles of travel!

About 5 years ago I moved up slightly from a 1990 Tracker 2 Door to a 2007 Honda CRV. Although I did not notice any difference in the ability of the Motorhome to pull the car or even during normal breaking I was satisfied with my setup !

Then a friend offered me a smoking good deal on a used braking system that he had no further use of!

I decided that maybe it was time to give it a try so went the few extra steps of installing it !

It uses air pressure supplied by the Diesel Pusher and attaches easily whenever we need to tow the car.

Long story short starting and stopping seemed exactly the same while driving with this braking system as without until one day I forgot to attach the Airline or didn’t check it properly before heading out!.

While descending a steep grade a Large Dump Truck shot past us and cut me off trying to exit the highway ,this during very heavy traffic and while everyone on the road including ourselves was at the
Maximum speed limit!

It was necessary for me to stand on the brakes to avoid rear ending the Truck !

We barely missed hitting the guy as his Dump box loomed ominously closer as we squeezed past.

I pulled over at the next opportunity to calm my nerves and took a walk about to look things over for possible damage.

At that point I discovered the disconnected air line!

Since that day I have realized just how important a functioning auxiliary braking system is !

* This post was edited 02/27/21 09:01pm by robatthelake *


Rob & Jean
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dcbrewer

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Posted: 06/04/21 09:04pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Why do they build 90% of the boat trailers with no brakes.

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