BREAKAWAY BRAKES DON'T STOP YOU

Make sure your

GUIDE Breakaway Brakes – Part 1

for the wrong reasons!

If ever there was a comprehensive fail-safe in Australian safety legislation, it is for caravans weighing more than 2000kg GTM. Not only must they be fitted with a rated safety chain (two chains for vans weighing more than 2500kg GTM) but also an emergency brake system, known as breakaway brakes.

A breakaway brake system is designed to automatically apply the caravan’s brakes in the case where the van has detached from the tow vehicle when driving. What it is meant to achieve is to bring the errant van to a stop, before it crashes into anything. Not only that, the breakaway system has to ensure the caravan stays stopped. Under the Australian Design Rule 38/05 – Trailer Brake Systems, once activated the breakaway brakes must be able to remain on for a minimum period of 15 minutes.

Breakaway brakes are a legal requirement for heavier vans but do you understand the set-up? Plus we look at what can go wrong

WORDS AND IMAGES PHILIP LORD

Breakaway control units such as this allow a battery condition test but it's better to do a load test to verify battery condition

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What’s the point of safety chains then, you ask? If the cable that activates the breakaway brakes is looped in a way that it is short enough to activate the brakes while the chains are attached (but the coupling has come off the towball) then at least you’re likely to have better control of the caravan as you come to a stop. Better that the van is independently slowing rather than moving around on the safety chain(s).

If either the safety chains or shackles break, or the towbar unit disengages completely from the tow vehicle, then with a correctly operating breakaway brake system at least the caravan will come to a stop as soon as possible (on its wheels at least).

In Europe, there is no requirement for safety chains; instead the Europeans rely on a coupling that is difficult to not positively engage — so it’s unlikely that the coupling would come off the towball— and if it did, the breakaway brake system is very simple — a cable linked from the tow vehicle to the caravan handbrake.

Meanwhile, the typical Aussie breakaway brake system has a switch fitted to the A frame that is fed 12-volt power from either the house battery (or its own 7amp, 12V-battery via a control unit such as the Breaksafe unit) and linked to the caravan’s electric brake circuit.

Don't attach the breakaway cable to the D-shackles or towbar

Australia’s most luxurious slide out caravans

TO TAKE A 3D VIRTUAL TOUR CLICK HERE OR SEE THE FULL RANGE AT:
UNIVERSALCARAVANS.COM.AU
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The switch is very simple: it contains two spring-loaded contacts that are held apart by a removable pin that is attached to a steel cable that is attached to the tow vehicle. If vehicle and van were to separate, the cable pulls the pin out of the switch body, the contacts in the switch close the circuit and power is fed from the battery to the brakes. Another circuit from the switch runs to activate the caravan’s brake lights.

Breakaway brake regulations are uniform across states and territories -- although that wasn’t always the case.

Until amendments that came into effect in 2017 under the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017, NSW were unique in that you had to have a breakaway battery monitor to warn the driver of low battery condition — and that the breakaway system be powered by its own battery — but that is no longer the case.

According to a spokesperson from Transport for NSW,

“There is no longer a requirement under NSW law for a brakeaway [sic] system to be powered by its own battery or for a dedicated brake battery monitoring device to be fitted.

“The use of a monitoring device is still highly recommended by Transport for NSW to improve safety.”

The breakaway switch mounted on the A-frame

Don't pull out the breakaway switch pin for long periods

Refit the breakaway switch pin carefully, making sure it is oriented correctly and fully engaged

GUIDE Breakaway Brakes – Part 1

BREAKAWAY BRAKES DON'T STOP YOU

Make sure your

Breakaway brakes are a legal requirement for heavier vans but do you understand the set-up? Plus we look at what can go wrong

If ever there was a comprehensive fail-safe in Australian safety legislation, it is for caravans weighing more than 2000kg GTM. Not only must they be fitted with a rated safety chain (two chains for vans weighing more than 2500kg GTM) but also an emergency brake system, known as breakaway brakes.

A breakaway brake system is designed to automatically apply the caravan’s brakes in the case where the van has detached from the tow vehicle when driving. What it is meant to achieve is to bring the errant van to a stop, before it crashes into anything. Not only that, the breakaway system has to ensure the caravan stays stopped. Under the Australian Design Rule 38/05 – Trailer Brake Systems, once activated the breakaway brakes must be able to remain on for a minimum period of 15 minutes.

for the wrong reasons!

WORDS AND IMAGES PHILIP LORD

Breakaway control units such as this allow a battery condition test but it's better to do a load test to verify battery condition

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

Explore solar panels and more
options for your setup using our
Virtual Product Tour.

What’s the point of safety chains then, you ask? If the cable that activates the breakaway brakes is looped in a way that it is short enough to activate the brakes while the chains are attached (but the coupling has come off the towball) then at least you’re likely to have better control of the caravan as you come to a stop. Better that the van is independently slowing rather than moving around on the safety chain(s).

Don't attach the breakaway cable to the D-shackles or towbar

If either the safety chains or shackles break, or the towbar unit disengages completely from the tow vehicle, then with a correctly operating breakaway brake system at least the caravan will come to a stop as soon as possible (on its wheels at least).

In Europe, there is no requirement for safety chains; instead the Europeans rely on a coupling that is difficult to not positively engage — so it’s unlikely that the coupling would come off the towball— and if it did, the breakaway brake system is very simple — a cable linked from the tow vehicle to the caravan handbrake.

Meanwhile, the typical Aussie breakaway brake system has a switch fitted to the A frame that is fed 12-volt power from either the house battery (or its own 7amp, 12V-battery via a control unit such as the Breaksafe unit) and linked to the caravan’s electric brake circuit.

TO TAKE A 3D VIRTUAL TOUR CLICK HERE OR SEE THE FULL RANGE AT:
UNIVERSALCARAVANS.COM.AU

Australia’s most luxurious slide out caravans

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

The switch is very simple: it contains two spring-loaded contacts that are held apart by a removable pin that is attached to a steel cable that is attached to the tow vehicle. If vehicle and van were to separate, the cable pulls the pin out of the switch body, the contacts in the switch close the circuit and power is fed from the battery to the brakes. Another circuit from the switch runs to activate the caravan’s brake lights.

The breakaway switch mounted on the A-frame

Breakaway brake regulations are uniform across states and territories -- although that wasn’t always the case.

Until amendments that came into effect in 2017 under the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017, NSW were unique in that you had to have a breakaway battery monitor to warn the driver of low battery condition — and that the breakaway system be powered by its own battery — but that is no longer the case.

According to a spokesperson from Transport for NSW,

“There is no longer a requirement under NSW law for a brakeaway [sic] system to be powered by its own battery or for a dedicated brake battery monitoring device to be fitted.

“The use of a monitoring device is still highly recommended by Transport for NSW to improve safety.”

Don't pull out the breakaway switch pin for long periods

Refit the breakaway switch pin carefully, making sure it is oriented correctly and fully engaged

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