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armsunad

Supplemental Braking Systems - Required?

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I have a question that has probably been discussed before, but I am new to the forums. Are supplemental braking systems required to tow vehicles, or can motorhome drivers drive at their own peril? I am hoping to resolve a long-standing issue. Thank you.

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There is no simple answer to the "required' question, since each state (and province) has different laws. You can't even go by the trailer brake laws, since nearly every state has separate, specific laws that apply to towing cars that usually take precedance over trailering laws.

The most important laws, however, are the laws of physics and those are universal. You can always stop faster (shorter distance) if the toad has its own brakes. Every time.

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armsunad,

Welcome to the Forum.

If you have time you could google all 49 ststes [hard to drive a MH to Hawaii]. and ask each one about their law regarding towing.

That being said, if your state requires a supplemental brake system, and you have a accident your insurance company has the right to refuse to pay your claim.

Much better to be safe then sorry.

Herman

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Also, if you tow without supplemental brakes in a state that requires them, you could be in deep trouble if you get in an accident. Even if it isn't your fault, you could be blamed because you were driving illegally.

Happy (and safe) travels,

Tim

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Gary has the correct answer.

Some states, like WA and OR have a requirement for being able to stop in XX feet from XX mph with a "combination vehicle". If you can meet that then supplemental braking is not required. BUT then WA also requires that there be a breakaway that can hold the unhitched vehicle on any normal highway grade for 15 min. I know of no way to do that without a braking setup on the towed.

Our Magna has disk brakes all the way around and a three way engine brake. Due to time constraints we did tow it 2,600 miles with no brakes on the Odyssey and I never really noticed any need for more braking. HOWEVER, as soon as it gets back from Cummins after the engine rebuild I have all the parts to hook up to the air lines for the braking system already in the van.

You must comply with every states braking requirements that you travel in, not just your home state

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Unless there are new Federal laws that I'm not aware of, the state in which the motorhome is licensed determines legal towing requirements. Other states can't impose the requirements for the vehicles licensed in their state on a vehicle passing through. We've never been stopped or questioned. 10 years, 100,000 miles

As to stopping faster. Faster than what? My Saturn weight about 2,500#. The fluids in the motorhome, i.e. waste water, grey water, fresh water, diesel fuel, propane, weigh more than that. That weight varies constantly. To the list of loads that vary; passengers, groceries, etc. Add those all up and the weight will well exceed the 2,500# towed Saturn.

The motor home weighs 25,000# +. Brakes were been designed to stop that weight given the tires friction and pavement condition. We now have two more variables;

brake condition and road surface condition. Do you see why their are lawyers?

What about when you need to stop fast and you slam the brake only to find out that the braking system won't allow wheels to stop turning? You can steer but not stop as fast you otherwise could. A decisions made by the Congress, and they know best.

Is the supplemental braking system on the towed vehicle working properly? How do you know in a real situation? Did you remember to connect it when hitching?

All the towed vehicle braking systems advertise in the magazines of the RV industry. Best not step on any toes.

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The supplemental braking system is also there to stop the towed vehicle in the event of a tow bar and safety chain failure. Yes Whallum, your Saturn doesn't effect the motorhome brakes all that much but I guarantee you that if it came loose at highway speeds it would create quite a lot of havoc. Will this happen to you? Probably not but it could and that is why it would be very scary for everyone around you. I would be willing to bet that if your Saturn came loose and killed someone that you would be cited by the local law enforcement and you would be sued by the injured party. Is it really worth it to you to run that risk to save a few bucks and a little bit of time when you are setting up?

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Unless there are new Federal laws that I'm not aware of, the state in which the motorhome is licensed determines legal towing requirements. Other states can't impose the requirements for the vehicles licensed in their state on a vehicle passing through. We've never been stopped or questioned. 10 years, 100,000 miles

Welcome to the FMCA Forum.

As far as your individual license (i.e. driver's license requirement), you ARE correct.

But, each state you operate in establishes their own rules/laws as far as towing limits on their roads, max speeds, max weights, etc.

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I have to ask, how many documented cases are there where the towed vehicle totally breaks loose?

Don't get me wrong, I have a supplemental brake with a break away switch and all the right cables but I really wonder what kind of event would have to happen for the toad to totally break away.

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If each State has requirements re: towed vehicles behind motorhomes, how are motorhome owners to comply? We've never been required to turn into a weigh station where we assume such regulations are enforced. Also, motorhomes seem to be exempt or overlooked?

As to the requirement for tow cables. They seem appropriate and a reasonable safety requirement. (The forum was re: braking systems required I believe, not tow cables.)

Anyone can dream up all sorts of horrible tragedies that might result if this or that went wrong. What if pigs could fly?

My point is that the blind pursuit of "safety at any cost" is ridiculous. It doesn't exist. There are to may variables, including the driver.

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Whallam, being safe for the sake of others around you is not a "blind pursuit". If there is one person that is injured or dies due to the attitude of another driver that says I am not responsible enough to prepare for the "unlikely" event of my 2500lb unguided vehicle coming loose with no way to stop it then that is too many. As for your first statement, you comply by making sure that you meet or exceed the requirements of your state. I just sincerely hope that no one I know is any where near your motorhome when it is going down the road.

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Whallam has a point. Not one that I agree with in this case but it is a fact that safety is always balanced with economics. On any issue there are basic things that can be done to reduce costs of an accident. At some point, 90% chance, 95% chance, 99% chance, the economics say that the cost of making an improvement of 10% or 5% or 1% in the safety factor become prohibitive. This applies to the way your tow bar is designed. It is built to specifications that are safe enough but it isn't made of 3 inch thick stainless steel. It is made just strong enough to do the job without failing in most situations and still be light enough for you to lift! The designers may design it to be twice as strong as necessary without too much expense but as the costs rise they make a decision that it is strong enough.

Buildings are built to be just strong enough to stand up to normal stresses. Bridges are the same way. We can build buildings and bridges to be resistant to collapse in an earthquake. We're learning how to do that better all the time. Each earthquake teaches us lessons. Someday there may be a major earthquake in Texas but we don't worry about making the buildings in Dallas earthquake-proof, not like they do in San Francisco. We are taking a risk in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio because we haven't had any large earthquakes in these places in human memory. It doesn't make sense to design every building and bridge in the world to be earthquake-proof. Where earthquakes are common, every building should be built to withstand earthquakes. Laws are made to specify what measure need to be taken. After the earthquake and fire in San Francisco in 1907 many laws were passed to improve safety. This happens with hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and road accidents. Each disaster teaches us lessons and we learn how to improve safety. Laws are passed. You can argue about whether the improvement in safety is worth the expense which is what Whallam is doing. Some people are more concerned about accidents and want to prevent as many as possible. Others are more concerned about being pushed around by decisions made by others (laws) and/or about expenditures they have to make because of laws.

Towing laws in many states are dependent on the weight of the vehicle being towed. In Canada, supplemental braking is required. I don't think that they check that at the border but if you are in an accident they surely will check. Motor homes aren't checked at weigh stations because truckers would go ballistic waiting behind one or two motor homes being weighed. There are few enough of us that traffic regulations are written to exempt us from weight checks. But the vehicle does have a GVWR and if you exceed that and are in an accident, you can be issued a ticket and/or held liable and/or your insurance may be voided. The same is true if your braking system doesn't comply with the law.

Towing a vehicle, on a trailer or four wheels down, you have an opportunity to have more wheels braking. That is a good thing in my opinion. As to the question of the fluids in the tanks and equipment on board, they have no means of adding to your braking ability. It is physics and there are times when you will want to stop as quickly as possible. Even if it isn't required, this is one where my decision is to add the brakes.

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I recently purchased a Buick Enclave. It is set up for towing, but I'm looking into the SMI AirForce One system. The mechanic has installed in the toad, but not the coach.

Can anyone tell me how difficult installation is on the coach. From what I read from the vendors it is not difficult, but wan to be sure before I invest in the system.

Thank

Frank

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I took a Motor Home driving course a few years ago, and one statement the instructor made was that 1 out of 5 motor homes that have ever towed a vehicle has had a breakaway. I use the SMI Air Force One breaking system, and I had a breakaway. Before that I did have one of the units that you had to install between the drivers seat and the brake pedal. It actuated the brakes and caused both front brakes to seize. Had to replace both disks and the calipers. I really like the Air Force One and would not be without it.

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Larry,

There is really no "this is always the best braking system":

Do you have a DP with air brakes or do you have hydraulic brakes?

Do you change vehicles often or keep one for a long time?

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