A lot of our customers ask questions, or are somewhat confused, about break-away switches. All trailers sold with electric brakes, require a break-away kit which includes; a break-away switch, an attached plunger, and cable.
How the system works is quite simple: If your coupler becomes separated from the tow ball, the plunger of the breakaway switch will be pulled out of the switch, thereby completing the electrical circuit and allowing the battery to provide power to the electric brakes, bringing your trailer to a stop. That’s assuming there is adequate power in the battery, and provided your breakaway switch cable is properly attached to the towing vehicle.
The most important piece in this system is the battery! Nothing will work if your trailer’s battery is dead or has been removed. It’s important to charge the battery periodically, as well as check the battery charge level with each seasonal change. If the wet cell battery does not keep adequate charge, it can freeze in the winter months and become useless.
The breakaway switch cable should be attached to its own anchor on the tow vehicle with the correct amount of play in the cable: not too loose or too tight. Avoid lots of slack in the cable, as on some roads, the cable may drag and wear, or may catch on the roadway and apply the brake system, or cause you to have to replace the frayed cable. Coiled self-tensioning cable replacements are available to prevent this from occurring.
Some people have tried to use the break-away system as a parking brake, by pulling the plunger out of the switch and applying the trailer brakes. This will in fact apply the brakes! However it will only do so as long as there is adequate power in the battery, after which the brakes will be released resulting in a runaway trailer. **Note: Trailer brakes draw a significant amount of power and will drain a battery quickly. NEVER use the brake-away as a park brake.
Another related item is customers that have experienced dead batteries and claim that nothing in the trailer has been turned on. One thing to check is your break-away switch, if someone has inadvertently stepped on the cable, they may have dislodged the plunger, thus applying the brakes and thereby causing the drain on your batteries.
If you’d like to learn more or want to have a service technician check your battery and break-away switch, give us a call at 1-800-667-0024. Or book your next service online.