We frequently have customers into RV PRO that ask the same question; do I need brakes on my towed vehicle? I have not been able to find any state law requiring brakes to function when the vehicle is towed by a motor home or other vehicle and yet all states require brakes on trailers any where from 1000 lbs to 3000 lbs. I have a lot of customers who tow trailers behind their motor homes. Most come in, make an appointment and have a brake control installed with out question.
It’s a matter of definition. At some point in time a judge will have to decide if a car or truck, equipped to be towed on a regular basis, is considered a trailer. I believe it is possible for someone to receive, if someone hasn’t already, a ticket for negligent driving in the unfortunate event of an accident caused by a motor home towing a car. A jury could very likely award major money for damages.
Let’s get down to common sense, even new RV owners/drivers know they’re vehicles don’t stop quickly. Ninety percent of the motor homes
on the road today do not have enough brake to stop themselves accurately. Let’s look at the weight readings printed on your motor home. (Older motor homes may not have these ratings.) We are looking for the Gross Vehicle Weight Combined Rating or GCWR. The idea behind this rating came from the trucking industry. Example: a 7500-lb tractor towing a 14,000-lb trailer. The tractor would have to at least have a 21,500-lb GCBR.
If you motor home weighs (GVWR) 30,000 and has a combined weight rating (GVCR) of 36,000-lb you would be able to tow a car that weighs 6,000 lb only if the brakes are working when towed. These figures (GVWR and GVCR) can be found on most motor homes. Many of my customers towing cars and trucks ask, “Should I add an Auxiliary brake unit?” I always say that safety comes first and highly recommend adding one. After all, we own recreational vehicles as toys for fun. Why not play is safe and not risk injury or worse just to save a buck.
A brake system is another thing that is required on all trailers with brakes. This device will stop your car of truck in the event the toad separates from the motor home while en route. Which is obviously a huge safety risk.
There are all kinds of brake systems to brake the toad. Air operated, compress driving units, hydraulic units and surge brakes. Most systems push directly on or push the brake pedal down. They cost anywhere from $500.00 to $3000.00 plus installation.
Motor homes with air brakes are good candidates for air cylinder operated systems. By using air hose linked to the toad and RV this system works well.
Things to look for in a braking system, is it easy to install and easy to hood up? How expensive is the system and will it brake at the right times not the wrong times? Will it run the battery down on my toad? Look at the most common systems; air power, 12 powered surge brake system and hydro over air.
The air cylinder braking systems perform very well. Easy to install only if the motor homes has air brakes. Compressor systems are available RVs without air brakes but are expensive and labor intensive. User set-up for use is fairly easy for motor homes with air brakes. There is not much chance of pull on your toad with its brakes on and it can’t run down your batteries. Hydrolic over Air systems are very expensive and complicated to install. They work well when installed and are easy to hook up. They are not transferable from one vehicle to another so you loose you investment if you change toads.
12 volt powered portable systems are less expensive. They require little or no labor to install. These little R2D2 units have a compress inside and you position the unit in front of the drivers seat hooked up to the brake pedal, and plugged into the cigarette lighter or power port in the dash. If you trade your toad in you are able to take it with you to the next toad. They will run your toads battery down. This will deep cycle your start battery-not a good thing. If not set up by the user you could have the toad brakes on too strong, over heating the brakes or not enough brakes to help stop. These units are the most cumbersome to hook up out of all the systems. Some poor little R2D2 units have caught on fire.
The surge brake systems are inexpensive. These systems use the Enersha (the forward motion) created when you brake your motor home. They need to ve installed by a good commons mechanic. Labor is about four hours to install. They are the most user friendly of the bunch. To hook-up you snap on a cable between the hitch and toad. That’s it! Watch out, though, the cable must be routed and hooked exactly as set-up by your installer. If the cable is shortened by incorrectly routing it you could drag your toad with it’s brakes on.
I personally am partial to the surge brake system because of easy hook-up, relatively inexpensive. Easily transferred to another toad. We even have this system built into a tow bar.