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Supplemental Brake... Necessity or Preference

JohnnyT
Explorer II
Explorer II
We seem to have a good number of discussions on the issue of the need for supplemental brakes... Unfortunately many of the discussions are not very productive in terms of giving those who have an open mind and who are genuinely trying to gather information useful information. Nor is there much value in trying to get those that have their minds made up to change or even consider another point of view...

As is often the case when the subject of supplemental brakes comes up some opinions offered are based on their own choices... Which may or many not fit your situation. In some instances these opinions offered are not constructive but lapse into you are wrong and I am right...

Area's to do your own assessment as to need or desirability;

State Law's
Weight of towed vehicle in relation to motorhome
Amount of rear overhang
Rated capacity of motorhome service Brakes
Chassis/Motorhome Manufacturers recommendations
Reduction of braking force required of motorhome service brakes..
Ability to have Break Away braking
Motorhome brake wear
Operational Reliability of the Supplemental Brake

State Law
The reality is that almost all states do have laws requiring supplemental brakes for trailers and most states do not have any stated requirements for supplemental brakes for motor vehicles in tow... However many states do have laws specific to motor vehicles being towed, in some instances those laws require the ability to stop within a specified distance at a specific speed. There are also a number of states that have a weight limitation on the weight that can be towed without a supplemental brake. There are a good number of states that require a supplemental brake system. The link previously posted appears to give an accurate summary of the specific requirements by state.
Towing Laws By State I would review the information in the link provided and reach your own judgment as to the legal requirement...

Rather than any legal requirement or wear issue to the service brakes on the motorhome, the issue I would be considering first is safety margin. I would want to be in compliance with the legal requirements where ever I towed, but my issue is safety margin. I would start with understanding the;

Rated capacity of motorhome service Brakes
Some chassis manufacturers will specify that the use of a supplemental brake is required after some minimal weight usually around 1500 pounds. Other Manufacturers will state that the service brakes are only rated for GVWR not GCWR... So I would consult your owners manual or call the chassis manufacturer.

A supplemental brake ought to lessen the braking force required by the motorhome service brakes. This would be of particular note on long down hill descents since the added braking force will lessen the amount of braking force needed by the motorhome service brakes. Which should lessen the potential for brake fade due to overheating of the brakes. I personally do not put much faith in advertising claims in terms of stopping distances but I have done a bit of non scientific testing to the point that I am certain that when using the same amount of pedal pressure I am able to stop in a shorter distance with the dinghy in tow with the supplemental brake activated than without...

The other issue is that the weight of the towed vehicle will be pushing its full weight on the back of the motorhome which would exacerbate any handling issues during hard braking if the towed vehicle and the motorhome are not in alignment. If the motorhome happened to have a long overhang and the weight of the towed vehicle is any significant percentage of the motorhome the more likely that the weight of the towed vehicle pushing on the back of the motorhome will be a factor relative to handling in a hard braking situation.

One last area...If you decide you want a supplemental brake system... Then pick the one that best maps to your requirements... For those brake systems that have user adjustments invest the time to calibrate your brake so that it will provide the braking force intended. Here is an excellent description of the various Supplemental Brake Systems.

For those that are only interested in having a supplemental system that only provides braking in the event of a break away here is one such system Break Away only option

As you work through the decision process of whether or not making the investment for a supplemental brake system is warranted...There are a myriad of variant opinions... With justifications for supplemental brake system or rationales against... Unfortunately many of the discussions are predicated based on extremes some of which are uncommonly unlikely or have the potential to be avoided; Brake fade, a dinghy that breaks away, an accident where braking ability was a factor or becomes a factor in litigation. Any of which are either rare or unlikely. The odds of any can be reduced by adjusting ones driving strategy or going the route of investing in a suitable supplemental braking system or both... In my case both. In addition our coach is also equipped with a 2 stage engine brake.

The reality is that beyond any legal requirement which is not commonly going to be an issue in terms of enforcement or liability. The issue of brake fade can be avoided by altering driving style to reduce the factors that cause brake fade... Stopping distance can be taken into account by increasing the distance between the vehicle in front and driving a lower speeds. The potential for a break away can be lessoned with preventive care of towing apparatus and the proper use of safety chains/cables. The added braking force of a supplemental brake system can be an added safety margin for those un predictable situations... Its up to each individual to reach their own conclusions.

The one area that is the most difficult take preventative measure for is the weight of the dinghy pushing against the back of the motorhome in a emergency braking situation where the dinghy is not in direct alignment with the motorhome... In those instances where the motorhome has a long overhang will exacerbate the potential problem which will be amplified as the weight of the dinghy increases as a percentage of the motorhome weight.

While I have invested in a supplemental brake system, that is my personal choice... I fully subscribe that the likelihood that the absolute need beyond conformance with legal requirements would fall into the very low percentile... Which is comforting..unless you are in the small percentile group.

JohnnyT Moderator
2004 40DS02 Travel Supreme ISL 400
Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford F150
M&G Brake & Break Away
Blue Ox Aventa LX Tow bar
108 REPLIES 108

Ray___June
Explorer
Explorer
In the mid seventies I started towing a very light race car (1290 lbs) on a light trailer without brakes. I was using a Chevy 1 ton van class B. I also flat towed our Toyota Celica without brakes. I was very careful and never had any problems. Moving to our current class C (75 American Clipper on Dodge 1 ton) I towed the race car and flat towed numerous vehicles on tow dollys, again without brakes. Still no problems.

We are planning on retiring and full-timing in the next 6 months. We bought a '13 CRV and flat tow it behind our RV. (still the 75 Dodge). I installed the SMI stay-n-play system on it, and have been amazed at the difference. I have not done any measurements, but I know I've shortened my stopping distance
considerably. I wish I had done this 30 years ago.

The reason I chose the SMI system is because I didn't want to have to set up and remove a box every-time we hook-up or un-hook. You simply throw a switch. Nothing to store, and nothing that might move.

Take it from someone who has RV'd for 45 years and over 225,000 miles, the supplementary braking systems are worth it in peace of mind and stopping distance.
Sold the house, retired, and full timing. 15 years of dreams come true!

2015 Itasca 33C, Black Garnet
2013 Honda CRV EXL toad
Roadmaster Sterling all terrain tow bar
Roadmaster Tow Shield
Roadmaster Guardian
SMI "Stay-in-Play" Brake system
ISL "Toad Charge"

sealg
Explorer
Explorer
Uh Oh... There I go again.

Seeing all the discussion of the various problems and peculiarities with the several electronic supplementary brakes takes me back....

There are two supplementary brakes available that are non-electric, foolproof, 100% truly proportional, do not have to be repeatedly adjusted, easy to install, work with any MH and any toad. And oh yes, both are less expensive than any of the electronic-based systems.

The two are ReadyBrake and Blue Ox AutoStop

I can see only one reason to go for the more expensive systems. Namely; to pay more to your favorite dealer for a less effective product.

moodier
Explorer
Explorer
Compare the Roasmaster 9000 series to the Bake Buddy?I have for many years used the Brake Buddy but am not impressed as It seems to be only emergency brake no proportional affect.I believe there new one is proportional?Presently bought a MH that has the Roadmaster on it but would have to buy the car portion dealer states about $850 to do that part Ouch!But is air operated and proportional sounds like much better piece of equipment but seems expensive and that is just the car the MH has the air compressor etc on it aready.Guess still have to set up the air cylinder each time but not like the brake buddy?This is a 26'class A never worried much about system except to meet letter of the law as pulled for many years with a 40K+ bus now this liter rig and poor performance of the old style Brake Buddy gets me thinking!Any experience with the Roadmaster units??

taylorgso
Explorer
Explorer
egmurray wrote:
Need to replace my brake buddy... looking at a new Patriot?
Is this a good, reliable unit. My brake buddy let me down twice. The brake buddy doesn't seen to like cold weather; I have no choice when I leave for the south.


We tow a 2007 Mazda3 behind our Sprinter based Solera, and use the Patriot. So far I have been very pleased with the operation. Price includes a remote control to be used in the Motorhome to control the sensitivity of the Patriot, and status indicators telling whether it is activated, if it currently has brakes applied, or if Patriot has been disabled due to a fault. It has functioned well. Only issue we have had is that it must be charged prior to first use, because it has an internal battery as a backup if the toad battery drops below a critical point. We also discovered that if stopped on a downhill slope and holding foot on brake for extended period, the Patriot will display "time out" fault and must be turned off and on, and reinitialized. To avoid this, I have begun to turn the gain to "0" with the remote during this time - after having come to a stop (this effectively puts unit in standby) and resetting gain after resuming motion. This seems to have worked. I am assuming if the unit is not used for extended periods (like over the winter), that it would need to be recharged again. I have also installed a "Toad Brake" system to keep toad battery charged, hopefully avoiding any battery issues.
Ed (N4RWU) & Becky Taylor
Mistie (Walks Four Down)
2014Thor Tuscany XTE 40GQ

johnwb
Explorer
Explorer
I have a small MH, (Winnie/Aspect 26a) and tow a Honda, CRV. Use a Brake in a box on CRV floor. Helps stop when I need it and KEEPS THE WIFE HAPPY AS SHE IS A WORRY WART. Happy wife = happy life. Nuff said ??
John

lkentn
Explorer
Explorer
I have pretty much decided to use the ReadyBrake system. I may go to the factory to get it and to see if they can use my existing Auto Stop cable tubing for the cable in my toad. I have heard good things about this system. I am going to keep this thing simple again. http://www.readybrake.com/brake-systems.html

Kent and Margaret
2004 Newmar Kountry Star DP 38'

Retired_VSP
Explorer
Explorer
gasser9 wrote:
I installed the SMI unit myself in 3 hours includind watching the video. It is on line at their link. Could probably do the next in 2 easily.
One of my friends had a "Buddy" that broke the booster/mastercylinder off of the firewall!!!!!


That's scarey....I just bought a brake buddy...will use it in July going from Bedford, Va to PEI.....say it ain't so Joe....
Bobby and Lynda
Retired VSP and High School Counselor, respectively
"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value".....Albert Einstein

gasser9
Explorer
Explorer
I installed the SMI unit myself in 3 hours includind watching the video. It is on line at their link. Could probably do the next in 2 easily.
One of my friends had a "Buddy" that broke the booster/mastercylinder off of the firewall!!!!!

gasser9
Explorer
Explorer
I think SMI & US Gear make the best they use your power brakes instead of just breaking your firewall!Niether one will engage without the MH breaks being engaged. They both stay very inconspicously in the Toad. The SMI all you have to do is turn on a switch. The US Gear has a twin wire that is connected to the MH.
www.smibrake.net
http://www.usgear.cc/unified_tow_brake.htm

gasser9
Explorer
Explorer
You might want to check with your insurance co. Another consideration is is if it is required & you are involved in an accident you have an equipment VIOLATION wich can change liability!! Lawyers have a hayday with saftey violations some are totaly rediculus. Just ask any old time trucker.

egmurray
Explorer
Explorer
Need to replace my brake buddy... looking at a new Patriot?
Is this a good, reliable unit. My brake buddy let me down twice. The brake buddy doesn't seen to like cold weather; I have no choice when I leave for the south.

Retired_VSP
Explorer
Explorer
I have a Bay Star 33'and plan to tow a small vehicle without braking system installed....I have a "tow" button on the gear shift lever and I believe that assists with slowing and pulling....but I'm not sure of the full technique...is this the wrong forum to get advise on this since we are talking about braking? Thanks for any advise/thoughts.
Bobby and Lynda
Retired VSP and High School Counselor, respectively
"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value".....Albert Einstein

lkentn
Explorer
Explorer
MPond wrote:
lkentn wrote:
I have used the Blue Ox Auto Stop direct cable around the brake pedal on our Jeep and while driving into Yellowstone NP the cable actually broke so I abandoned that system. I went to the Brake Buddy system which I had to set up every time I towed. Since I tow a Jeep Liberty and it is recommended that I disconnect the battery while towing, I had to go to a direct from the battery connection to my brake buddy. After my most recent trip, I noticed a strange smell in my Jeep not a brake smell. I pushed the button to release the air from the BB tank and it contained no air. The Brake Buddy had failed me again and likely for the last time. It had failed me so many times previously that it probably wasn't working properly more of my driving time than it ever did working properly. I am now giving up on my second auxiliary braking system and am in a quandary as to which system to try next. Since I have probably driven as many miles without my braking system working as I have with it working, I have not noticed any advantage of my 25,000+ lb Diesel Pusher towing my Jeep with any of my auxiliary braking systems i have used. What do next?


I've heard good things about the Ready Break from Night Shift Auto - http://www.readybrake.com/

But I agree with your statement about towing a Jeep behind a heavy DP - not sure that it is really necessary, as I've never noticed a difference either.


I always thought that having an auxiliary braking system on my toad would give me peace of mind but it never has. Because I have had so many problems with braking system failures, I believe I would have way more peace of mind without a braking system on my Jeep. When we had a 26 ft. Lazy Daze class C towing a Saturn, I could feel the braking system actually helping me stop both vehicles. But, when towing my Jeep with my much heavier, more powerful, better braking with air brakes Diesel pusher, I doubt that braking my toad has much effect on my downward speed on long grades like the one going into Yellowstone or the one coming into Denver on I-70 from Dillon, CO. On both of those grades my braking system had already failed and was not working at all. I made it down without incident. I watch my speed, distance from other vehicles and how I use my motorhome brakes; I am very careful. I think most of these braking systems are very expensive and many are ineffective.

Kent and Margaret
2004 Newmar Kountry Star DP 38'

MPond
Explorer
Explorer
lkentn wrote:
I have used the Blue Ox Auto Stop direct cable around the brake pedal on our Jeep and while driving into Yellowstone NP the cable actually broke so I abandoned that system. I went to the Brake Buddy system which I had to set up every time I towed. Since I tow a Jeep Liberty and it is recommended that I disconnect the battery while towing, I had to go to a direct from the battery connection to my brake buddy. After my most recent trip, I noticed a strange smell in my Jeep not a brake smell. I pushed the button to release the air from the BB tank and it contained no air. The Brake Buddy had failed me again and likely for the last time. It had failed me so many times previously that it probably wasn't working properly more of my driving time than it ever did working properly. I am now giving up on my second auxiliary braking system and am in a quandary as to which system to try next. Since I have probably driven as many miles without my braking system working as I have with it working, I have not noticed any advantage of my 25,000+ lb Diesel Pusher towing my Jeep with any of my auxiliary braking systems i have used. What do next?


I've heard good things about the Ready Break from Night Shift Auto - http://www.readybrake.com/

But I agree with your statement about towing a Jeep behind a heavy DP - not sure that it is really necessary, as I've never noticed a difference either.
2003 Country Coach Intrigue, Cummins ISL 400
Toad: 2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (LJ) toad, with just a few mods...

Other rig: 2005 Chevy Silverado 3500 Duramax Dually / Next Level 38CK Fifth-wheel Toy Hauler w/ quads, sand rail, etc...

lkentn
Explorer
Explorer
I have used the Blue Ox Auto Stop direct cable around the brake pedal on our Jeep and while driving into Yellowstone NP the cable actually broke so I abandoned that system. I went to the Brake Buddy system which I had to set up every time I towed. Since I tow a Jeep Liberty and it is recommended that I disconnect the battery while towing, I had to go to a direct from the battery connection to my brake buddy. After my most recent trip, I noticed a strange smell in my Jeep not a brake smell. I pushed the button to release the air from the BB tank and it contained no air. The Brake Buddy had failed me again and likely for the last time. It had failed me so many times previously that it probably wasn't working properly more of my driving time than it ever did working properly. I am now giving up on my second auxiliary braking system and am in a quandary as to which system to try next. Since I have probably driven as many miles without my braking system working as I have with it working, I have not noticed any advantage of my 25,000+ lb Diesel Pusher towing my Jeep with any of my auxiliary braking systems i have used. What do next?

Kent and Margaret
2004 Newmar Kountry Star DP 38'