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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

tjfogelberg
Explorer
Explorer
JPedro says "The whole stand alone brake pedal box sounds expensive and unreliable.".

Correct on both counts. My Demco Delta Force was installed on the toad at the time I bought my new 2017 Minnie Winnie at a cost of $1,700. I'm on my 3rd system (5 year warranty). When the system works, it is great. It provides proportional breaking which I personally like. The brake helps me with every stop, even a slow roll at a traffic light etc. It releases immediately when I come to a complete stop or when I remove my foot from the MH brake pedal.

But the system FAILS. It actuates without cause ...sometimes on the highway (scary) and sometimes during the installation and testing pre-trip. It also blows the 20 AMP fuse to my Honda CRV accessory socket where it is plugged in for power.

Have read lots on all the different systems and trying to decide what to replace it with. Saw a guy in the parking lot once with his toad brakes locked up, his system was permanently installed so he didn't know how to disengage it. A Tow truck came and pulled his vehicle onto the trailer, only way to get it into the shop.

Leaning toward a system recommended by a local and highly rated installer...Blue Ox Patriot a portable system with proportional braking. (I hate to go without a brake system as it really does making stopping easier and safer in my opinion).

But it is an extreme hazard to have a system that engages at highway speed for NO reason.

Delta Force has been very responsive and repaired or replace (#3) the system. But all 3 have failed during the 4 years of operation.

JPedro
Explorer
Explorer
I tow a 8,000 lb. horse trailer behind my 40 ft 400 hp DP with no problems stopping with electric brakes. I want to occasionally pull a toad, but all my extra vehicles are automatics and don’t show up on any lists as being flat towable. I may just buy a flatbed with e-brakes after reading 11 pages of this thread or maybe get a dolly. However, I would like to know if any potential toads come with pre-wired e-brakes or air brakes. The whole stand alone brake pedal box sounds expensive and unreliable. I can’t imagine how disk brakes convert to e-brakes, but I thought I’d throw it out there. Be gentle on me please.

Fisherman1964
Explorer
Explorer
I guess it really depends on what your towing and what your towing it with. But here in Canada some if not all provinces require supplemental brake systems for anything being towed over 2500#. I've been using the Brake Buddy for a number of years now and have had good luck with it and they also have great customer service from my experience.

Hicks3456
Explorer
Explorer
Yrachmael wrote:
I'm towing a 2000# Honda Fit behind my 36' Cheeta pusher using Blue Ox bar and chains. Up to now I haven't had any need for a braking system in the toad. However, I'm planning a X-ross country trip late this spring that will include California. So now I'm questioning whether spending over 1k for a system is even needed and if so is one of those second hand Brake Buddies on Ebay worth a few hundred dollars or just a waste?


I do not think the question is if you need it - the real question is what is your liability if something happens and you don't have it - are you liable for damage as well as - would your insurance cover you?

stargirl96
Explorer
Explorer
We have the Ready Brute Elite tow bar with built-in braking system. In my opinion, it is a cleverly designed system, but it is not trouble free. Before our last trip, we noticed that the cable loop (is it called thimble?) where the breakaway system connects to car was broken and had worked itself back into car. Also, the plastic bumper pulls out when the ready break cable is activated and pulls the thimble forward. Our toad is a Honda CR-V and I wonder whether it is a good choice for their system, although the owner said they've successfully done several installations on CR-Vs. The upshot is we will have to take our motorhome and toad back to Iola, Kansas to be worked on. I don't know what others do who live in states far away. Perhaps there are installers nearby to correct any problems. The Ready Break system is a good one, but it requires upkeep like other motorhome products and accessories.

mowermech
Explorer
Explorer
CA Traveler wrote:
brodon wrote:
Just bought a Nat. Dolphin 38' Class A MH; looking at braking issue.
MH stats:
GVWR 24,000
GCWR 30,000
Unloaded WR 20,840
Max CC 3,160
Cargo CC 1,782
Tow Veh 3,880
The way I read these figures, I should be able to pull and brake with my MH safely.
My concern has always been safety, legal and liability. States have different laws requiring aux brakes. A 3,880 toad requires a brake in most states.

Should the unfortunate happen I don't want to be explaining to the insurance company or judge why I ignored the states requirements. Not to mention putting my assets at risk.


Most states do not have laws requiring a braking system on a towed motor vehicle.
However, nearly all states have a braking performance requirement. You must be able to come to a full stop within a certain distance from a certain speed, on a level, hard, clean surface (See MCA (Montana Code Annotated) 61-9-312 for an example of such a law). If you can meet that performance standard, you are legal. If you can't meet the standard, fix it so you can.
An almost identical standard can be found in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
CM1, USN (RET)
2017 Jayco TT
Daily Driver: '14 Subaru Outback
1998 Dodge QC LWB, Cummins, 5 speed, 4X2
2 Kawasaki Brute Force 750 ATVs.
Pride Raptor 3 wheeled off-road capable mobility scooter
"When seconds count, help is only minutes away!"

PartyOf_Five
Explorer
Explorer
No date but laws shown here are by state and province: https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/trailer-brakes/

There's enough state requirements here, and the phrase above ( safety, legal, liability) to make me close the door on getting a tow dolly to embark on "the toad adventure" for now.

Descending a steep grade in Western PA with a utility trailer (roughly 1200 lbs), we popped the fuses on our conversion van rated to tow 5k.

The idiot that jumped in as traffic was stopping in Calgary last year made me stop so short that everything flew forward.

Combining these two incidents, I can envision significant damage. Now maybe the toad's purpose is to prevent the RV from taking these drives, but we drive in traffic all the time and for me it's more about having a spare set of wheels that I can move around easily in.

I wouldn't add the breaking system and accessories cost or effort into the equation right now, and I wouldn't get a tow dolly without including them. The conversation was very helpful for showing various viewpoints, products, and their reviews- thanks all.
PartyOf5 appreciating our Creator thru the created. 5 yrsL 50k, 49 states & 9 provinces.

May you find Peace in all you endeavor.

CA_Traveler
Explorer III
Explorer III
brodon wrote:
Just bought a Nat. Dolphin 38' Class A MH; looking at braking issue.
MH stats:
GVWR 24,000
GCWR 30,000
Unloaded WR 20,840
Max CC 3,160
Cargo CC 1,782
Tow Veh 3,880
The way I read these figures, I should be able to pull and brake with my MH safely.
My concern has always been safety, legal and liability. States have different laws requiring aux brakes. A 3,880 toad requires a brake in most states.

Should the unfortunate happen I don't want to be explaining to the insurance company or judge why I ignored the states requirements. Not to mention putting my assets at risk.
2009 Holiday Rambler 42' Scepter with ISL 400 Cummins
750 Watts Solar Morningstar MPPT 60 Controller
2014 Grand Cherokee Overland

Bob

brodon
Explorer
Explorer
Just bought a Nat. Dolphin 38' Class A MH; looking at braking issue.
MH stats:
GVWR 24,000
GCWR 30,000
Unloaded WR 20,840
Max CC 3,160
Cargo CC 1,782
Tow Veh 3,880
The way I read these figures, I should be able to pull and brake with my MH safely.

Yrachmael
Explorer
Explorer
I'm towing a 2000# Honda Fit behind my 36' Cheeta pusher using Blue Ox bar and chains. Up to now I haven't had any need for a braking system in the toad. However, I'm planning a X-ross country trip late this spring that will include California. So now I'm questioning whether spending over 1k for a system is even needed and if so is one of those second hand Brake Buddies on Ebay worth a few hundred dollars or just a waste?

butter
Explorer
Explorer
I pull a 2010 smart car with my 210 Roadtrek and could fell the brake buddy doing its job on the back when stoping.Smart only weights 1800 Lbs.

jdavidsmi
Explorer
Explorer
I have spent some time reading the post about braking systems for towing. but i did not find a answer to a question that been rumbling around in my brain for the last couple of months.
i have an older car dolly without any brakes. my question is should i install a set of electric breaks on the dolly, or use something like the Readybrake
i tow a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta sportswagen with a automatic transmission. around 3300 lbs. so i need to use the dolly.
2004 Fleetwood Terra 31H (no slides) F53 with V-10

sealg
Explorer
Explorer
buckeyejoey wrote:
Hi All -



Any experience with "surge" supplemental braking systems like the NSA Readybrake with the additional emergency breakaway system?


Yes. Lots of experience with blue ox. All good.

See the post just above, Posted: 01/12/14 07:49am

buckeyejoey
Explorer
Explorer
Hi All -

We just bought our first good used motorhome last July. We are trying to put together what need to tow our 2010 Honda Fit w/manual transmission behind our 35 foot 2006 Forest River Georgetown built on the Ford F-53 Gas chassis w/ the Ford Triton V-10, 20-valve, 310 HP engine and the F400 transmission. Motorhome has a 3000/300 hitch receiver from factory and we have a Blue Ox Aladdin 4000 lb. rated tow bar that was part of the system that the original owners provided as part of the sale to us. Blue Ox makes a base plate for the Honda Fit. Found a diode plug-in wiring solution for the brake lights and trickle charger for the battery. Trying to find the best economical braking system and break away system to round out the package.

Any experience with "surge" supplemental braking systems like the NSA Readybrake with the additional emergency breakaway system?

Curt_and_Marie
Explorer
Explorer
I have the same worry's about the system locking up but my toad is a bit on the heavy side so I will. I am considering investing $80 at auto zone for another rear view camera and installing it inside my toad so I can watch it wireless from my coach?? sound crazy? not sure I am a newby