HomeBrakes and Braking

More Than I Can Handle

This is such an expansive subject that I cannot handle it.  I just give a few experiences and tips.

First off, I am easy on brakes.  My cars last 100,000 miles or more on the same pads.  In a car or RV I always start and stop slowly.  More so in the RV.  In a car I prefer a standard transmission and use the engine to slow me down -- especially on hills.  In the RV I always use the transmission to keep my speed down when descending hills or mountains.

Brakes

If you have a 5th wheel or trailer, you have auxiliary braking and know more than I do already.  You will have brakes on the trailer that are activated by inertia or by a controller that you have some control over on/under your dash.  The one we had had a handle on it so that you could actuate the trailer brakes manually.

In an RV, you have the standard, built-in brakes actuated by a brake pedal and they work really great.  I mean, after all. that you have at least 6 giant tires to grip the road and the discs are too heavy to easily pick up.  They ahd better work.  Your greatest concern when you stop your RV is how many things are going to fall on the floor if you stop too fast.  My toaster likes to slide off the counter and into the door well when I make panic stops.

Serious Downhill

You always go downhill in a lower gear and watch you tachometer as well as your speedometer.  Since I like to drive at 55, I make sure that my downhill speed does not exceed 60.

Front-Wheel Shimmy

On older motor homes and other trucks that are heavily weighted in the rear, the front end will go into a sudden, serious shimmy.  If you have experienced this, it is frightening and you do not want to do it again.  When it happens, applying the floor brakes makes it worse.  If you are able, take your foot off the brakes and hold on tight.  Then reapply the foot brakes very slowly.  Applying the emergency brakes helps here but with my short arms and the release hard to get to, this is hard for me.

The first time this happens, you know you need help.  There are various devices available to  stop this.  They are all attachments to your front steering mechanisms.  There are things that look like shock absorbers -- I had one and it worked just fine.  There are brackets that attach closer to the wheels.  These cost more and so I suppose do more but I do not know.  You want something before you experience the shimmy the second time.

When the shimmy happens, you absolutely know that you do not want to experience it the second time as when it happens you do not know if you will live through it.

Tow Car Brakes

This is where you get into choices.  There are several choices here -- but you really do need to make the choice.  Many states and Canada have passed laws requiring toad braking systems for anything over one tone.  My Tercel (tiny) weighs 1 ton empty.

You can buy a system with a pump in the RV and a piston in the car to actuate the brakes.  These are somewhat expensive and require a high-pressure line from the RV to the car.

The other is a system self-contained in the car.  There are Two major brands of these.

Brake Buddy

I have seen these.  If I had seen them before I bought the BrakePro, I would have bought the Brake Buddy.  They cost about the same: $1,000.  Why?

The brake pedal connector has obviously had some thought put into it -- unlike the Brakepro.

The unit is much smaller than the BrakePro.  When your toad is a Tercel, size matters.

I had read a bad review of the Brake Buddy and I talked to someone who had returned it after he saw his brakes smoking when he stopped and I had seen nor heard nothing of the Brakepro when it came time to buy my unit.  The Camping World salesmen have a good spiel -- as I have discovered Camping World salesmen say this from literature and not from experience..


Brakemaster Brakepro

I have one of these and find it so under-engineered that I wonder why they still exist.  Brakepro certainly does not live up to their literature or sales pitch.

Brake Pedal Bracket

These are designed for a right-handed person with a large toad (maybe a pickup truck).  The release-adjustment latch is on the right side and is not possible to control when applying to the pedal.  Stupid.  I complained to them about this.  I see that the newer models have moved this lever to the left side.  It helps but is not as easy to use as the Brake Buddy latch.

Control Buttons

The control buttons on the top are mechanical and susceptible to desert dust and then freeze up.  You have to disassemble the unit to clean out the dust.  Neither WD-40 nor canned air will help.

Level

I have installed bubble levels on the back and side of the unit as it must be ABSOLUTELY level on the car floor.  It has little adjustable feet to permit this.  When level and plugged in, push the two adjustment buttons simultaneously (all lamps blink) to set the unit.  You cannot use an external level for installation since there is no flat service against which to set the level on the Brakepro unit.

Brake Application

Contrary to product literature, the Brakepro applies the brakes at every railroad track, speed bump, road bump, bridge entry, and whenever else the pavement is not smooth.  When you expect Brakepro to apply the brakes (such as when you apply the RV brakes), it does not.

You have 4 sensitivity levels.  Set the level such that the monitor lamp does not go on every time a bird flies by but goes on sometimes.  This way when you have a panic stop, maybe it will apply properly.  I think it will and this is when you really need it.  Under normal braking, you do not need it.  On speed bumps, the blinking red light lets me know that the Brakepro thinks it is working.

This section is not a recommendation for Brakepro.


Breakaway Switch

Once you have a braking system in the car, you need a breakaway switch.  This is a switch that activates the car brakes if the car breaks away from your RV.  If you have a 5th wheel, you  also have one of these.  The switch has a lanyard-wire that attaches to the RV one one end and the switch on the towed-vehicle.  If the car breaks loose, the lanyard pulls the switch and the car brakes apply.

Tow Lights

This is not really any part of braking but I do not mention them elsewhere.  You need to have a connector from your towing vehicle to the towed vehicle to activate the lights on the towed vehicle.  If you have a 5th wheel, you already have all of this:  you just attach the cable.

External

If you tow a car, you have some choices.  You can buy a set of magnetic lamps from Wal-Mart (or an RV parts store) from $33 - $50.  These have a cable that attaches to the connector on the back of the RV.

Existing

This is a little more complicated: make your choices based upon connector types and lamp counts on your RV and Toad. 

Connector Types

There are three basic types of connectors here:

7-Wire

Here is where you may have a decision to make.  Your RV may have separate turn lamps and tail lamps.  Your tow car may have separate turn lamps and tail lamps.  If they match, you just connect the appropriate wires and diodes.  If the car has separate lamps but the RV does not, you have a choice.  You can either cheat and use one set of the tow cars lamps for both or you can add a couple more diodes.  Follow the rules for 4-wire but add the extra 3 -- your instruction set will describe how to connect the extra wires

4-Wire

The wires are:

You need a wiring harness for the car.  These cost about $80 and take several hours to install.  There are more than wires.  Here is the deal:

Connect the other cable from the RV to the car and again test the lamps.  Test the lamps every time you hitch up the tow car.

Round Versus Flat

My RV has a round, Chrome-Steel connector.  MY external lamps (I went cheap this time), has a flat black-rubber connector.  For $8 I bought an adapter at Wal-mart 

I think I like the Flat rubber connectors better.  The chrome steel corrodes even though it has a pretty metal flap that closes over the contacts when not in use.  You have to make sure that all of the contacts are clean each time you use it.  Use a green scrubby to clean them -- never steel-wool unless you like sparks.  M flat rubber connector has a rubber end cap that fits tightly over the contacts when not in use.  No corrosion.

The advantage of the chrome-steel is that it bolts securely to the car and RV.  The flat rubber just hangs at the end of its cable.

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Written:  2005                 Updated:  July 14, 2005                 Back To Top