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Author Topic: Towed Car Braking System  (Read 6103 times)
qayqayt
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« on: April 19, 2011, 10:12:47 AM »

I'm researching all the best options for towing our car "4 wheels down" and the issue of having a braking system for the towed vehicle has come up.  Our car is towable, but weighs 3400 lbs curb weight.  I could see the advantage if your motorhome was relatively light, the extra braking would greatly assist and would be a major safety addition.  But behind a bus?

Any comments?

Bryan
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« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2011, 10:18:00 AM »

behind a bus, the point of a toad braking system is far less the need for supplementary brakes to aid the bus,, but rather the need for emergency brakes if the car breaks away from the bus.  Per the various lists of brakes required vs state/province, often not actually required by law but check the states you are driving in.  Your feeling about safety and responsibility will guide your choice.  I tow with a dolly and the dolly has electric brakes for the break-away emergency feature, I don't actually hook the brakes up for normal running.

Brian
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« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2011, 10:30:19 AM »

I have towed four down for many a year and many thousands of miles and never felt like I needed additional braking for the toad.  If it gets loose (you have to screw up to achieve this), you have safety cable(s) to keep the car hooked up to the bus.  The most common problems towing four down is forgetting to release the steering wheel, and getting a flat on the toad without knowing it.  I have a rear camera and if the car isn't towing right I can spot it.
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« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2011, 10:32:55 AM »

i've got an SMI Air Force One air brake system for our 8000lb van (loaded).  it comes with an idiot light to show you the brakes are working, all the hoses and controls you need, and a break-away cable that should set the brakes and stop the towed vehicle in case of a failed tow bar or hitch.  

i think they are around $700 plus install, but it's been a few years.  Most RV shows, you can find them there, or call them in Indiana.  

We got a brake system more for moral reasons that our needs.  We pulled the van for a couple years without a braking system with no issue, but the break away need to protect the other guy got to me.

Mine works fine although i've not tested the break-away.  They were friendly, helpful, and they adjusted mine for free since we tow 4 wheels down with the engine running which means it needs less power to press the brake pedal.

i think the brake-buddy is the most sold car brake system, but i have no experience with it.  we didn't go that route because i don't believe it was adjustable for our engine running system, and it takes up space when not in use.  space is a premium with us.  i think prices may have been similar to the smi brake we got.

good luck.
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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2011, 11:00:35 AM »

A few years back i had a Unified Tow Brake from U.S. Gear put on our jeep. Not cheap, but the very first time we took off with it, we had an oncoming car pass a semi-truck and trailer and i had to hit the brakes hard to keep from taking them out. I could feel the jeep helping slow us down and once our heart rate settled down i told my wife that the brake system had just paid for itself. I don't think we would have made it without it,....it was that close.
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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2011, 11:52:47 AM »

 Bryan, right now we use the Blue Ox brake system. But if I had it to do over I'd just get the Ready Brake. It's cheaper and works as well...Cable
    http://www.readybrake.com/brake-systems.html
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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2011, 12:22:23 PM »

hi Bryan

I have the M&G Braking System on my Jeep, it work great.  Just hook up the air line and you are ready to go.Here is there web site. I will see you at the Rally at Chase if you are going.  http://www.m-gengineering.com/

 Gary
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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2011, 12:50:06 PM »

FYI...I remember the rash of ticketing a few years ago

Two years ago there was a big controversy over towing heavy dinghies into Canada, especially British Columbia. They started ticketing any dinghy that weighed more than 3000 lbs. if it did not have a supplemental braking system. After much hoopla and lots of pressure from the Tourist Board, that limit was changed as stated below: At this time, the other provinces in Canada are not ticketing heavy dinghies, even though their regulations show the 3000 lbs. limit. This is not different than many of the States in the US where published regulations specify limits as low as 1000 lbs. I have written extensively about the safety of towing vehicles behind motorhomes and firmly recommend a supplemental brake on all dinghies. If you cannot afford a few hundred dollars for the right equipment, that will make your travel and mine safer, maybe you should consider another lifestyle.

BRITISH COLUMBIA TOWING REGULATIONS

All Trailers and towing dollies must have brakes on all wheels when the GVW of the dinghy/trailer/load exceeds 1300 kg or 3000 lbs. All trailers with brakes much have a breakaway device hooked to the trailer brake system. Surge brakes may be used up to a towed gvw of 6,173 lb. From 6173 lb. and up, the towed vehicle brakes must be able to be applied by the driver of the tow vehicle. Only one trailer may be towed at a time, and a car dolly with a car is regarded as one trailer.

Motorhomes may tow motor vehicles via a tow bar without brakes hooked up on the towed vehicle when the towed vehicle’s laden weight is (a) less than 4409 lb. and (b) less than 40% of the GVWR of the motorhome towing it. Motor vehicles with a laden weight of over 4409 lbs. and which are towed by a motorhome must have brakes and a breakaway device hooked up. All vehicles towed with a ball, must have approved safety chains or cables.
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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2011, 12:59:53 PM »

  While supplemental brakes are certainly a fine idea, as long as your combined weight (Bus + Toad) doesnt exceed the GVW of the Bus itself, you should be fine. The Bus was designed to stop in excess of its designed GVW. That said, extra braking is always nice to have on hand.

  I would jump on a brake system in a heartbeat if they didnt cost over $1000. But I have yet to see one. With the Bus, it would be nice to use the air brake system. Perhaps an air brake actuator could be used to apply the pedal inside the Toad?
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« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2011, 01:35:45 PM »

Art the ready brake system is $400.  I have seen braking distances with and without toad brakes, the distance are significantly shorter with toad brakes, even though it may be under the gross weight of the vehicle.

Chuckd
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Mike in GA
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« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2011, 01:49:37 PM »

I feel strongly that any towed vehicle should have a supplemental braking system, both to aid in emergency stops and in case of break-away. I have used a Brake Buddy for 10 years and it is quite adequate, in fact it saved my bacon on two occasions when someone stopped short in front of us.
   Several members of the Southeast Bus Nuts have taken advantage of their bus's air brakes, and have used either M&G or Brakemaster applications, to great satisfaction. The M&G system uses bus air to power an enhanced master cylinder on the toad. The Roadmaster uses bus air to power a pneumatic ram that depresses the brake pedal. When budget allows, Roadmaster is next for me.
   Thought I read somewhere that the US is thinking of making such systems a requirement, at least on towed vehicles over a certain weight?
Mike in GA
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« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2011, 02:49:18 PM »

Art the ready brake system is $400.  I have seen braking distances with and without toad brakes, the distance are significantly shorter with toad brakes, even though it may be under the gross weight of the vehicle.
Chuckd

  No doubt requiring everyone build lighter conversions would shorten stopping distances too? Just sayin.
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« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2011, 04:05:51 PM »

    I firmly believe if we have a collision there will be a lawyer that will try to make us responsible if we haven't done everything possible to shorten our stopping distance. I mentioned this to a State Trouper, and he said the local laws require a braking device over a certain weight. But he also said he's not a baby sitter, so most often he won't go looking, he'll just ticket them after the collision. Then the lawyers can sort it out...Cable
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Sofar Sogood
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« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2011, 06:08:10 PM »

my 2 cents:

Anyone who has used a toad brake and still claims they can't tell the difference doesn't have it adjusted properly.  I can tell the difference between having my toad brake system hooked up or not in how the bus behaves.  4500lbs is still 4500lbs no mater what and increased stopping distances are the result of additional weight.  These huge beasts already take a long distance to stop in an emergency.  The extra margin of safety by having the toad braking system is well worth the cost.  If you can afford to buy the bus and buy fuel you can afford the braking system.  It just needs to be a priority.  Me personally, I built my own.  It works great and I know it is back there doing its job every time I step on the brakes.
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« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2011, 07:23:18 PM »

Check for towing requirements online.  I think that most states have laws about toad brakes and breakaway systems.  We bought our Jeep thinking that the curb weight of 2900# put us below the 3000# threshold specified by many states for legally requiring aux brakes and breakaway.  However, it turned out that the 3000# number refers to GVWR.  There are very few toads rated below that.  If you are traveling around the country without an aux brake system and breakaway set up, you are illegal a good deal of the time.  If you are in an accident that causes injury, there is even the possibility of a criminal negligence charge.

We watched Craigslist for a good deal on a Brake Buddy and got one for under $150. delivered.  I am not personally worried about the ability of the bus brakes to do the job, so I set the BB at the minimum setting so it should only come on if I really have to slam it.
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« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2011, 08:51:08 PM »

  As a side note, I installed surge brakes on our tow dolly as a precaution in case of a collision while towing the wife's Focus. The dolly may not hit the target weight, bit the Focus could...Cable
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« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2011, 10:12:53 PM »

Well.....a toad brake will shorten your stopping distance.... matbe.  A provable fact?  Without doubt.  Safer?  Sure.  Affordable is a sticker but who can afford not to stop.

I bought the simplest surge brake affair I ever even heard of.  It has a cable that runs inside the toad, thru the firewall, and "pulls" on the toad brake for stopping.  Considering I run with all four down and the engine running....I GET 4 WHEEL ANTILOCK.  Adjusting mine is a snap....just set it to lock all four and it will modulate you to the shortest distance to whoa.  I am simply pleased.  A short extension in the receiver, a cable to the brake ped.  another cable that runs through a "capture" like device and if she comes loose the brake cable gets pulled on tight and stays that way even after that cable breaks.  I have all the lighting integrated into the truck system.

I only got this system to satisfy the Canadians and even then only at the border.  Great idea, however.

This system was cheap.  If you have the faculty and imagination to hook up the ball you can install the thing.  The name is Ready Brake...I think.  PM me for details.

John
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« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2011, 10:19:53 PM »

Cable

The tow dolly is probably okay to pull without an aux brake.  It's only when you put the Focus on it that it becomes illegal.

http://www.happy-wanderers.com/rv-and-travel/112-auxiliary-brake-laws
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« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2011, 03:49:40 AM »

One Huge point that everyone is missing -- we stop a LOT faster than we accelerate so everytime you brake and the toad doesn't you are doing the same as slamming the toad into the back of your bus. The shock load is very hard on the car base plate, tow bar, hitch and attachment points that can and will lead to failure on one of those items or the structure of your bus. Sense the toad and bus are seldom level the forces applied are usually at a up or down level which also increases the damage. If you don't use a brake system you best be checking for cracks and loose fasteners at every use.JimH
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« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2011, 05:38:17 AM »

I have no experience with any toad braking systems, how do they apply the right amount of braking to the toad to keep from using the its brakes to slow the bus?  I am familiar with electric type trailer brakes with the control, is there something like that for the toad system.
I just pulled our jeep for the first time a couple of weeks ago and did not notice much if any difference in our stopping ability but would still like to look into a brake system.
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Doug Olson
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« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2011, 06:42:56 AM »

The shock load is very hard on the car base plate, tow bar, hitch and attachment points that can and will lead to failure on one of those items or the structure of your bus.  If you don't use a brake system you best be checking for cracks and loose fasteners at every use.
JimH

  Okay, im calling BS. How about the car senses the Bus stopping when it slams into the hitch, then the brakes apply and yank the hitch out of the Bus from all the extra pushing, pulling, and banging? Maybe the welds on the hitch arent up to NASA quality, better have them X-rayed? Maybe run 1/2 inch steel cable from the hitch to the rear axle so in case the hitch breaks off you wont lose your toad?

  Some here are towing with a tow dolly? Whats keeping the car from coming off? If the car comes off the dolly, whats going to stop it? How in Gods name is it safe to tow your car on a tow dolly, when the car has no possible way to stop itself should it come off, but its NOT safe to tow with a tow bar unless the toad can lock em up? Seems a bit hypocritical.

  Heck, if everyone here was graded on what everyone else thought of everyone elses rigs safety, etc., we would all fail. Many of these rigs are filled with loose furniture, books etc., heavy stone floors and counters, questionable securing of same and of walls and cabinets, questionable wiring, questionable plumbing, DIY repairs and modifications to the chassis, including welding and changes to the steering thats not been inspected, and on and on.

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« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2011, 07:48:20 AM »

Art.

I can not comment on the comparative safety of each setup, but as per the chart posted above I can say that the law requires some system in most states.  As foolish as it may sound, I am less concerned with how much the aux system helps than I am about being able to point at it if pulled over.

As for stresses on the vehicles and the tow members, that's the very nature of towing.  I hope that most of that is covered in the design and construction.
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« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2011, 08:36:30 AM »

Towing a car or a trailer or a dolly is just an engineering exercise.  You evaluate the problem and design a solution that accommodates the loads correctly.  Then, you maintain it.  No need to go all "it's going fail, crack, explode" or whatever.

As far as brakes are concerned, you need them or don't need them for two reasons - normal course of business rolling on down the road, and in an emergency.  Two different applications.  The worst case emergency is if the towed thing is separated from the towing thing.  There you need independent brakes, so you look into the rules and if you need them to be legal where you are driving, you have them, or you don't.  Or you look into the personal sense of responsibility/fear of liability and add the emergency braking system.

In normal course of business, you need brakes or don't need them according to the law in the land, the weight of the vehicles involved, and your personal sense of the right way to do things.  There are all sorts of ways to decide, pick one and run with it.  I don't have brakes at all on my 1500 lb landscape trailer, my tow dolly has electric brakes but I only use the emergency breakaway feature, and my big trailer has electronic control of the biggest brakes that fit on the axles.  So I made three different decisions based on three different sets of circumstances. and I'm probably pretty average in that.

Brian
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« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2011, 09:08:09 AM »

Thanks very much everyone.  Great discussion.

It's true that economics are a big factor.  I didn't consider the braking system when I budgeted this project and the extra $1,000 that I was quoted suddenly put it out of reach for now.  Now I see there are a few other options.

Gary, I will see you at the rally in Chase.  In fact it was a discussion with you in Agassiz when you showed us your toad setup that led to the decision to tow a vehicle.  I need to take another look at your braking system as well as other suggestions posted here.

I VERY much appreciate all the comments and advice.

Bryan
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« Reply #24 on: April 20, 2011, 01:23:51 PM »

visit www.hitchtrader.com  Many used towing & braking components for sale at good prices.  This is whewre i found our base plates and out M&G braking system (all used and great prices)  Jack
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« Reply #25 on: April 20, 2011, 02:55:25 PM »

To Art:
I was talking about what happens when you do NOT have a toad braking system. If you still think the loads are BS then please tell me where you are towing so I can avoid you.
JimH
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« Reply #26 on: April 20, 2011, 04:00:23 PM »

  Like I said, I doubt anyone here could pass everyone elses standards even if its legal in all 47 states.  Something your doing, have done, or about to do will cause someone grief somewhere.

  But to claim toad brakes put LESS stress on your hitch? I am sure the hitch wont come apart regardless, but that is a rediculous statement.
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« Reply #27 on: April 20, 2011, 04:50:54 PM »

Art:
Please do yourself a favor and reread my posts. It PLAINLY says what can occur WITHOUT a toad brake system.
Jimh
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« Reply #28 on: April 20, 2011, 05:43:36 PM »

This says it all.


http://www.readybrake.com/video.html

With this system you can skip the $150 toad lighting and wiring upgrade.  If you just leave your parking lights on you brake lights will come on with the brake ped.  I was told long ago that turn signals on the toad were not a requirement if the turn lights on the towing vehicle were clearly visible.  YMMV and that might be BS today.

I'll look for the price list and forward it also.  I laid in wait on Ebay and CL and ambushed a used system that was NIB.  Got it for a pittance.

John
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« Reply #29 on: April 20, 2011, 05:52:33 PM »

Price list for Ready Brake system.  http://www.readybrake.com/brake-systems.html

I have a friend that installs these systems professionally.  I can get anything for my rig at wholesale prices.  This Ready Brake sells for $400 to 430.  I finally got one for $100.  I can't say it peforms well as I have never done a panic stop.  i can say that I have never become aware that the thing is back there or that the toad is "pushing" me.  Like I said....I have been watching these braking systems being installed for many years and I can honestly say that they all work well if installed properly.  All of them.  Did I mention that I bought the Brake Buddy system? Roll Eyes Grin

Happy Camper john
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« Reply #30 on: April 20, 2011, 09:14:46 PM »

  Regardless of that map and states trailer laws, ive actually read the state statutes for MN, IA, MO, AR, and several others regarding towing a vehicle behind a large RV. And it is LEGAL to tow a vehicle on a tow bar behind a large RV, Bus Conversion, etc, without brakes in the towed vehicle.

  In fact in many states you can hook your boat behind your toad and still be completely legal.   
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« Reply #31 on: April 21, 2011, 06:33:53 AM »

What 3 states did we lose? Grin
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« Reply #32 on: April 21, 2011, 07:06:58 AM »

What 3 states did we lose? Grin

  Pick your favorites. I dont really see California as being a part of the rest or us anymore, they seem a power unto themselves.
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