Help installing a brakeaway switch - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-22-2018, 09:29 AM   #1
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Name: Karen & Don
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Help installing a brakeaway switch

I need to know how to install a Bargman brakeaway switch, not replace an existing one. Any know of any help on this forum? Thank you, Don.
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Old 04-22-2018, 10:14 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Kardon View Post
I need to know how to install a Bargman brakeaway switch, not replace an existing one. Any know of any help on this forum? Thank you, Don.
In fact that is my project for today.

Assuming three wires come off the switch, one is ground (should be white), one is positive / hot (should be black) and the third is the brake power (should be blue). You might not have a ground wire on your switch... See post five below regarding the ground connection for switches that have one.

White goes to frame or battery negative post (battery post is what I am doing since frame grounds can get flaky and the battery post is handy).

Black goes to the battery positive post (assuming house battery).

Blue ties into the brake power wire that runs from the umbilical cords back to both brakes. You can connect the blue wire to the point where the umbilical brake power wire connects to the trailer wiring, or under the camper where the brake power wire is (should be blue). The latter is the way I am going to do it only because the umbilical is well sealed up now, and I want to redo the splice that is under the camper. Of course your wire could be run differently.

When the plug is pulled out of the switch, the black and green wires are shorted in the switch so that power can flow from the battery positive, through the now closed switch, to the brakes. The ground connection completes the circuit so that the full voltage of the battery is supplied to the brakes (that is to say that there is no controller to limit the braking). I assume it will lock up the brakes even at highway speed.

The cable needs to be looped or secured to the tug and not the drawbar. If the drawbar comes out, the cable needs to still be attached to the tug. I am using the hole where the safety chain attaches.

The switch needs to be mounted in a location where the cable has enough slack, but not so much that it gets unintentionally hooked on something, and so that the plug will be pulled more or less straight out of the switch if the trailer separates from the tug.

I spent about 20 minutes planning the cable and switch location.

I think that covers most of it.
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Old 04-22-2018, 10:33 AM   #3
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A question about the cable, should the length be so that if the trailer comes off the ball and is still attached by the chains, it will activate the breakaway switch and apply the brakes? I've seen people recommend the coiled cables, but I imagine the trailer would have to be completely disconnected, even the chains, for the coil cable to stretch out to activate the breakaway switch.
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Old 04-22-2018, 10:45 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
In fact that is my project for today.

Assuming three wires come off the switch, one is ground (should be white), one is positive / hot (should be black) and the third is the brake power (should be blue).
I have never seen a three conductor break-away switch.
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Old 04-22-2018, 11:19 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Rock knocker View Post
I have never seen a three conductor break-away switch.
And now you have

But you are right, the OPs switch likely has two wires. And reading my post again I see that it was not clear that the ground wire from the switch is not part of the brake circuit. The brake ground does not go through the switch and the switch ground is only for the LED light that shows when it is activated (and is therefore optional). Sorry for the confusion.
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Old 04-22-2018, 12:54 PM   #6
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Oh I did forget one thing.. circuit protection. You dont want the hot wire from the battery positive shorting out to the frame ground.. it will spark and can melt in seconds. IMHO a fuse or circuit breaker as close to the positive post as possible is called for. I think the prevailing "best practice" is to use a self-resetting circuit breaker for brake power circuits and it should be high enough value to handle the load from the brakes when they are full on (and then some).

Now this is another area where there seems to be some debate but I have given you my opinion. A fuse or breaker on the break-away power wire might be another possible failure point that would stop the brakes from working when the break-away switch is activated but that is not likely, esp. if you check things once in a while. The bigger risk IMHO is the wire chaffing, animals chewing the insulation, or something of the sort so that you have a short and all the energy in the battery is dumped out in seconds. And that heat and possible fire is right next to the propane tank too

As for activation or not when the safety chains are still attached, I can see arguments either way but I think 51 % of the time it is better to not activate the break-away if chains are attached. But I could be wrong. Its probably academic for me however since I doubt I could rig it to reliably activate or not with the chains still attached while also not activating when the trailer is hitched (thats bad). As long as it activates with the trailer fully loose, makes me legal, and reduces my potential liability, I will be OK with it.
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Old 04-22-2018, 02:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
As for activation or not when the safety chains are still attached, I can see arguments either way but I think 51 % of the time it is better to not activate the break-away if chains are attached. But I could be wrong. Its probably academic for me however since I doubt I could rig it to reliably activate or not with the chains still attached while also not activating when the trailer is hitched (thats bad). As long as it activates with the trailer fully loose, makes me legal, and reduces my potential liability, I will be OK with it.
If the chains are still attached and trailer brakes are not activated by the breakaway switch, you will be rear-ended by your trailer as you apply the tow vehicle brakes. Up to you.
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Old 04-22-2018, 03:28 PM   #8
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If the chains are still attached, isn't there at least a good chance the umbilical cord is, too?
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Old 04-22-2018, 04:35 PM   #9
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You don't want to fuse a breakaway switch just as you should not fuse the power wire to the brakes from the brake controller.
The former should be wired directly and the latter should use a self resetting breaker.
I agree with Gordon that the breakaway switch should only be activated if the trailer is completely detached from the trailer. That is the purpose and why it is called a "breakaway" switch.
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Old 04-22-2018, 05:40 PM   #10
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You don't want to fuse a breakaway switch just as you should not fuse the power wire to the brakes from the brake controller.
The former should be wired directly and the latter should use a self resetting breaker....
Why would you use a circuit protection device on one battery that supplies power to the brakes, but not on another? Shorts can occur in either case.
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Old 04-22-2018, 06:27 PM   #11
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Gordon, what I have is a two wire brakeaway switch. I was just wondering if anyone has ever seen a video on how to install one of these. Don.
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Old 04-22-2018, 06:38 PM   #12
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https://youtu.be/gEomUD8lla4
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Old 04-22-2018, 06:38 PM   #13
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Gordon, what I have is a two wire brakeaway switch. I was just wondering if anyone has ever seen a video on how to install one of these. Don.
Well there are plenty of videos...
https://www.google.com/search?tbm=vi...&bih=589&dpr=3

In my post just ignore the part about the ground (white) wire.

With your two wire switch it does not matter which wire goes to the battery positive and which goes to the brake power wire (blue). You just need the switch to make a connection from battery positive to the brake's power wire when it is activated.
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Old 04-22-2018, 08:14 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
Why would you use a circuit protection device on one battery that supplies power to the brakes, but not on another? Shorts can occur in either case.
The manufacturers of brake controllers call for a circuit breaker which resets in the event of it tripping. The circuitry is a part of the TV with wiring usually running through the TV from front to back.

The breakaway switch is an emergency device which only powers the brakes in case of a catastrophic failure no second chance for a breaker and you are only protecting about 3feet of wire on the tongue in any case.
I suppose a 30A fuse wouldn't hurt but the switches I have installed do not recommend a fuse or a breaker. Maybe they think the arch caused by activation could blow the fuse ?

My guess is that your "shorts" would be soiled anyway if the breakaway switch was ever activated at speed.

I don't have a breakaway switch... and for only $8 I sure would have one if I thought it was needed. Perhaps on a double axle trailer over 5000 pounds and over 25-30 ft long you might have a slight chance of its being effective. Probably just go upside down in the ditch anyway!

My guess is that a renegade 13ft Scamp simply would not stop straight and would immediately resemble a giant misdirected ping pong ball.
Breakaway switch or not.
Brake chambers on semis are fail safe but more for loss of air pressure than for accidental trailer disconnect.

Best advice in any event is to inspect your rig regularly and check the connection before every departure.
My wife and I do separate connection checks and we check all DOT lights before leaving... Every time.
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