Symptoms of Bad Breakaway Switch? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-11-2019, 06:21 AM   #1
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Symptoms of Bad Breakaway Switch?

After 9 weeks in the RV repair shop this summer and a full new set of brake components, mostly new wiring, and a bundle of $$, we got a call from the shop that our trailer was ready. On hookup, however, the P3 controller showed no trailer attached. The TV and controller test fine when plugged to another trailer. The shop is now saying the breakaway switch is probably the culprit. Will a bad switch cause the controller to not see the trailer? I'm afraid they're starting to guess now! The lights all work when plugged into the TV, so there is power from the TV. However, the trailer battery needs a charge, so could that impact the breakaway switch and controller reading, too? Thanks.
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Old 08-11-2019, 06:50 AM   #2
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The breakaway switch should not make the trailer invisible to the controller because all it does is connect the battery to the brake magnets when the cord is pulled. It's easy to test, just pull the cord and see if the brakes go on.

If the brake controller cannot detect the trailer, it probably means there is a problem with the brake circuit. This could be a bad ground where the ball is acting as the ground and working well enough to work the lights, but still being a bad connection. There needs to be a good circuit from the brake controller to the magnets and back to the TV with a dedicated ground wire. The brake negative, or ground, has to go to the trailer frame, or the trailer ground wire and the frame. The brakes can't ground reliably through the suspension system.

Might be a wire on the wrong plug terminal, or a bad ground.

I don't know why it would take nine weeks to do the described work and not be able to troubleshoot a simple problem, while just guessing at an unlikely reason. Sounds like you are not getting good treatment.
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Old 08-11-2019, 07:07 AM   #3
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The break away switch has two wires. One is connected to the BLACK plus wire in the 7 pin pigtail that supplies, charges, 12 volts to the trailer battery.
The second wire connected to the BLUE wire in the pig tail that goes to the brake solenoids.

Under normal conditions the break away switch does not connect these two wires to together.

When the pin is pulled the break away switch switches the black and blue leads together supplying voltage to the brake solenoids.

You don't say if the trailer is new to you or if the brakes ever worked so who knows??

So yes it's possible that a completly good switch IF the battery is connected backwards and the pin is pulled

On most RV's the black lead is positive and the white lead is ground. But people familiar with automobiles relate BLACK to ground and RED to positive.

My suspicion is the battery is connected backwards

For a quick test you could disconnect and isolate boths wire from the battery the battery and
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Old 08-11-2019, 07:14 AM   #4
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You brake power circuit is separate from the lights so having lights in the camper when you are hooked to the tug is meaningless.

The trailer battery (or a separate break-away switch battery) is used for the brakes when the break-away switch is activated but is otherwise not involved in the brakes. Is it dead because they pulled the switch and left it on? That will kill a battery pretty quick. But that would not cause the P-3 to complain.

You tested the tug and controller on another vehicle so we can rule that out. Simply disconnect the break-away switch altogether and try again. Then you can prove to the shop that they mucked it up, since the break-away switch need not be present for the brake system to work.

It really does sound like the shop is incompetent.. I hope you have not paid them yet. Time for a new shop I think.
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Old 08-11-2019, 07:33 AM   #5
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Thanks to all. The brakes did work for about two weeks in June after all new brake components were installed on the twin axles (after 3 weeks in the shop). Then, they abruptly quit while on a 1800 mile round trip to Philadelphia in mid-June. When I returned it to the shop, it sat for 4 weeks before they said I had some bad old brake wiring under the trailer. They replaced these wires and called me to pick up the trailer on Aug. 3., saying everything tested good. I went to pick it up, paid the bill before I could have it back, and hooked up. No signal to controller. One of their techs came out to the lot, got a good test light signal when jumping across the breakaway switch connections, and declared the switch as the culprit. After a week, they called to say the wrong breakaway switch was sent to them and they are re-ordering. I really thought those were pretty interchangeable. My suggestion was to bypass the breakaway switch just for test purposes to see if the controller came to life and they kind of acted like my opinion was cockeyed. I do think the switch could be bad and stuck closed, causing the battery to drain. But I don't know about the lack of signal to the controller.
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Old 08-11-2019, 08:07 AM   #6
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..I do think the switch could be bad and stuck closed, causing the battery to drain. But I don't know about the lack of signal to the controller.
Just disconnect it. Get an ohm meter and check the switch. Disconnecting it is the most basic of trouble shooting steps the shop should take if they suspect its bad. Thousands of trailers with electric brakes dont even have break-away switches. I'm not saying not to use one, esp if its a legal requirement, but for now just eliminate it. If the P-3 still says "no trailer" then find a competent shop.
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Old 08-11-2019, 08:44 AM   #7
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I didn't read all the above, so forgive me if I missed something...
In 50 years of automotive work I have found that most problems are bad grounds. Check the grounds for the trailer brakes.
Also look to see if they are wired directly to the frame or if butt splices are used.
There should be three points of ground on a typical installation...
One at each brake and one in the plug harness, probably at the tongue.


Not sure on your Bigfoot so an alternative may be that the brakes are not grounded to the frame but hard wired all the way back to the plug harness which would work just as well.
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Old Today, 05:26 AM   #8
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...
There should be three points of ground on a typical installation...
One at each brake and one in the plug harness, probably at the tongue.
On my Casita the brakes are only connected to the WHITE negative/common lead and the BLUE brake leads inside the 7 pin cable.
The only place the frame and common leads are connected are on the battery where the white and green wires are on the negative battery terminal.

Personally I think it's time to bite the bullet and find another mechanic:
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Old Today, 06:33 AM   #9
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Brief update: Spoke with a person higher up in the organization yesterday and it seems the service manager has been let go. I filled in the "new" guy about the situation and it seems they are going to expedite our repair this week. I still have concerns about their head electrician who feels that a bad breakaway switch could be fooling the P3 controller. I asked them to just disconnect the current switch and to test for good continuity in the circuit, especially looking for a bad ground in their new wiring job. We'll see what happens.
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