Testing caravan breakaway switch - no response

Submitted: Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 21:30
ThreadID: 110094 Views:5772 Replies:9 FollowUps:19
This Thread has been Archived
Pulling the pin from my Tekonsha 2010 breakaway switch while the caravan is parked up and disconnected from the tow vehicle seems to do absolutely nothing (i.e. no brake lights come on; no noise at the wheels indicating magnets engaged and pads attaching to the drum).

I understand removing the pin should immediately apply the caravan brakes for up to 15 minutes, or until the pin is re-inserted. However, I also understand that there needs to be a power supply to activate the device, but I have never found a dedicated battery for the Tekonsha in the caravan. Another option appears to be a connection to the caravan 'house' batteries, but this seems unlikely because they are always kept up to full charge by roof top solar panels, yet the Tekonsha is not doing what it is supposed to do.

Logically, the only alternative is that the device has its own in-built power source which is only charged/activated when the caravan is connected to the tow vehicle's electrical system. Unless there is a fault with the device itself or its wiring connections, then I assume the latter must be the case. I am yet to re-connect to the tow vehicle to put this to the test, but if other members can suggest an alternative course of action I would welcome their input.

Back Expand Un-Read 0 Moderator

Reply By: Athol W1 - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 21:51

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 21:51
Helmick
Not all caravans have a dedicated battery for the breakaway system, some make use of the house batteries.

I have also found at least one van that used the vehicle battery to operate the breakaway brakes, I fail to see how this could possibly comply with the requirements following from a coupling failure where the van has now parted company from the tow vehicle. The same van, as supplied from the factory, had no provision for the charging of the house battery, on correcting this issue then the breakaway brake system operated satisfactorily from the house battery.

I may be corrected here but I am not aware of any specific requirement for there to be a dedicated battery for the breakaway system, and even in NSW my understanding is that there must be a monitoring system advising the driver that the system in use is/is not capable of performing its intended function of retaining the brakes in an applied condition for at least 15 minutes after activation.

Hope this helps.
Athol
AnswerID: 541477

Follow Up By: Notso - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 21:53

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 21:53
The breakaway may be legally connected to the house battery, provided that there is a means of testing the battery to ensure it is in "Good Condition"
2
FollowupID: 827575

Follow Up By: Member - Frank P (NSW) - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 22:39

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 22:39
I've just been through ten rounds of a revolving door with RMS on this matter too.

In NSW, a breakaway system must be able to operate the trailer brakes for a minimum of 15 minutes. For electric brakes it doesn't have to be a dedicated battery, the system can be powered from the house battery.

Whether its a dedicated battery or a house battery (doesn't matter which) there must be a charging system. There also MUST be a monitoring system in the tug to warn the driver if the breakaway battery becomes incapable of operating the system.

This document refers.

My van does not require a breakaway system, it's just under the borderline, but I fitted one voluntarily. I have just found out that even though I am not REQUIRED to have a breakaway system, because I have one I MUST fit a monitoring system in the tug.

I was told by RMS that if I wished to avoid that expense/inconvenience or whatever, I could just remove the breakaway system.

Go figure that one!!!!!

Cheers
FrankP

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  My Position  Send Message
Moderator

0
FollowupID: 827580

Follow Up By: Rob J8 - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:15

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:15
Hello Frank,
I just looked up the document and read what you say about the monitoring system.
I have a 21ft Jayco Sterling and 2102 Ford Ranger.
Before we left Western Australia in July, I had the van checked by the local caravan Doctor in Busselton and they replaced the breakaway battery as they found it to be flat. I had heard in NSW they are hot on breakaway batteries and smoke detectors. This is the first I have heard of a monitoring system being compulsory in the tow vehicle.
Apparently this has not been nationalised.
Regards
Rob J
0
FollowupID: 827586

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:18

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:18
Only for caravans registered in New South Wales Rob.

Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 827587

Follow Up By: Rob J8 - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:27

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:27
Thanks Motherhen,
we will be in the NSW early Jan, after some house sitting in Brisbane over Xmas. Looking forward to going down to Wagga to see our friends.
Thanks again
Rob J
0
FollowupID: 827588

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:32

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:32
So long as your caravan is registered in another state, eg Western Australia, you only have to meet that state's requirement and will not need the monitoring system. Smoke detectors may be a different story, but we all have them, don't we? :O

Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  Send Message

0
FollowupID: 827591

Follow Up By: Rob J8 - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 19:56

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 19:56
Yes Motherhen,
I am a Busso resident with Busso Rego.
Rob
0
FollowupID: 827647

Reply By: Notso - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 21:51

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 21:51
As a member of a caravan club, we have found the Breakaway controller in the most extraordinary places. Considering the battery is supposed to be tested regularly and in most that we have seen the battery should be replaced every two years, you would think they'd put the thing somewhere that you could see it.

What brand of van is it and how old is it?.

I may be able to tell you where to find the unit if you let us know the above.
AnswerID: 541478

Reply By: TomH - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 22:46

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 22:46
The breakaway battery in my old Roadstar was under the fridge with the water pump
AnswerID: 541480

Follow Up By: Member - Helmick - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 22:59

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 22:59
Thanks to you all. My caravan is a Free Spirit off-road, built on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland in 2009. I am the 2nd owner. I've looked in every nook and cranny, both inside and outside, without success. If connecting my vehicle to the caravan doesn't result in the breakaway switch operating, then I'll try to chase the wiring connections from the unit into the umbilical to ensure the contacts are good. If that fails, then it may be a case of replacing the switch with a new one. will keep you posted...Cheers.
0
FollowupID: 827581

Follow Up By: TomH - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:01

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:01
Are they still around Ring them and ask them if they are.
0
FollowupID: 827582

Follow Up By: TomH - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:03

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:03
They are a blink of a flys eye revealed this

(07) 5438 9898
1
FollowupID: 827584

Follow Up By: Notso - Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:11

Sunday, Nov 09, 2014 at 23:11
Try silly places like under the bed, behind the drawers in the kitchen area, in the front boot is one of the better spots. It is usually a blackish box about 150 to 200mm square and it should have a light on it to show it's charging and a button to push that is supposed to test the battery.

If you remove the cover of this black box you may find a sign, inside the box mind you, that says replace battery every 2 years.
0
FollowupID: 827585

Follow Up By: Notso - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 08:19

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 08:19
Even if the breakaway operates when connected to the vehicle, that is not the way they work. The reason there is a separate battery or connection to the van battery is so that the system will have enough battery power to stop the van in the event that it breaks away from the mothership. So you'll still need to find the controller and identify why it doesn't work when the plug is pulled.
0
FollowupID: 827598

Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 07:45

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 07:45
If connected to house batteries, is it a fuse problem?

Alan
AnswerID: 541482

Follow Up By: TomH - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 09:45

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 09:45
Shouldnt you use a auto reset circuit breaker with brakes so that if anything goes wrong you are not left without any.

If a fuse blows Woops Nothing there.
0
FollowupID: 827602

Reply By: Bigfish - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 07:54

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 07:54
My mates had breakaway systems on large boat trailers. The battery was mounted on the draw bar and drew its charge from the car. Battery was a motorcycle battery and the location meant it was easy to check and maintain. The 3 trailers involved were originally from NSW so had the systems fitted. Battery was in a lockable metal box to keep nosey ones out. Lithium batteries would be perfect for the set up now.
AnswerID: 541483

Reply By: The Bantam - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 09:38

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 09:38
Remember the brake lights may not come on...they are connected to the car and may have absolutly no connection to the brake system.

The magnets may not hum much because the breakaway system is plain straight DC.....not the pulsed stream that comes from the controller.

OH....and if it is a 2009 model van...chaces are the battery has never been replaced..and where ever it is its dead as a maggott.

There where very few detailed requirements for breakaway systems in the past.....

but to me it is plainly rediculous that there would be no charge indicator or battery test function on the van in a plain and obvious position, no external charging connection and the battery would not be in an obvious place........but that seems to be all too common.

For the most part breakaway systems are a grudge purchase, thus they get the minimum possible.

surely if you have a 2+ tonne thing that may get away from the tow vehicle...you want the break away system to work well......not just comply with the minimum spec......but minimum spec seems to be what caravans are about.

cheers
AnswerID: 541490

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 10:17

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 10:17
OH BTW, full points for actually testing your break away system.

I wonder how many get tested....and how many out there simply do not work.

cheers
0
FollowupID: 827603

Follow Up By: PeterInSa - Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014 at 12:43

Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014 at 12:43
Re [The magnets may not hum much because the breakaway system is plain straight DC.....not the pulsed stream that comes from the controller.]

Prior to a big Trip I test my caravan brakes, with the caravan cables etc disconnected from the vehicle/Tug, and with the vans braking system supplied from the vans house battery and with No other electronics in the braking circuit, by connecting up a cheap 12v battery charger to the braking power lead in the vans connection plug and the other battery lead to the van chassis. There is an initial humming noise from the brake magnets since the chargers voltage is not straight DC.

Note1 if your set up is not as above, I suggest that you do not try the above test.

Note 2 Only carry out the test for a short period, as the braking magnets could heat up.

Peter
0
FollowupID: 827673

Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 16:12

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 16:12
The RV-Electronics controller certainly illuminates the brake lights if it is activated. I suspect it is a requirement for brake controllers to do so.
PeterD
Retired radio and electronics technician

Lifetime Member
My Profile  Send Message

AnswerID: 541515

Follow Up By: Member - Helmick - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 19:39

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 19:39
I have contacted the caravan manufacturer, and am awaiting a response.

I do note, however, that an official Tekonsha breakaway installation page (admittedly 2003 vintage) that I found on the internet warns against testing the breakaway switch while the caravan is connected to the tow vehicle's electrical system, which is what I was going to do next. Apparently, this can cause severe damage to the electronic break controller in the tow vehicle. Glad I spotted this before I gave it a go!
0
FollowupID: 827645

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014 at 23:26

Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014 at 23:26
Some breakaway systems consist of little more than a battery and a contact closure thru the breakaway switch.

And unless connected to the vehicle the brake light wire should have nothing to do with the electric brake wire.

and yeh banging 12 volts wrong way up the output of an electric brake controller may not be a happy thing.

cheers
0
FollowupID: 827686

Reply By: Member - firmy (NSW) - Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 19:57

Monday, Nov 10, 2014 at 19:57
Try jacking up van and turning wheels with pin removed. cheers Firmy
AnswerID: 541527

Reply By: PeteS - Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014 at 17:51

Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014 at 17:51
G'day Helmick,

I believe the switch itself may be seized. They are not a reliable item if exposed to the weather for a long period in my opinion. You could try shorting the two wires going to the switch, if the brakes actuate then it is most likely the switch.

Cheers,
PeteS
AnswerID: 541544

Follow Up By: TomH - Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014 at 09:29

Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014 at 09:29
It is only a make or break switch with a pair of spring metal fingers kept apart by a plastic pin.

A rub with some sandpaper should clean them up and a test with a multimeter would tell if they have voltage.
0
FollowupID: 827693

Follow Up By: Member - Helmick - Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014 at 21:26

Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014 at 21:26
Large doses of humble pie being eaten by me at this stage...thanks to Firmy for suggesting the simplest, and now most obvious, test I should have done before now. Yes, I jacked up a wheel, got it rotating at about 40-50 revs a minute then pulled the breakaway pin out - and bingo! The brakes applied with a thud and the wheel stopped immediately. I was so surprised I repeated the test on the three other wheels, all with the same result. Duhh!

And the brake lights did not come on, just as an earlier contributor had suggested they wouldn't.

I still found no dedicated battery unit for the breakaway, so must conclude it is hard-wired to the house batteries.

Despite feeling rather foolish for stirring the forum up on this issue, it has certainly contributed to my understanding of the workings of the switch and other members also may have found the general discussion that followed useful. Thanks to you all.
0
FollowupID: 827738

Sponsored Links

Popular Products (13)