Break safe devices in caravans

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 11:37
ThreadID: 134139 Views:2267 Replies:5 FollowUps:13
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I have recently purchased a van approx 20 ft long and approx 2.5 tonne in weight built in victoria. I regestered the van in nsw.

On checking for the breakaway system i find that there is no seperate backup battery.

The manufacturer advises they simply use the power from the two 105 amp house batteries in the van to apply power to the vans brakes in the event the van seperates from the tow vehicle.

This apparently satisfies the requirement for sufficient power to operate the brakes for a minimum of 15 minutes and is kept charged by the cars alternator and /or the solar system on the van.

Is this normal ? My auto electricion believes there should be a breakaway unit in the van with its own battery.

What are other peoples experiences ??
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Reply By: Frank P (NSW) - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 11:57

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 11:57
Tim,
I researched this thoroughly with RTA a couple of years ago due to some issues I had.

The way yours is set up is fine. That is what I have (van rego in NSW), provided by the NSW van manufacturer.

Your arrangement complies with NSW regs except for one thing, and this applies whether you use the van's house batteries or a separate battery:

You must have a system in your car that alerts you if the breakaway battery is insufficiently charged. That can be a voltage display or a simple alarm that activates if the voltage drops below a certain level.

You can wire that in through an accessory pin in your trailer plug.

Rather than all that wiring palaver (and no spare pins on my plug), I bought one of these. It gives a visual display of the remote battery voltage and has both an audible and a visual alarm with adjustable thresholds. It is excellent.

Cheers

PS. The issue I had was one of bureaucracy. My van is not required to have a breakaway system, but I chose to fit it because the electric/hydraulic braking system makes it very easy to do with minimal expense. I got picked up on an annual inspection for not having a monitor of some sort. I argued that my fitment of the breakaway system was voluntary, my van is not captured by the regs. After researching with RTA personnel, I was told that if you volunteer to have a breakaway system fitted, it must be a complete system. Either add the monitor or remove the system. Bureaucratic BS at its best. I added the monitor.
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Follow Up By: Tim F3 - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 12:13

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 12:13
Thankyou for your reply , btw thats a good battery monitor.
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Reply By: CSeaJay - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 12:45

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 12:45
I dont know the regulations but just bought a van from a very reputable manufacturer. The breaksafe on my van and according to the manufacturer requires a separate ignition feed through the 7 pin plug for the breaksafe battery. I wanted it wired differently (similar to what you have I guess) but was told that it was not in accordance with the current regulations.
Sorry am not an authority, just sharing my experience hoping it will help
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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 14:08

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 14:08
Here is a link to the current NSW Vehicle Inspectors Bulletin covering the subject. It tells vehicle examiners how to apply the regulations.

Here is the relevant part from page 1:

[quote]
It is essential therefore, that an energy source, such as a battery, be carried on the trailer and that means be provided to ensure that the battery is maintained in a fully energised condition. In this regard, it will be satisfactory if any trailer-mounted battery is constantly charged by the towing vehicle and a warning device is fitted to warn the driver (from the normal driving position) if the trailer battery charge falls to such a level as to render the trailer brakes incapable of
meeting the requirements.
[/quote]

"...an energy source, such as a battery, be carried on the trailer..." That doesn't say a separate battery, just A BATTERY. A van or CT house battery is a battery being carried on the trailer and meets the requirement.

It has to be "...maintained in a fully energised condition. In this regard, it will be satisfactory if any trailer-mounted battery is constantly charged by the towing vehicle...." That doesn't mean you must have an extra circuit through a trailer plug, though you COULD do it that way if that's your preference. A charging system through an Anderson meets the requirement, as long as the charging system is powered by the towing vehicle. (eg, a charging system using only the solar on the roof of a van would not comply in NSW.)

And then you need the low voltage warning device in the towing vehicle.

I know this interpretation is correct because this is how my rig is set up and it's been checked by a senior RTA (now RMS) vehicle examiner.

Cheers
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Reply By: Motherhen - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 13:26

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 13:26
For the New South Wales requirement of in car battery monitoring, it is not about how the battery is charged (ours runs off four batteries charged by four solar panels), but that it is kept charged and monitored.

I am not from New South Wales so do not require the in car monitor, but know that we will always have plenty of power to hold the brakes for the required time and a whole lot longer.

Some caravanners have set up a separate breakaway battery, but have it wired to be charged from the in caravan battery bank. One benefit is that in the event of a breakaway, their house batteries are not at risk of being fully discharged and damaged.
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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 14:46

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 14:46
Hi Motherhen,

In NSW the charging system for the breakaway system MUST be from the towing vehicle. Solar without a charging input from the tug would not comply.

Likewise, a separate breakaway battery charged from the caravan battery bank would be ok as long as the caravan battery bank was being charged from the tug.

Only applies to trailers/vans registered in NSW, of course.

Cheers
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 15:02

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 15:02
The Inspectors Bulletin states:

"In this regard, it will be satisfactory if any trailer-mounted battery is constantly charged by the towing vehicle and a warning device is fitted to warn the driver (from the normal driving position) if the trailer battery charge falls to such a level as to render the trailer brakes incapable of meeting the requirements"

The wording is satisfactory not must be this way.

On raising the question with RMS the reply was:

"The method of charging the batteries is not really relevant, provided the batteries are maintained in a state of charge that allows the brakes to operate safely and the driver is able to monitor that state of charge.

NSW requires a vehicle towing a trailer equipped with electric brakes to be provided with a means of advising the driver of the state of charge of any battery used to the store energy necessary to operate a trailer’s brakes.

The batteries used to power other trailer devices or systems must preferentially power the systems necessary to operate the trailer’s brakes.

The fact that the trailer battery or batteries are charged by solar cells rather than by the towing vehicle’s alternator, does not change those requirements."

Regarding the increasing number of caravans with solar charged batteries
"This will be taken into account when our related publications are next revised."



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Follow Up By: RMD - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 15:51

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 15:51
If you had a breakaway from your vehicle, the fact the on board batteries may eventually partly or fully discharge is hardly of importance in such circumstances. A few amps for a day or so won't affect the batteries much. If you are still alive after the accident then switch off the breakaway system in the Cvan.
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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 16:04

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 16:04
Thanks MH,

Your enquiry and the RMS response updates the info I was given when I made my enquiries a few years ago when setting up my van.

It's good to see RMS is recognising contemporary trends and has a practical approach to them.

Cheers
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 16:24

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 16:24
My enquiry was also a few years ago Frank :O. I have not followed up.

As this is not a law, the only reference is contained in the Inspectors Bulletin. Asking RMS for finer details such as does this or that monitoring method meet the requirements, the only answer is that it is up to the Inspector to assess. This in itself can be variable. It is all in the hands of the Inspector on the day.
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Follow Up By: D-MaxerWA - Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 00:38

Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 00:38
"This in itself can be variable. It is all in the hands of the Inspector on the day".

And your attitude most of the time.

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Reply By: Tim F3 - Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 14:25

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 at 14:25
Thankyou frank that is pretty clear and helpfull.
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Reply By: Michael 1954 - Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 18:43

Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 18:43
Hi there Frank.

Does the Brake safe monitor have to be visible? I had to move mine back a bit to a flat surface under the dash in my D max due to It falling off from where the auto sparkie mounted it non flat surface.
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Follow Up By: Tim F3 - Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 19:01

Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 19:01
I think the requirement o audible or visual..
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 19:23

Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 19:23
From the Inspectors Bulletin (the only reference) available and the testing procedure as written is not perfect :O.

" - a warning device is fitted to warn the driver (from the normal driving position) if the trailer battery charge falls to such a level as to render the trailer brakes incapable of meeting the requirements."

"An acceptable warning circuit must incorporate either a visual or an audible warning device."

Vehicle Inspectors Bulletin NSW


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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 19:50

Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 19:50
Michael 1954,

Following on from Motherhen's response, I think it stands to reason if the warning device is to warn the driver FROM THE DRIVING POSITION then if it is visual only, it must be visible at all times to the driver.

If it is combined visual and audio, or audio only, logic suggests it need not be visible at all times, but must be audible at all times from the driving position.

Cheers
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Follow Up By: 9900Eagle - Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 21:14

Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 21:14
Now does that also mean you can have a warning on the van, that tells you there is a problem with the system.

Warning light in the rear vision side mirror looking back at the van. We used that to monitor the fridge pans temp or failures.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 21:28

Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 21:28
That is up to the inspector to interpret. Someone got away with that a few years ago (on a van with breakaway wired to the caravan batteries).

On a forum poll in 2012, less than half those inspected were checked for a monitor at all. That has probably changed now.
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