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James Donald

Safety chain !

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Hi , I know the Alko  equipt Caravans supposedly don't need a saftey chain , as the breakaway cable does it all ?  Whilst not careless I fitted a chain to my past Senator and now my newer Pegasus. Fitted the chain to the coupling bolt , no need to drill holes . Last week while away I connected up properly as I thought and while leaving the Park drove over the speed bumps and suddenly big noise at rear and so I stopped and looked to find Caravan coupling on the roadway ? My fault of course !! But when I stopped the chain went tight and stopped the Caravan wacking the back of the car. No damage done , only pride dented. Now if I'd only been relying on the cable to tighten and apply the brakes I'd still be waiting!  I'm now convinced.

 

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If using a safety chain one must make sure that it is long enough to allow the breakaway cable to apply the caravan brakes. Otherwise the caravan could swerve to the left and to the right before coming to a stop.

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But if it were to come off at speed then the caravan would be flapping around behind the towcar with no way of pulling the brakes on to stop it? You make the breakaway system redundant, I don't see how that is safer

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Its not clear to me how a chain stops the van hitting the car but the inbuilt features are designed to ensure that the brakes are applied, if the van becomes detached, and anything that prevents that would appear to worsen the situation?

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There is no clear answer as to whether a secondary coupling in the form of a chain is better than a breakaway cable, and legislation in the UK allows for either but a cable on caravans is the norm with a chain on small unbraked trailers.

Other countries have different legislation and, I believe, that a chain is compulsory in the US.

A chain is more likely to result in damage to the towcar as it relies on the towcar brakes to bring the caravan to a halt but does not prevent them crashing together.

A breakaway cable enables the caravan brakes to do the stopping but does not give any form of steering to the van until it stops.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, James Donald said:

Hi , I know the Alko  equipt Caravans supposedly don't need a saftey chain , as the breakaway cable does it all ?  ...

 

Is the chain short enough so that the caravan hitch stays clear of the ground?  If so, surely it stops the caravan brakes being applied?

 

I think that most decouples happen at low speed (ie. where the caravan wasn't actually secured to the towball), so your solution may prevent damage to your car or caravan. 

 

But I'd be interested on what would happen were it to uncouple at high speed.

7 hours ago, James Donald said:

... Now if I'd only been relying on the cable to tighten and apply the brakes I'd still be waiting!  ...

 

I'd be interested to know why you think this.  Without the chain, the cable would have gone tight just after the caravan dropped to the road, and applied the brakes?

Edited by Tigger
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I agree with most comments  , but I wonder how quick the old fashion drum brakes on a single axle 1.5 to 1.8 kg Caravan would take to stop it really ?

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Experimenting with safety systems on road vehicles is unwise in my opinion. I can hear the words "Oh! I never thought of that"

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49 minutes ago, James Donald said:

I agree with most comments  , but I wonder how quick the old fashion drum brakes on a single axle 1.5 to 1.8 kg Caravan would take to stop it really ?

They’d stop it before you’d realised it was detached....

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A safety chain stops the front of the caravan from dropping down onto the floor and keeps it behind the car as the safety chain becomes the hitch.  With a safety chain the caravan stays behind the vehicle. 

IMHO probably a better idea that the silly break away cable which only slows down the caravan but allows the caravan to wander where ever.   However using a chain will prevent the break away cable from activating.

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2 hours ago, Durbanite said:

A safety chain stops the front of the caravan from dropping down onto the floor and keeps it behind the car as the safety chain becomes the hitch.  With a safety chain the caravan stays behind the vehicle. 

IMHO probably a better idea that the silly break away cable which only slows down the caravan but allows the caravan to wander where ever.   However using a chain will prevent the break away cable from activating.

 

The safety chain must be longer than the breakaway cable. Otherwise the caravan's overrun brake would not work. As perksm says, the caravan would flap around at speed and, in doing so, it could cause just as much damage. The length of chain that is necessary for the brakes to work is unlikely to prevent the hitch from hitting the ground.

3 hours ago, James Donald said:

I agree with most comments  , but I wonder how quick the old fashion drum brakes on a single axle 1.5 to 1.8 kg Caravan would take to stop it really ?

 

Drum brakes are only less efficient in the wet and they are more prone to fade if used continually, but otherwise they are quite as capable of bringing the caravan to rest as any other braking system.

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46 minutes ago, Lutz said:

The safety chain must be longer than the breakaway cable. Otherwise the caravan's overrun brake would not work. As perksm says, the caravan would flap around at speed and, in doing so, it could cause just as much damage. The length of chain that is necessary for the brakes to work is unlikely to prevent the hitch from hitting the ground.

This means that you will still be towing the caravan but the brakes will be locked on.    It does not appeal to me so I will stick with the recommended breakaway cable.

 

I do also tow an unbraked trailer and use a safety chain as required.  However, It is impossible to have the chain short enough to prevent the hitch touching the ground when uncoupled as the attachment point is below the ball.  If I adopted the chain and breakaway cable for the caravan as suggested, then it would drag the front of the caravan along the ground until the car stopped.

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10 minutes ago, DACS said:

This means that you will still be towing the caravan but the brakes will be locked on.    It does not appeal to me so I will stick with the recommended breakaway cable.

 

I do also tow an unbraked trailer and use a safety chain as required.  However, It is impossible to have the chain short enough to prevent the hitch touching the ground when uncoupled as the attachment point is below the ball.  If I adopted the chain and breakaway cable for the caravan as suggested, then it would drag the front of the caravan along the ground until the car stopped.

 

Thats exactly my thoughts and what I do.

 

John

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4 hours ago, James Donald said:

I agree with most comments  , but I wonder how quick the old fashion drum brakes on a single axle 1.5 to 1.8 kg Caravan would take to stop it really ?

I understand that most HGV trailers still use drum brakes. They seem to stop OK!

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On the towing test when coupling the trailer, once coupled to the vehicle you have to wind the jockey wheel down so as to lift the hitch which thereby lift's the car a little, proving it is connected properly.  

 

I do this every time I hook up my caravan.

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I must say I've never heard of a secondary coupling (ie chain) being used for a braked trailer with a breakaway cable. The two systems seem to be in conflict to me.

 

People who don't do as Joe suggests may however appreciate them......

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I wonder about the need for doubling up with chain and breakaway cable.

Safety chains, if used correctly, work, and any damage is contained to the trailer and towcar. However they rely on the car brakes to stop both car and trailer.

Breakaway cables, if used and maintained properly, work but the direction of travel of the trailer is somewhat unpredictable until its own brakes bring it to a halt.

Are there enough instances of problems with either to warrant fitting both?

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30 minutes ago, Stevan said:

I wonder about the need for doubling up with chain and breakaway cable.

Safety chains, if used correctly, work, and any damage is contained to the trailer and towcar. However they rely on the car brakes to stop both car and trailer.

Breakaway cables, if used and maintained properly, work but the direction of travel of the trailer is somewhat unpredictable until its own brakes bring it to a halt.

Are there enough instances of problems with either to warrant fitting both?

 

Not sure, but I think if a safety chain interfered with the correct application of the caravan's brakes by the breakaway cable, there may be consequences.

 

If the caravan became uncoupled and the breakaway cable did its job the car and caravan may well come to a halt with little or no damage, if a chain is fitted and the caravan collides with the car and causes damage to either then the insurance may decide that the fitting of the chain was material and refuse to payout.

 

The same could be said for the car dragging a very tail wagging caravan down a road causing damage to other vehicles or property, the police could also take an interest in to why the driver thought the chain was necessary when the caravan came supplied with a suitable device to stop it.

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1 hour ago, DACS said:

This means that you will still be towing the caravan but the brakes will be locked on.    It does not appeal to me so I will stick with the recommended breakaway cable.

 

If you had a safety chain instead of the breakaway cable it may be a better option.

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1 hour ago, Joe1002 said:

On the towing test when coupling the trailer, once coupled to the vehicle you have to wind the jockey wheel down so as to lift the hitch which thereby lift's the car a little, proving it is connected properly.  

 

I do this every time I hook up my caravan.

+1

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Posted (edited)

At the speed I would  be taking the van over "speed bumps" I would as I have witnessed expect the brakeaway cable and the trusty drum brakes to stop the van very smartly indeed, I doubt you will have made more than a foot witness mark on the roadway.

 

How do your car and van insurers' view your  towing safety device "modifications"?

 

I am another who always sees the jockey wheel lifts the car's rear suspension, seen the OP's incident too many times before to risk being another.

 

 

Edited by JTQ

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Joe1002 said:

On the towing test when coupling the trailer, once coupled to the vehicle you have to wind the jockey wheel down so as to lift the hitch which thereby lift's the car a little, proving it is connected properly.  

 

I do this every time I hook up my caravan.

That's good practice, and what I do.

 

I have heard of one caravan becoming detached at speed, where it was correctly hitched up, but the hitch head had a crack which had opened up sufficiently to come up over the ball.  But that's very rare, fortunately.

 

Edited to add: The suspected cause of the crack was towing with a non-alko approved ball, which had fouled and put pressure on the casting.

Edited by Tigger

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2 hours ago, Durbanite said:

If you had a safety chain instead of the breakaway cable it may be a better option.

You then end up with the caravan sharing the back seat with your passengers:(

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4 hours ago, Stevan said:

I understand that most HGV trailers still use drum brakes. They seem to stop OK!

The company that I used to work for made the running gear for artic trailers . Over 75 % were discs.  Axles made by BPW, SAF , Jost or DCA.

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Posted (edited)

The regulations only allow for a secondary coupling,  that means one.

So for unbraked trailers this is chain or cable capable of preventing the trailer from deviating from the track taken by the towing vehicle, and for braked trailers a cable or other device capable of applying the towed vehicles brakes.

 

Also there has to be a method of preventing the coupler from hitting the ground, for caravans and larger trailers this usually accomodated by the jockey wheel assembly,  on smaller unbraked trailers  this should be a skid or something under the drawbar.

Edited by Towtug
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