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prando

Caravan became detached en route. Advice please.

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Fortunately the incident occurred within a couple of hundred yards from our home.

 

Having connected up and checked everything we set off. I believe one of the caravan wheels ‘crashed’ into a large deep pothole - I felt the ‘bump’. We live in a lane and aware of this particular pot hole but clearly I misjudged it. The pot hole is 2/3 yards from a T junction to an A road.

 

As I slowly pulled onto the A road there was a loud noise and the caravan had become detached, just sticking out into the A road. We were able to jump out and quickly lower the jockey wheel to push the caravan back onto the lane. 

 

No damage to the front of the caravan, but the breakaway cable had snapped at the permanent fixed end. (The joint had broken) The other end remained draped over the tow ball. The electric connector had been pulled out, leaving the outer plastic cover still attached to the plug socket on the car.

 

All’s well, no one injured and luckily only one car on the main road. (It was early Sunday morning)

 

Is the post incident situation as you would expect ? Particularly would you expect the caravan to become unhooked in such circumstances? 

 

I propose asking a mobile approved service company to come and inspect. Should I contact my caravan insurers ? 

 

Thanks.

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The breakaway cable has done its job, breaking and applying the caravan brakes. Pretty much inevitable that the electric connection is going to break in that situation too. 

 

I’d say you’ve been lucky that it happened at such low speed and hasn’t caused any damage. 

 

As to the cause of the detachment, it’s pretty much a dead cert that the hitch wasn’t properly secured over the towball. Once it’s correctly locked in place, it will not detach because of a pothole, correctly hitched trailers can stay attached to cars in rollover situations. 

 

One of my last checks every time I hook up a trailer is to use wind the jockey wheel down a few turns until I can see the hitch trying to lift the back of the car suspension. That way I KNOW it’s properly connected. 

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Thank you Iain buddy.  Your practice of winding up post hitching is also within my pre setting up checklist.  Ashamedly and inexplicably, today I did not ! No excuse. An oversight in the rain !

Having said that, I am as certain as I can be that all was correct ! A lesson learnt.

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25 minutes ago, Fireman Iain said:

The breakaway cable has done its job, breaking and applying the caravan brakes. Pretty much inevitable that the electric connection is going to break in that situation too. 

 

I’d say you’ve been lucky that it happened at such low speed and hasn’t caused any damage. 

 

As to the cause of the detachment, it’s pretty much a dead cert that the hitch wasn’t properly secured over the towball. Once it’s correctly locked in place, it will not detach because of a pothole, correctly hitched trailers can stay attached to cars in rollover situations. 

 

One of my last checks every time I hook up a trailer is to use wind the jockey wheel down a few turns until I can see the hitch trying to lift the back of the car suspension. That way I KNOW it’s properly connected. 

op does not say brakes were applied, in fact he says he could push the caravan.

I would ask if the brakes had been applied and did the op before moving off try to lift the tow hitch off the tow ball but he has advised he did not check?

 

 

were the brakes applied or did the cable snap before applying the brakes?

 

unless there is damage above your excess then I would not consider it is required to advise the insurer

 

macafee2

Edited by macafee2

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Its a lesson learned at a small cost. Get the bits of damage repaired and carry on. Posting as you have on here is an excellent reminder to us all, but especially novices. I've been caravanning for nigh on half a century and still have to remind myself to check it properly.

 

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Been there just down the road from the dealer 

had to have new breakaway cable fitted electric plug replaced on car and replacement plastic jockey wheel as broke that too was going about 10 mph so I always try to lift van off hitch before move 

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Have forgot the wind up check on a couple of occasions, couldn't settle until I could find somewhere to stop and do it.

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I always run my finger under the  tow hitch to feel  pads  are enclosing the tow ball B)

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I always wind the jockey wheel to lift the back of the car, but I do this before putting the stabiliser handle down. Once the car is lifted, I then wriggle the hitch side to side, using the stabiliser handle. Only when happy that car and van are attached do I lower the stabiliser handle

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Thanks all. 

I’ve been caravanning a reasonable time, maybe undertaken the best part of 100 journeys.  Nevertheless, I’ve learnt a lesson.

I’m confident that I hitched up correctly...other than the ‘winding up’ criteria ashamedly overlooked. 

In answer to macafee...upon immediate return to the caravan, the handbrake was indeed on. I needed to release it to push the caravan back to safety.

A lucky escape I guess.

PS Great additional precaution Lost in the wilderness buddy. Noted.

Edited by prando
Extra item

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2 hours ago, prando said:

I propose asking a mobile approved service company to come and inspect. Should I contact my caravan insurers ?

 

I would not have thought it was necessary to do either of those two things.   If the jockey wheel still functions as it's supposed to and the hitch isn't obviously damaged, then everything should be ok - unless you have doubts about the brakes coming on.   When it happened on my van, I had to really struggle to get the handbrake lever pulled up sufficiently to release the pawl.   As for telling the insurers?    What's the point unless you're making a claim.

I doubt that dropping into a pot hole would cause the hitch to become uncoupled.   I think you've got to face it - you were careless!   Two years ago as I pulled out of a site at Cordoba and at the first road hump, I heard a crash, looked in the rear view mirror, and watched my van being left behind.   I quickly reversed and got out to re-connect.   Damage was a broken cable clip and a bent jockey wheel.    But with 56 years of towing experience and caravan ownership, how could the van have become unhitched.   I had become blasé.   Now the job gets my undivided attention and I'm just grateful that it happened when it did and not five minutes later when I'd reached the autoroute.

 

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Thanks. Wise words.

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6 minutes ago, prando said:

Thanks all. 

I’ve been caravanning a reasonable time, maybe undertaken the best part of 100 journeys.  Nevertheless, I’ve learnt a lesson.

I’m confident that I hitched up correctly...other than the ‘winding up’ criteria ashamedly overlooked. 

In answer to macafee...upon immediate return to the caravan, the handbrake was indeed on. I needed to release it to push the caravan back to safety.

A lucky escape I guess.

PS Great additional precaution Lost in the wilderness buddy. Noted.

You definitely should do the winding up as you have noted also you should not drape the breakaway cable over the towball it should be clipped onto the towball mounting bracket in the hole provided. Glad all was ok no need to contact insurance imho.

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4 minutes ago, gorgous said:

You definitely should do the winding up as you have noted also you should not drape the breakaway cable over the towball it should be clipped onto the towball mounting bracket in the hole provided. Glad all was ok no need to contact insurance imho.

Thanks gorgous buddy.

Reference to “cable draped over towball” was my description how the cable looked after the event. My caravan is Sept 2014 and tow vehicle 2013. There is no hole in mounting bracket, so I have always looped the breakaway cable around the tow ball and bracket.

Thanks.

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3 hours ago, Fireman Iain said:

 

 

One of my last checks every time I hook up a trailer is to use wind the jockey wheel down a few turns until I can see the hitch trying to lift the back of the car suspension. That way I KNOW it’s properly connected. 

 

This should be done everytime to test its attached correctly.

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4 hours ago, prando said:

Thanks gorgous buddy.

Reference to “cable draped over towball” was my description how the cable looked after the event. My caravan is Sept 2014 and tow vehicle 2013. There is no hole in mounting bracket, so I have always looped the breakaway cable around the tow ball and bracket.

Thanks.

 

There should be a means of attaching the breakaway to the bar. If it is a fixed towball you can fit a 'pigtail' connector on one bolt (don't forget to renew the bolt - NEVER reuse a high tensile nut and bolt) and clip your cable to it. It terms of the bar, we had a Thule with removeable ball fitted in 2011 and there was a loop on the bar. Failing that if there is space you could loop the cable around the bar.

One thing is certain: looping the cable around the ball is unacceptable in the Netherlands - it MUST be attached to the bar and if it isn't and you get pulled (and The Law are known to sit outside the dock gates in Europort) you face a hefty fine on the spot.

There's a video on YouTube of a removable hitch dropping off and the caravan and towcar going along a motorway (M6?) almost in parallel until the van comes to a gentle stop against the central crash barrier.

 

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9 hours ago, prando said:

I propose asking a mobile approved service company to come and inspect. Should I contact my caravan insurers ?

 

No

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I get down on my hands and knees (because I still can :P) after the hitch has latched and look to see that the claw has engaged fully under the tow ball.

 

I then do the wind up check.

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2 hours ago, Woodentop said:

 

There should be a means of attaching the breakaway to the bar. If it is a fixed towball you can fit a 'pigtail' connector on one bolt (don't forget to renew the bolt - NEVER reuse a high tensile nut and bolt) and clip your cable to it. It terms of the bar, we had a Thule with removeable ball fitted in 2011 and there was a loop on the bar. Failing that if there is space you could loop the cable around the bar.

One thing is certain: looping the cable around the ball is unacceptable in the Netherlands - it MUST be attached to the bar and if it isn't and you get pulled (and The Law are known to sit outside the dock gates in Europort) you face a hefty fine on the spot.

There's a video on YouTube of a removable hitch dropping off and the caravan and towcar going along a motorway (M6?) almost in parallel until the van comes to a gentle stop against the central crash barrier.

 

It is the same in uk I am just young enough to have had to do my b+e you must not loop cable around ball aint legal but you would be unlucky to be pulled for it.

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2 minutes ago, gorgous said:

It is the same in uk I am just young enough to have had to do my b+e you must not loop cable around ball aint legal but you would be unlucky to be pulled for it.

I was pulled up earlier this year at a spot check and the police involved were happy with my breakaway cable looped around my fixed, flange type towball.

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As Stevan says - it is not illegal to loop the breakaway cable round the towball on a fixed flange ball. Many towbars do not have fixing points for the cable.

The issue with detachable balls is the chance of the ball fixing failing hence why you must have a secondary fixing point for the cable that is not attached to the ball.

https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/advice-and-training/technical-advice/breakaway-cables/

 

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12 hours ago, Woodentop said:

 

There's a video on YouTube of a removable hitch dropping off and the caravan and towcar going along a motorway (M6?) almost in parallel until the van comes to a gentle stop against the central crash barrier.

 

video in article

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21 hours ago, Jaydug said:

Two years ago as I pulled out of a site at Cordoba and at the first road hump, I heard a crash, looked in the rear view mirror, and watched my van being left behind.   I quickly reversed and got out to re-connect.   Damage was a broken cable clip and a bent jockey wheel.   

Surely the electrical cable would also have snapped off and would have required rewiring?

13 hours ago, utccman said:

As Stevan says - it is not illegal to loop the breakaway cable round the towball on a fixed flange ball. Many towbars do not have fixing points for the cable.

The issue with detachable balls is the chance of the ball fixing failing hence why you must have a secondary fixing point for the cable that is not attached to the ball.

https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/advice-and-training/technical-advice/breakaway-cables/

 

However I don't think that is legislation just a recommendation and current legislation does not differentiate between fixed and detachable towballs?  We always attach to the correct attachment point.

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50 minutes ago, Durbanite said:

Surely the electrical cable would also have snapped off and would have required rewiring?

However I don't think that is legislation just a recommendation and current legislation does not differentiate between fixed and detachable towballs?  We always attach to the correct attachment point.

The old 12N and 12S plugs (twin 7s) would often pull out cleanly with no damage,

The more modern 13 pin plugs are designed not to pull out and damage is almost certain.

As I understand it, the regulations require that the breakaway cable is securely fixed to a permanent part of the vehicle and it is the enforcement authorities (police, VOSA, courts etc) that deem this to exclude the detachable part of a towball. 

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1 hour ago, Stevan said:

As I understand it, the regulations require that the breakaway cable is securely fixed to a permanent part of the vehicle and it is the enforcement authorities (police, VOSA, courts etc) that deem this to exclude the detachable part of a towball. 

This was taken to court not so long ago and thrown out as there is no separate  legislation covering detachable tow bat.  If memory serves me correctly apparently a number of people were find at a services by DVSA for having the breakaway cable looped over the detachable towbar.  One of them took it to court and it was thrown out.  There is a possibility that the thread was on CT at some time in the past 2 - 3 years?

Some bedtime reading.  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/757339/categorisation-of-vehicle-defects.pdf

Edited by Durbanite

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