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Breakaway Cable


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is it legal or not to put breakaway cable around towball i was stopped the other day in my van (not caravan) and there was police issueing a notice to a car and caravan outfit for putting breakaway cable aroung neck of towbar ?

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It is advised by the Caravan Club to put breakaway cable around towball and clip it back on to the itself, unless there is a dedicated fixing.

Also unless the manfacture of the breakaway cable states that the clip is strong enough not to open with force, the clip must be attatched to the cable and not the fixing.

 

See the last Tech Leaflet on the CC website

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I think it is unlikely that they were issuing a ticket for the breakaway cable being attached or looped over the towball. I think a prosecution would be a legal nightmare. However having said that I was not there when they issued the ticket and do not know exactly what the officer wrote down. In which county did this occur?

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I always thought that it was wrong to put it around the towball in case the it got seperated from the tow bracket ie the nuts work loose or shear off, but the caravan club does mention in their handbook that its ok, theres even a diagram showing it, albeit a note saying to seek guidance from the towbar manufacturer.

I always put the cable around the flange on the bracket that the towball attaches to, just incase the tow ball comes adrift

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I don't think the law specifies where you attach the breakaway cable, but! This subject has been discussed many times in other forums, particularly when the Caravan Club confused us all. This is my take on the matter. The ideal situation is to have a eyelet on your tow bar which allows you to loop the breakaway cable through and clip back on itself. Alternatively is the change the breakaway cable for the new Carabina style which you can clip directly into a suitable hole on the tow bar. If all ease fails loop it around the tow ball. My understanding is that the failure of a tow ball is very rare but it is more common for a hitch not to be properly attached to the tow ball which results in them parting company.

 

David

David - Milton Keynes

Bailey Alliance 66-2 Motorhome for holidays and a Kia Venga for home.

 

Caravan Travels

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This topic has been going round and round for ages.

 

A specific fixing bracket for the breakaway cable is preferable, but Alko in particular, and many others advise looping the cable around the towball if not avalable.

 

There are two articles in the C&CC magazine which explain clearly the rules and the law.

 

CAMPING & CARAVAN CLUB MAGAZINE – FEBRUARY 2003

 

USING YOUR BREAKAWAY CABLE OR SECONDARY COUPLING CORRECTLY

 

What is the difference between a breakaway cable and a secondary coupling? That's a question we're often asked. It's one of those devices that some members are unsure which is fitted to their caravan or trailer.

Whether the trailer has brakes or not will determine which is fitted to your unit. One or the other is required to be fitted by law.

Breakaway cables are used on braked trailers whose maximum gross weight is up to 3,500kg. Secondary couplings are required for unbraked trailers whose maximum gross weight is less than 750kg.

Their functions are different. The breakaway cable is intended to apply the trailer brakes if the trailer becomes detached when towing. It then snaps, leaving the trailer stationary while the towing vehicle continues on its way.

The intention of a secondary coupling is to keep the trailer attached to the towing vehicle if the towball coupling fails. It should retain some steering action on the trailer and prevent the trailer nose from touching the ground. A secondary coupling is normally a chain or strong cable whereas the breakaway cable is a thinner wire.

It's important for its correct operation that the breakaway cable passes through a guide fitted on the caravan chassis. The cable should then be looped around the towball, or other fixed part of the towbar, so that its line is below the centre line of the ball. The clip on the free end must be clipped back on to the cable itself, so forming a noose and not fitted to a hole or other fixing point on the towbar.

The clip itself is not designed to be strong enough to apply th caravan brake and will simply distort and ultimately fall away if clipped to anything other than the cable.

The fixing point should not be more than 100mm from the centre line of the towball. Never fit the breakaway cable to the vehicle's breakdown towing eye.

The breakaway cable must retain sufficient free length to avoid applying the emergency brake when cornering. To allow the emergency brake to work correctly, it should be loose at all times, but not dragging.

We have heard reports of the handbrake applying itself when towing, (especially gas-assisted handbrakes). This is almost certainly due to the incorrect routing and fitting of the breakaway cable.

Looping the cable around the towball is the method of attachment advised by caravan chassis manufacturers such as AI-Ko and BPW. It is also one of the options found in the British Standard BS AU 267:1998 Code of Practice for Breakaway Cables and Secondary Couplings.

Detachable towbars offer their own problems.

Many UK manufacturers of detachable towbars say the breakaway cable should be attached to the fixed part of the towbar.

This is often either impossible or unsafe since the length of the cable may take up the slack and apply the caravan brake when going around corners.

The best method of attachment depends on your particular trailer and towbar arrangement.

You should, therefore, always refer to the manufacturer's or supplier's recommendations in the first instance.

 

CAMPING & CARAVAN CLUB MAGAZINE - MAY 2003

 

BREAKAWAY CABLES - THE UPDATE

We were veritably inundated with phone calls and letters from concerned members following the Tech Talk article on caravan breakaway cables we published on page 37 of our February issue.

The flood of correspondence didn't surprise us - it's a thorny old issue, this one, so we'll take this opportunity to reiterate how the law stands with regard to this extremely important item of caravan safely.

Of course - as many of you pointed out when you contacted us - the ideal situation when coupling up car to caravan is to attach the breakaway cable to a pigtail or eye (so long as such a fitment is adjacent to the towball).

However, not every towbar-equipped vehicle has a pigtail (indeed, it's often not possible for swan-neck-type towbars to be equipped with one), and in such circumstances there is nothing else for it but to loop the breakaway cable around the towball).

 

LETTER OF THE LAW

Members should be assured that looping the cable around the towball is not illegal. Construction and Use Regulations dictate that a breakaway cable must be fitted to a caravan - but no mention is made of how or where it should be fitted. Section 5. 2 of the British Standard BS AU 267 1998 states that the preferred method is by direct attachment. That's all well and good - but the problem is that no chassis manufacturer provides an appropriate clip. The cable itself is manufactured to British Standards.

The only clip that may be appropriate is one that has been designed by Al-Ko for use exclusively in the Swedish market: that country's legislation insists on such a clip, which is of a heavier-duty construction than the one found on most British chassis. For this very reason, leading chassis makers AI-Ko and BPW advise that the British cable should be fitted around the towball - as laid out in section 5. 3 of BSAU 267.

 

REST ASSURED

While members are quite right to be concerned about the safe operation of their caravans, we'd like to volunteer yet more reassurance. Provided a towball and towbar have been designed and fitted to British and/or European standards, and that your caravan has been coupled correctly, the chances of a cable becoming detached or your towball parting are extremely remote.

Our contacts in the trade have, over the years, only ever come across two instances of this - and in each case, it involved a heavy-duty trailer with an inappropriate towball. And our recently retired Technical information Officer; Bob Ellis, says: "In more than 30 years of caravanning, I have never heard of a towball snapping off or a cable falling over the coupling. "

 

Simple copy and paste. Hope I haven't broken their copyright.

 

ATB

 

Keep Safe

You can not reason with an unreasonable person.

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My understanding of the reason for not looping the cable around the ball, is that in the event of the hitch leaving the ball it might be possible for the loop to jump off the ball at the moment of seperation.

 

I have only ever heard of 1 ball neck failure, and that was due to a crack. I have never heard of the ball leaving the bracket due to bolt failure,or bolts falling out. :blink:

 

In the case of a swan neck,whether fixed or removable,there is usually no other option but looping around the ball,due to the lack of adjacent structure. I have seen the odd swan neck with welded loop,but they are usually too small to take the snap fastener

 

On the Witter bracket on our Passat,the ball is attached to a flange on the end of a 2" square tube. I loop the cable around this tube behind the flange,where it sits snug between the 2 bolts and the tube,and exits under the ball, well clear of the hitch. :)

 

Frank

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is it legal or not to put breakaway cable around towball i was stopped the other day in my van (not caravan) and there was police issueing a notice to a car and caravan outfit for putting breakaway cable aroung neck of towbar ?

10702[/snapback]

Hi All the following link gives a breif discripton on breakaway cables, look under Brakes the info is from the C&cCC tech leaflets provide F O C Down loaded and print if requird.

My understanding is that breaka way cables should only be hooked round the ball on Swan neck tow bars, all bolt on tow balls can be cliped securely to the Tow bar with an additional bracket ( about £2-oo) or thro the the fabricated steel that forms the tow bar assembly.

 

Extract from NTTA {tailer Ass)

Attach safety breakaway cable(s) to the rear of vehicle. This cable will apply the hand brake if for any reason the trailer becomes detached whilst towing. (Clip the breakaway cable onto the special rings some towbars have or loop it around the bar, making sure it cannot foul the coupling head. Do not loop it round the towball neck unless you can find no alternative.) Check that the breakaway and lighting cables have enough slack for cornering but will not touch the ground.

 

I am Still not clear on the legal issue

 

Dave

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I have only ever heard of 1 ball neck failure, and that was due to a crack. I have never heard of the ball leaving the bracket due to bolt failure,or bolts falling out. :blink:

 

 

 

Frank

10778[/snapback]

 

 

Nor have i Frank and i certainly dont want to be the first, but when you got £10,000 worth of caravan all depending on 2 bolts, putting the breakaway cable behind them makes good sence to me ( just in case)

 

Oscar

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The bolts can snap on the conventional ball and bracket and if the cable is looped around the ball the brakes cannot come on and serious accidents have occurred. I have to investigate such accidents as part of my job and have had 3 instances of this in the last 2 years. The bolts were all correctly marked 8. 8 as required but they still failed.

 

Detachable towballs have also come away from their retaining socket and Volvo and Saab have had recalls.

 

I am currently investigating a swan neck type where the retaining bolt came out and the trailer went walkabout with disastrous resluts for an oncoming motorist. There was no breakaway cable fitted but even if there was it could have been looped around the ball.

 

It is not illegal to loop the cable around the ball but think about these accidents and please do not do it unless there is no alternative. Swan neck ones can have an attachment clamped around the neck. The worst ones are some of the detachable types as the fixed part of the towbar can be a long way under the car and the cable may be too short.

 

If you look at the NCC website you can download the Industries leaflet on the correct use of breakaway cables. If your clip does not have "teeth" (as on the carabina type) do not use the clip as the means of attachment - always pass it through the attachment type or loop it around the towbar frame and clip it back onto itself.

 

Safe towing

 

Tall Limey

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Guest john1215

My Passat has a Brink detachable towball. The breakaway cable clip, clips into a laser cut slot. There is one on either side of the towing bracket, the cable does not come into contact with the towball in any way.

 

john1215

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Where you put the breakaway cable is one thing but please, everybody, make sure you use it.

 

I am talking from personal experience here when I stupidly did not check the coupling properly last year. I had towed about half a mile and put my foot down to get up a hill and the caravan left the back of my car. I don't mind telling you I was a little upset. However, the breakaway cable (attached to a 'pig tail') did it's job perfectly bringing the caravan to a halt in a couple of metres (to the surprise of the cars following it!!!) with no damage to the van (very luckily).

 

The moral is check your hitch properly (I relied on the pop up indicator, which wasn't quite up, obviously), and make sure the breakaway cable is attached -somewhere :o

 

Martin W

Discovery D3 HSE + Coachman VIP 575/4 2016

www.pennplanning.co.uk

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Wow Wonky,

 

I bet that got the adrenalin flowing, you were lucky and so were the drivers behind you.

 

lunartic

10832[/snapback]

 

Yup, what's more, I was on my own!

 

Please people, do ensure you check it!

 

martin W

Discovery D3 HSE + Coachman VIP 575/4 2016

www.pennplanning.co.uk

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Where you put the breakaway cable is one thing but please, everybody, make sure you use it.

 

I am talking from personal experience here when I stupidly did not check the coupling properly last year. I had towed about half a mile and put my foot down to get up a hill and the caravan left the back of my car. I don't mind telling you I was a little upset. However, the breakaway cable (attached to a 'pig tail') did it's job perfectly bringing the caravan to a halt in a couple of metres (to the surprise of the cars following it!!!) with no damage to the van (very luckily).

 

The moral is check your hitch properly (I relied on the pop up indicator, which wasn't quite up, obviously), and make sure the breakaway cable is attached -somewhere :o

 

Martin W

10831[/snapback]

 

I had a similar instance last weekend but with more damaging results. We hitched up to come home. After a half-mile. I stopped as I couldn't remember pushing down the Alko stabiliser handle. The handle was in the "down" position so I carried on. About one mile further on, I noticed the caravan leaving the car, careering across the road, trying to climb a dry stone dyke, failing and toppling onto its near side. The breakaway cable had been clipped into one of those small brackets that is sandwiched behind the towball but that clearly is not sufficient since, while the handbrake was pulled on, it didn't stop the 'van. the handbrake is one of the new style which doesn't have a ratchet. I can only assume the hitch hadn't mated on the ball. When I stopped to check, I only did it visually and everything seemed ok but I guess the stabiliser handle had only vibrated into the "down" position. Lots of lessons to be learned, I think. We are now hoping the caravan will be written off as it will be a lot quicker than waiting for repairs to be carried out.

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So the question is - how do you check your hitch properly?

 

The guy at the dealer suggested that having lowered onto the ball, and all appears correct, try winding the hitch up using the jockey wheel and if it is locked then it will also try and lift the car!

 

Any one with other suggestions? As a newbie with a brand new van I dont want to write it off just yet. :wub:

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Guest john1215

Most alko hitches, especially the new ones have a spring-loaded button that pops up at the front of the hitch socket, this tells you that the ball is located in the socket. If this is not the case you would be able to lift the caravan up by pulling up on the A frame.

Using the jockey wheel seems as good a method of checking as any.

 

john1215

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This is an interesting thread. In Aus EVERY caravan or trailer must be fitted with a safety chain. If the van weighs 2000kg or more it must be fitted with a breakaway system as well. I can't help feeling that relying only on a breakaway system to bring a detached van to a stop is a bit of a worry. In the ideal case the van would pull up straight and true behind the tow vehicle, but what happens if (1) the brakes are not adjusted properly, (2) the road surface is uneven, or (3) the separation occurs on a bend? It seems to me that there is a fairly good chance that the van will veer out of its lane with potentially disastrous consequences.

 

Maybe I'm being a bit critical of a system that I'm not too familiar with, but do you think the addition of a safety chain would add a bit more security?

 

Stephen.

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The chain would have to be long enough for the breakaway braking mechanism to operate. That in itself could pose problems. The breakaway cable is provided as a safety feature in the event of a towball/ towball fixing failure. These in actuality are extremely few and far between and not everyday occurances.

 

Whilst I take every precaution to ensure my car and van are safe before I venture on the road I have no control over mechanical failure.

 

If ALKO or Whitter or some other equally respectable manufacturer of towbars/hitches etc. recommended a new ball and bolts every 5 years or so then I for one would follow that recommendation.

 

The problem arises that many van users, and trailer users too, fit their own towbars/towballs, and whilst I would not suggest that this should be banned, it does leave the way open for errors to occur. Too tight is just as bad as too slack on the fixing bolts. How many DIYers have a torque wrench?

Would they necessarily check to ensure they knew the correct torque?

 

We can only take reasonable safety precautions before we venture on the road. Human nature being what it is, I would venture to suggest that there are people out there in the real world who never have a van or trailer serviced, never check tyre pressures, never check road lights, but unfortunately that's the world we live in.

 

I can only ensure MY car and van are serviced/maintained correctly.

 

ATB

You can not reason with an unreasonable person.

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I always try to lift the back of the car up with the Jockey wheel, after I have hitched up, just in case!. :)

 

& Old Man Phil, that's good advice!, I have been involved in the motortrade for donkeys years, but took my car into a towbar centre to have it fitted for that reason, you have to cover yourself. Not only do you have to cover yourself, but it's now a no no, to do it yourself with newer cars.

 

Paul

Paul B

. .......Mondeo Estate & Elddis Avanté 505 (Tobago)

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Hi Frank,

 

I was only able in the one instance to get my hands on the failed bolts. They were of the correct size and clearly marked 8. 8 to denote high tensile but what was interesting they were not made by the supplier to the vehicle maker (the towbar was a vehicle maker's branded one) as part of the towbar kit. I found that the towbar was first fitted to a vehicle and when that vehicle was rejected by the customer for bad paintwork it was taken off and fitted to his replacement vehicle. The bolts were obviously changed at that point. It is always good practice to fit new bolts and not re-use the old ones.

 

The bolts showed rusting part way through the fail line indicating that they had cracked some time before they failed. I could not establish any reason why this had occurred. Metallurgical tests could not give a reason either.

 

I usually get involved long after the incident and the items have normally been thrown away. I have to rely on Police photographs in most instances. The above case was fortunate as it was the owner of the trailer that contacted me for help in establishig the chain of events.

 

I hope that this helps.

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My previous posting was a reply to an e-mail that I had received so it may puzzle readers of this thread. Sorry about that.

 

I did mean to add another very important point about the use of breakaway cables so I will put it here.

 

ALWAYS make sure that your breakaway cable passes through the cable guide under the coupling head/drawbar. This ensures that if the caravan comes off whilst articulated that the angle of pull will be controlled and will pull the handbrake on. Whilst at Police roadside checks I have seen breakaway cables coming up the side of the coupling and over the drawbar before going to the car. This means that the cable cannot do its job properly and if the caravan came off whilst at an angle the cable would try to pull the lever sideways and NOT apply the brakes.

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