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Old     (wakejunky)      Join Date: Apr 2002       05-04-2005, 5:33 AM Reply   
Answer: CHAINS

Last weekend I accidently caught the breakaway cable on my ball as I pulled the truck away from the trailer. When I went to push the trailer a bit more, I noticed that the brakes weren't activated, like I thought they should.
I ordered a new cable from DHM, get the new cable installed and in the process understand how the breakaway cable is really supposed to work.

The breakaway cable is supposed to provide braking if the trailer comes off the ball, problem is the cable only provides braking if and only if the cable is pulling the actuator. How the breakaway cable is supposed to work. If the cable gets ripped out there is absolutely NO braking.

So, if your trailer has safety cables, which will stretch out to about 6 feet, and you happen to loose your trailer, you will rip out the breakaway cable and your trailer will continue to roll until it finds something to stop it, probably the back of your truck.

So, in all reality, you should only use CHAINS and they need to be only long enough to allow the breakaway cable to actuate the brakes without pulling it out of the actuator.

Funny, how you find design flaws when something goes wrong. I'm seriously thinking about replacing my cables with CHAINS.

Another added benefit to CHAINS is that if you do loose the coupler, you might stand the chance of catching the trailer on the chains and not having it drag on the ground.

I wonder if the trailer manufactures have really thought out their reason for putting cables on trailers.

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Old     (skibum69)      Join Date: Aug 2004       05-04-2005, 5:43 AM Reply   
Chris, break away cables are suppose to keep the brakes acuated until you release them. Are you sure the trailer isn't low on brake fluid. Boat trailers are noturious for slowly leaking brake fluid and have to be topped off once in a while.
read section H in this

could be because it got caught on the ball, it snaped before it engaged the brakes.
Old     (peter_c)      Join Date: Sep 2001       05-04-2005, 8:03 AM Reply   
As I understand it, the brake cable is supposed to apply the brakes, then break off. If you notice, under the little lift cover, there are a couple of stops built into the break away cable. I believe these are designed to keep the brake engaged.

I too like chains just for what you stated regarding the trailer staying closer to the tow vehicle. I have never had a problem towing but have seen the results and because he had his trailer attached correctly it was no big deal. The trailer fell onto the crossed chains and he came to a stop. It was a car trailer but same difference.
Old    ag4ever            05-04-2005, 10:56 AM Reply   
Like other have said, the cable can break and you still have the brakes. The cable should get wedged in the lift up metal tab. This wedges the cable in an activated state, so the brakes stay locked. If the cable brakes under the metal tab, then you won't have trailer brakes.

I also prefer the chains because if you cross them and keep the short, the tongue can come off the ball, and it will be caught in the criss crossed chains like a cradle, and you might have a chance of stopping the truck and trailer with minimal damage. Also by crossing the chains, when you turn the chains won't become bound up on the outside of the turn since they will tend to pivot with the turn (you need much les chain length when crossed than when connected straight ahead).
Old     (wakejunky)      Join Date: Apr 2002       05-04-2005, 11:41 AM Reply   
True the brakes are supposed to activated until you release the little tap on the underside of the latch but, with the force of the trailer, I don't believe the brakes are truly engaged like they are supposed to be.

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Old     (ralph)      Join Date: Apr 2002       05-04-2005, 12:43 PM Reply   
We have to use chains here by law. The cables were the first thing in the bin when my trailer arrived. I also added a safety chain at the front between the trailer & the bow, that way if the winch strap breaks theres still three anchor points holding the boat on the trailer.
Old     (auto)      Join Date: Aug 2002       05-04-2005, 12:48 PM Reply   
The winch strap will break, happened once on the 03 BU and the Duck boat. A safety chain is a must, not a question when the winch strap breaks, but when.
Old     (skibum69)      Join Date: Aug 2004       05-04-2005, 12:58 PM Reply   
Winch strap? Whats that? Is that the funny looking grey wrapped up thing on the front of my trailer. J/K LOL If you get a boat buddy, you don't need a chain. He was talking about a chain instead of a cable for the trailer safety break though, not a bow chain.
Old     (auto)      Join Date: Aug 2002       05-04-2005, 2:32 PM Reply   
if you have a bow chain, don't need a boat buddy.
Old     (peter_c)      Join Date: Sep 2001       05-04-2005, 6:35 PM Reply   
If you have a Boat Buddy you are not supposed to tow with it in the closed position. I too have had a winch strap break. I got in the habit of cutting it off and re-tying the hook on at least once a year. A second strap/chain at the front is a good idea. It always surprises me how many people never put their rear straps on
Old     (jrichard)      Join Date: Aug 2001       05-05-2005, 9:28 AM Reply   
Regarding chains v. cables, I would avoid cables.

My personal example: I had a trailer with a single safety cable. One time, I did not lock the coupler release in place, the coupler failed, and the trailer bounced off the ball. Fortunately, I was only going 5 mph (maybe less). The trailer tongue fell to the ground and the breakaway cable locked up the brakes. I went probably 15-20 feet like this before I stopped.

Here's the scary part: because of how the cable attached to the trailer, it was pinched at the attachment point between the tongue and the pavement. (And this is a typical condition as most cables and chains attach underneath the trailer.) Approximately 80% of the cable diameter abraded through in the short distance that it took me to stop. If that had happened at freeway speeds, the trailer would have disconnected from the tow vehicle.

After this incident, I had new attachment points welded to each side of the tongue and replaced the single cable with two chains. I do this with every boat I own. I also never fail to lock the coupler release in place.

On another note, breakaway cables (the one to trigger your brakes) are stronger than the s-hook that attaches them to the tow vehicle. The idea is to have this cable pulled tight should your towing connection fail. If your safety chains/cable stretches or is longer than the breakaway cable, the s-hook should deform and pull off of your tow vehicle and the breakaway cable will be left locked in place with the brakes on. If the breakaway cable pulls free at the trailer, there is a defect with the connection at the trailer or someone replaced the s-hook (on the tow vehicle side) with something stronger.
Old     (skibum69)      Join Date: Aug 2004       05-05-2005, 9:59 AM Reply   
Where are people getting that you are not suppose to tow with it in the closed postion? In my boat buddy manual that came with my boat it says to always tow with it closed and with a winch strap in the tight position. My dealer has said the same thing. It even says in my MC owners manual never to winch the boat up the trailer, always to power the boat up to the boat buddy, because the strap could break. As far as the towing chains, I have conteplated on chaining out the two cables with chains because the cables would let the tongue drag on the ground if it ever came off.
Old     (mikeski)      Join Date: Aug 2003       05-06-2005, 12:58 PM Reply   
Ah Chris, you worry too much...

I like my cables and I don't plan on my trailer coming loose anytime soon. We towed boats on trailers without brakes for years so I don't count on the brakes stopping the boat either. Most likely scenario when the trailer comes off is the little brake cable breaks, both safety cables break and the tongue draggs on the pavement brings it to a stop or it smashes into something else.

In a serious event like a boat rollover I want those cables to break so it does not endanger the tow vehicle carrying me and my family. I can always replace the boat...
Old     (wakejunky)      Join Date: Apr 2002       05-06-2005, 1:18 PM Reply   

You are probably right. Likelihood of anything going wrong is slim but, like anything slim is greater then zero.

On a side note, I found out that DHM didn't weld my driver's side guide pole properly. I noticed it was leaning a little further out than what I'm accustomed to. Looked at it and sure enough the two spot welds from the underside brace had failed. I checked the other side and there is one continuous bead running the short length of pipe. So, I got out my handy MIG welder and fixed it myself, much easier than the 1 hour drive each way and 3 days at DHM.

Get the Grip you Deserve


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