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Old 06-03-2020, 06:19 PM   #1
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Breakaway Cable

Ugh, I spent too long writing this and I got booted out and the whole thing was lost. Once again...

It has always bothered me that my breakaway cable is about 16 inches longer than my chains. Didn't seem like that would do any good if the trailer came off the hitch but I figured Escape was the experts and that's the way it came.

A friend bought one of those Fastway red-coated coiled cables that looks pretty nifty but the same question comes up...what length should it be? Even the 4-foot Fastway is quite a bit longer than my chains on my 2015 17B.

The etrailer website answers that question with conflicting responses:
Expert One: I would recommend that the breakaway cable be cut shorter than the safety chains/cables that way if the trailer were to come uncoupled from the hitch ball it would come to a stop without slamming into the back of the tow vehicle. For a breakaway switch cable I really like the Fastway Zip Coiled Trailer Breakaway Cable part # FA80-01-2140 for 4' long or part # FA80-01-2160 for 6' long as the coiled design keeps it free from dragging or fraying.

Expert Two: The best length for the cable of a breakaway system like the Fastway Cable # FA80-01-2160 that you referenced will be just a bit longer than the safety chains. The breakaway cable should be longer than the safety chains according to RVIA Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. This will activate the brakes in the event you lose the trailer connection and the safety chains fail which will bring the trailer to a stop.

I also read someone else say that the cable should be slightly longer and if your trailer came off the hitch you should just apply the brakes manually. The switch would come into play if your chains were unattached or fail. I do not find the RVIA recommendations.

How does everyone here handle this? Help please?!
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Old 06-03-2020, 06:55 PM   #2
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You can always shorten your breakaway cable or I have seen the cable wrapped and tied around the jack to make it shorter. The last time I used one of those coil jobs it was almost fully extended while in use. The coil function is really only in use when disconnected and it coils up short and neat. So order one close to the length desired.
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Old 06-03-2020, 07:07 PM   #3
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My opinion is that of “Expert Two”. The breakaway is there for a true breakaway of trailer and tow vehicle. If the trailer simply comes off the ball and falls onto the chains/ground you will still have the 7 pin plugged in and can brake to a stop normally or brake just the trailer manually on the brake controller. With the trailer hitch/A-frame on or near the ground it will be under your tow vehicle and can only go so far forward with chains attached. So with all that said I’d have my cable longer than the chains.
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Old 06-03-2020, 07:10 PM   #4
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Good point Dave, I'm tired and did not see the obvious....
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Old 06-03-2020, 08:00 PM   #5
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Cable length

On our 21 the cable was pretty long. I always had a big loop in it and suspended the loop on a bolt on the hitch to hold it up from dragging. One day it fell off and was burned in half by the road, I was in eastern South Dakota when that happened. I came on home without the emergency cable. When I got home I looked it over and there was a short piece from the tow vehicle end and the longer piece left on the trailer. I lined things up and could see the left over trailer piece was plenty long yet for tight turns and yet just a little longer than the chains. I have a pair of Swiss made Felco cable cutters (c-7) and used them to clip the frayed end so it was clean. i had 1,000 feet of 7/32 cable and about 400 double ferrules in stock in the garage so I reattached the carabiner I use to hook the cable to the hitch and it’s been out of my way and can’t sag to the pavement ever since. That’s my experience. Frayed cable is no fun to work with especially the fine stuff. It will poke you like a needle and the hole almost always gets A little infection unless you’re quick to clean it up and get some neosporin on it.
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Old 06-04-2020, 09:40 AM   #6
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We just purchased a Fastway Zip breakaway cable (the red coil) and it arrived last night. We opted for the 6' option as the Faswtay site said "if the distance is more than 3', get the 6' ZIP Breakaway Cable." We received the package last night so I wont have a change to try it out until tomorrow's camping trip. What I can say is it looks pretty short. It took some effort to just stretch it out with my arms. I will post a pic of it on the trailer after the weekend!
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Old 06-04-2020, 10:00 AM   #7
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My fear is that for whatever reason the cable will deploy the brakes prematurely while the safety chains (or hitch) are still attached as I enter an intersection or pull out in front of a loaded fuel truck that is at speed.

Under normal conditions with lots of space this would not be a problem, but dragging a fully locked trailer is going to take a heavy foot.

So my brake safety cable will hopefully only come into effect after the chains break and the electrical cable has come free of the vehicle.
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Old 06-04-2020, 12:17 PM   #8
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I replaced what ETI installed with a 4' Fastway coil on my 21. My expert told me to always cross your chains to let them serve as a cradle or at least minimize side to side movement if the trailer gets separated from the tow vehicle.

He said the breakaway should be 24" longer than the safety chains so that in the highly unlikely event the chains break the trailer is sufficiently far enough behind the tug before the plug is pulled and brakes applied to the trailer. That keeps the trailer from coming to visit the tug. Not so obvious but connect your brake cable to the tug hitch or bumper. ETI connected mine to the safety chains. Bad idea.
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Old 06-04-2020, 12:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue_bullet View Post
ETI connected mine to the safety chains. Bad idea.
It appears to be ETI's standard practice to attach the cord to the safety chains when they should really supply a carabiner to attach it to the tug. As a first time RV owner, I had no idea this was incorrect and needed to be fixed.

After a month on the road last summer, and about 5,000km into our trip, we were stopped at an RCMP check point in Osoyoos. They asked a bunch of safety questions and then asked me to test the breakaway switch while they watched, which I did and it worked fine. They were not happy with the placement of the cord to the chains, lectured us, and told us to change it immediately. We were only 1km from Haynes Point so he reluctantly allowed us to continue to the campsite as long as we fixed it before continuing home. We were pretty happy he let us go as he was overall unimpressed and condescending. We just purchased the Fastway Zip cord this week and will finally have it fixed for our next trip!
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Old 06-04-2020, 12:38 PM   #10
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As you say, the cable is to be attached to the hitch or better yet...the frame of the vehicle and not having your chains crossed is heads up that you are not sure of what you are doing to a vehicle inspection officer.
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Old 06-04-2020, 01:47 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rubicon327 View Post
The breakaway is there for a true breakaway of trailer and tow vehicle. If the trailer simply comes off the ball and falls onto the chains/ground you will still have the 7 pin plugged in and can brake to a stop normally or brake just the trailer manually on the brake controller. With the trailer hitch/A-frame on or near the ground it will be under your tow vehicle and can only go so far forward with chains attached. So with all that said I’d have my cable longer than the chains.
I agree with this logic, but it does require that the (7-way) umbilical cable is long enough to not get pulled out by the trailer coming off the ball as long as the chains are intact.
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Old 06-04-2020, 02:00 PM   #12
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This is the way I have always hooked up mine.
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Old 06-05-2020, 12:27 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
I agree with this logic, but it does require that the (7-way) umbilical cable is long enough to not get pulled out by the trailer coming off the ball as long as the chains are intact.
True and I was going to add that but never got back to it. Thanks Brian.
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Old 06-05-2020, 08:16 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
You can always shorten your breakaway cable or I have seen the cable wrapped and tied around the jack to make it shorter.
This is an unsafe thing to do. Should the trailer disconnect it could just break the cable and not actuate the brakes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
I agree with this logic, but it does require that the (7-way) umbilical cable is long enough to not get pulled out by the trailer coming off the ball as long as the chains are intact.
I was going to say just this too. I always keep my breakaway cable shorter than the chains. Often in an emergency situation you either are too busy concentrating on other serious matters, or with many due to not being used to using the brake controller alone in an emergency situation it is forgotten.

Quote:
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This is the way I have always hooked up mine.
I too do this with all my trailers. In a couple commercial/industrial companies I worked for it was a must too. If I should ever have a hitch disconnect I want the full trailer braking to take effect rather than mess around with alternatives. I did have this happen twice in all my towing and was glad for the assist. No harm done other than a bit of scuffing on the hitch.
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Old 06-15-2020, 01:10 PM   #15
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We swapped out the stock break away cable for the 6' Fastway Zip cable yesterday. Although the distance is only a few feet, the 6' cable looks like an appropriate length.

20200614_110818.jpg
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Old 06-15-2020, 04:15 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoCampBC View Post
We swapped out the stock break away cable for the 6' Fastway Zip cable yesterday. Although the distance is only a few feet, the 6' cable looks like an appropriate length.
Yes, it looks like an appropriate length but it's still a couple feet longer than the chains so it's not going to do anything unless the chains break or come unattached.

I guess if that's the norm, I'll try to be comfortable with it!

I have had the trailer come off the hitch when someone else had hitched it and I didn't check it. I was going about 4 mph though up a hill and what stopped the trailer was the end of the trailer jack hitting the pavement.
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Old 06-15-2020, 04:39 PM   #17
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You want to have the ability to control the brakes while it is still attached to you, albeit unhitched but chains are attached. Only if the chains brake and the trailer is free you want the brakes then to activate.
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Old 06-15-2020, 04:59 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
You want to have the ability to control the brakes while it is still attached to you, albeit unhitched but chains are attached. Only if the chains brake and the trailer is free you want the brakes then to activate.
That makes sense. Thank you.
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Old 06-18-2020, 02:17 PM   #19
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I was going to say just this too. I always keep my breakaway cable shorter than the chains. Often in an emergency situation you either are too busy concentrating on other serious matters, or with many due to not being used to using the brake controller alone in an emergency situation it is forgotten.



I too do this with all my trailers. In a couple commercial/industrial companies I worked for it was a must too. If I should ever have a hitch disconnect I want the full trailer braking to take effect rather than mess around with alternatives. I did have this happen twice in all my towing and was glad for the assist. No harm done other than a bit of scuffing on the hitch.
Jim, I have to disagree. The point of having the cable is to activate the brakes only when the tow chains break. That's why my expert, an rv repair guy, said the cable should be 24" longer than the chains extended. He was going to swap my 4' Fastway coil with a 6' he had but measured it and said no you are better off the the 4'. The 6' is too long and works better on 5th wheel setups. I am surprised there so much difference of opinion on such an important safety issue. The cable is the last resort failsafe braking alternative to avoid having a totally disconnected trailer become a missile to oncoming and following traffic.
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Old 06-18-2020, 02:51 PM   #20
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The cable is the last resort failsafe braking alternative to avoid having a totally disconnected trailer become a missile to oncoming and following traffic.
Agreed. As has been said if your chains are attached so is your 7 pin if wiring is long enough. You then would still have normal braking. The breakaway is for what the name implies...a complete disconnection of trailer and tow vehicle.
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