Towing Without Trailer Brakes
All modern travel trailers and fifth-wheels are equipped with towing brakes, so unless your brakes fail, there is very little reason not to have trailer brakes. In addition, every state has laws regulating the minimum towing weight requirement needed for brakes.
There are some modern micro-lite and very small vintage travel trailers that might not have brakes; however, these are very lightweight and depend on the braking power and weight of the tow vehicle.
The Problem of Inertia
Braking your car in ordinary traffic and braking while towing a trailer are very different scenarios. That’s because inertia will keep pushing the trailer forward, even when the truck is braking. The bigger and heavier the trailer is, the more it resists stopping. This makes it a lot harder to brake and slow down the truck and trailer.
It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a truck pulling a trailer, or a motorhome towing a car, the same safety principles apply. The heavier the load, the harder it will be to safely stop. Following common towing and braking safety rules could make the difference between reaching your destination safely or getting into an accident.
Don’t Forget to Hook Up the Brake and Light Wires
The extra weight of towing a trailer means it will take longer to slow down and stop. Because of this, most states have laws requiring trailers over a certain weight (usually 1,500 lb.) to have a separate braking system. Trailer brakes will not only make it easier to stop while towing, but they will also stop the trailer if it gets unhitched.
There are two types of trailer brakes; electronic brakes are connected to a controller in the tow vehicle and surge brakes are independently activated by momentum. Likewise, since the vehicles behind you can’t see the lights on your truck, federal law also requires trailers to have brake lights, turn signals, and taillights.
Both brakes and lights are activated through a connector that hooks up to your tow vehicle. Always make sure you plug in these wires before you drive off. Also, make sure the wires are not to dragging on the ground but have enough slack to make a turn.
The first rule of the road when towing is, slow down. You might see some RVers blasting down the highway, towing a 5th-Wheel at 80 mph, but don’t be that guy. The faster you drive, the longer it will take to slow down. Driving at a reasonable speed, and keeping a good, safe distance between your rig and other drivers could ultimately save lives.
There is no reason to tow a travel trailer or a 5th-Wheel without towing brakes. It’s not only unsafe, but it’s also against the law.