Your essential guide to caravan breakaway cables

Published in Caravanning Top Tips on   - 10 Comments

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  1. George Smith says:

    If someone is dim enough to incorrectly mount a detatchable tow hook so that it comes adrift whilst driving, I would suggest they stay at home and do crosswords. They should not even be driving a car never mind with a caravan on tow. Equally if people have been towing not knowing what a breakaway cable is, they also need to stay indoors. It is dangerous enough out there folks. Stay home.

  2. Roy Shaw says:

    I use a ‘caribiner type’ breakaway cable and carry a spare. As recommended, it is the first thing I do when the tow-hitch has been connected correctly. I use a simply-remembered nemonic when connecting the caravan to my car: J C B – J for jockey-wheel, lifted, clamped and secured; C for cables, break-away, electrics and checking; B for brake released. I recent times, I have added M for motor-mover, the operating-handle for which I place beside my seat in my car. A simple approach but it works for me.


    I have a detachable tow ball & was told at a dealer the breakaway cable should be looped round the ball instead of clipped direct to the eye on the main tow bar. I think this is wrong if the detachable ball came off the brakes will not operate. Can you clarify please. If this was to happen the insurance company would throw a claim out.

  4. Ilev says:

    I resting reading and all good information, but your article states that a cable with the heavier duty type of carabiner is for direct connection to, your final picture shows this type being used as a loop coupling, is this correct ?

    • Hi David and ILev,

      I’ve spoken to the Caravan Club’s Technical Manger regarding both your queries.

      The general rule is that if there is no suitable attachment point, you can indeed use the carabiner as part of a loop around the towball fitting.

      ‘Looped around’ attachment is an acceptable option, although some people get concerned that the loop of cable might jump off the towball instead of allowing the cable to operate effectively.

      I’m told that the Club has “no evidence of that actually happening in practice.”

      Many thanks

  5. David Whincup says:

    an imortant point to remember is not to loop the cable round a removable towball but to make sure you use the attachment point provided. If the towball is fitted incorrectly and detaches from the car the breakaway cable will not operate.

  6. Lawrie Woodley says:

    I’m happy with the cable advice but would like advice on a related matter. CanI use WD40 to lubricate he tow hitch that the tow ball sits in? I know not to use grease!

    • Hi Lawrie,

      Thanks for getting in touch. How you maintain the tow hitch depends on which system you have fitted. If you have an AL-KO device, for example, it’s advised that:

      Should lubrication of the stabiliser parts become necessary, then the following must be
      a) clean all parts thoroughly.
      b) Areas may only be covered with a thin film of grease (Fig. 20).
      c) Use multipurpose grease DIN 51825 KTA 3K.

      See here (page 5) for further details.
      Many thanks


  7. Andrew Popkin says:

    I think we need to point out that for lighter trailers, for example smaller trailer tents without brakes, that what is required is a Secondary Coupling, I.e. a cable or chain which is just the opposite to a breakaway cable in that it is designed to remain intact and unbroken if the ball hitch neck or coupling breaks. It is best fitted to a tough bracket bolted to the towbar. It too, is reasonably cheap but is vital to keep the trailer from running away in the event of catastrophic coupling failure.

  8. Eric Shaw says:

    I had a very frightening decoupling experience where the breakaway cable did not work. i coupled the caravan on my drive and set off. I had travelled about a quarter of a mile and turned off a roundabout down a shallow incline. I felt a bump and immediately braked, looking in the mirror I could see the caravan had detached and was overtaking the car. it continued past my car without hitting it and then returned to the correct side of the road. i was then following the caravan. it veered across to the left where the jockey wheel found a small gap in the kerb and pulled the van onto a soft verge where it ran into some bushes and stopped. when my heart started beating again I examined the van. luckily there was hardly any damage, just a few scratches from the bushes, but the breakaway cable connection link was pulled straight but had obviously not operated the brake. As soon as possible I had the van inspected by the dealer who could find no faults. His presumption was I had braked before the cable had operated and it only snapped away as the van was passing by the car. the snapping action was sideways on to the caravan hand brake so did not operate it. A set of unique circumstances which may never have happened before or will ever happen again. The dealer explained the simple system of winding the jockey wheel down, after attaching to the car, until it lifts the front of the van slightly and pulls up on the towball.This is a foolproof (?) method of ensuring a good connection which I now use every time. I still have nightmares about the consequences if the van had veered in the opposite direction into the oncoming traffic.

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