Video: All about caravan breakaway cables

Published in Caravan Guard News, Caravanning Top Tips, Videos on   - 59 Comments

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  1. Graham Howard says:

    Are all breakaway cables the same length and if not how do you know which to get

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Breakaway cables do seem to come in different lengths. However, if you use the one that is manufactured by the caravan chassis manufacturer then you should find that they are the correct length.

  2. Alan Jarden says:

    Is it legal to replace a broken breakaway cable with a stout chain that has a greater resistance to snapping than the 2 tonne cable?

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      The breakaway cable is part of the chassis type approval system. The purpose of the breakaway cable is for it to snap when it needs to do so. A ‘stout’ chain with a greater resistance to breaking / snapping defeats the purpose of the cable.
      A chain is permitted for trailers up to 750kgs where no braking system is fitted.

  3. Bob Sutherland says:

    People who ask why the clip cannot be attached directly always get the same non-reply.
    The answer is simple. The spring clip is just a relatively flimsy hook which will straighten out if pulled sharply by the weight of a caravan. Doubling the cable will considerably reduce the force, and almost certainly slow down its application, so the hook survives. The spring just stops the hook falling off the cable but doesn’t take any strain.
    A Carabiner is an altogether tougher piece of kit which can take the full and sudden pull before breaking. The cable is fixed to a locating ring to make sure the pull is along the oval, the closing arm will interlock to make the oval a single loop of metal so it can’t just straighten.
    Hope that gives a simple but comprehensive explanation. For more detail talk to a rock climber. They use all sorts of carabiners and have to understand how they work and can sometimes fail.

  4. Steve Booth says:

    Hi Very Good helpful video but always a BUT with me ? with my recent acquired detachable Towbar on my car with clip end type breakaway cable on Caravan, its seems to me still not 100% safe looping around Towball head if say detachable Towball works loose & drops out of its socket which I have read has happened ! it would to me need a seperate fixed anchor point on towbar to pull Caravan handbrake on & to pull Caravan to a stop .

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Hi Steve, you’re right, unfortunately there have been a number of detachable tow ball failures. It’s important that caravanners carefully inspect the tow bar assembly on their car to check if the fitter has not properly exposed the designated mounting point – as this can sometimes be the case!
      Tim says if all else fails then you will on some tow bar fitments find that the securing bolts for the tow ball section housing can be used to secure a mounting point, using the bolt head as a fixing point. This should be checked with an approved fitter to check that this does not compromise the certification provided by the tow bar manufacturer.
      We all agree that looping around the ball is not the safest of attachments, but in some situations it is the only viable option available.

  5. Keith Johnson says:

    Great, very clear and informative. I look forward to more videos.

  6. Pauline James says:

    Brilliant. Very helpful, clear and instructive. Thank you

  7. Alan Foy says:

    very clear and well explained,if you cant follow it you should not be towing

  8. Norman says:

    Very good and clear instructions.
    But don’t forget when all you think is done,STOP and have a last check that everything else is connected property.

  9. RichardsonGordon says:

    Does what it says on the tin

  10. Mike Whitney says:

    Having had spring clips in the past with no clip attachment when you loop the cable round the whole assembly it wears away the plastic coating and you then get metal to metal rubbing which wears the cable away, not a good thing to happen!

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      With the cable ‘clipped’ around the whole assembly the cable will achieve its actual potential of pulling the handbrake on. Where the spring clip was attached to a mounting point the ‘tug’ on the cable caused the clip to stretch, rather than to activate the handbrake – hence the move to change. In use there should be little movement of the cable assembly across the metal structures so wear should be minimal.

  11. david gray says:

    I had a near miss when my breakaway cable snapped upon pulling away from home with the caravan it seems like the hitch was not locked down properly the nearest caravan shop only had a breakaway chain available complete with strong clip as there is no mention of chains, and only wires my question is are breakaway chain assemblies legal and safe

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      A breakaway chain will normally be found on trailers that meet the 750kg category – often an in-braked trailer, although some manufacturers of these trailers now fit a braking system, with breakaway cable, to provide a safer operating system. When connecting a trailer to a tow ball assembly it’s important to check that the hitch head has properly engaged, before moving off. With the Al-Ko hitch head this is shown by a ‘green’ button indicator appearing in the unit.

  12. Jon says:

    Surely manufacturers of detachable tow bars should be able to come up with something better than just looping the breakaway cable over the ball? Possibly a welded mounting point on the neck or similar would be ideal.

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Type Approval now requires the tow-bar assembly to have a designated mounting point. Tim Booth tells us that in roadside checks it has been identified that many tow bar fitting technicians have not provided sufficient ‘cut-out’ of the bumper bar cover to reveal that there is actually a designated mounting point provided. Have a good look under the car to see if this is the case here.

  13. Brian Woodcock says:

    I agree with nigel above the cable should never be looped round the ball part as if this does become detached it will fail to put on the brake. Always put round a solid part of the tow hitch if you cannot then get your dealer to fit the appropriate length cable to do so, as they are available in differing length’s

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Tim says the looping over the tow ball should always be considered as a last resort. On some occasions a longer cable can help – but be careful to make sure that the cable does not drag on the road surface when towing.

  14. i turnbull says:

    clears any confusion on the various ways of securing cable.

  15. J Gerring says:

    I agree with N Critchley, the cable needs to be attached to something other than the detachable part of the tow bar

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      The looping over the tow ball should always be considered as a last resort. Returning to the chassis of the car to secure the cable will always be the best solution – but not all tow bars provide this opportunity.

  16. Alan Ford says:

    He says you cannot attach a spring clip to an attachment point but does not say why. If it will fit(as he shows it will) surely this gives a perfectly good attachment.

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Hi Alan, Tim tells us that with the cable ‘clipped’ around the whole assembly the cable will achieve its actual potential of pulling the handbrake on. Where the spring clip was attached to a mounting point the ‘tug’ on the cable caused the clip to stretch, rather than to activate the handbrake – hence the move to change.

  17. Judith Cadamy says:

    I have seen this advice many times in various places. But nobody explains why the spring clip should not be attached to a fixed mounting point.
    In fact when I took the advice on a detachable towball and the towball detached there was nothing to pull the brake. Caravan written off but other damage thankfully.

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Hi Judith, Tim tells us that with the cable ‘clipped’ around the whole assembly the cable will achieve its actual potential of pulling the handbrake on. Where the spring clip was attached to a mounting point the ‘tug’ on the cable caused the clip to stretch, rather than to activate the handbrake – hence the move to change.

  18. John Foot says:

    Excellent video vital information!

  19. John Soper says:

    Excellent instructions for not just new to towing but to seasoned towers. The industry and LAWS change regularly and we all have a duty ensuring we all tow legally.
    Thanks to Caravan Guard for always keeping us well informed and shown the correct and incorrect ways.
    Many thanks John

  20. Allan Mazey says:

    A very important point missing here. If the cable is lopped around a detachable towbar, which is defective, poorly maintained or incorrectly fitted, and the actual hitch becomes detached from it’s mounting. The tow ball will come away from the vehicle with the caravan and the caravan brakes will not be applied. There have recently been reports of poorly maintained detachable tow bars failing on prestige vehicles, indeed I have seen it happen.

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Tim agrees and says this has happened on some rare occasions, hence the advice to seek to secure the cable by returning it to ‘the chassis of the car’.

  21. Nigel HINCH says:

    Just come back to caravanning after 15year break. This article clarified how to fix to my detachable towbar.

    How things have moved on

  22. Steve says:

    Unfortunately, despite stressing that a spring-clip cable should not be attached to a towing eye, no mention is made of WHY.
    People need to know the reason and likely consequences of ‘doing it wrong’ ideally with a demonstration.

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Hi Steve, Tim demonstrates the different ways of attaching a spring clip on different tow ball assemblies in the video. Where the spring clip was attached to a mounting point the ‘tug’ on the cable caused the clip to stretch, rather than to activate the handbrake – hence the move to change. With the cable ‘clipped’ around the whole tow bar assembly the cable will achieve its actual potential of pulling the handbrake on. Hope this clarifies matters.

  23. Andy Salter says:

    Why cant a spring clip cable be attached to a tow bar fixing point? There doesn’t on looking seem to any major difference to a caribina clip?

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Hi Andy, Tim tells us that where the spring clip was attached to a mounting point the ‘tug’ on the cable caused the clip to stretch, rather than to activate the handbrake – hence the move to change. With the cable ‘clipped’ around the whole tow bar assembly the cable will achieve its actual potential of pulling the handbrake on. Hope this explains it.

  24. Chris says:

    put the hand brake on before you take away your brake away

  25. J Smith says:

    Not really because our towbar place where we have them from has told us to put the cable throw the bracket supplied then back to the cable not just put in hole of plate and that’s it. So I for one will be asking again and showing this video around to see which it is as they give all this information out which could be very wrong.

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      That seems correct. The breakaway cable should not be connected to the plate – but to a designated mounting point, or back to the cable.

  26. Kam says:

    Why was there no explanation of why a spring clip can’t be fitted to a dedicated breakaway mounting point. It looked as if was fine to do it that way.

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Hi Kam, Tim tells us that where the spring clip was attached to a mounting point the ‘tug’ on the cable caused the clip to stretch, rather than to activate the handbrake – hence the move to change. With the cable ‘clipped’ around the whole tow bar assembly the cable will achieve its actual potential of pulling the handbrake on. Hope this is helpful?

  27. Colin Reeves says:

    It is good information for people new to caravanning & perhaps a reminder to those veterans of towing who may have got into bad habits, however I would have the article to have explained to the less informed why NOT to connect the spring type to the dedicated mounting point if there is one available

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Hi Colin, Tim tells us that where the spring clip was attached to a mounting point the ‘tug’ on the cable caused the clip to stretch, rather than to activate the handbrake – hence the move to change. With the cable ‘clipped’ around the whole tow bar assembly the cable will achieve its actual potential of pulling the handbrake on. Hope this explains it?

  28. Terry says:

    Why is it wrong to attach a spring clip connector to a mounting point on the lowball mount, but OK to connect a carabina

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Hi Terry, Tim tells us that where the spring clip was attached to a mounting point the ‘tug’ on the cable caused the clip to stretch, rather than to activate the handbrake – hence the move to change. With the cable ‘clipped’ around the whole tow bar assembly the cable will achieve its actual potential of pulling the handbrake on. Hope this explains it.

  29. Trevor Stevenson says:

    I use a detachable tow bar similar to the one in the first picture you are showing. You show the breakaway cable wrapped around the tow bar, but the manufacturer of mine tells me to attach the clip to the hole below the electrics bracket, the same sort of bracket you show here. Would you advise which is the correct method.
    Trevor

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      Hi Trevor, The electric plate hanger is not sufficiently strong enough to secure to – unless it is an integral part of the tow bar structure.

  30. Roger miller says:

    I have learnt a lot about brakeaway cable from the video.

  31. Felix Price says:

    I have a detachable tow bar with a hitch eye but my caravan brake away cable has a spring clip. Do I ignore the tow bar eye and loop the cable back on it’s self around the tow bar as it is a spring clip?

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      That’s right Feliz. The electric plate hanger is not sufficiently strong enough to secure to. Also, Tim tells us that where the spring clip was attached to a mounting point the ‘tug’ on the cable caused the clip to stretch, rather than to activate the handbrake, so you are going to have to loop the cable back onto itself.

  32. N Critchley says:

    I disagree with not putting the spring type cable through the dedicated eye on the tow bar, as i Know off some one who’s Detachable tow bar came off with his cable around the ball and did not apply the hand brake, resulting in his van mounting the foot path into a wall before coming to rest? Surely had the cable been attached to the tow bar it would have applied the brakes.

    • Liz @ Caravan Guard says:

      If the tow bar has failed and the breakaway cable was attached to the mounting point, in this scenario it would have also been still attached tow bar assembly.

  33. IAN MARSHALL says:

    Very useful

  34. Neil says:

    Will clear any confusion for people new to caravanning

  35. Patricia Shaw says:

    Extremely useful video.

  36. Brian Johnston says:

    Clear and precise,attach cable before letting brake off


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