About Us

Chris and Dennis are traveling around the country seeing the sights and occasionally volunteering at select locations. We avoid the interstate as much as we can and tend to stop for squirrels and shiny objects.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Brake the Toad

No, I'm not torturing some wayward frog like a sick video game but rather, identifying and installing a supplemental and emergency braking system in the vehicle we tow - in our case a 2014 manual shift Jeep Patriot. I'm specifying the year, make, model and transmission because when choosing the towed vehicle, these things are very important and something needed when making the decision of what to buy.

Not all braking systems are created equal and in some cases they will just not work with the vehicle chosen even after you've confirmed the vehicle is capable of towing 4 down (all four tires on pavement instead of a trailer or dolly arrangement). In our case, the one model of the Patriot that is capable of being towed has a steering wheel shaft and numerous brake and fuel lines running along the firewall preventing a through-the-firewall installation of some of the pully systems in use today. Why this vehicle then? At the time it was the only vehicle we found capable that was within our allowances - both monetary AND weight. Of course being the mechanical genius that I am, I didn't find this out until AFTER I had purchased the ReadyBrute Elite system from NSA. Fortunately, the folks were  understanding and are probably used to working with such high functioning idiots such as myself. They quickly refunded my money and one technician even gave me a few recommendations for alternative methods.

The first alternative was the obvious Blue Ox Patriot system. We had a Blue Ox base-plate and tow bar, our Jeep is a Patriot so hey, a no brainer right? Having learned from my first mistake and with expert prompting from my wife I found I could actually get the operators manual right online; simply amazing!  After cutting a template (actually several) I found the Blue Ox model just didn't fit right on the floor board without some modifications. I believe I have already mentioned my prowess in the mechanic arena? Wasn't gonna happen.

Now that I was armed with the wonderful knowledge available at my fingertips via the internet I began shopping in earnest for the right braking system for our vehicle and for us. Critical factors such as ease of use both in setup and take down; how much time (really not that critical but somewhat important when in a line at a park check-in); and of course operability. A braking system that doesn't work well is just as bad or worse than a non-functioning one.

Earlier I touched on budget and here it is: these things don't come cheap! A good baseplate, towbar and braking system will can run between $1500 and $3000 for parts, then there is labor which can come in at around 4 hours - call it an additional $400.

We decided to go with the RVibrake2 system which retails for around $1150. The company has an excellent reputation and the air actuated system has a very low profile so its a snap to setup. No labor as even I could understand the installation instructions and it took me less than an hour to install the emergency brake-away device that comes with the system. The remote monitor which we put on the motorhome's dash easily picks up the system's status and I'm sure it could just as easily receive the optional 4 sensor TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system). The remote's brake test function not only checks the brakes but ensures our tow arms are fully extended and locked in position. RVibrake has several videos on their web site so if you are interested, take a look.

I didn't intend to be so long winded with this blog entry but I can't stress enough how important it is to have an emergency braking system on your towed vehicle. Not having one is against the law in most states and a tragic scenario of more than a ton of metal flying loose at highway speeds is something to avoid at any cost.  Expensive system? Cheap at any price when compared to what can happen.

Getting off the soap box, and back on the road.