What is a braked caravan? (a complete guide)

In this article, we answer the following question: What is a braked caravan? We describe how a caravan’s braking system works and we also talk about safety on the road. 

What is a braked caravan?

A braked caravan activates brakes through a mechanical link from the tow bar; if the car brakes, it activates the trailer’s brakes. An unbraked trailer means that all the breaking comes from the towing vehicle, thus only from your car.

A caravan’s brake package consists, from the front of the trailer to the rear, of a 12-volt power source for both the caravan and a brake controller in the cab – call it a brake controller – a Harness from trailer brake controller to caravan hitch,  breakout kit, and brakes.

12 Volt power supply for caravans

The trailer’s 12-volt power source is normally taken directly from the positive terminal of the vehicle’s battery or from a dedicated stud on the electronic control panel, which is usually located under the hood. 

The power supply should not be changed by the vehicle ignition, as it may be needed on the trailer for lighting or accessory use when the trailer is turned off. If you anticipate heavy use of the 12-volt circuits in the trailer, additional electronics should be installed to avoid completely draining the battery (draining it).

12V power supply to the caravan brake controller

The power supply for the trailer brake controller in the cab is typically installed to meet demand much lighter than the supply to the trailer. Instructions given with any component must be read, understood, and followed; Typically, the power supply for the controller is drawn from a 12-volt source under the dash and is constantly active when the towing vehicle is plugged in, and protected by an in-line fuse.

Caravan brake controller

A caravan brake controller is an inertia actuated component. It detects the deceleration of the towing vehicle and signals an interpretation of that decrease in speed through the wire harness and trailer hitch, towards the brakes. 

It must be connected to a 12-volt source that is constantly active, to the switched side of the brake light microswitch, to the harness and ground. The controller usually also has an overdrive slider that the driver can use to apply the brakes in an emergency, for this reason, it should be installed a short distance from the driver’s seat.

The wiring harness to the trailer hitch comprises the 12-volt power supply drawn from the tow vehicle and controls the information from the trailer brake controller, both left and right turn signals, brake lights, reverse light, a return cable and an auxiliary cable; the latter is most often used for reverse lights.

Tow hitch

To connect a caravan equipped with electric brakes to a towing vehicle, a seven-pin connector is required. In the US, this is almost universally a nationwide configuration, with a round seven-pin socket connected to a stationary bracket on the tow vehicle and a matching round seven-pin plug attached to a tow rope.

Caravan breakout kit

A caravan breakout kit is designed to minimize problems if the trailer must be separated from the tow vehicle. This is a remotely operated switch that, when activated, immediately and fully deploys all-electric trailer brakes, locking their axles. 

The brake switch is produced by removing a pin which holds it in the open position under proper operation. The pin is attached to the tow vehicle by a flexible cable. If the tow vehicle and trailer separate, the cable is pulled by the tow vehicle, pulling the pin from the breakaway switch, which closes. 

When closed, a connection is made inside the kill switch that transmits 12-volt power from a dedicated trailer-mounted battery for each brake – each brake fully locked. The dedicated battery is normally kept fully charged by the 12 volt supply from the tow vehicle.

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Caravan brakes

Caravan brakes are electromagnetically graduated, which means they apply increasingly hard or smoothly based on a graduated signal that is generated by the trailer brake controller in the cab of the tow vehicle. 

In this way, if the driver applies the tow vehicle brakes smoothly, the trailer brake controller will apply the brakes smoothly; the electromagnets will charge slightly. If the driver of the towing vehicle brakes heavily to make an emergency stop, the caravan brakes will also be fully deployed and immediately, the electromagnets will be fully charged. 

Once the signal from the brake controller ceases, because the stopping inertia has ceased, the caravan brakes are released.

How to travel safely with a caravan

The first thing you should do before starting to place the load on the trailer is to check that its total weight does not exceed the weight limit that the trailer can carry, as well as its capacity. Remember that, if you have a B driving license, you can only carry up to a maximum of 3,500 kilos of maximum authorized mass.

On the other hand, you should know that it is very important that the centre of gravity of the trailer is in front of its wheels so that it is as level as possible. To do this, you must place the load as close as possible to the axle of the trailer, with the aim that, in case it is not completely level, at least the front part is the one that is lower than the rear.

Begin loading the trailer by placing the heaviest items first. Once you have the heaviest items loaded on the trailer, you can load the rest as evenly as possible, from closer to the trailer axle to further away, with a side-to-side distribution without leaving gaps, to reduce risk. overturning. 

Despite this, do not overload the front area, as it could cause a loss of control of the vehicle when driving with it. Besides, the heaviest load should be at the bottom of the trailer, while the lightest load should occupy the top, without exceeding the limits of the trailer.

Once you have all the load correctly placed in this way, you will have to secure it with chains or straps to prevent them from moving and could destabilize the vehicle or even fall onto the road when making a sharp turn, for example. 

It is also advisable to cover the load with tarps to prevent it from being damaged by the weather conditions, be it the sun or the rain, and they will also help to better hold the load, especially the smaller pieces. Of course, these canvases must also be held in turn with straps or cables.

Dangers of exceeding towing capacity

When you carry your car heavily loaded and at the limit of its allowed load – you should never exceed it -, keep in mind that there are big changes that you must take into account and that affect both the way you drive and the mechanics of your vehicle.

  • Increased stopping distance. – It is necessary that when you travel with more weight in your car, you increase the safety distance with the car in front of you, redouble your attention and slow down. Your braking system will not work the same as when you usually drive, it will take longer and you will go faster before you stop.
  • Decreased stability and balance – The weight makes your car less agile and less balanced, especially if you carry a lot of weight in the trunk, in the rear, if you have a roof rack, a trailer or any other accessory to carry more cargo.
  • Increased consumption –  Always keep in mind that if you go with your car at full weight, you are going to spend more gasoline or diesel -also the autonomy in the case of an electric car decreases- so it is worth making an effort to implement the classic tips to reduce the consumption: smooth, careful driving and limited speed. 

In the same way, think about the cost of fuel when you are preparing suitcases and try to minimize so that the weight of the load is as tight as possible.

Plan carefully your trip. If you are going to travel with weight, it is better not to improvise on the way to go. Take advantage of new technologies to choose the most suitable route for a loaded car: avoid mountain passes, large slopes … in general, opt for highways or motorways to increase your safety and improve consumption, when you drive with a car with maximum weight.

Conclusions

In this article, we answered the following question: What is a braked caravan? We briefly described a caravan’s braking system and talked about safety on the road.

A caravan’s brake package consists, from the front of the trailer to the rear, of a 12-volt power source for both the caravan and a brake controller in the cab – call it a brake controller – a Harness from trailer brake controller to caravan hitch,  breakout kit, and brakes.

Finally, almost all caravans are braked! To know if your caravan is braked you have to check if it has a lever on the A-frame, and you have to look underneath it to see if there is a cable/rod that runs from the hitch to the coupling head. 

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know.

FAQ on What is a braked caravan?

Is a Caravan braked or unbraked?

Most Caravans are braked, thus having their braking system. Some smaller camping trailers and tents are usually unbraked, but you need to check with the manufacturer as not all are equal.

How do I know if my caravan is braked?

To know if your caravan is braked you have to check if it has a lever on the A-frame, and you have to look underneath it to see if there is a cable/rod that runs from the hitch to the coupling head. Almost all caravans are braked. 

What’s the difference between braked and unbraked?

The difference between braked and unbraked is whether the trailers have a braking system. A braked caravan activates brakes through a mechanical link from the tow bar; if the car brakes, it activates the trailer’s brakes. An unbraked trailer means that all the breaking comes from the towing vehicle, thus only from your car.

Can any car tow a caravan?

Not any car can tow a caravan. A caravan with the maximum mass over 100%  of the car’s kerb weight should not be towed by the respective car under any circumstances!

Does my caravan have electric brakes?

Your caravan has electric brakes if it weighs over 750kg and if the GTM is more than 2000kg. If a caravan has electric brakes, it must also have a control unit in the tow vehicle. 

 

References

Towingandtrailers.com

Caravanchronicles.com

Practicalcaravan.com

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