Maintain Trailer Breakaway Systems for Safe Hauling

Emergency breakaway systems lock trailer brakes automatically if the trailer becomes disconnected from the tow vehicle. Maintaining this equipment is an aspect of trailer maintenance you don't want to overlook, although hopefully you'll never need to use it.

"Be a good steward--don't take chances with the safety and welfare of your precious cargo," said Mark Cole, managing member for USRider, a nationwide roadside assistance program for equestrians, which provides emergency road service to its members in the continental United States, Canada, and Alaska.

To ensure your breakaway system is in good working order, USRider offers the following safety tips:

  • Have a qualified mechanic test the system for proper operation annually.
  • Have your battery load tested to check the current in the battery. A qualified trailer mechanic or personnel at most auto parts stores can do this test. Replace old and weak batteries.
  • Regularly inspect the cable and switch for the breakaway system. Replace the cable if it is showing signs of wear.
  • Keep the top of the battery and the battery terminals clean. A small wire brush and dielectric grease will help maintain the electrical connection. The battery should be removed from the trailer when the trailer is stored or not used for extended periods. If possible, store the battery in a warm area away from children.
  • Be sure that the proper battery is being used for your breakaway system. Consult your owner's manual, or check with the trailer manufacturer.
  • If your battery has removable cell caps, maintain acid levels by adding distilled water. Take care when adding water. Be sure to wear protective eyewear and do not overfill.
  • Maintain charge--do not allow a battery to remain discharged for extended periods. 12 volt batteries are considered totally discharged below 11.9 volts. Use a digital voltmeter to check.

To help maintain a battery's charge, USRider highly recommends a built-in battery charger. These systems can be installed on your tow vehicle to charge your battery every time you tow. For rigs that are used infrequently, they recommend using a charging system that provides a "float" charge for extended times when your trailer is not in use.

"For frequent travelers, we especially like breakaway battery systems with built-in chargers and battery status LEDs," said Cole.

In addition to maintaining your breakaway battery, be sure to keep your trailer's brake and electrical system in good condition as well.

For additional trailer safety information, visit the Equine Travel Safety Area at  

USRider provides roadside assistance and towing services along with other travel-related benefits to its members through the Equestrian Motor Plan. It includes standard features such as flat-tire repair, battery assistance, and lockout services, plus towing up to 100 miles and roadside repairs for tow vehicles and trailers with horses, emergency stabling, veterinary referrals, and more.

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