Supplemental Braking Systems

 

Understanding Auxiliary Braking Systems

Choosing an auxiliary brake system for our toads seems to be almost as challenging as choosing our RV’s. There have been a number of posts by Tiffin Forum members and we seem to all have opinions as to which one is the best.

Braking System Types:

The braking system types are based on the mechanism or process that triggers activation of the toad’s brakes. The three main types are:

  • Surge
    A slide receiver is used for the tow bar. As the motor home slows down, the toad pushes on the slide receiver, activating the brakes.
  • Deceleration
    The toad (or motor home) slows down faster than some predetermined value. A mercury switch, pendulum system, or accelerometers are used to detect the deceleration. Some of these systems require that the motor home’s brake pedal to be depressed also.
  • Pressure applied to motor home’s brake – also sets up the toad brakes at the same time – either thru electrical current or tapping into the motorhome braking system.

Manufacturers Terminology:

  • Invasive:
    Installation of the system requires insertion of a connector in the toads (or coach's) vacuum line, hydraulic line, or air lines (coaches with air brakes.) Invasive will not be used to describe mounting of vacuum pumps, air cylinders or cables.
  • Permanent installation:
    One does not have to remove devices from the toad before driving the toad. Although this does not mean that one cannot move the system to another toad; it does imply more than a casual amount of effort. Conversely, a non-permanent installation implies that part of the system must be removed prior to driving the toad. Non-permanent also implies that the system can be easily moved to another toad.
  • Proportional:
    The toad’s brakes are applied in proportion to the pressure on the coach’s brake pedal.

The intent of this Braking topic is not to favor one system over another but to point out the various types as well as let the reader know a bit about each of the popular ones.

 

Supplemental Braking Systems

The 8 most popular manufacturer brands of supplemental braking systems favored by Tiffin RV owners seem to be these:

  • Blue Ox
    • Apollo
  • Brake Buddy
  • Roadmaster
    • Brakemaster
    • Brakepro
    • Evenbrake
  • M & G Tow Brake
  • Ready Brake
  • SMI
    • Silent Partner
    • FourWire,
    • PlugAndPlay,
    • Stay-IN-Play
    • Air Force One
  • US Gear Unified Tow Brake
  • VIP Tow Brake

 

Apollo By Blue Ox

Deceleration system

Accelerometers are used to detect a decrease in forward momentum. When triggered, an air cylinder extends an arm to apply pressure to the toad’s brake pedal.

Monitoring

Application of the toad’s brakes is signaled (radio) to the coach. The signal indicates the toad’s brake light switch has been activated. The transmitter is wired to the cold side of the brake light switch. The transmitter setup is permanent, in the sense that it is not removed to drive the toad. The transmitter requires a 12-volt DC connector. Since the base unit requires a 12-volt DC connector, the combined systems require two.

There are no adjustments to the system from within the coach

Adjustments to the system are made from within the toad: The sensitivity – how quickly the coach must be stopping before the toad’s brakes are activated – can be adjusted. The amount of pressure applied to the toad’s brake pedal may be adjusted by the RV’r.

The toad’s brakes cannot be applied independently from the coach’s brakes.

This system does not use the toad’s power (vacuum) assist to aid in the application of its brakes.

Is not proportional or invasive

Apollo System uses the toad’s electrical system. The unit is plugged into the 12-volt DC adapter. Note: The alert system also requires a 12-volt connector.

Installation is not permanent. The unit must be removed before the toad can be driven. Although the installation and removal is a simple process, the unit must be stored somewhere while the toad is being driven.

Has a breakaway system

Website: www.blueox.us/Brakes/brakes.htm
Phone: 1-888-425-5382
Warranty: Five years

 

BrakeBuddy

Deceleration system

Accelerometers are used to detect a decrease in forward momentum. When triggered, an air cylinder pushes forward an arm to apply pressure to the toad’s brake pedal.

Monitoring

Application of toad’s brakes is signaled (radio) to the coach. The signal is based on whether or not the air cylinder's arm is extended.

There are no adjustments to the system from within the coach. (similar to Apollo).

Adjustments to the system are made from within the toad: The sensitivity – how quickly the coach must be stopping before the toad’s brakes are activated – can be adjusted. The amount of pressure applied to the toad’s brake pedal can be adjusted by the RV’r.

The toad’s brakes cannot be applied independently from the coach’s brakes.

Does not use the toad’s power (vacuum) assist to aid in the application of its brakes.

Is not proportional nor invasive system

System uses the toad’s electrical system. The unit is plugged into the 12-volt DC adapter.

Installation is not permanent. The unit must be removed before the toad can be driven. Although the installation and removal is a simple process, the unit must be stored somewhere while the toad is being driven.

Has a breakaway system.

Website: brakebuddy.com
Phone: 1-800-470-2287
Warranty: 30-day money back guarantee. 3-year warranty

 

BrakeMaster 9000 & 9100 Series by RoadMaster

Deceleration system

Pressure applied to the coach’s brake pedal causes a proportional amount of pressure to be applied to the toad’s brakes. Air pressure is transmitted from the coach to an air cylinder that is non-permanently mounted in front of the driver’s seat. The air pressure can come from the coach’s airbrake system or, in the case the coach has a hydraulic brakes, from a compressor mounted in the coach. (See below) Note: The toad must have power brakes to use the standard BrakeMaster systems. An optional pressure regulator can be purchased to adapt a non-power brake toad.

Monitoring

Application of the toad’s brakes is signaled (wire umbilical cord) to the coach. The signal indicates that the toad’s brake light switch has been activated.

There are no adjustments to the system from within the coach.

The toad’s brakes cannot be applied independent of the coach’s brakes.

Does not use the toad’s power (vacuum) assist to aid in the application of its brakes.

Brakemaster is proportional and invasive

9000 Series: A hydraulic line must be run from the proportioning valve and tap into the coach’s hydraulic system at one of several possible locations.

9100 Series: For coaches with air brakes, a port on a relay valve near the rear axle is used to tap into the coach’s air brakes. For coaches with air-over-hydraulic systems, a port in the air booster near the coach’s front axle is used to tap into the air system.

Uses the toad’s electrical system. (wiring diagrams seem to indicate that the toad’s battery could receive a charge from the motor home

Is not permanent in the sense defined for this review. An air cylinder must be attached between a mounting post and the toad’s brake pedal. The mounting post is affixed to a circular base plate that is bolted to the floor through hole drilled through the floor panel immediately in front of the driver’s seat when in its furthest back position. Seat adapter brackets are available for some vehicles. The seat adapter replaces the floor base plate and is secured by the seat channel bolts. In addition, the 9000 series requires the installation of an air compressor on the coach in “clean, dry place.” A storage bay is recommended. Also, a proportioning valve must be mounted on the chassis.

Brakemasters’ breakaway system requires the mounting of an air tank (usually under the hood). The air tank should be drained regularly to prevent moisture buildup.

Website: www.roadmasterinc.com/products/braking/brakemaster/brake_m.html.
Phone:1-800-669-9690
Warranty: One year

 

BrakePro by Roadmaster

Roadmaster has stopped manufacturing BrakePro, however they are producing a similar system, the new system is called Even Brake. A review of the Even Brake system can be found alphabetically below. Since BrakePro can still be purchased at discount prices, it is included.

Deceleration system

Accelerometer(s) are used to detect a decrease in forward momentum. When activated, an air cylinder pushes forward an arm to apply pressure to the toad’s brakes. Based on rate of deceleration, software determines how much pressure, up to a user determined maximum, is used to apply the brakes.

Monitoring

Application of the toad’s brakes is signaled (radio) to the coach. The signal is based on whether or not the cylinder’s arm is extended.

There are no adjustments to the system from within the coach.

Adjustments to the system are from within the toad: The sensitivity – how quickly the coach must be stopping before the toad’s brakes are activated – can be adjusted. The amount of pressure applied to the toad’s brake pedal can be adjusted by the RV’r.

The toad’s brakes cannot be applied independently from the coach’s brakes.

Does not use the toad’s power (vacuum) assist to aid in the application of its brakes.

Is proportional: This is somewhat different from that which is usually described as proportional. The proportionality is based on the rate of deceleration as opposed to the amount of pressure on the coach’s brake pedal. In addition, the user determines a threshold, which must be met before the toad’s brakes are applied. And, finally, the user determines the maximum amount of pressure.

BrakePro is not an invasive system.

This system uses the toad’s electrical system. Note: A 20-amp DC connector is required. Not all cars provide such a connector; many have only 15-amp connectors. Roadmaster sells a battery-direct 20-amp DC connector that is easy to install.

Installation is not permanent. The unit must be removed before the toad can be driven. Although the installation and removal is a simple process, the unit must be stored somewhere while the toad is being driven.

Has a breakaway system

Website: No longer exists.
Phone: 1-800-669-9690
Warranty: One year

 

Even Brake by Roadmaster

Deceleration system

Accelerometer(s) are used to detect a decrease in forward momentum. When activated, an air cylinder pushes forward an arm to apply pressure to the toad’s brakes. Based on rate of deceleration, software determines how much pressure, up to a user-determined maximum, is used to apply the brakes.

Monitoring

Application of the toad’s brakes is signaled (radio) to the coach. The signal indicates that the toad’s brake light switch has been activated. Even Brake also monitors the toad’s battery. (See below.) The transmitter setup is permanent, in the sense that it is not removed to drive the toad.

There are no adjustments to the system from within the coach

Adjustments to the system from within the toad: The sensitivity – how quickly the coach must be stopping before the toad’s brakes are activated – can be adjusted. The amount of pressure applied to the toad’s brake pedal can be adjusted.

The toad’s brakes cannot be applied independently from the coach’s brakes.

Does not use the toad’s power (vacuum) assist to aid in the application of its brakes.

Even Brake is proportional: This is somewhat different from that which is usually described as proportional. The proportionality is based on the rate of deceleration as opposed to the amount of pressure on the coach’s brake pedal. In addition, the user determines a threshold, which must be met before the toad’s brakes are applied. And, finally, the user determines the maximum amount of pressure. Maximum pressure is use for emergency stops.

This is not an invasive system.

System uses the toad’s electrical system. The Even Brake monitors the toad’s battery and will transmit a signal to a monitor in the motorhome to indicate a low battery condition. If the battery’s voltage drops “too low,” the Even Brake cuts power to itself and retains only emergency braking function.

Installation is not permanent. The unit must be removed before the toad can be driven. Although the installation and removal is a simple process, the unit must be stored somewhere while the toad is being driven.

Has a breakaway system.

Website: www.roadmasterinc.com/products/braking/even_brake.html
Phone: 1-800-669-9690
Warranty: One year – The warranty is extended to two years if Roadmaster receives the product registration card within 20 days of purchase.

 

M & G Tow Brake

Deceleration System

Pressure applied to the coach’s brake pedal causes a proportional amount of pressure to be applied to the toad’s brakes. Air pressure is transmitted from the coach to an air-over-hydraulic cylinder inserted between the toad’s vacuum booster and master cylinder. The air pressure can come from the coach’s airbrake system or, in the event that the coach has a hydraulic brake system, from a compressor attached to the coach. (I’ll describe this process later.) Note: The toad must have power brakes and some vehicles with a certain type of antilock brakes cannot be fitted with this system. Contact the company to determine if your toad can be fitted.

Monitoring system

M&G does not offer a monitoring system but a third party is developing one at the present time.

There are no adjustments to the system from within the coach nor from within the toad:

The toad’s brakes cannot be applied independent of the coach’s brakes.

Does not use the toad’s power (vacuum) assist to aid in the application of its brakes however the M & G tow brake is its own power brakes. No pressure is applied to the toad’s brake pedal or brake arm.

M & G is a proportional is an invasive system. A T-connector is inserted into the coach’s existing air system at a rear relay valve (for RV’s with airbrakes) or a T-connector is inserted into the coach’s hydraulic lines (for RV’s with hydraulic brakes). In addition, an air cylinder is inserted between the toad’s vacuum booster and master cylinder.

M & G doesn’t use toad’s electrical system.

Permanent Installation (as described above). In addition, for coaches with hydraulic brakes, a tray consisting of an air compressor, air storage tank, pressure switch, and proportioning valve is secured to the coach’s frame or cross member. The coach’s hydraulic system is connected to the proportioning valve by inserting a T-connector between the flexible brake line and the steel line. An air hose is routed from the proportioning valve to the rear of the coach. For RV’s with airbrakes, an air hose is routed from a rear relay valve to the rear of the coach.

Has a breakaway system which is purchased and installed separately. The breakaway system requires the installation of an air tank, diverter valve and trip switch on the toad. The air tank is pressurized at the start of each day’s drive by fully applying the coach’s brakes for one minute.

Website: m-gengineering.com
Phone: 1-800-817-7698
Warranty: Three years (air compressor and pressure switch for coaches with hydraulic brakes – two years.)

 

ReadyBrake

Is a Surge system

A hydraulic system on the slide receiver uses a cable to pull on the arm of the toad’s brake pedal. A factory set threshold is used to prevent application of the toad’s brakes on minor pressure against the slide form the toad.

Monitoring

Application of toad’s brakes is signaled to the coach. There are two options to choose from. Their older system uses a wire from the toad to the RV; their newer version is wireless. The alert systems are wired to the cold side of the toad's brake light switch.

There are no adjustments to the system from within the coach nor from the toad.

The toad’s brakes cannot be applied independently from the coach’s brakes.

ReadyBrake does not use the toad’s power (vacuum) assist to aid in the application of its brakes.

It is a proportional system

It is not an invasive system, but requires the installation of a pulley on the toad’s firewall.

System does not use the toad’s electrical system.

Installation is permanent.

Has a breakaway system.

Website: readybrake.com
Phone: 1-800-933-3372
Warranty: One year

 

SMI

SMI makes four supplementary brake systems: SilentPartner, FourWire, PlugAndPlay, and Stay-IN-Play. Describing the systems is more complex than that because a Stay-IN-Play variation can be applied to the SilentPartner and FourWire systems.

Deceleration system

A mercury switch, located in the coach (SilentPartner and FourWire) or in the toad (PlugAndPlay and Stay-IN-Play), is used to detect a decrease in forward momentum. (Note: the SilentPartner may use accelerometers instead of a mercury switch.) In addition to a decrease in forward momentum, the coach’s brake lights must be on (from pressing the coach’s brake pedal). When activated, a vacuum operated arm applies pressure to the brake pedal arm. The vacuum system also is applied to the toad’s power (vacuum) assist unit. The Stay-IN-Play system uses a vacuum cylinder ‘permanently’ attached to the brake arm. It is this part of the system that can be used by the SilentPartner and FourWire systems and eliminates the need to store the vacuum arm before driving the toad.

Monitoring

Application of toad’s brakes is signaled (radio – except FourWire system which uses wires between coach and toad) to the coach. The signal indicates that toad's brake light switch has been activated.

Adjustments to the system from within the coach: With the SilentPartner and FourWire systems, the sensitivity – how quickly the coach must be stopping before the toad’s brakes are activated – can be adjusted. The amount of braking cannot be adjusted in the coach. With the SilentPartner, you can select between ‘Latched’ and ‘Real-Time’ modes. The toad’s brakes are applied the same in both modes. In ‘Latched’ mode, the toad’s brakes stay on "as long as the coach's brakes are on, regardless of the inertia." When in ‘Real-Time’ mode, the toad’s brakes are released when the forward momentum is sufficiently reduced.

Adjustments to the system from within the toad: With the PlugAndPlay system, the sensitivity – how quickly the coach must be stopping before the toad’s brakes are activated – can be adjusted. The amount of braking can be adjusted for all four units.

The toad’s brakes can be applied independent of the coach’s brakes. (SilentPartner and FourWire systems only)

All systems use the toad’s power (vacuum) assisted brakes.

SMI is not proportional.

Note 1: A misconception exists that if a system uses the toad’s vacuum system, then it must be proportional. That is not necessarily true. With the SMI systems, a fixed amount of vacuum is used; the amount of braking is constant.

Note 2: With the Stay-IN-Play variation, the brakes in the towed vehicle are applied progressively harder in a panic stop. The longer you are in the panic, the harder the towed vehicle brakes are applied

All four systems are invasive. A T-connector and check valve are inserted into the toad’s vacuum system

SMI uses the toad’s electrical system.

The connection to the toad’s vacuum system is permanently installed. Without the Stay-IN-Play variation, part of the systems must be removed and stored before driving the toad.

Has a breakaway system.

Website: smibrake.com
Phone: 1-800-893-3763
Warranty: Five years (1st year company pays freight both ways. Years 2 and 3, customer pays inbound freight. Years 4 and 5, customer pays freight both ways and the company reserves the right to charge for labor only, depending on signs of abuse (part are still covered, regardless).

 

US Gear Unified Tow Brake

Deceleration

US Gear uses a Deceleration system (combined with coach brakes). It is a either the motor home’s brake light switch or accelerometers detecting a decrease in forward momentum that triggers the application of the toad’s brakes. In either event, both are involved. When triggered, accelerometers and software in the coach are used to determine how much pressure should be applied to the toad’s brakes. The actual application of the toad’s brakes is affected with a push/pull cable driven by an electric solenoid. The system also uses a vacuum pump to enable the toad’s power (vacuum) assist system.

Monitoring

Application of the toad’s brakes is signaled (wire umbilical cord between motor home and toad) to the coach. The signal originates from a small power module in the toad.

Adjustments to the system from within the coach: The braking force of the toad’s brakes relative to that of the motor home’s brakes can be adjusted.

Adjustments to the system from within the toad: 'Tweaking' of the solenoid is done when the system is first installed.

The toad’s brakes can be applied independent of the coach’s brakes.

Uses the toad’s power (vacuum) assist system.

Is proportional. Note: The proportionality is to the deceleration rate of the coach instead of the pressure on the coach's brake pedal.

Is invasive. A T-connector and check valve are inserted into the toad’s vacuum system

Uses the toad’s electrical system. The toad's battery is charged by the coach's alternator using a line in the wire umbilical cord between the coach and the toad.

Permanent installation. A vacuum pump is mounted in the toad’s engine compartment. A T-connector and a check valve are installed in the toad’s vacuum line. A pulley is attached to the inside firewall. A solenoid is mounted inside the toad.

Has a breakaway system.

Website: www.usgear.cc/unified_tow_brake.htm
Phone: 1-800-874-3271
Warranty: One year

 

VIP Tow Brakes

Deceleration System

A mercury switch, located in the coach, is used to detect a decrease in forward momentum. In addition to a decrease in forward momentum, the coach’s brake light must be on (from pressing the pedal). When activated, a high-speed electric actuator applies pressure to the toad’s brake pedal arm.

Monitoring

Application of the toad’s brakes is signaled (wire between coach and toad) to the coach.

Adjustments to the system from within the coach: The sensitivity – how quickly the coach must be stopping before the toad’s brakes are activated – can be adjusted. Automatic braking can be turned off.

Adjustments to the system from within the toad: The amount of force applied to the toad’s brake pedal arm is set with a pressure regulator on the actuator assembly.

The toad’s brakes can be applied independent of the coach’s brakes.

Does not use the toad’s power (vacuum) assist to aid in the application of brakes.

Is not proportional nor invasive.

Uses the toad’s electrical system. The toad’s battery receives a trickle charge from the coach’s electrical system.

Installation is not permanent (as I have defined permanent). A bracket is mounted to the floorboard of the toad and to the brake pedal arm. The actuator is connected between these two brackets when towing. The actuator must be removed and stored from driving. The process involves removing a couple of pins. In addition, there is a one-time wiring installation. The controller in the coach and the actuator communicate through a wire – wire form front of coach to rear, a wire from the actuator to front of toad, and a jumper between them when towing.

Has a breakaway system.

Website: VIP Tow Brake
Phone: 1-800-422-4663 ext 847 (message for callback)
Direct: 734-516-2056
Warranty: Ten years

Source of a good portion of this topic was taken from “Tom” on RV forum. He did a great job describing the various systems.

 

Submitted by Mike Sundberg - 3/28/06