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Everything You Want to Know About RV Supplemental Brake Systems

RV supplemental brake systems

Trying to navigate around a campsite or running to the store for a gallon of milk in your RV is impractical. Most RVers want to get their rigs pulled into their site, set up, and left in the same spot until it’s time to hit the road again. That’s why many RVers choose to bring along a car, truck, or another vehicle on their trips to more easily get from point A to B while their RV stays put.

You need this vehicle to come along with you, and the most practical way of doing that is simply towing it with your RV, but this can be a risky adventure. Jackknifing and general loss of control are all possible when towing a few more thousand pounds behind you. Luckily, for RVers, there are supplemental braking systems available.

Let’s look at what a supplemental RV braking system is, what the benefits of using one are, and the different types of supplemental RV brake systems so you can find the best one for you.

What Are RV Supplemental Brake Systems?

A supplemental RV braking system is an auxiliary system that helps control the vehicle you are towing your vehicle. A supplemental braking system is safe, provides more control for both vehicles, and cuts down wear and tear on your RV. Not to mention, it’s the law in certain states and jurisdictions.

How Does a Supplemental RV Braking System Work

How your supplemental braking system works depends on what type of system you choose. Here’s a look at the most popular options available to RVers.

Portable Pre-Set System

The portable pre-set system is the simplest of all the supplemental RV braking systems. This system is easy to set up, can be used in multiple vehicles, and automatically has a breakaway mode where it will apply brakes to your tow vehicle should it become detached from your RV. The device is placed in the floorboard of your towed vehicle and will depress the brakes when it gets a signal that the RV’s brakes have been pressed.

While these systems are simple and affordable, they can usually only be set up in simple settings, such as light or heavy, which means they won’t brake the towed vehicle in the same proportion you’re braking your RV.

Portable Proportional System

The portable proportional system works similarly to the pre-set system. You install the system within the towed vehicle in the driver’s floorboard to depress the brakes. Instead of using a signal from the RV braking system, the proportional system applies the brakes to the towed vehicle depending on the inertia of your RV. This means the system will brake your towed vehicle in the same proportion your RV is braking, giving you great control of your towed vehicle.

Direct Systems

These systems are more complicated to install but provide what many would consider the most control as a result. Unlike portable systems that go into the towed vehicle’s floorboard, the direct system physically connects to the tow vehicle’s brake lines. This gives it the direct system superior timing and proper braking pressure compared to a portable system. These systems are more expensive than a portable system, and unless you have extensive mechanical knowledge, they will require a professional to install.

Active RV Braking Systems

The active RV brake system is designed to activate your vehicle’s power assist function even while the vehicle is turned off. The active system uses vacuum technology to depress the brakes in the same way you would if you were actually behind the wheel of the towed vehicle.

The previous systems press dead brakes and may cause damage to your braking system if your vehicle contains a continuously active power assist braking system, such as hybrid cars.

This is the best choice for vehicles with continuous power assist brakes. Like a pre-set system, the active braking system does not proportionally brake your towed vehicle with the RV. This leads to less control and possible loss of control if you brake suddenly.

While this is a start to get you familiar with supplemental braking systems, there is still a lot more to them. Visit RV forums or your dealer to find the best system to help keep you and your vehicles safe while on the road.

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