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Can You Tow a Trailer Without a Breakaway Switch?

When it comes to safety and towing a trailer, you want as much redundancy as possible just in case something goes wrong. If not, you could find yourself in a very dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation.

This is where a breakaway switch may come in. So is it possible for you to tow a trailer without a breakaway switch? Let’s take a closer look!

What Is a Breakaway Switch?

A breakaway switch is a safety mechanism that activates should the trailer and tow vehicle separate from one another. If this were to occur, the breakaway switch system would immediately activate the trailer’s braking system.

This limits the potential of the trailer continuing to roll out of control and potentially causing tremendous damage to the trailer and anyone or anything in its path.

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How Does a Breakaway Switch Work?

A breakaway switch system connects to the tow vehicle and trailer being towed. Should the trailer and tow vehicle disconnect from each other, a pin in the breakaway switch will also disconnect. This immediately activates the trailer’s braking system, and the trailer will skid to a stop.

The brakes will remain locked until you replace the pin in the breakaway switch. You may need to back up slightly to get the brakes to release. In addition, you should make sure to leave the breakaway switch plugged in when parked. It shouldn’t be used as an emergency brake when a trailer is parked. This can cause permanent damage to the trailer’s braking system.

Where Do You Put a Breakaway Switch on a Trailer?

The breakaway switch typically mounts near the coupler so it can easily attach to a tow vehicle. It will need to connect to your trailer’s 12-volt battery, so putting it close to the battery makes it easy to connect to the power source. Most manufacturers install breakaway switches between the trailer connector and the battery box.

You must get a solid connection when connecting your breakaway switch to your tow vehicle. Should your tow vehicle and trailer separate from one another, you want to ensure that the breakaway switch does its job. Connecting the breakaway switch to a bumper is a bad idea because there is a chance your bumper could detach with your trailer, especially on bumper-pull trailers.

We recommend connecting your breakaway switch to the frame of your tow vehicle if possible.

Can You Tow a Trailer Without a Breakaway Switch?

You can tow a trailer without a breakaway switch, but when they’re required typically varies by state. You’ll want to check with your state and where you plan to travel to verify whether a breakaway switch is required or not. Many require trailers over a specific weight or trailer type to have a functioning breakaway switch.

The breakaway switch is there to keep you and others safe. It’s a good idea to have and use a breakaway switch, whether required or not. 

How Much Weight Can You Tow Without Trailer Brakes?

Like many other highway laws, the laws regarding how much weight you can tow without trailer brakes will vary from state to state.

However, most states typically allow vehicles to tow trailers up to 3,000 pounds without requiring trailer brakes. Some states, like California, require trailer brakes on trailers exceeding 1,500 pounds.

If you’re planning to tow a trailer, you’ll want to make sure you know the rules and regulations for your specific state and anywhere you plan to travel with it. In addition, if you’re towing a trailer without trailer brakes, you’ll want to be mindful of how much weight you’re putting on it. You don’t want to exceed these limits or overload your trailer. 

Do Trailer Brakes Increase Towing Capacity?

It’s important to understand that manufacturers set towing capacity from the factory. The towing capacity they brag about is the maximum weight the vehicle can legally and safely tow. Exceeding a vehicle’s towing capacity can increase wear and tear on a vehicle and create unsafe towing conditions.

However, trailer brakes increase the weight you can put on a trailer and still safely tow it. They make it easier to stop and control while you’re pulling it. In general, you want a trailer to have trailer brakes, especially if you’re towing thousands of pounds. Not only is it safer and easier on your tow vehicle, but it can also help you to make sure you meet any towing requirements set by the state.

Do I Need a Breakaway Switch? 

Whether you need a breakaway switch or not will greatly depend on the type and weight of the trailer you’re towing and where you’re towing it. In general, a breakaway switch is a useful safety feature that you hope never to use. However, if you have to use it, you will be glad you have it.

Breakaway switches help keep you and others on the road safer. Has a breakaway switch ever helped you to avoid a disaster?

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