Common Questions About Breakaway Switches

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

cartoonJon is really looking forward to his upcoming vacation as he makes the final preparations for his camper, and decides to skip the breakaway switch in an effort to save time. Jon tells himself that the trailer seems to be secured, so there’s really nothing that can go wrong. He even starts to wonder if the breakaway switch is really all that important since he has never had a problem before. Jon chuckles at the thought of this unnecessary requirement for a trailer and decides to just take off without properly checking it. 114 miles later into Jon’s cross-country trip, the camper becomes loose, disconnects from the hitch, speeds down the steep embankment he just drove up, and smashes into a car at the bottom. All of this could have easily been prevented if Jon really understood the importance of the breakaway switch. To help Jon and anyone else, here are some common questions we receive about this important trailer safety feature.

What Is A Breakaway Switch?

Conntek 10701 (breakaway switch)

A breakaway switch is a small wiring device that recognizes when a trailer has disconnected the hitch and then triggers the brakes on the trailer to lock. This small safety feature can save your trailer from being destroyed as well as help protect other drivers from runaway trailers. Breakaway switches are also mandated under federal traffic safety law when the trailer is equipped with brakes.

How Does It Work?

When a trailer disconnects from the hitch, a pin (often referred to as the plunger) is released. This activates the electric brakes immediately and brings the trailer to a stop. The battery that supplies the power to the brakes may only last for up to 30 minutes, however, this gives the driver enough time to chock the tires.

breakaway switch disconnect

I Accidentally Pulled the Plunger. Will It Still Work If I Put It Back In?

In most cases, this should not be a problem. Some people even recommend testing the breakaway switch system by pulling the plunger out to see if the brakes activate. It may, however, be best to err on the side of caution and replace the breakaway system if you suspect it might not work properly.


Jon’s misfortunes continue when he needs to purchase a RV adapter. Click here to read what happens next!




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Posted in Marine, RV, Safety Tips

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