Breakaway cables Q&A

May 28, 2023 | Uncategorized

This Q&A guide answers the popular question: What are breakaway cables and what are they used for?

Q: What are breakaway cables?
A: A breakaway cable is a safety cable that attaches the brake system on a trailer to the back of your tow vehicle. 

Q: What are breakaway cables used for?
A: Breakaway cables are used to bring your trailer to a safe spot if it becomes detached from the tow vehicle.

Q: How does the breakaway cable work?
A: If the trailer unhooks from the tow vehicle, the pin pulls out from the box, immediately activating the trailer brakes much like an emergency brake. This may prevent your trailer from running through your tow vehicle, driving off a cliff, or causing a hazard to other drivers on the road.

Q: Where are the breakaway cables attached?
A: Your breakaway cable attaches to the brake system on your trailer and then attaches to the back of your tow vehicle. You must have fully operational electric brakes for the breakaway cable to work properly. The battery must be charged and the switch cable attached to the vehicle for the system to operate properly.

Q: How to attach a breakaway cable?
A: The breakaway system stops your trailer in the event of a hitch failure, so you shouldn’t attach it to any part of the receiver hitch. Your cable should be attached to the frame of your tow vehicle. Many trailer owners attach their breakaway cables to their safety chain hooks or a ball mount to keep them out of the way, but those locations are neither legal nor safe.

Q: How to test breakaway chains?

  1. Pull the pin out from the breakaway switch
  2. Brakes should engage
  3. Drive the tow vehicle forward slightly to be sure the brakes have locked

Q: Are breakaway cables required by law?
A: Many states require some sort of breakaway kit on your trailer if your trailer – whether that be a breakaway cable if your trailer has electric brakes or breakaway chains. Check with your local Department of Transportation rules to see what is required in the states where you are towing. In states where breakaway kits are required, law enforcement may ask to test your system to make sure it works properly.

Q: Are breakaway chains and cables the same thing?
A: No. Breakaway chains are a safety measure that all trailers come equipped with. Breakaway cables are an extra safety measure that trailers with electric brakes should use. If your trailer becomes unattached from your tow vehicle and the breakaway chains catch it – there are still concerns about the trailer gaining speed, swaying side to side, and hitting the back of your tow vehicle if it becomes out of control. 

Q: Can all trailers get a breakaway cable kit?
A: No. A breakaway cable system only works on trailers with electric brakes.

Q: Where can I find more trailer towing safety tips?
A: BlueSwift Axles provides a large library of educational resources for all things trailers, trailer axles, and towing safety. Read the articles below to learn more!