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Understanding Your Trailer's Breakaway Switch and Battery

If you have a trailer with brakes, it will be equipped with a breakaway switch. When it comes to the breakaway switch on your trailer, it's essential to understand its intended use and the consequences of misusing it. There are some common misconceptions about breakaway batteries but it's very important to use them properly.

Diagram showing what a breakaway switch and battery are and where they are located on the trailer

It's vital to understand that the breakaway switch is only designed to be used in emergencies. If your trailer were to unexpectedly detach from your tow vehicle, the switch would activate, pulling a small clip and engaging the trailer’s brakes. The braking slows the trailer down, preventing it from becoming a dangerous hazard on the road. However, many people mistakenly believe that the breakaway switch can be used as a parking brake or to deter theft when unhitched. This is not the case.

When the switch is activated, it's connected to and powered by a small battery. Leaving the switch activated for an extended period can quickly drain the battery, causing potential damage. If you have a trailer with a primary battery, it can also be drained, leaving you with a dead battery when you need it most.

It's important to test your breakaway switch regularly to ensure that it is functioning as intended. Testing the switch is incredibly simple. All you need to do is unplug your trailer from your tow vehicle and pull out the breakaway switch pin. This action should activate the brakes on your trailer. You may need to press the brake pedal on your tow vehicle to ensure that the brakes on the trailer engage fully.

Understanding the proper use of your breakaway switch and battery is essential to ensure the safety and reliability of your trailer. Using the switch improperly can cause damage to the battery or drain the primary battery (if equipped) and potentially damage your trailer. Testing your switch regularly is crucial to ensure that your trailer is always ready for the unexpected. The next time you unhook your trailer, resist the temptation to use the breakaway switch as a makeshift parking brake or theft deterrent and keep your battery charged and maintained properly.


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