Bringing a second vehicle in one of your camping trips is an excellent decision. Through this, you can go to other places near the campsite without using your motorhome as the main vehicle. You can bring your second vehicle safely only if you have the best towed vehicle braking system installed in both of your vehicles.
Why then, do you need to have this device installed before you need to go? This is exactly what this article is about. If you are deciding to purchase one, you need to learn more about each brand’s pros and cons before you pay for it. This way, you can fully utilize the potential of your chosen brand without sacrificing the quality of the performance of either your motorhome and your towed vehicle.
If you want to know more about the supplementary braking system and how to use them, this is definitely the perfect place to learn more about these devices. We’ve also added our first-hand towed vehicle braking system reviews to give you more insight into the products.
Table of Contents
- 7 Best Towed Vehicle Braking System Reviews 2020
- 1. Roadmaster 8700 Invisibrake Hidden Power Braking System
- 2. Blue Ox BRK2019 Patriot 3 Brake System
- 3. SMI 99251 Tow Brake System
- 4. Demco 9599006 Stay-in-Play Duo Tow Braking System
- 5. Hopkins Mfg Corp Corp 39530 Brakebuddy Stealth
- 6. Blue Ox BRK2016 Patriot Ii Braking System
- 7. Roadmaster 9160 Brakemaster Towed Car Braking System
- What to Look for When Buying a Towed Vehicle Braking System
- Other Important Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
7 Best Towed Vehicle Braking System Reviews 2020
1. Roadmaster 8700 Invisibrake Hidden Power Braking System
My number one priority before heading out on the road is my family’s safety. I looked for the best supplemental braking system to match our motorhome and the Wrangler. After comparing options online, my wife and I were convinced that the Invisibrake, made by the leading manufacturer of tow bars and suspension (Roadmaster) will be perfect.
The unit is so small that it did not take a lot of space under the driver’s seat. Basically, the Invisibrake creates both air and vacuum which fully energize my towed vehicle’s brakes. For the installation, I referred to the printed instructions to ensure that we know all the cautions and warnings. I couldn’t believe how straightforward the adjustment process was. No need for an on and off switch!
This is also equipped with a LED monitor which I attached to the dash. I drilled a hole and connected the audio signal circuit board to the LED for the audio alert and we’re all set. So we drove around a little bit and tried to get used to how the brakes felt and my wife confirmed the braking between the two vehicles. And you bet, we are very satisfied!
The progressive braking system is so good that if I need to stop immediately, it engages the brake pedal and rapidly ramps up the braking. It’s cool that we don’t have to worry about tow car skidding on wet roads anymore. Another great feature is, while it’s towing, the battery is being charged! Awesome right?
One thing I didn’t like about this Roadmaster Invisibrake braking system was when the LED monitor did not light up on our first try. I thought it was not functioning then I found the trick. I just have to adjust the braking pressure for it to light up. Whew!
2. Blue Ox BRK2019 Patriot 3 Brake System
Since we are a growing family, we needed a reliable braking system for our camper and truck. I was eyeing for the original Patriot braking system however, it was not available. So we got this Blue Ox BRK2019 Patriot 3 as a replacement. It came in a smaller case than the original which is pretty convenient to handle and easy to store. It is surprisingly lightweight, making it easy to carry between our vehicles.
I like that this one is electric, no need for a pump or hoses that could leak. I must say this is a very synchronized and self-contained brake system. Another good thing is, it only took 1-2 seconds for a full brake when I drove around the neighborhood for a test. Not only that but it also consistently applies the brakes when I’m trying to slow down to a stop, instead of suddenly jolting my truck which could cause extensive damage to the brakes. This is important for me since I have 3 kids on board and I really want to have a safe, kid-friendly trip all the time. Everyone should be safe and comfortable as possible to enjoy the outdoors.
The coolest thing here is the in-coach remote which allows adjustable braking response. It has a wireless radio frequency range up to 53 feet and it responds really fast. I noticed that I can also apply brakes for the camper using the remote. In addition to that, it has a well built-in supercapacitor that provides backup power and stores more energy. This is a plus because it recharges faster than my extra battery.
One drawback is the LED monitor which is not bright enough, it is hard to see during the day. I had to place a cover above to minimize the glare so I could see the monitor properly.
3. SMI 99251 Tow Brake System
I recently got this SMI Stay In Play Duo braking system for our travel trailer and RAM 1500. I love that this is automatic and proportional. I’ve read that by far, this is the only brake system which features an out of the way, soft-pedal proportional braking design. There is no need to remove or to reset the brake system, it’s a one-time set up which is very convenient for me.
I drove around for a few miles and it was unbelievable! The stop was so smooth and the brake pedal got soft too. Thanks to the SMI braking system which energizes the RAM’s power brakes without the engine running. I think I only applied 10 pounds of pressure for that gentle stop. Also, I like that it uses hydraulic brakes which are pretty reliable and consistent because liquids are not compressible during the transfer of pressure. Compared to the old brake system I used, the DUO brakes faster. This is really critical in a panic stop and indeed vital for the safety of my family.
Another important aspect of the DUO is the built-in safety feature- the coach notification. It lets me know when the system itself is activated, regardless of whether the truck’s brake pedal is depressed. Whenever my truck’s brake light goes on or off, the notification light does too. This makes it easy for me to tell whether the truck’s brake pedal is depressed. It’s really nice that the breakaway system ensures that my car comes to a safe stop if it detaches from the RV while we’re on the road or towing.
The only thing I didn’t like is the installation, it took me several hours to completely install the system.
4. Demco 9599006 Stay-in-Play Duo Tow Braking System
My family often travels from state to state and having several kids while traveling becomes chaotic. Most of the time, they tend to forget that they are inside a moving vehicle. So my wife and I agreed to purchase a trustworthy braking system to have a safe and smooth adventure. We intend to keep our RV for a long time so we chose the Stay-in-Play Duo braking system from Demco.
I had the little unit installed under the passenger seat and mounted the main operating unit carefully under the hood to hide it. The best thing here is, the system is not complicated and it is all automatic. It works perfectly with vacuum brakes.
Now, here comes the fun part. I had my wife drive it in our district to ensure that everything is all set. The LED monitor which we mounted on the dash made it easier for her to power up the system and make some adjustments. It was amazing that there are no delays on brakes. Then it was my turn. I tried panic stops several times and it was effortless! My kids are not bothered at all! No more spontaneous brake activation on bumpy roads or grades! I guarantee this braking system would satisfy every RV owner because of its consistency. By the way, it uses hydraulic brakes which means it would last longer.
Another distinctive feature is the coach notification system. It allows us to see whether the brake is on or not. If it is lit, then that confirms that the brake is on.
The only downside is the installation which took two hours at most. I am very handy when it comes to automotive so if you are a DIYer or not mechanically inclined, I strongly suggest getting it done by a professional.
5. Hopkins Mfg Corp Corp 39530 Brakebuddy Stealth
RVing for several years is quite an adventure for our family. My wife and I always think through the safety and comfort of our kids before we set off on a camping trip. Last year we invested in a very solid braking system made by Hopkins, the 39530 Brakebuddy Stealth.
I have noticed that the braking is quite consistent compared to the old system. I’m glad that with this, the trailer’s brake will not be strained and we get to keep it longer. Another great feature is I can tune or adjust the power output via the sensitivity sensor. If it’s set to the low setting, it only responds if I step on the gas. And on a high setting, even if I just tap it a little, the trailer’s brakes would then engage. In short, Level 1 has the least sensitivity which is best for lighter loads and Level 7 is for tough braking and heavier loads. I’m pretty sure that our family trips will be smooth sailing.
Aside from that, it is also equipped with a digital display. This one is useful because it shows a straightforward braking action of our car such as the power and sensitivity level. We haven’t encountered any errors like SC (short circuit) though.
The installation took us five to six hours because the trailer and our towed vehicle had to be wired. The operating system is cabled, too. This could be a relatively small disadvantage on RV owners who have little knowledge or training. I had the main unit installed in the driver’s seat of our car, hidden from the kids. It’s nice that the all in one patent pending adapter is smaller compared to the conventional ones which are too bulky. I’m surprised that it’s barely noticeable in front of our cars’ grille.
6. Blue Ox BRK2016 Patriot Ii Braking System
I have been using this Blue Ox braking system on our motorhome and several trucks for three years. This is more compact and pretty sleek, unlike the predecessor. The built-in carrying handle makes it easy for me to move it between vehicles.
It was in sync, the same amount of brake I applied on my RV matches the same amount of pressure on my towed vehicle due to the faster actuator and the internal sensor. I love how this major safety upgrade reduces excessive shock and wear on the towing system. The smooth mechanism also avoids strain on my trailer’s brake which is a nice touch. I remember setting it up the first time and it was such a breeze. Since it is portable I simply placed it on the driver’s side floor, opened the brake claw, and secured it on the brake pedal. A green indicator light was lit when the power cord was plugged in. There were no adjustments needed on my Cherokee compared to our older system which took a day to install.
Another great feature is the reliable coach monitor where I easily adjust the sensitivity settings. I securely mounted it near my steering wheel for an easy reach. To change the brake force manually, I simply press a button. How convenient! The wireless remote still works on changing the backlight of the screen. Not only that, but it also has an alert system that produces an audible warning and displays a message on the screen in breakaway situations. So far, we never had a problem during vacation. I really appreciate how the built-in supercapacitor worked on our vehicles.
The only thing I didn’t like is the rubber stand for the controller which no longer holds. I created a custom base for it since I’m pretty handy in the garage, but not everyone can do this, so I hope the manufacturer can improve this.
7. Roadmaster 9160 Brakemaster Towed Car Braking System
My kids love how smooth our ride was on our recent adventure in the Great Lakes. Thanks to the Brakemaster towed car braking system we all got home in one piece!
The installation was pretty easy and did not take all afternoon compared to other brake systems. I remember, we ran a test to see if it will bring our towed vehicle to a controlled stop. My son drove it in our driveway while I safely separated our Jeep off the trailer and man it did work!
With the recent trip, there really was no false braking. I love that the brakes are real-time especially on wet roads and sudden stops. It gives me peace of mind, especially whenever my son or my wife drives our RV. It is really nice that the system only activates when brakes are applied on the RV.
Another likable thing about this is I could easily remove and reconnect the whole cylinder whenever I need to use the car. It saved us time when we got to the camping ground and my wife had to shop for groceries. It came out quickly compared to other permanent systems we had. The actuator is also lightweight and compact, it did not take too much space on the driver’s seat.
Everyone’s favourite part is the monitor alert. The LED monitor was connected to our towed vehicle’s brake light switch and with this, whenever our vehicle’s brake light goes on or off, the notification light does the same thing. This is essential for us because it alerts us whether the Jeep’s brake pedal is being pressed or not.
The only thing I didn’t like is the seat adapter. It is not compatible with my vehicle so I had to purchase one.
What to Look for When Buying a Towed Vehicle Braking System
For those who are completely new to motorhomes and towing, the term supplemental braking system might sound a little confusing. If you have no idea what it is, the best way to know it is by doing research. This will save you time and money and prevent your vehicle from wear and tear.
First, you need to know the different types of auxiliary braking systems. There are three different braking systems that can be used for your towed vehicle. These are:
- Proportional. This particular braking system works together with the motorhome’s vehicle. If you step on the brakes lightly or really hard, the supplemental brakes will do the same. This is typically activated using an accelerometer or a sensor. This sensor feels how fast your RV or motorhome is decelerating. The information is then sent to the braking system which mimics the rate of deceleration the towing vehicle is making. The best thing about proportional braking systems is once it is installed, you don’t need to adjust it regularly anymore. However, its major drawback is that it doesn’t work well with hybrid or power-assisted braking systems.
- Direct. While the proportional braking system guesses or estimates the deceleration of the motorhome, this one matches it. This is due to the fact that it is directly connected to the brake of the vehicle that you are towing. One of the advantages of using a direct braking system is that you won’t experience any under-braking or over-braking. However, before deciding on installing a direct braking system, you have to check whether your warranty allows it or not. Also, this type of braking system is quite difficult to install, that’s why you need the help of a professional mechanic to achieve it.
- Progressive. These types of tow vehicle brake systems work only if the brakes of the towed vehicle are engaged. The auxiliary braking system will only function if it detects that the motorhome’s brakes are activated. The longer you step on the brakes, the longer it will sustain the auxiliary brakes. The sensors will do so up to a certain point in time. This is done in order to prevent the auxiliary brakes from overheating. The disadvantage of using this towed vehicle brake system is that it only relies on the signal provided by the main brakes. This is actually inaccurate because it estimates or calculates the deceleration of the motorhome. In addition, this can cause damage to the towing vehicle in the long run.
Here are some of the features that you should look into when purchasing RV toad braking systems:
- Permanent. The permanent supplemental braking system is hard-wired to the vehicle that you are towing. In some instances, it is also hard-wired to the motorhome. This can be installed in an out-of-the-way where it won’t be engaged much once you drive away. Because this particular braking system needs to be connected to a mechanical and electrical system, the cost for installing this is quite high. If you decide to mount this braking system, you have to know that one of the major drawbacks is that it is permanently stuck in the vehicle. So if you sell your car or buy a new one, you need to remove and reinstall it anew.
- Portable. If you have more than one car in your possession, it is advisable that you use a portable auxiliary braking system. This type of braking system can be removed at any time. The advantage of using this type of supplemental braking system is that you don’t need to buy one if you get a new toad. It is easy to install and uninstall, so if you ever need to sell your towed vehicle, you will have an easy time doing so. One of the major hassles of getting a portable supplemental braking system is that it can easily get damaged when moved a lot. This one doesn’t come cheap so it’s really frustrating if you find out in the middle of nowhere that you have to buy another one when it is damaged.
- LED Display. Some auxiliary braking systems have an LED display. This feature informs the driver of the motorhome about important information such as diagnostic tools. Other important data such as output voltage, output current, and warning systems alerts will give you knowledge about the auxiliary braking system’s real-time performance. Any discrepancies will give you an idea of how to fix it and fully optimize the performance of the braking system.
Choosing the right supplemental braking system will spell a huge difference for your safety on the road. Before choosing one, you really need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each one. This can only be achieved by conducting extensive research. If you do proper research on how these braking systems perform on different conditions, you will definitely have a safe and convenient ride at all times.
Other Important Factors to Consider
What is a tow brake system?
A tow brake system (also often called toad brake system) is a supplemental braking device that is installed in vehicles before towing them. If you are planning to bring an extra vehicle in one of your camping trips, you are required to install one before you hit the road.
How does it work?
A supplemental braking system works by installing any type to a towed vehicle and connecting it electrically to the towing vehicle. If you wish to tow a vehicle using your motorhome, this is a requirement that you should not neglect to procure. The supplemental braking system will ensure that you will have a safe ride from your point of origin to your chosen destination.
What are the different types of towed vehicle systems?
Before you decide on purchasing auxiliary braking systems, you need to be oriented with each one of them. By knowing how these types perform, you will be able to make a good decision both financially and logistically.
- Preset system. This type is considered as the most basic of all types of towed car brake systems. It works by relaying an electrical signal to the auxiliary brake from the motorhome that the brake has been activated.
- Proportional system. This type of brake system is perhaps the most famous of all braking systems. The inertia-based sensor that is located on the actuator reacts to the deceleration of the motorhome as you are braking. It senses how the towing vehicle is slowing down. The actuator is placed in front of the driver’s seat. The arm extends forward and depresses the brake pedal after receiving the signal from the towing vehicle.
- Direct system. This type of braking system has a more involved installation compared to other systems. As a result, it delivers better performance compared to the previous two types. Just like the basic proportional braking system, this type provides emergency braking up to a slow-to-idle brake system.
- Vacuum-assist system. This type of supplemental braking system is also referred to as an active system. The towed vehicle’s brake pedal will be depressed with the same intensity as the main vehicle’s brake pedal. This becomes possible through the use of a power-assist function.
With these types, you will be able to determine which one will suit both your motorhome and the vehicle that you are going to tow. Knowing each of these functions will ultimately save you money and prevent wear and tear on both your RV and the vehicle that you are towing.
Why do you need a tow braking system?
If you have a new motorhome and you have an extra vehicle that you wish to bring with you, you certainly need a reliable braking system. This is to ensure that the vehicle will be brought safely to your destination. However, not all new motorhome owners are keen to spend money on so many things related to RV. If you are one of those, this one is for you.
There are many reasons why you should install a supplemental braking system. Here are some of the compelling ones that you should bear in mind:
- Safety. Driving on the freeway with your motorhome becomes safe only if you have a reliable braking system. If you want to bring an extra vehicle using a tow dolly, you certainly need to have a good vehicle braking system to make sure that it stops exactly the same moment the driver steps on the brake. This is exactly what the toad brake system aims to accomplish. Imagine driving on the freeway or an uneven road where you only have to rely on the motorhome’s main braking system. The weight of the towed vehicle will surely affect the performance of the engine of the RV.
- To prolong the motorhome’s brakes. Relying on your motorhome’s main braking system all the time when towing a vehicle is not good. This can easily wear out the brakes. If one of them malfunctions in the middle of your journey, you will certainly have a hard time calling for help to fix the issue. However, if you have at least a flat tow brake system, you can be sure that your motorhome’s brakes are in peak condition.
- To preserve the warranty of the motorhome. Warranty is an important feature if you have an RV or a motorhome. Except for collisions and other major physical damages, It takes some of the expenses off your mind. If your motorhome’s brakes start malfunctioning due to the improper deceleration or any accident brought by the impact of the towed vehicle, any damages will not be covered by the insurance. To prevent this from happening, you need to get a good braking system for your tow dolly.
- To maintain the tow bar’s quality. If you have a tow bar, you need to keep it in its top condition. One way of making sure that it would never sustain any damage is by getting the best braking system for towed vehicles. If there is no braking system, the momentum of the towed vehicle will be absorbed by the tow bar. If it happens regularly, the tow bar will surely bend and its performance will surely be compromised.
- The law requires it. Almost all states in the U.S. require the use of supplemental brakes the same way a weight limit is required on RVs or motor vehicles. If you have a tow dolly or a tow bar, you need to install a good braking system in order to travel legally across the country.
These reasons will help you achieve safe and convenient travel to any destination through your motorhome. These can also guide you properly on your purchase and installation without compromising the validity of your motorhome’s warranty.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What states require braking systems on towed vehicles?
As we all know, there is a law which permits and regulates the use of towing devices. This law is the Federal Regulations Title 49. This is the law that oversees the safety standards that all motor vehicles should abide by.
If you have a motorhome, you will notice that almost all states in the country are required to have an auxiliary braking system. The only state in the United States that doesn’t require braking systems on towed vehicles in Missouri.
How do you install a braking system for a towed vehicle?
Any supplemental braking system – whether portable or permanent needs to be installed professionally. This way, you can be sure that the braking system unit will be placed properly.
What is the warranty for such systems?
Most supplemental braking system brands offer a lifetime warranty. This means that you don’t need to worry about the condition of the supplemental brakes. Once you find an issue, all you need to do is to contact the manufacturer and they will be there to take care of it for you. You should understand that any attempt to uninstall it without the assistance of a professional may result in a premature voiding of the warranty.
How to maintain a supplementary brake system?
Caring and cleaning your supplemental braking system are two ways of prolonging its lifespan. However, you don’t just clean your auxiliary braking system; you need help from a professional to do so. This is to prevent the unit from malfunctioning in the middle of your journey.
There are many things that a motorhome owner should know about auxiliary braking systems before deciding to purchase one. This is to ensure the safety of not only the vehicles but also the people inside the motorhome. You can only achieve that if you are employing the best towed vehicle braking system.
With so many options in the market, it is your responsibility to know each one of them before making a decision. This way, you can save a great deal of money, effort. You can only achieve this by carefully researching the brands. If you don’t have time to come personally to an auto store, reading towed vehicle braking systems reviews such as this one will acquaint you with them. Through this information, you can carefully make a choice that will ultimately lead to a safe and convenient travel experience.