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Old 06-26-2011, 07:08 PM   #1
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Default Please Help!! I don't know where to start.

So I have owned my 1996 Towlite now for a week. I have been tinkering on it a little (repacked the bearings, cleaning, etc.). Today I went and pulled the pin out of the breakaway switch and nothing happened. Just to be sure, I tried to pull it forward and there was no resistance. My Nissan Pathfinder only has a 4-flat connection, trailer has 7-blade. I don't have the adapter or the brake controller installed yet. Can I diagnose the trailer brakes without these items, and if so, where do I start? Did I even do it properly to begin with? The battery had a good charge.

Please and thank-you.

Jason
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Old 06-26-2011, 07:16 PM   #2
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jason i have a 1996 tl also, I pull with my town and Country van and it has a 4 plug also i got the 7 way converter plug for the brake lights,turn signals,marker lights. the brake ontroler has to be hooked up with the 7 way plug for it to use.
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Old 06-26-2011, 07:24 PM   #3
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Do you just run without trailer brakes?
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Old 06-26-2011, 08:26 PM   #4
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Paul, I'm respectfully going to disagree here. In my trailer, if I pull the plug on the breakaway switch, the trailer wheels lock up, whether or not I have it pluged in to the tow vehicle. In fact, if you think about it, you WANT the brakes to engage immediately if the trailer is totally disconnected (and the plug is pulled).

To the OP, I'm assuming your battery in the trailer is fine. You're going to have to check the breakaway switch itself and the wiring. I have not looked to see if this circuit is circuit breaker protected, but that's a possibility too.

That switch is somewhat "exposed". It would not surprise me to find it had become damaged and nonfunctional. They are easy to replace and you can find them for sale online.

- Jack
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Old 06-26-2011, 08:50 PM   #5
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HI Jason
The breakaway switch does not get its power from the tow vehicle. The switch is powered directly from the battery. If the rv somehow becomes unhitched when towing the cable to the switch pulls the pin and closes the switch applying power to the brakes. Trace the two wires from the switch back to the battery box. One should go to a hot terminal. It may not go directly to the battery but to a hot terminal strip. It should be hot 12V all the time. The other wire goes to the brakes. So you need power to the switch and power back to the brakes if the pin is pulled. Now to determine if you are getting power to each wheel. Someone on the forum has said if you hold a compass next to the wheel and apply the brakes or pull the pin the compass needle will swing. It does make sense. Do you have a volt meter and know how to use it? Next thing is to trace the voltage back from the switch to see where you are losing. Could be broken wire, loose connection, or corroded connections. Hi-Lo used wirenuts to make the connection at each wheel in most cases then taped them. Untape and replace with new wirenuts or better, crimp connections. The electro magnets at the wheel should have been cleaned when you packed the bearings and then the brakes adjusted. I would not think all the electro magnets are bad but who knows. Make sure you clean all ground connections also. Do not leave the pin pulled for long as you are pulling a lot of power from the battery. Try these ideas and get back with what you find. If you do have a brake controller on your TV unplug the trailer pigtail before you pull the breakaway pin. If you don't, feedback from the battery will destroy some controllers.
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Old 06-26-2011, 09:04 PM   #6
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Jack and Jim are right. Follow their advice.
When the magnets wore out on my 95 all 4 went at the same time but there was still a small amount of magnet. The magnets are wear items and when worn down they wear into the coil wire. Brake shoes were still at 50% or better.
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Old 06-28-2011, 04:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jguy357 View Post
So I have owned my 1996 Towlite now for a week. I have been tinkering on it a little (repacked the bearings, cleaning, etc.). Today I went and pulled the pin out of the breakaway switch and nothing happened. Just to be sure, I tried to pull it forward and there was no resistance. My Nissan Pathfinder only has a 4-flat connection, trailer has 7-blade. I don't have the adapter or the brake controller installed yet. Can I diagnose the trailer brakes without these items, and if so, where do I start? Did I even do it properly to begin with? The battery had a good charge.

Please and thank-you.

Jason
Jason, I have to ask because frankly you almost give us enough information to be diagnotically deadly, lol. Last week I found out assuming you know something you didnt type, is a no no on message boards.

So, we need more information, as in what all did you do after, or expect when you pull the break away brake thing? What was all the tests you preformed, if any?

1 did you try to pull the camper, & there were no brakes or no apparently harder to pull the camper (the "nothing happend"?)

2 was the camper unhooked by the side of the house, you pull the brake away off and expect some shudder or thud or beep/siren (the nothing happened?)
Electromagnet brakes are pretty quiet, unless you were under the camper or had a wheel off the ground to spin a tire, and then pull the break-away, I dont know if you would notice anything.
the 4 way will not let your tow vehicle apply the brakes on the trailer,it only runs the lights. The "electro magnets" that run the brakes can take up to 40 amps. TURN, STOP, and Tail lights blow fuses at anything over 5 or 10amps.

So, it would have to be done correctly with the 7 way plug wiring setup on your tow vehicle, to make it so when you apply the brakes, in the TV, the brakes on the trailer also are "applied".

I want to add "USUALLY" you never know how cleaver some people are about wiring... until you have seen the results or tried to fix it... LOL
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Old 06-28-2011, 04:54 PM   #8
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Jason so I mis understood your first question. the others are right about the brakes.. (I use a wooden hand brake hooked up under the unit to stop with, just pull the rope.) LOL I think not....
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Old 06-30-2011, 01:52 AM   #9
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Default So far...

I will try to go into some detail without getting things all convoluted.

What I know/have done so far:
-The 12v battery was fully charged (checked with multi-meter to be sure)
-Pulled out break-away pin. No noticeable changes.
-With pin pulled, tried to move trailer, moved easy.
-Researched wiring diagrams for trailer brakes, as well as the break-away switch, tried to verify they are correct, need to look again when I have more time.
-Followed the wires from battery to switch, then under trailer, then they disappear up under the table seat. They look decent up to there. I am hoping it is either the switch or connections down by the brakes themselves.
-One thing I noticed is there is no separate battery for the break-away system like I have seen in some kits online. Only the 12v battery. Maybe this could be a problem???


What I have not done so far:
-Time, funds and lots of choices have kept me from buying a 7-pin harness and brake controller. (this is the reason I pulled the break-away pin to "check" the brakes)
-have not checked all the connections near the brakes (planning on doing that this weekend)
-This weekend I will jack up trailer and rotate wheel and pull pin for giggles.


How would I check to see if the switch is functioning properly?
...Pull the pin and check for continuity?


I'll be sure to get back with whatever I find out.

Thanks all for the suggestions!

Jason

PS- Is it safe for me to apply a direct 12v connection to the brake magnet leads under the trailer to make sure they are working, or was that information misleading??
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Old 06-30-2011, 01:56 AM   #10
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Default One thing is for sure,

I know what I'll be doing this weekend!!!


Jason
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Old 06-30-2011, 04:43 AM   #11
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When you pull the break away pin 12 volts is applied to the brake magnets, so the answer is yes.
Do not leave it connected for long.
You can trace the wires from the break away switch to in side the battery box and put a jumper across this will by pass the switch, then see if the brakes are applied.
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Old 06-30-2011, 07:56 AM   #12
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The breakaway switch has its own battery normally only when the trailer does not have a battery.
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Old 06-30-2011, 09:00 AM   #13
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HI Jason, Checking the battery with a volt meter is not a reliable check. An almost dead battery will show 12v if not under a load. If you can lower the top and then raise the top with that battery then its good. The best check would be to take what you think is a fully charged battery to a auto parts store and let them test it under a load. I have replaced 3 breakaway switches in my many years of rving so these do go bad. Since the power from the breakaway switch and the power from the brake controller are connected together at a terminal near the front of the rv and then to each wheel the problem is most likely between the battery (power) the switch to the common terminal. As noted before the magnets are a ware item and it is possible all 4
could be bad, or somehow have burnt out. Again as noted before no need for a separate battery, the onboard battery does the job. You do not need a new harness and controller to do these checks. You have all you need with the battery and switch. It would not hurt anything to apply 12v to the magnets directly. A badly pitted switch could show continuity and pass som voltage but the high resistance will usually overheat the switch and it will melt down. The switches are so cheap I would most likely replace it. Make sure you know the battery and switch are good before spending a lot of time looking elsewhere. Keep working with us and you will get this fixed.
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Old 06-30-2011, 10:19 AM   #14
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Jason you mostly likely you have a Dexter axle and you can find the owners manual here on the forum in the reference library under axle. This will show you how to test the magnets. If you should have a AL-KO axle you can find that manual at al-kousa.com. On their home page pull down to owners manuals. Hi-Lo used Dexter on newer trailers but who knows on older ones. The trouble shooting is almost the same on both.
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Old 06-30-2011, 11:45 AM   #15
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My 95 TowLite has Al-Ko axles.
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Old 07-01-2011, 07:39 PM   #16
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Default Update

Hi everyone. First I want to thank you all for all of the suggestions. Second, I decided to put it up for sale on a whim last night while trying to get this thing going (I'm running out of time to work on it). Third, while trying to wire my TV with the 7-pin harness and brake controller, a couple came along who wanted to purchase, brakes or no brakes.

So, the relationship with the Towlite Hilo was a short one, but it turns out the problem was in the switch, and possibly the battery as well. Thanks to those of you who pointed out that the battery would read around 12v even if nearly dead.

My wife may be unhappy, but I will definitely be searching for another trailer or rv of some sort once I get settled in my new home.


Thanks again so much for the help!!!!

Jason
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Old 07-01-2011, 08:53 PM   #17
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Sorry you gave up on the Hi-Lo but do understand time getting short. There are plenty of good Hi-Lo's for sale in the lower 48. Have a good trip and thanks for your service. Pass the info on the forum to the new owners.
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Old 02-28-2012, 11:09 AM   #18
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Default 4 pin to 7 pin

If it were my family in your situation, I wouldn't be caught dead without a 7 pin plug installed properly on your tow vehicle, that is the first nesesity. then a good brake controller added to your tow vehicle, also a nesesity, sounds like you have a dead trailer battery or corroded connections for your breakaway switch, also, make sure you run 10 gauge or 8 gauge wire from the brake controller to the 7 pin connection and from the tow vehicle battery to the 7 pin (fused)
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