How Does A Flat Tow Brake Work?

Mar 07, 2023
How Does A Flat Tow Brake Work?

When you’re traveling in an RV or motorhome and you choose to flat tow a vehicle, you will need a flat tow brake system to tow safely. Sometimes called a dinghy towing brake system, a flat tow brake will help your flat towed vehicle slow down and stop safely when you slow down and stop in your RV. So how do flat tow brakes work?

What is a Flat Tow Brake?

A flat tow brake is a crucial piece of equipment that helps brake your car for you while you tow it behind your RV. It works by applying the brakes on your towed vehicle when you apply the brakes in your RV. There are a few different types of flat tow brake systems on the market, and they all work a little bit differently though the end result is the same.  

How Does Each Type of Flat Tow Brake Work?

Proportional Flat Tow Brake Systems

One of the most popular flat tow brake types is the proportional system. They are easy to install and easy to use. These are designed to apply the brakes in your flat towed vehicle at the same time and with the same intensity with which you apply the brakes in your RV. This allows for true and responsive braking, even when making an emergency stop. It works with an inertia-based sensor that responds to the slowing of your motor home and applies the brakes with an equal intensity in the tow vehicle. There is an actuator mounted on the driver’s side of the tow vehicle with an arm that extends to press the brake pedal when signaled. Additionally, there is a monitor mounted in the RV that gives the driver the ability to control the brake manually, as well as information about how the flat tow brake is operating. 

Direct Flat Tow Brake Systems

Direct systems are connected to your tow vehicle’s air or hydraulic brake lines and sense when you apply your RV brakes and with what intensity. The actuator replicates the same timing and pressure in the tow vehicle that you are using in the RV. It works by transferring air or hydraulic pressure from the brake lines to the air cylinder of the tow vehicle. The RV driver will be able to see when the brakes of the tow vehicle are activated on a monitor mounted in the RV. Dynamic brake systems are more complicated to install in the towed vehicle and require a bit more of a mechanical background to do it yourself. 

Vacuum-Assist Flat Tow Brake Systems

Sometimes referred to as an active system, the vacuum-assist system works via the power-assist function of your towed vehicle’s brakes. Power-assist will multiply the force placed on the RV brake pedal to make braking much easier for the driver. It needs to be connected to a vacuum source from either the RV or a self-contained pump. The vacuum-assist system is connected to the RV by a wiring harness so that the actuator can be signaled to depress the towed vehicle’s brakes when the RV brake lights are illuminated. In the cabin of the RV, the driver can see an indicator light illuminate when the tow vehicle brakes have been pressed. This system offers the most natural braking, however it does not offer full emergency braking capabilities. 

Which is the Best Flat Tow Brake?

Proportional systems tend to be the most preferred among RV enthusiasts. They have a simple and quick installation process that makes it easy to move from one vehicle to another if you have more than one vehicle you like to tow behind your RV. Another benefit of the proportional system is that it is essentially synchronized with your RV brakes, so you can trust it to activate even if you need to brake quickly in an emergency. Users can manually adjust the pressure to avoid over braking as well. 

Are Flat Tow Brakes Required?

It is required by law to use flat tow brakes in 49 states as well as Canada. The weight limits may vary from state to state, so be sure to know the regulations where you are going. However, planning to travel with a flat tow brake installed will be the safest option regardless of where you are headed. 

Get the Patriot Brake Systems from Blue Ox

Blue Ox provides the Patriot Flat Tow Braking System, a proportional system that works for many different types of vehicles, including full-size SUVs, pickups, compact cars, hybrids, and more. It offers real braking action with the same force as if your foot were on the pedal, in the middle of the pedal, and at the same angle. When you’re in your RV, you can still be in control with the in-cab monitor. It allows you to adjust the braking force, override automatic braking, monitor brake function, get breakaway alerts, and get other video and audio alerts. The Patriot Brake is easy to install, and everything you need is in the box. 

Visit the Blue Ox website to learn more or to place an order the Patriot Brake today.

Tags: Flat tow brake systemflat towingflat towing safety


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