Break away Safety

What does this mean?

If the tow ball or coupling fails for any reason the van must not run free down the road, it needs to stop before anything serious happens.

The first security system is the Safety chains, if they are set up correctly they will cradle the caravan draw bar and stop it hitting the road and potentially digging in causing a potentially dangerous situation.

The chains must be

Safety chains are compulsory all around Australia. Vans weighing less than 2500kg ATM are required to have at least one safety chain, while trailers weighing between 2500kg and 3500kg ATM must have two. The chains must comply with AS4177-4.

The only exception is in Western Australia, which requires two safety chains for vans under 2500kg ATM.

The safety chains should criss-cross each other, so the chain on the right side of the drawbar attaches to the left side of the towbar, and vice versa. The reason: should the coupling fail, the drawbar will fall onto the criss-crossed chains rather than the bitumen.

The chains should be fitted as tightly as possible, leaving only enough slack to permit tight turns.

Safety chains must be stamped with the manufacturer’s identification number, the numbers 4177 (which refers to the relevant Australian Standard), and the chain’s safe working load. This rating will often be identified by the following markings:

D Shackles don't have to be load rated, However

This one is controversial. For many years, it has been said that the D-shackles that secure the safety chains to the towbar ‘should’ be load-rated and stamped with the maximum load rating. But the word ‘should’ is quite different to the word ‘must’.

The standard that applies to D-shackles is AS 2741-2002; however, it doesn’t specify the use of D-shackles for towing purposes. However, some states have issued guidelines in relation to D-shackles used for towing and the national caravan body, the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, recommends vanners follow them. I do too, for that matter.

It is highly advisable that:

  • Each shackle is grade ’S’ or ‘6’;
  • Has a safe working load of 1000kg; and
  • The diameter of the shackle steel is at least 10mm.
  • 4177-10 (up to 1000kg ATM);
  • 4177-16 (up to 1600kg ATM);
  • 4177-25 (up to 2500kg ATM); and
  • 4177-35 (up to 3500kg ATM).

Breakaway Brakes

The second security system is Breakaway Brakes

A breakaway system is mandatory on all caravans with a Gross Trailer Mass of 2000kg or more, and they must remain activated for at least 15 minutes after the vehicle and van have separated. To have a van registered in New South Wales, you’re required to have a special monitor in the driver’s cab that shows the state of charge of the battery powering the emergency braking system.

NB if you are at all unsure you are able to complete this check  then take your van to the nearest caravan maintenance business and have them do a thorough check