Safety Bulletin from US Rider: Breakway Batteries

US Rider reminds trailer owners to check their trailer breakaway system to prevent disaster.
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US Rider reminds trailer owners to check their trailer breakaway system to prevent disaster.

Loveland, CO (AP) - Loveland firefighters and other rescuers had to peel away a trailer to save a horse after the trailer broke loose and wrecked in traffic.

The trailer was being towed in the Big Thompson Canyon on Saturday when the trailer broke loose and raced down a hill, hitting a car and pinning the horse inside.

Owner Patrick Lambke tells the Loveland Reporter-Herald the horse suffered minor injuries and is expected to recover.

* link to full story can be found here.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Imagine what would happen if your trailer became disconnected from your tow vehicle, and your emergency breakaway battery was fully discharged. Disaster!

However, when a breakaway system is working properly, it will lock the brakes automatically if the trailer becomes disconnected from the tow vehicle.

"Be a good steward - don't take chances with the safety and welfare of your precious cargo," said Bill Riss, General Manager of USRider, the nationwide roadside assistance program for equestrians, which provides emergency road service to its members in the Continental United States, Canada and Alaska.

To ensure your breakaway system is in good working order, USRider offers the following safety tips:

  • Have a qualified mechanic test the system for proper operation annually.
  • Have your battery load tested to check the current. A qualified trailer mechanic or personnel at most auto-parts stores can perform this test. Replace old and weak batteries.
  • Regularly inspect the cable and switch for the breakaway system. Replace the cable if it is showing signs of wear.
  • Keep the top of the battery and the battery terminals clean. A small wire brush and dielectric grease will help maintain an excellent electrical connection. Remove the battery when the trailer is stored or is not used for extended periods. If possible, store the battery in a warm area away from children.
  • Use the proper battery for your breakaway system. Consult your owner's manual, or check with the trailer manufacturer.
  • If your battery has removable cell caps, maintain acid levels by adding distilled water. Take care when adding water. Wear protective eyewear, and do not overfill.
  • Maintain the charge. Do not allow a battery to remain discharged for extended periods. Twelve-volt batteries are considered totally discharged below 11.9 volts. Check voltage with a digital voltmeter.

To help maintain a battery's charge, USRider highly recommends a built-in battery charger. These systems can be installed on your tow vehicle to charge your battery every time you tow. For rigs that are used infrequently, we recommend using a charging system that provides a "float" charge for extended times when your trailer is not in use.

"For frequent travelers, we especially like breakaway battery systems with built-in chargers and battery status LEDs," added Riss. "A good breakaway battery system is a just another example of a vital safety accessory that we hope to never have to use."

In addition to maintaining your breakaway battery, keep your trailer's brake and electrical system in good condition, as well.

"We have seen numerous wiring issues with horse trailers," said Riss. USRider has addressed this issue with a safety bulletin recommending that all horse owners have their horse trailers' wiring checked by a competent mechanic. "Regretfully, the wire-handling aspects on most horse trailers is a black-eye in the trailer-manufacturing industry."

USRider provides roadside assistance and towing services, along with other travel-related benefits to its members through the Equestrian Motor Plan. It includes standard features such as flat-tire repair, battery assistance and lockout services, plus towing up to 100 miles and roadside repairs for tow vehicles and trailers with horses, emergency stabling, veterinary referrals and more. For more information about the USRider Equestrian Motor Plan, visit www.usrider.org, or call 1-800-844-1409.

For additional trailer safety information, visit www.usrider.org, and go to the Equine Travel Safety Area.