No brakes, No problem?!?

All of our preparations for leaving were finally done: I’d quit my job, we’d sold almost all of our stuff, we finally had gotten a fifth-wheel hitch and bed lid installed, and we were all packed up. It took us pretty much all. day. long. to get everything situated. The RV park where we’d kept our fifth-wheel for almost a year was kind enough to allow us to check out late – seven hours late! We rolled out with Bucky and me in the lead and Dawn and the kids following. We intended to make a block and then come back to grab the bikes so that the new residents of our monthly spot could “move in.” As we made the block, I was wondering why I didn’t see any readout on the trailer brake controller and why I couldn’t seem to activate the trailer brakes.

Once we were back at the park, I asked a couple of people with trucks and trailers about how the system should work and had a terrible realization: Our trailer brakes were not being activated by our truck!!! I could make the trailer brakes activate by pulling the “breakaway switch” on the trailer (that’s the switch designed to pop loose if your trailer unexpectedly disconnects from your tow vehicle), but neither the trailer adapter on the bumper nor the one in the side of our pickup bed would activate it, even though all the lights were working (thankfully).

So there we were, a full seven hours past our intended departure time with about 350 miles to go to our stop in Lubbock, TX. Several residents of the park jumped into action to try to help me diagnose and correct the problem, but we finally had to decide whether we would leave and rely on the truck’s brakes (it is a dually, after all) and the engine brake, or try to stay and get the problem fixed locally. In retrospect, I would recommend three things to anyone planning to go full-time in an RV:

1. Don’t wait until the day you want to leave to test everything out, e.g., to hook up the hitch and wiring harness for the first time – no matter how new the RV and tow vehicle, you could have a problem.
2. Always book one extra day at the RV park beyond when you intend to leave – it just takes the pressure off and allows you to deal with any problems or delays that may arise.
3. If you purchase a truck (new or used) to tow an RV, be sure to have the dealer test everything out that you’ll need for towing before you take it home.

We decided that we could trust the engine brake and the truck’s brakes to provide enough stopping power given the relatively flat drive we had ahead of us, so around 9 PM, we finally got on the road. We attempted a repair check at a truck stop on I20 an hour or so later, but they didn’t have a mechanic on duty. We stopped for dinner and continued on down the road. In the end, we stopped for the night at Horseshoe RV Park in Ranger, TX (about 100 miles away) because we were just too tired to continue.

The funny thing about the whole ordeal was that when we got tired, our first inclination (or at least mine) was to try to get a hotel. Yes, I know we were pulling a fully-equipped trailer right behind us, but I don’t think the concept had fully set in yet. Fortunately, we weren’t able to find a room that accepted pets, and that forced us to dive head-first into this new #RVlife on the road. We were pleasantly surprised that finding an affordable place to park for the night, even well after midnight, was actually REALLY simple. We had just experienced our first #RVwin, and it felt pretty good.

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