Friday, September 22, 2023


Ask Dave: Why do I need supplemental brakes for a light toad?

Dear Dave,
I had my Class A coach weighed and even loaded we were 6,000 pounds below the allowable vehicle weight. My tow vehicle, a Mini Cooper, weighs about 3,000 pounds. Given that even with the tow vehicle I am below the allowable weight, why do I need separate tow vehicle brakes? In other words, is the inertia more if the extra weight is pulled vs. if it were in the motorhome? I am just questioning the science, not the fact that some states may require tow vehicle brakes. Thanks! —Phil, 2022 Newmar Dutch Star 4081

Dear Phil,
According to the Newmar website, your 4081 was available on a Freightliner or Spartan chassis and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is 49,000 lbs. on either chassis. The approximate Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) is 37,400 lbs. on the Freightliner and 37,600 on the Spartan, so you have more than 11,000 lbs. net cargo carrying capacity (NCC). The Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) is 64,000 lbs. and, according to the website, it has a hitch rating of 15,000 lbs. This all means that your Mini Cooper, at 3,000 lbs, is well below the towing limits.

So your question is a valid one other than the road use laws that many states have. For example, New York requires auxiliary brakes on anything over 1,000 lbs., while Texas is 4,500. It must be harder to stop in New York?

Auxiliary braking system

I have heard from owners that stated Freightliner did tell them that they do not need an auxiliary braking system if the weight of the rig and the towed vehicle combined do not exceed the GVWR, as the brakes are rated for that. I am still trying to get an official recommendation from FCCC (Freightliner), though.

In my opinion, 3,000 lbs. is enough weight to affect the stopping distance, especially on wet roads or in heat conditions. Plus, I like to have the breakaway feature that is on the Blue Ox Patriot and Roadmaster Even Brake.

I have also had a few attendees at my seminars state that the road use laws are just for non-motorized vehicles such as trailers and don’t apply to a car being towed behind a motorhome. I’m still trying to find that in any of the road use laws. However, one thing I have found out on the road is the “law” is interpreted by the individual officer and you can get a ticket and then have to fight it in court.

I know there have been quite a number of RVers that have towed for years without supplemental brakes with no problem or tickets. But, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s legal or the safest way to tow.

 You might also enjoy this from Dave 

Ask Dave: Do I need supplemental brakes for my toad?

Dear Dave,
I have been advised that I do not need a supplemental braking system when towing my toad. What are your thoughts, please? —John

Read Dave’s response.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”

Read more from Dave here


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Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. He has been in the RV Industry since 1983 and conducts over 15 seminars at RV shows throughout the country.


  1. Especially with towing, there’s a difference between what you “can” do and what you “should” do.

    Yes, you *can* tow the MC and stop both with just the coach’s brakes but you can’t stop the MC should it detach. A properly functioning breakaway cable on the supplemental brake will stop the toad.

    Brake pads and rotors aren’t cheap. If you have a choice to wear out the costliest sooner to avoid replacing the cheapest sooner, why choose that path?

    Ask your insurance company if they’ll cover any damages arising from towing without supplemental brakes. It might be legal by weight but it doesn’t mean you won’t be liable for costs that might arise from running without. After a detachment or getting pushed through an intersection is not the best time to discover your insurance will not cover you.

    I wouldn’t tow any car without one.

  2. One feature of a tow system that is really needed is the brake away cable but is no good without the whole system. I notice a difference when I tow my small cargo trailer with the jeep and no brakes. It puts more on the jeep brakes.

  3. I may be wrong, but wouldn’t the brakes on the “toad” help to keep it straight when stopping in a hard braking situation? That being said, I personally would prefer brakes on anything I tow over a thousand pounds. Happy Trails

  4. It is unfortunate that every state or province can make their own rules about towing another vehicle. In the U.S.of A. the Federal Government does not care about the weights of towed vehicles, instead it states that you must be able to stop from a given speed within a certain amount of feet. The speed quoted is usually 20 mph and the distance 40 to 50 ft. A much better and easier to understand rule when towing another vehicle.

  5. Physics aside, if it’s the law and there is an accident, not having the required braking systems could cause legal liabilities well beyond the cost of a supplemental braking system.

    For DPs with air systems, nothing beats the Demco Air Force One system IMO. I believe Spartan installs the coach side standard, so that cuts the cost substantially as only the TOAD side needs to be installed. But even if both need to be installed, this system is well worth it.

  6. Louisiana is 1000 pounds. We have an installed supplemental braking system. Absolutely love it when it kicks in. Progressive in amount of application. If and when you need to step on it hard you can really tell. You have driven in Atlanta?


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