Saturday, December 9, 2023


Where do you hitch your breakaway cable?

By Dave Helgeson

Travel trailer owners have debated on where to attach the breakaway cable to the tow vehicle as long as they have debated on tow vehicles themselves. For starters, most everyone agrees that it should not be attached to any part of the hitch head itself. If the hitch head were to fail it would most likely stay coupled to the trailer, failing to activate the breakaway switch.

The second “no-no” is to weave the breakaway cable through one of the safety chains to keep it from dragging on the road. While this keeps things nice and tidy, the extra friction of the cable being woven through the safety chain may prevent the cable from pulling the pin from the breakaway switch in an emergency.

Finally, never use the same safety chain attachment item (S-hook, rapid link, etc.) to attach both your breakaway cable and safety chain to your tow vehicle. If the attachment item were to fail, you lose two safety backups (the chain and breakaway) at once.

Equalizing bar retainer pin

My suggestion is to attach the breakaway cable to the working end of the hitch pin. Here’s why:

1) For those of us in the over-50 crowd that are easily distracted, it forces us to check that we remembered to install the hitch pin every time we hitch up.

2) By attaching your breakaway cable to your hitch pin you can rest assured that no troublemakers have pulled the pin in hopes of viewing the resulting carnage.

Another helpful hint while we are on the subject of pins: Do your equalizing bars utilize pins to keep the bars attached to the hitch head? If so, when you are not towing, clip the pins to the snap-up brackets on the travel trailer rather than putting them back in the hitch head. Without the tension of the bars in place, the pins can bounce out of the hitch head while traveling and become lost. By leaving them attached to the trailer they will be right where you left them when you go to hitch up the next time.

##RVT808 ##RVDT1353

Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Jeff Coleson (@guest_81538)
3 years ago

We purchased a new travel trailer from a dealer in 2018. They wove the cable thru the safety chain. You would think a dealer knows better.

Jay (@guest_81537)
3 years ago

What should the proper cable length be? I am concerned that if I come unhitched, the cable is too long to activate. Too short and it cannot flex enough during tight maneuvers. Should it be shorter than the total length of the chains?

Gordy (@guest_81495)
3 years ago

I hauled RV’s professionally for 3 yrs. I always use a lock on the tongue. I ran the breakaway cable through the lock and to a carabiner that was attached to a hole in the bumper. That accomplished two things, it kept the wire from getting caught between the tongue and ball and also attached it to the body of the tow vehicle.
When hauling a fifth wheel it was attached to a carabiner that was attached to the cross mount for the hitch.
However you choose to hook it, be safe out there. when climbing be aware of the backup behind you and pull over when necessary (3 t0 5 vehicles on 2-lane), always start out slow on a hill you are not familiar with, you can accelerate easier than you can slow down. Also be aware of what is going on at least a block or so ahead of you.
Happy Trails.

Thomas (@guest_81487)
3 years ago

After viewing recent you tube videos, I see most trailers stay attached to the tow vehicle even during and after a rollover. Amazing. So it looks like where is almost a mute point. I always hook my fiver to the rails that the hitch fastens to.

steve s. (@guest_81486)
3 years ago

Definitely use a locking hitch pin.
It is bad enough if it comes loose or is removed without your knowledge.
It is double-bad if it is stolen or lost and you are in the middle of nowhere trying to find a replacement.
That being said, ALWAYS carry a replacement hitch pin.
My primary is a locking pin. My backup is a simple pin that uses a cotter pin to secure it.

Irv (@guest_81472)
3 years ago

re: “My suggestion is to attach the breakaway cable to the working end of the hitch pin”

I don’t understand how this could possibly be a good idea. Per the first tiny picture, it looks like the loop of the brake cable could easily bounce off.

RVTravel should get an expert opinion on this.

Gary (@guest_11841)
6 years ago

This may be extreme but I have never attached my brake cable to the hitch itself. I can usually find a hole somewhere in the frame or bumper mount and place an eye bolt where I can reach it. I use a carabiner to attach the cable and good to go.

Mark Gaunt (@guest_11832)
6 years ago

We use a red coiled break-away cable & run/attach it to the left side carabiner where we also attach a safety chain..

Eric (@guest_81528)
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Gaunt

Same here.

Leon (@guest_11787)
6 years ago

I also hook it through the hole for the safety chain much like Petro discribed. I once lost a hitch pin – don’t know if it was my carelessness, some defect, or a jerk yanking the pin clip when I stopped at a lay-by. Regardless – hooking the breakaway cable to the hitch pin would have had disastrous results in that case. I now use a lockable hitch pin.

Walt (@guest_11801)
6 years ago
Reply to  Leon

I always drill out the pin clip hole so that I can insert a padlock to secure the pin. Have not lost a draw bar yet!

Wolfe (@guest_11786)
6 years ago

Sorry, Diane, I’m gonna have so many comments on this one…

1) The ONLY place to attach the brake activator (breakaway cable) is to the tow vehicle itself. This isn’t debated AFAIK by any trailer vendor.

2) Carabiner or snap-clip goes on the end, but it goes to either a free bumper ball-hole (free because you use class 3/5 instead of bumper) or most commonly right alongside one of the breakaway chains on the hitch “earlobes.” You do NOT use the cable itself directly because rattling can chew through the thin cable.

3) A proper length cable won’t drag on the ground. If you’d be tempted to do the weave, get the right cable instead. While at it, get a coiled one, which gives extra freedom and still won’t drag.

4) I’m scared if Dave was showing his “correct” [“working end of the hitch pin”] hookup in the one photo. In that photo, the loop can pop off over the cotter pin, retract through the hole, and be totally useless. NEVER hook it that way. Please!

5) I’m not sure of the precise level of senility to install the hitch head and forget the pin??? Either way, I use a locking hitch pin, preventing forgetting/theft/tampering with one simple click.

6) Those square pins ARE terrible falling out, but a better solution might be using cotter pins instead. I had those pins rattle out of the tip-ups while driving, so now I only use sping pins that hold themselves in rather than having a magic angle where they fall out.

7) Petro: use the carabiner directly. That loopback configuration will chew/cut the cable.

RV Staff
6 years ago
Reply to  Wolfe

No problem, Wolfe. And no need to apologize. We appreciate the information. 😀 —Diane at

Don Malan (@guest_11752)
6 years ago

I pull the cable out of the safety brake switch and then put the cable through the loop on the safety chain retainer on the trailer hitch. This way I can check if the trailer brakes are working and know that the emergency switch cable will not be taken loose by some jerk.

Petro (@guest_11744)
6 years ago

I hook my breakaway cable through the safety chain hook hole of the hitch and then back onto itself with a carabiner.

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