Monday, July 9, 2012

Knowing When To Stop

We have a new Roadmaster InvisiBrake. Until its installation we towed our vehicle without supplemental braking. That practice was not safe and in most states, was illegal. We didn't realize we were traveling illegally for a long time.

We felt somewhat safe when we towed Little Blackie because the Escape weighed a mere 3,400 pounds.  But with the greater weight of  Endie and the added weight of Big Blackie, we dared not press our luck.

Supplemental brakes are a legal requirement in most states with good reason.  The brakes are designed to stop the towed vehicle-motorhome combination in about the same distance as the motorhome by itself.

This poster is taken from the 2010 Digest of Motor Laws - American Automobile Association

Wayne's braking research took him to Roadmaster's New InvisiBrake because the brain of the system would be mounted under the passenger seat and would not require removal and re-installation with every stop.  Supposedly, InvisiBrake is a fully automatic, progressive system that uses electrical harness of the car to brake any time the brake is applied in the coach. That is the same electrical signal that activates the car's brake lights... ho hum.  Some of the features Wayne liked about  InvisiBrake were: (1) it's out of sight, (2) it has progressive braking, (3) it has a visual monitor and audible alert to warn if the brakes are on too long, and (4) it has an emergency break away system like the ones used on fifth-wheels.

This thing was no cheap trick though.  The best base price 'round here was $900 plus installation at $450 at Camping World (who might be the exclusive seller of this model, I'm not sure) so that's where we took Endie and Big Blackie on Friday at 8:30 a.m.  Installation on both vehicles was expected to take about 5 hours.  The car would be first in the service bay. The weather was perfect, sunny and cool -- that was in our favor.  Five hours turned into 8 and then 9 hours and finally, at 5:30 the car was finished and the shop was closing for the day.  We would have to return Saturday morning for completion.  My mood was pretty nasty about now but I bit my tongue -- 

Didn't see this until the next morning. 
The breakaway box is mounted onto a thin piece of metal and sticks out from the grill area.
One light tap and "off with it's head!"  "Placement location is not optional," we're told.

Here you can see that the breakaway box protrudes from the grill at least an inch.
I could pull it off with one hand.  I'm sure this thing is really gonna last.

The InvisiBrake box that was suppose to be mounted under the passenger seat is... in reality, mounted behind the passenger's seat. It's in the floor and must have air so the floor mat cannot be laid over it. 
This means the full width mat must be removed completely, leaving both sides exposed. 
Also, the 8" x 8" metal box is rather fragile and will be damaged if kicked.  Oh this is easy! 

"Wiring the coach won't take long," we were told and so we return to Camping World again at 8:30  Saturday morning.  The store manager invited us to have a nice breakfast and bring the receipt to him for reimbursement.  Off we went and indeed we were called at 11:00 to come by for the final few items -- one of which would require Wayne to decide where he would want the monitor light installed on the dashboard.

Because we so hate, abhor and despise having a dead battery, Wayne had an electrical charge line added.  One problem leads to another and the afternoon creeps along, hour after hour.  At 5:30, a test drive and we pay the hefty bill and return to the campground -- exhausted. 

Dogs and people fed, Wayne went to the car around 6:30 that evening to find the battery is dead and the brake lights on. Tired and angry, he crawled around under the steering wheel until he found the line that applies the car's brake. He released it a bit and made an adjustment on the horrid "toe breaker" box behind my seat.  I sensed he was about ready to blow a gasket so I remained quiet except to say "off" and then "on" for the brake light condition. In the end he put a charger on the battery and in short order, the car started again.  Today is Monday and we're still holding our breath. 

I think the verdict is still out on the Roadmaster InvisiBrake.  Did this have to be so difficult?  Will I ever like this braking system?  Was being illegal so wrong?  I just don't think that breakfast reimbursement made me feel one bit better.

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