Installing Brake Buddy in Fiat Abarth


4/14/15

I  have a Brake Buddy Classic to use to actuate the brakes on the tow car when the brakes are applied by the motor home.  There is a break away switch that needs to be mounted. I am not finding good places for that switch and was waiting for the tow bar to arrive so I can see what I have to work with. I will spend some time on that tomorrow.

4-14-15 Brake Buddy

The Brake Buddy has a standard 12Volt plug to use to power it. Since the steering does not lock on the car, I do not want to turn on the ignition to power the standard 12v receptacle on the console. Rummaging through my drawer I found a 12V outlet that I had previously used on a motorcycle to power a GPS. I found that the #6 fuse in the fuse panel under the dash on the driver’s side was constant 12V power. I used a fuse tap to power the 12V receptacle. I used zip ties to mount the receptacle and, once again, found a hole in the metal under the dash to use for the ground.

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I had read online that some people powered the Brake Buddy from the motor home so you did not have to worry about running the battery dead on the tow car. I had also read that the clevis that mounts to the brake pedal did not work on Fiat 500’s. So I called the factory.  I had a very helpful tech tell me that there is very little draw with the Brake Buddy so running down the battery should not be an issue. He also said that wiring from the motor home is a bad idea if the car became detached from the motor home. That 12V line would be severed and the Brake Buddy would not be powered to do its job of stopping the car.  As for the clevis, he brought it up before I did. He is sending me the correct one at no charge!! Can’t beat that with a stick!!!

The Brake Buddy is a brake assist system for the towed car. While the Fiat only weighs 2500 pounds, if I was pulling a 2500 pound trailer, I would surely want to have brakes. It only makes sense to have some type of brake assist.

The Brake Buddy Classic came with a break away switch. I understand a break away switch is required in most states. Beside that requirement, it makes sense to have someway to stop the tow vehicle if it ever parted ways with the motor home. There is a cable with two connectors on one end that has to be fed into the interior of the car so it can plug into the Brake Buddy. So my first step today was to find a way to get the wiring inside the car. After putting the car up on the lift, I discovered a row of rubber plugs on the bottom of the main frame rail. I pried off the one nearest the front of the car and felt something like padding. I stuck a probe into the material and it went through. I could feel it under the carpet.

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The next step was to pull up the carpet on the driver’s side. First I had to remove the door sill trim panel. It is held on by a Phillips screw at the front and a push in plastic fastener at the rear. By gently pushing up the center portion of the plastic fastener, I was able to remove it without damaging it. With the trim panel out, I could pull up the carpet which includes the dead pedal. And there was my probe.

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Now that I knew I could feed the wire inside the car, it was time to run the wire from the nose of the car back to the hole I had discovered. To gain access to the back part of the grill, I removed the three T30 bolts that mount the bottom of the bumper cover to the car. By pulling down on the bumper cover I could reach forward to the bottom of the inside of the grill. After inserting the cable into a piece of convoluted tubing, I fed the breakaway cable through a hole under the left side tow hook and pulled it through. I removed the left front wheel well liner and ran the wire up and over the wheel well opening and then back to the hole and then inside the car.

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To seal the opening on the bottom of the car, I cut a notch on one side of the round rubber plug, re-inserted the plug, fed the wire through it and then caulked it.

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On the inside of the car, I used a piece of left over Dynamat. This is a sound deadening material that has adhesive on one side. After cutting a hole in the middle, I fed the cable through it and then simply pressed the piece of Dynamat in place.

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I then cut a mall hole in the carpet at the leading edge of the seat and pulled the cable through that hole. After coiling it up, I stored the cable under the seat.

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To mount the break away switch on the front, I used zip ties. I ran two zip ties through the eye on the metal tab and then around the grill, one from beneath and the other from above. The other zip tie secured it to the tow hook. As the tech at Brake Buddy told me, as long as you can pull the tab out, it is secured well enough. It works.

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I am now waiting for the brake clevis to arrive so I can complete the installation of the Brake Buddy.

4/19/15

The clevis arrived yesterday for the Brake Buddy. It is pretty crude but it was free and will work fine. It was not painted. I have a guy who does powder coating for a very reasonable price. I will have him make it look good.

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I did have an issue with it right away. The locking pin would not fit the hole. I had to use a 25/64 bit on my drill press to make it fit.

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Now that I had it fixed, I mounted the clevis to the brake pedal. The screws are longer than they need to be and I will change those out when I do the final installation. The rod from the brake buddy attaches to the clevis.

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The instructions call for mounting the rod to the clevis and then moving the seat within a quarter inch or less of the handle on the Brake Buddy. This handle is adjustable in height and can be flipped around to give an even wider range of adjustment. The instructions also advise that the lower the point on the seat that the handle touches is best. In the Fiat’s case, I had to adjust the handle to its highest point to touch the seat. Even then, there was interference with the plastic trim on the left front of the seat. Plus there was quite a bit of give as the handle met the seat cushion.

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I wasn’t wild about using the seat as the backer for the Brake Buddy anyway. So I found a piece of 4″x4″ wood and screwed two small pieces on the backside that lined up with the seat rails. Now the handle could be set to its lowest point and it was meeting something solid.  Since the photos below were taken, I have painted this piece black.

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Now that I had that worked out I could move on. When the Brake Buddy is plugged into the 12V outlet, the air pump immediately begins filling up the air chamber. The pump automatically stops as soon as the chamber is full. You then press the “Test” button five times to release the vacuum pressure in the tow vehicle’s system. This must be done every time the unit is plugged in or if the engine is started on the tow vehicle. There are seven green lights on the unit that measure the sensitivity. Those lights must be green before one can use the system.

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The next step is to set the air pressure for the weight of the tow vehicle. There is a chart on the unit to determine this. Based on the chart and the weight of the Fiat, I set the pressure at 36.5 lbs by pulling up on the pressure set button. You can set the sensitivity with the sensitivity button to determine how much assist the unit gives. I will have to adjust that after doing some towing.

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Next I plugged in the two leads for the break away switch. Next to those inputs are the two inputs for the transmitter that sends a signal to the receiver that is mounted in the motor home. This transmitter lights up a green light on the receiver that says all is well with the system. A flashing red light indicates low voltage in the tow vehicle. A solid red light shows that you have applied the brakes to the motor home and that the system is working. The red light will also come on if the car breaks away from the motor home. I pulled the break away switch plug and the light came on so the system is working. Since I did not have the motor home at the house (more rain today), I plugged the receiver into a 12V outlet I use for testing things.

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To unhook the Brake Buddy, you unplug it and then hold down the drain button to drain the air from the chamber. Once the air has been released you can then safely unhook the rod and remove the unit from the car. Pretty simple. It is finally supposed to quit raining Tuesday so I will bring over the motor home so I can determine the correct draw bar and see how everything works.

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