Brake Controller - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-19-2005, 08:01 PM   #1
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FINALLY, on monday, my whole rig will be going into the shop to have the controller installed and the charge line hooked up.

It's been a long time that I have put it off, but with a big trip in the immediate future invoving both the Grapevine and maybe Grants Pass/Siskious, I thought it best to get it done.

The charge line will be a luxury.. but as long as he is in there, what the heck. A breakaway switch will be included, yes.

Now.. I have only used surge breaks. And the instructions with my controller are vague. Just HOW am I supposed to set it up once it is done?

I will ask the installer, but what are the things I should look and/or feel for?

My controller is pretty generic, I am not even sure what brand it is. He will look at it and if he thinks it's poopy, I will get a prodigy or a Tecenshona ((Spelling?) one that all you folks recomend. But he seems to think that my simple one will be fine for such a lightweight rig.

This tells me he is trustworthy, he didn't take an opportunity to sell me one of his.

This is the same guy that did my frame, so I know his work will be top notch.
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Old 11-19-2005, 08:47 PM   #2
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Gina,

I'd recommend that you not even install the controller unless it's a Prodigy. It really is worth the few dollars extra. If it's a Tekonsha Sentinel it'll do OK. I'm not sure I'd trust anything less than one of those. Frankly some of the less expensive controllers can actually be worse than none at all.

Setting one up is pretty easy, and can be done in a parking lot. The Prodigy has a set of instructions. The others you just set the gain until they lock the brakes at slow speed, and then back the gain off until it's comfortable.

I really would recommend you install the Prodigy. It's worth the dollars.

Roger
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Old 11-19-2005, 09:02 PM   #3
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I just had a REESE installed in mine..... ??? dont know a thing about it... LOL
Even tho i am eggless right now i want everytning put on my truck so i will be ready when i get another egg...
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Old 11-20-2005, 08:35 AM   #4
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Speaking from my own personal experience, be SURE they disengage your surge brakes when they put your controller in!

AND, I'm with Roger: Get the Prodigy. The instructions are very clear and easy to understand. Moreover, the controller is a breeze to use. I'm not saying it's "the best" or anything like that, but I am saying that I have experience with it and am quite pleased with it's ease of use. My husband has the Voyager. Both made by Tekonsha. I like mine MUCH better.

You are going to be amazed at the difference in the braking systems!
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Old 11-20-2005, 08:44 AM   #5
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Gina, this is rather long, but I found something that I had written out for someone else who had just gotten a Prodigy. Mind you this is only for the Prodigy, but if you do get one, maybe this will help. NOTE: This was based on info with my 2002 model, but I bet it's still about the same.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

You have three doodads on your controller (one nice thing about the Prodigy is that you don't have to worry about it being level). On the right side is a power boost. It gives you a little immediate oomph if you need it. It has three settings and off. I don't use it because I don't have that much weight. I'd adjust with it off. On the left you have a dial. This is your normal braking. In the middle is the slider that manually activates the brakes for just the trailer.

Okay, now that we have identified everything, here's what to do.

1. Hook up trailer. Apply brakes and turn the left dial about half way.

2. Drive down a side road with not much traffic. Residential is perfect. When you are going about 15 miles per hour remove your foot from the tow vehicle's accelerator/brake and apply the trailer brakes using the middle lever. If you can't feel it pulling you to a stop, release the lever then gradually increase the strength on the left dial, then try it again. Do this until it almost grabs. If the trailer brakes lock, then back it off a hair. The idea is for those brakes to stop your trailer and the ones in your truck to stop the truck. Once you know the trailer brakes are stopping the trailer, then you are set.

Do this a few times and I promise you, you will feel like a pro. The Prodigys are wonderful and SO easy to use. If I can do it, so can you.

One more thing. You have a card that is called a 'quick reference card.' Use that to learn how to operate it. There is a chart that has a guide for settings in sort of a graph style. They suggest that if the trailer weighs less than the tow vehicle then you should have it off or on the lowest (6.1).

If this applies to you, then I encourage you to set your brakes with this in the off position. Then you get a better feel for the brakes.

This is how it appears on your controller.

Trailer connected and Boost off: .c

Trailer connected and Boost on: .c.
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Old 11-20-2005, 09:35 AM   #6
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Suz, those are easy! Thanks!

The surge breaks I have used are on other trailers, not this one.
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Old 11-20-2005, 11:13 AM   #7
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Good instructions. I think that the Prodigy defaults to the lowest 'boost' position which is really what you want it on. That applies the trailer brakes slightly ahead of the tow vehicle brakes. That allows the trailer to drag just a little, which is desireable.

Roger
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Old 11-20-2005, 11:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Gina D.@Nov 20 2005, 09:35 AM
The surge breaks I have used are on other trailers, not this one.
Boy, are you in for a pleasant surprise! You know how trailers with surge brakes always kinda go yank, yank, chunk chunk? Once adjusted, the brakes on your trailer are gonna be s-m-o-o-o-o-t-h.
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Old 11-20-2005, 11:22 AM   #9
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.... oh, and one more thing: Make sure they check the trailer's brakes to insure they are properly adjusted. When I got my new axle, I never could quite get them to feel right. A wonderful friend and fellow fiberglass trailer owner came over and adjusted them for me. WOW! I almost threw him through the windshield the first time I stepped on the brakes. Backed the controller off a bit and they have been perfecto ever since!
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Old 11-20-2005, 11:34 AM   #10
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when he fixed the frame, I also had him do the bearings and he turned the drums and ran a new brake line. The former owner never used the brakes so he stole the line for his wierd back up lights and turn signal arrangement.

So.. most of the prep work has been done on the trialer already.

I am headed to camping world right now to get a prodigy. What the heck.
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Old 11-20-2005, 12:04 PM   #11
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Good decision, Gina. You won't be disappointed. You WILL be pleased at how well it takes care of you.

Roger
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Old 11-20-2005, 02:33 PM   #12
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I'll add my vote to the "get a good controller" side, although Gina has already gone to do this anyway. Although I chose a Cequent/Tekonsha Prodigy, there are functionally similar alternatives; there are also lots of inadequate designs which trailer and towing shops will recommend because they are profitable to sell, so for anyone who does not want to spend a significant amount of time learning the technology, I guess it is easiest to just get a Prodigy.

I'm getting really tired of hearing that "fine for such a lightweight rig" line from people who we should be able to look to for professional advice. A 13-foot Burro is indeed a light trailer, but it is still a significant fraction of the weight of the tow vehicle, and I have no idea why we should accept substandard control of its braking system. If the Burro where hooked to the back of a one-ton pickup, maybe it would be less important; as it is, after spending a substantial amount of money for a braking system and installation, I don't understand why any owner would not use a proper controller. Good controllers are no more difficult to use than the "basic" ones, and use the same wiring.

As for the Reese unit - Reese is one of the several brand names of Cequent Towing Products, and a brake controller bearing the Reese brand could be anything from a glorified on-off switch to a state-of-the-art proportional controller, like the Prodigy.

While the instructions from Suz are for the Prodigy, and the boost control is specific to that unit, virtually any electric brake control has the fundamentally the same setup method for adjusting the gain control (that's the left-side dial on the Prodigy). The only aspect which I didn't see clearly in Suz's instructions is that the digital display shows the voltage going to the brake, so the way the user knows what the how the gain is set is by the reading when the brakes are fully applied (as with the manual lever) - "6.0" means 6 volts, halfway up the adjustment range.

My Prodigy came with instructions, a reference card, and a video. The video wasn't good enough to use by itself, but it might help with understanding the instructions. For anyone who has lost the instructions, they are readily available from Tekonsha's Prodigy page.
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Old 11-20-2005, 05:04 PM   #13
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Well, I did get the Prodigy, and I am not too happy about the price at Camping World, but I had to have it by tomorrow for several reasons, mostly because thats when it is scheduled when I don't need the car for a couple days. (I am going out of town and my company has rented me a car) I didn't have time to chase all over town to find one. The few autp parts stores I called didn't have them.

Yes, It came with a DVD, I will be watching it. That nifty carry bag makes it all worth it, eh?

*EDIT.. the dvd is pretty good at explaining. Since I am the end user, and NOT the installer, it answered my questions.

I was suprised how many different controllers Tekonsha makes.

The one I already had is a Reese Pod.

The other look like they would suit my needs, as well as the one I have, but I like the fact that I don't have to have it in the car when I don't need it. Stealing stuff out of cars is a sport in So. Cal.
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Old 11-21-2005, 12:45 AM   #14
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Slightly off topic, but in a former life I was on a business trip in the outskirts of Naples (that would be the one in Italy, not in Florida) and we walked into a local pizza joint -- There were a half dozen or so fellows sitting at a table and there was hardly any room on the table for food or cutlery for all the electronic gear just sitting there -- Clearly these guys weren't going to leave stuf in their cars even while just having lunch!

The Navy folks were telling us that even bars on your apartment windows weren't enuf because some of the slicky-boys came equipped with long poles with gripper-grabbers on the ends
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