Brake Controllers on cars that might brake automatically - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-22-2013, 09:14 PM   #1
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Brake Controllers on cars that might brake automatically

Hello all,

I am currently in the market to add a fiberglass camper to my adventure assault fleet. However I am currently stumped by one thing: Is it safe/plausible to hook up a brake controller on a car that has automatic safety features that may apply brakes?

My specific case is a 2013 Subaru Outback with Eyesight. The Eyesight system basically consists of a few cameras that monitors the road and other vehicles movement relative to my car. In an unsafe situation it can apply braking to keep me from rear ending someone. Many cars do similar things - heck the Volvo salesman was determined that I try to ram a barrier with their system armed.

The problem is that I have no idea if the Subaru system (or any of them) send a proper signal to the brake switch. For all I know these system bypass the brake switch and trigger the brake lights through some other wiring scheme. The big obvious concern is that if the brake switch is not energized, the brake controller splice connector will not be energized, and therefore the brake controller will not fire off. Worst case scenario is an aggressively braking car and no trailer brake activation. Bad juju.

Does anyone have any experience with similar systems or a solution? Or am I just worrying too much.

Thanks
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Old 06-22-2013, 09:56 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boley View Post
Hello all,

I am currently in the market to add a fiberglass camper to my adventure assault fleet. However I am currently stumped by one thing: Is it safe/plausible to hook up a brake controller on a car that has automatic safety features that may apply brakes?

My specific case is a 2013 Subaru Outback with Eyesight. The Eyesight system basically consists of a few cameras that monitors the road and other vehicles movement relative to my car. In an unsafe situation it can apply braking to keep me from rear ending someone. Many cars do similar things - heck the Volvo salesman was determined that I try to ram a barrier with their system armed.

The problem is that I have no idea if the Subaru system (or any of them) send a proper signal to the brake switch. For all I know these system bypass the brake switch and trigger the brake lights through some other wiring scheme. The big obvious concern is that if the brake switch is not energized, the brake controller splice connector will not be energized, and therefore the brake controller will not fire off. Worst case scenario is an aggressively braking car and no trailer brake activation. Bad juju.

Does anyone have any experience with similar systems or a solution? Or am I just worrying too much.

Thanks
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Old 06-23-2013, 04:53 AM   #3
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You mean they might fit a 'safety system' that braked the car but did not illuminate the brake lights (and hence triggering the brake controller)? Not much chance of that.
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Old 06-23-2013, 06:21 AM   #4
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You mean they might fit a 'safety system' that braked the car but did not illuminate the brake lights (and hence triggering the brake controller)? Not much chance of that.
Not saying that at all. I am simply saying it may not trigger the Brake Switch and just light up the brake lights via another circuit. The brake lights absolutely activate when the emergency braking kicks in.

Based upon what I can figure out, the Brake Switch circuit is what triggers a brake controller to activate, not just brake light action. I have reached out to Subaru for clarification on the wiring, but have not heard back. My hope was that another owner here might have more experience with such systems.
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Old 06-23-2013, 07:41 AM   #5
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Andrew,
If I understand boley correctly. Historically controllers are activated by the brake light switch at the pedal. The new automatic systems activate the brakes and brake lights without the brake pedal depressed. So where does one connect the controller such that the trailer brakes come on with both manual and automatic braking?

Perhaps this is a question for the companies that make the controllers such as Tekonsha since the number of vehicles having such systems will only increase in the future.
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Old 06-23-2013, 07:49 AM   #6
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It could be a problem. My RAV4 has the ability to slow down the vehicle with the cruise controller. If you hold it in the "slow down" position long enough it puts the brakes on. The manual states is does not turn on the brake lights under those conditions. As far as I can tell it doesn't put the trailer brakes on either, although I haven't used the feature enough to be sure.
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Old 06-23-2013, 07:55 AM   #7
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I agree with Roy, Tekonsha should have the answer. I just installed a controller on an Outback which has four wires going to the brake switch. They had schametics to determine which wire I needed to connect the controller brake wire to.
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Old 06-23-2013, 08:25 AM   #8
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When I wired my Forester, Subaru provided a connector for trailer lights back under the cargo area cover. I bought a light converter from etrailer that plugged in to it and generated the 4 pin light connection. One of the wires (red I think) into the converter is the brake lights. I spliced in there for my brake controller input. It avoided messing around with the very hard to get to brake pedal switch. Raz
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Old 06-23-2013, 08:48 AM   #9
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Could you wire the brake controller such that it is triggered off the brake light circuit itself, as opposed to the brake pedal switch? That might entail a wire forward from the tail light area.
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Old 06-23-2013, 04:46 PM   #10
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Vehicle manufacturers have arranged automated systems to power the brake light control circuit at the factory-provided connection to the trailer brake controller. It seems less likely that they would ensure that the circuit was powered during automatic braking if they were not making any specific provision for towing.

Either way, I would want to check to be sure. In this case, a run at a harmless (cardboard?) barrier might serve to trigger the system, and a simple test light can watch the circuit of interest.

In any case, I don't think I would be too concerned about it, because I would expect my foot to be planted on the brake pedal within a second of the automated braking action. I also fundamentally dislike the idea of automated brake application...
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Old 06-23-2013, 04:48 PM   #11
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Could you wire the brake controller such that it is triggered off the brake light circuit itself, as opposed to the brake pedal switch? That might entail a wire forward from the tail light area.
I agree that's a potential solution if there is a problem with the automated system; however, if the brake controller puts too much load on the circuit, it could confuse a tail light monitoring system. No vehicle I have owned has monitored its lights this way, but they also don't apply their own brakes.
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Old 06-23-2013, 05:32 PM   #12
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I also fundamentally dislike the idea of automated brake application...
But we must remain cognizant that some of the AWD systems use selective timed braking to a spinning wheel such that even torque is applied to the remaining wheels with traction. The 4matic flashes a bright orange triangle when this happens.

This is done without brake lights. The requirements of feeding an appropriate signal to a brake controller are becoming more complex.
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Old 06-23-2013, 05:58 PM   #13
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But we must remain cognizant that some of the AWD systems use selective timed braking to a spinning wheel such that even torque is applied to the remaining wheels with traction. The 4matic flashes a bright orange triangle when this happens.

This is done without brake lights.
Yes, but the vehicle doesn't slow down: that's why the brake lights are not applied, and why trailer brakes should not apply in this case (so it's good that the controller doesn't get a brake light signal). This isn't just an AWD feature; it is normal for any traction control system - even my decade-old 2WD Focus does this. Because it is just adjusting power delivery, not decelerating the vehicle, I'm fine with it.

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The requirements of feeding an appropriate signal to a brake controller are becoming more complex.
I agree. The sensible thing to do now is to integrate the trailer lighting and trailer brake control with the vehicle's networked communications. This will take more work than North American towing equipment manufacturers seem willing to invest... perhaps because as consumers we are generally not willing to pay. Euro suppliers do integrate with tow vehicle systems for lighting; however, they don't use electric brakes so their products don't offer an option for brake control integration.
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:28 PM   #14
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I really appreciate the feedback in this thread. At this point I have still not heard back from anyone at Subaru North America in regards to the specifics of the Eyesight system. Right now I suppose there are 2 viable options to combat cars that may automatically brake:

1) Use surge brakes.

2) Disable the auto-braking safety feature in the tow vehicle. This is probably the route I will take until something more robust appears.
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