Brake question - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-04-2006, 10:00 AM   #1
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OK - My 06 Chevy Suburban can easily haul a 16 or 17' camper but seemed as though I smelled brakes on the last trip down a steep hill in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am told by GM dealer that I am all set as far as towing including brakes. Does anyone know if the factory set-up is all I need? Why do I read so much about brake controllers? Is that just for people how do not have the tow package?
As I understand it - with a controller, the harder you step on the brakes, the more current is sent to the trailer brakes -- right or wrong? Could I put a voltmeter on my 7 pin plug terminal and have someone push on the brakes harder and harder?
Not sure I understand what I should since I never hauled a trailer with brakes.

Thanks
Chris
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Old 08-04-2006, 10:25 AM   #2
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Quote:
I smelled brakes on the last trip down a steep hill in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Does anyone know if the factory set-up is all I need?
As I understand it - with a controller, the harder you step on the brakes, the more current is sent to the trailer brakes -- right or wrong?
Not sure I understand what I should since I never hauled a trailer with brakes.

Thanks
Chris
It looks like you made the same mistake that I did when I first towed with brakes.
The voltage on the Brake Controller needs to be [b]Dialed In before you drive it. If you have a Prodigy Controller, and the display is constantly showing "0.0", then you are sending nothing back to the trailer's brakes! The display on the Prodigy Controller is a built-in volt meter telling you how much you are sending to the brakes. The harder you step on the brakes, the higher the number should be displayed.

I don't have time right now to walk you thru it... someone else will add to this...
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Old 08-04-2006, 11:10 AM   #3
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If you have not installed a brake controller in your tow vehicle, your trailer brakes are not functional.

A good brake controller will apply current to your trailer brakes proportionally based upon the deceleration rate the controller is experiencing; it does not directly sense how hard you press on the brake pedal.

Until this year I used the Tekonsha Voyager brake controller. It worked OK, but I wasn't happy having to adjust the leveling control to make the trailer brakes work properly. I installed a new Tekonsha Prodigy brake controller and it does not require leveling. I am very satisfied with this controller, and installation was very easy. Your '06 Suburban should be even easier because it has a pre-wired jack under the dash for the brake controller.

To learn a bit more about trailer brakes and brake controllers, go to http://www.tekonsha.com/product1.html and read about the various products available.

One other thing; if you smelled hot brakes, you were mis-using your brakes. Do not use your brakes to control vehicle speed while descending a hill. Use lower gears to control speed while traveling down hill.

If you have further questions, just ask here!

-- Dan Meyer
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Old 08-04-2006, 11:38 AM   #4
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OK - My 06 Chevy Suburban can easily haul a 16 or 17' camper but seemed as though I smelled brakes on the last trip down a steep hill in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am told by GM dealer that I am all set as far as towing including brakes. Does anyone know if the factory set-up is all I need? Why do I read so much about brake controllers? Is that just for people how do not have the tow package?
As I understand it - with a controller, the harder you step on the brakes, the more current is sent to the trailer brakes -- right or wrong? Could I put a voltmeter on my 7 pin plug terminal and have someone push on the brakes harder and harder?
Not sure I understand what I should since I never hauled a trailer with brakes.

Thanks
Chris
I have an Accupower POD controller on my Mazda B2500 pickup and i installed it myself according to instructions included with the unit. They reccomended installing a 20A fused 12V line directly off the battery to the controller to make sure there is sufficient power available to the controller and to avoid overloading any existing circuits. The other wire connects into the brake light switch near the top of my brake pedal under the dash and basically turns on the controller when I apply the brakes. The output wire then goes to the trailer plug. As I understand it when you apply the brakes, the brake lights come on and send a signal to the controller(pushing harder on the brake pedal doesn't increase or alter the signal strength!). I believe there is a pendulum in the controller which affects the signal strength. There is also a dial which allows me to adjust brake strength or severity depending on the trailer weight or road conditions. With Trillium trailers I have towed I could dial the brakes strong enough to lock the wheels if I wanted to. On the L'il Bigfoot I'm using now I can't make the wheels lock(possibly because of much smaller brake drums than the Trilliums have). I also have a manual slider bar on the controller so that I can manually apply only the trailer brakes if I wish. This makes it easy to determine that my trailer brakes are working. None of this matters if your brakes are not properly adjusted at the wheels. Most of the older trailers that I have seen do not have automatic adjustment like cars have, and can wear to a point where they won't stop. It would probably be a good idea to take the trailer and tow vehicle to a mechanic who knows how to check and adjust everything for you. Recently I took an Ontario Z air brake course and they constantly talked about intermittent application of brakes on long grades. Apply the brakes for a few seconds, release them for a few seconds, and repeat on a regular basis, to allow the brake drums or rotors a chance to cool. If you lightly apply and hold the brakes(dragging) for an extended period of time the brakes can reach temperatures over 2000 deg. F. and eventually fade to a point where you can't stop. In a panic stop situation it's amazing how much even a 13' Boler or Trillium can push the tow vehicle. Last week I sold a 13' Trillium to an ex truck driver who drove 2 hours to buy my trailer because it was the only one advertised locally with brakes. He plans to go to the west coast this fall, and said he wouldn't consider driving in the mountains without brakes. Hope this helps
Bill
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Old 08-04-2006, 12:45 PM   #5
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Ok, thanks. I speedily read some of the Tekonsha site and will go back later. Guess I better find one before I wear out the brakes on the Sub. and I endanger us all. I do downshift on steep grades but that's not even enough for some of the roads going up and down the Blue Ridge mountains. Any input as to which one until I read all the website? I guess I'll do a search on brqake controllers.

Seems like changing from a 16' Scamp to 17' Casita seems to be just enough to really concern me.

Thanks for any and all help.
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Old 08-04-2006, 01:33 PM   #6
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I have an AccuPower POD controller... I believe there is a pendulum in the controller which affects the signal strength.
The AccuPower POD is the "Inertia & Basic" section of Tekonsha's Trailer Brake Controls selection (which is the page which Dan linked), like the other AccuPower models. I believe that it is a "basic" controller, with no pendulum and no response to deceleration, which is why it has the "feature" of being mountable in any orientation. I agree that it is triggered by the brake light signal, or by the manual lever. Tekonsha is not at all clear about the lacking features in their material, so I found that it is easy to be misled.

The models from this Cequent Towing Products division which respond to deceleration carry the Tekonsha brand name, and are listed on that model lineup page as "Proportional Trailer Brake Controls". The Prodigy is the state-of-the-art product, and the rest seem pointless to me.

I spent quite a while examining the alternatives before selecting the Prodigy for my van to tow my Boler B1700. While the deceleration-sensitive controllers require mounting in a specific orientation (level side-to-side and aligned along the front-to-rear axis), which can be a pain, I concluded that the "basic" (or in my terms, "primitive") controllers are a waste of time. Since I'm going to all of the expense and effort to install the wiring, and I am riding in the vehicle which is attached to the trailer, I would not accept primitive braking control.

And that's my opinon piece for today...
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Old 08-04-2006, 02:12 PM   #7
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I do downshift on steep grades but that's not even enough for some of the roads going up and down the Blue Ridge mountains.
If downshifting doesn't control your speed, you are going too fast. Use your brakes to slow down, and then downshift another gear to control your speed.

A good rule of thumb is to descend a hill using whatever speed and gear you would use to go up the same hill. Another way to think of it is that brakes should be used only to slow down, and your engine should be used to maintain your speed.

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Old 08-04-2006, 02:52 PM   #8
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If downshifting doesn't control your speed, you are going too fast. Use your brakes to slow down, and then downshift another gear to control your speed.

A good rule of thumb is to descend a hill using whatever speed and gear you would use to go up the same hill. Another way to think of it is that brakes should be used only to slow down, and your engine should be used to maintain your speed.

-- Dan Meyer
The lowest I can go is 2nd gear from a dead stop. I even gained speed here on some of those roads to the point where I still needed brakes. But I do understand what your saying. Thanks
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Old 08-04-2006, 03:15 PM   #9
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The last time I smelled brakes it was coming down the Bighorn Mts. in Wyoming.
My buddy's truck was having a hard time with his Coleman popup ( granted it was a big one).
I had no problem with the Burro and the Astro.
Now that was some downhill ride for sure for maybe 80 miles.
I've been on the Blue Ridge Hwy. and those hills are nothing compared.
Either you're going way too fast downhill or something is really wrong with the equipment.

Or maybe you smelled someone else's brakes like I did.
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Old 08-04-2006, 03:43 PM   #10
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The last time I smelled brakes it was coming down the Bighorn Mts. in Wyoming.
My buddy's truck was having a hard time with his Coleman popup ( granted it was a big one).
I had no problem with the Burro and the Astro.
Now that was some downhill ride for sure for maybe 80 miles.
I've been on the Blue Ridge Hwy. and those hills are nothing compared.
Either you're going way too fast downhill or something is really wrong with the equipment.

Or maybe you smelled someone else's brakes like I did.
Could've smelled somebody else's Came thru the bighorn mountains just in early July and it has NOTHING on some of the roads coming down of the BRP. I think maybe you just weren't on the 'right" one. Take care - I definitely am looking into the Prodigy.
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Old 08-04-2006, 04:07 PM   #11
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I agree with Dan about going down in the same gear that you went up. The problem with some newer vehicles is that there is no way to downshift into first gear. The shifting lever will go into OD-D-2 only. First gear is not an option.

As far as comparing the Bighorn Mtns and the BRP goes, the Bighorns have Highway 14A west from Burgess Jtc where you go something like 30 miles at 14% grade. The BRP has some hills that are steeper but they are not nearly as long. On the BRP we were on one road with our Chevy Caprice pulling a pop-up and the road was so steep that whenever we hit even a small amount of gravel, we were spinning both drive wheels. I did not go back down that hill.
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Old 08-05-2006, 11:33 PM   #12
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Accupower POD controller... They reccomended installing a 20A fused 12V line directly off the battery to the controller to make sure there is sufficient power available to the controller and to avoid overloading any existing circuits.
Tekonsha now recommends an Auto-Reset Circuit Breaker, rather than a Fuse, for the brake control power -- One really doesn't have time in the Rockies to get out and change a fuse if there is a momentary short in the system (I use one on my battery charge lead also, because it would be easy to overlook a blown fuse until my battery died from lack of recharge).

With regard to automatic transmissions, I strongly recommend that everyone read the Owner's Manual (several times) for their own transmission, as some of them are not as straightforward as they seem and may do strange things when downshifted to 2 going up a hill (like never downshift to 1, even when it needs to).

Besides heat, the other major drawback to auto versus manual tranny, is the inablility to downshift before a downgrade to use engine braking to its fullest extent, but some engine braking is available. Diesel vehicles without special engine braking systems have to rely on wheelbrakes regardless of transmission.

There's a saying out there "You can come down a hill too slow as many times as you want, but you'll only come down too fast once".
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Old 08-06-2006, 01:12 PM   #13
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On my Astro, if you have the selector in second gear, it will stay locked in second even when you pull away from a stop. It cannot downshift into first even when going up an extreme hill. The purpose of this is to give controlled traction on ice and snow to avoid spinning.
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