Braking and Brake Controller Question - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-06-2016, 10:29 PM   #1
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Braking and Brake Controller Question

Hi All,

I posted elsewhere that we towed our new to us Casita for the first time today excluding a couple of runs around the subdivision.

Before hitting Natcher Parkway, we cruised the neighborhood a few times in order to adjust the new Prodigy P3 brake controller. According to the directions, I should set the brake controller at 6, cruise up to 25 mph, and apply the brake controller manual lever. If it does not lock up the Casita tires, then set the power level higher. Repeat this procedure until I can produce brake lock up. Once I do, then back off in order to find that sweet spot of maximum brake force, but no lock up. Well, I had to adjust the brake controller to its maximum level of 14 and still could not produce lock up. I could definitely tell the difference as I progressed upward and I can "feel" the brakes much more at 12 to 14 than I could at 6 to 8. Is it necessary for me to produce brake lock up?

The Prodigy P3 also has a boost setting with four levels of boost. Given the Casita's small size relative to my midsize SUV, I don't need B2, B3, or B4. I assume that I can use the brake controller with no boost, but I used it on B1, which produces a 13% increase in brake force at the trailer when I apply my SUV's brakes. Thoughts using the boost feature on the brake controller?

So, I used the brake controller with a power setting of 14 and Boost Level 1. As I was finishing my 53 mile loop testing the towing, I began to wonder if I really needed my power setting set as high as 14 and/or the boost set on 1. I did notice after my loop, the hubs on the trailer were a bit hot. I could touch and wrap my hand around them for 2 seconds, then I needed to release. My brakes on the Borrego were warm, but not hot.

Thoughts on the above observations. Today was basically the first day I have ever towed a trailer and used a brake controller. All went smoothly, but I want to make sure that the non-lock-up is not a problem and that I am not overusing my trailer brakes.

Thanks,

Dean

P.S. - FYI, I got 12.5 mpg on my 53 mile loop averaging about 60 mph. Given the Borrego is 4.6L V8 and is not known for being thrifty, I thought this was not bad. I am on a Borrego forum and know of guys pulling larger utility trailers that are only getting 8 mpg.
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Old 03-06-2016, 10:36 PM   #2
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You may need to adjust the trailer brakes first and then do your set-up.
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Old 03-06-2016, 11:39 PM   #3
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What you're seeing is the norm for these controllers on the Casita. I haven't heard of anyone getting the brakes to lock up. I think one guy got his to lock up on gravel road.
Chances are in an emergency you're not going to have time to even reach down and manually actuate that lever. I adjusted mine so I can feel it pull on the tow vehicle. The proportional braking is what makes these controllers nice. I've been thinking about going about 25mph and hard braking the TV while the wife stands outside to watch the trailer tires. Haven't gotten around to it yet.
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Old 03-07-2016, 05:41 AM   #4
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Well Dean, you ask in your other post for my opinion . We have the same rig but I don't have mine set anywhere near as high as you have it. I think I have the boost at the minimum as the braking I need is fine with that boost rate. I do adjust the power dial depending on the road. There is one ten mile, 8 to 10 % grade that I run a couple times a year that I back the braking off a bit. I only want a little braking there as I've got the truck geared down and don't need to over heat the trailers brakes for that extreme grade. 50 to 60 mph and only using the brakes a few times works fine.
I would think that every tow combination is different. Like you say, got to find that sweet spot. You'll never get the wheels to lock up, that's good. Guess bottom line is you're looking to add a bit of help to the tug for stopping, not having the trailer stopping the tug. When I first was "playing" with the controller on the Casita I ran it up pretty high and hit the brakes. Was like the dog hitting the end of the chain ......way to high.
One thing I would recommend is when you're hooked up and first pull out, apply the manual lever a bit to make sure the brakes are working.
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Old 03-07-2016, 07:55 AM   #5
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Glad to see this thread. I've got the Prodigy P2, installed about two weeks ago and have meant to do exactly what you've done but haven't got around to it yet, since I haven't used the trailer yet. That's good to know ahead of time that if I can't get the brakes to lock up, I don't need to worry.

I just had a new Dexter axle put on my Bigfoot. Not sure how those brakes will compare to your Casita.
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Old 03-07-2016, 08:57 AM   #6
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Hi Glenn, Craven, Dave, and Zach,

Ya know, it looks like this is going to be another one of those, "I can't just follow the recipe in the cookbook on how to make oatmeal walnut pancakes!" In other words, there is a gray area in which I have to use my judgment. Hmmm. My brother-in-law who tows an '87 Avion 31' TT with a monster Ford Excursion and tricked out diesel was harassing me yesterday for reading the directions to the brake controller! He just adjusts the brake controller to what "feels" right. Given, I have never towed, I don't really know what the the ding-dang feels right.

I do know that I could "feel" the trailer brakes with the power set on 14 and the Boost on 1. By the end of the loop, I started to think that I could back off a bit. Based on my anectdotal observation that my trailer brakes were hotter than my tug brakes, I probably do need to back off on the brake aggressiveness.

By the way, do many of you FGRV folks use an infrared laser temperature gun? Is that a toy that I need to add to my RV Arsenal?

Thanks,

Dean
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Old 03-07-2016, 09:02 AM   #7
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Name: Darral
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Adjusting the brake controller on these small trailers can be tricky. My 13' has NEVER locked up...'cept on gravel .

I have my Tekonsha set to 10 (10v) and B1. I do NOT want my trailer trying to stop my truck.

And you're right Dean, the trailer brakes can and will heat the hubs! I was doing a test-run on my Scamp last year. After I stopped, the hubs just KEPT heating up. Finally, I zero'ed my brake controller (no stopping assistance) took it for another test run and they were around 100 degrees! I was testing the hubs/bearings, not the brakes.

So, here's what I try to practice and have always heard. To get your tow/trailer at maximum braking efficiency, you should set your brake controller so that when you're stopping, you cant tell a difference with or without the trailer. That way, you know the trailer is basically stopping itself...without trying to drag the truck to a stop as well. I like that and try to bide by it and have for the past 6 yrs of ownership.
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Old 03-07-2016, 10:29 AM   #8
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I still recommend that you get your trailer brakes adjusted first - then set up your controller. I have mine adjusted when I have the wheel bearings repacked and should do it more often.
If this 'new to you' trailer needs brake pads, adjusting the controller isn't going to help.
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Old 03-07-2016, 11:31 AM   #9
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I still recommend that you get your trailer brakes adjusted first - then set up your controller. I have mine adjusted when I have the wheel bearings repacked and should do it more often.
If this 'new to you' trailer needs brake pads, adjusting the controller isn't going to help.
What Glenn said.

And if you have your brake controller up to 14 after you have your brakes adjusted, you're going to need new pads and replacement drums annually 'cause they'll warp from the heat.

You want to set your trailer brakes so that you can just feel that the truck isn't stopping the trailer, nor is the trailer stopping the truck. The trailer should just be braking its own weight. You want the boost on one or two so that the trailer brakes come on just an instant before the truck brakes take 'hold. When you can feel that, then the 'number' is just right.
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Old 03-07-2016, 11:32 AM   #10
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Dean...many people will shoot you down for wanting to use a "cheap" laser/infrared thermometer. They will get into ASTM standards etc. Forget it. I've used this one (see link below) for YEARS and love it. I used it when my Scamp was new. The ONE thing it caught was being able to steadily watch the temp climb on my hubs when it was caused by over-braking as I described earlier. This was AFTER I had parked the Scamp and was checking the hub temps. One side was climbing...the other steady. I knew then that my brakes was working on one side and not the other! Got it corrected.

The one suggestion I have is is documenting the readings for future reference, shooting basically the same area, the same distance from it etc. Then at the LEAST, you can take comparative readings. This is one reason I trust my bearings as I'm still getting the same readings I was when it was new....with the exception of the braking fiasco.

Some may disagree, but my tests now including driving my trailer apx 20 miles at apx 60 mph WITHOUT using the trailer brakes (not on a mountain of course!) then checking the hub temps. Then testing WITH brakes and comparing both sides (hubs). It's really amazing at how hot the hubs can get if the brakes on your trailer are agressive!

Here's the link: Infrared Thermometer - Non-contact, Digital Thermometer

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeanCHS1980 View Post
.............

By the way, do many of you FGRV folks use an infrared laser temperature gun? Is that a toy that I need to add to my RV Arsenal?

Thanks,

Dean
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Old 03-07-2016, 11:41 AM   #11
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Thanks for the interesting discussion on adjusting the controller. We're picking up our 28' Bigfoot Silver Cloud in about 5 weeks and will be using a brake controller for the first time. It sounds like I'll have some experimenting to do on our trip back to Illinois!
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Old 03-07-2016, 11:56 AM   #12
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Thanks for the interesting discussion on adjusting the controller. We're picking up our 28' Bigfoot Silver Cloud in about 5 weeks and will be using a brake controller for the first time. It sounds like I'll have some experimenting to do on our trip back to Illinois!
Kevin, if you want to save yourself some heartache along the side of the road, put brand new ST tires on the trailer regardless of how the tires it has on it may look, have the bearings packed, and have the brakes checked, both for service life and function. If there is ANY doubt about any of the parts, just have them replaced. Cutting a seized bearing off a spindle on the side of the road is no fun. Coming down a mountain without trailer brakes is no fun. Having a blowout at 65 mph on a mountain road is no fun, not to mention having to repair wheel wells and find out-of-production fiberglass and plastic parts. Don't ask me how I know these things to be true... but I will confess to being a slow learner.

ON EDIT... oh and I forgot, when you have the tires replaced, have STEEL valve stems installed. Several years ago, there were defective Chinese-manufactured rubber valve stems imported into the country... MILLIONS of them... and they're still being installed and still failing. I suspect that many "blowouts" weren't tire failures at all, but valve stem failures.
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:52 PM   #13
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Hi Darral, Glenn, Roger, and Kevin,

Hmm, always intrigued to read folk's comments. Roger, trying to avoid being a slow learner! Darral, thanks for the link. Glenn, good points that the brake controller cannot compensate for worn pads. Kevin, would love to see some pics of your Big Foot!

Take care,

Dean
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:53 PM   #14
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This is from page 14 of AL-KO Owner's Manual, Brake Adjustment. The salient points are:
3) While spinning the wheel, use a standard brake adjusting tool or the blade of a screwdriver to rotate the star wheel until there is a heavy brake drag.
4) Loosen until the wheel turns freely about 3/4 or one full turn.

The question of what is "heavy drag", or "turns freely" could be discussed without limits. Some of us may want to have the adjustment done by those who do it for a living, others will work on it and gain the experience. That is what I am hoping for. Judging if the trailer is pushing the TV or doing all braking, is another one that has a learning curve. The only thing I was comfortable with so far was feeling the hubs and drums through the holes in the wheel to see that both do about the same amount of work.
After I adjusted the brakes last week, I was also not able to lock the trailer wheels on dry pavement, from about 25mph, as suggested in the Teconsha manual.

I would not bother with the remote temperature sensor, your hand is good enough. If the hubs are too hot to touch for one second or so, I would be trying to figure out what the problem is. If you feel any heat on the palm of your hand an inch away, it is serious. The same goes for the tires. I try to remember to feel them at every gas stop.

But wait! I just bought pressure sensors for the Scamp tires and they also report temperature. However, they are on the valve stems, so they really tend to measure the ambient temperature, rather than the tire. I am not planning to rely on them in that regard.
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