Camper Trailers Tech Tips

Brake Controllers for Camper Trailers

 

 

 

camper trailer
brake controllers

everything you want to know about brake controllers by were afraid to ask

 

INTRODUCTION

This article is intended as a guide to what an electric brake controller is, what it does & what is available on the market for camper trailers weighing between 750kg to 2 tonne. It does not cover drawbar mounted Break-Away brake controller systems which are required on all trailers over 2 tonne Gross Trailer Mass. Break-away controllers are designed to apply the trailers braking system if it becomes detached from the tow vehicle. The break-away switch module requires an onboard battery which is trickle charged and a check facility to ensure that the trailers safety system is operational at all times.

THE LAW

In December 1998 an agreement was reached by all State Ministers of Transport to implement national towing regulations throughout Australia. The uniform law states all trailers with an Aggregate Trailer Mass (including the load) over 750 kg must be fitted with brakes to comply with the national road regulations.

According to the Australian Design Rules, all trailers over 750kgs GTM, irrespective of the towing capacity or unladen mass of the tow vehicle, must have an effective brake system fitted. All brakes must be operable from the drivers seat of the tow vehicle except for over-ride brakes.

The minimum braking system required for a trailer or caravan depends on its type and weight, as well as the weight of the tow vehicle.....

Up to 750kgs GTM: No brakes are required.

751 to 2,000kgs GTM: There must be a braking system on the wheels of at least one axle and over-ride brakes are permitted. However, for caravans exceeding 1000kgs, independent brakes (electric brakes are the most common
form) are strongly recommended.

Over 2,000kgs GTM: A brake system operating on all wheels is required. The system must be capable of automatically activating should the trailer become detached from the tow vehicle. Under these circumstances the brakes must remain applied for at least 15 minutes. These 'break away' systems are compulsory on all trailers over 2,000kgs GTM.

WHAT IS AN ELECTRIC BRAKE CONTROLLER

An electric trailer brake controller is a device that supplies power from a vehicle to a trailers electric brakes when the vehicles brakes are applied. Any trailer with electric brakes needs a brake controller to activate the operation of the brakes.

HOW IT WORKS

Power is fed from the vehicles stoplights into the controller, activating the trailers brakes via a separate heavy duty circuit fed through the trailers connecting plug and socket. This allows the trailers brakes to come on automatically when you apply the vehicles brakes, at a rate set by the controller. When the controller is adjusted correctly, the driver will be able to slow the tow vehicle and trailer combination just as smoothly as if the tow vehicle was by itself.

It is important the wiring is heavy enough for the power to run through to the trailer with a good earth return, not just earthed to the body. Of course proper maintenance of the brakes with regular adjustment of the shoes & care of the magnets goes without saying. 

WHERE DOES IT GO

Most electric brake controllers are of a slimline contoured design allowing under dash placement easily within the drivers reach.  From the drivers seat you can control the rate of brake application from soft to aggressive my simply moving the control forward or backward. Most controllers also have a manual over-ride device which allows the user to apply the trailers brakes independently of the vehicles brakes.

TYPES OF CONTROLLERS

There are two types of electric brake controllers - motion sensing or pendulum style and time delay activated or solid state. Although the controllers methods are different, both types of controllers are very similar. Both allow the user to adjust output or braking power & both have a pressure sensitive manual over-ride trigger that can be used to apply the trailer brakes independent of the vehicles brakes & as well as having the same wiring configuration.

MOTION SENSING or pendulum style controllers are enabled by the brake pedal switch and activated by a pendulum circuit that senses the vehicles stopping motion and applies a proportional voltage to the trailers brakes. When properly adjusted the trailer will decelerate at the same speed as the tow vehicle. This increases braking efficiency and reduces brake wear. A big advantage of the pendulum style controller that it will operate well under adverse braking conditions and have a smooth braking action. Although most pendulum style controllers are bulky, more expensive and must be mounted and calibrated level, there are exceptions such as the new generation controllers like Tekonsha Prodigy.

TIME DELAY controllers operate the trailers brakes at a pre-determined braking rate. These controllers are designed to activate the brakes at a set delay from when the stoplights are activated. In some instances the rate of brake application is no different for a gradual stop to that of an attempted emergency stop. It is important to note that while time delay controllers provide some braking, it does not provide the most efficient balanced braking for the combination of car and trailer. Time delayed controllers are inexpensive, have a low profile, and can be mounted on any angle.

WHAT'S ON THE MARKET

MOTION SENSING CONTROLLERS

Tekonsha P3

Tekonsha's latest P3 electric brake controller is said to be the most advanced controller on the market. Features include easy to see LCD display with multiple colour & contrast options with highly advanced easy-to-understand roadside diagnostics & easy access "Up-Front" controls. The original "Boost" feature allows for different levels of customized braking. It also has a compact, dash-hugging design & unique easy-to-use clip-mounting system for quick disconnect & easy storage.

 

 

 

 

Tekonsha Prodigy

The Prodigy is a technologically advanced controller. Even with its pendulum based output it requires no levelling and is equipped with a self-adjusting sensing device to compensate for varying terrain. Its digital display illustrates the voltage level delivered to the trailers brakes whilst driving and also reports any electrical fault conditions such as power loss, short circuits. It has a plug in wiring harness for easy removal and a unique pocket mounting for flexible options. This unit has a variable power level that is further complimented by a boost feature for incremental power.

Tekonsha Voyager

The Voyager unit is a pendulum based controller with an indicator light to confirm that the trailer is connected and the circuit is complete. The indicator light also changes colour as an indication of the amount of power going to the trailers brakes. The Voyager controller has a manual-braking slide lever and variable gain control. It provides smooth braking but can be a bit fiddly to adjust.

Tekonsha Primus

The Primus has a totally proportional electric trailer brake control applying power to the trailer brakes in proportion to vehicles deceleration . It utilizes the primary sensor technology from Prodigy and features a one step set up system allowing the driver maximum flexibility when determining how the trailer should respond to a braking event. Snap in dash mounting clip and removable electrical connector allow unit to be quickly stored when not in use. It shows a digital readout depicting a secure electrical connection and the amount of voltage delivery to the trailer brakes.

Tekonsha Sentinel

The Sentinel is the product of extensive consumer research by Tekonsha. It is inertia activated using integrated circuitry for safe, smooth stops. The ergonomic design allows contour installation on dash for maximum visibility with comfortable access to the manual override slide lever. The LED power delivery display shows the amount of current delivery to the trailer brakes and glows green when a complete connection is made to the trailer.

Tekonsha Envoy

The Envoy is built with simplicity and reliability in mind. It's easy to install and easier to set and use & easily adjustable to accommodate different trailer weights. Envoy is equipped with a inertia activated sensor that detects the tow vehicles rate of deceleration and applies proportional braking to the trailer. It has a pivot mount & is ideal for installation in newer model tow vehicles.

AccuPower AccuTrac

The AccuTrac is an inertia activated brake controller. The AccuTrac is especially suited for constantly changing load conditions as. The dual action slide controls allow customized stopping power both in town and on the highway. It features dual brake action setting controls, solid state electronics, easy to set up and adjust, positive LED indicator confirms brake connection.

AccuPower DigiTrac II

The AccuPower DigiTrac II is a good choice for your constantly changing heavy load conditions. It is able to detect the difference between a gradual deceleration like slowing to a traffic light and the stopping power required when braking for an unexpected event. It's advanced electronics and patented Inertia Sensing System are designed for consistent and predictable stopping power. The Inertia Sensing System uses two separate power delivery controls - one for the "around town" gradual stopping and one for the urgent sudden stops.

Hayes Lemmerz Energize III

The Energize III unit is a simple to use pendulum based controller. It has a manual pendulum level which is highly visible and easy to set. A roller gain wheel allows easy tuning of braking quantity and the manual braking slide overrides gain settings for full emergency braking. An LED indicator light intensifies as braking power increases, which is a useful control feature. It is simple, reliable and provides smooth brakes.

Hayes Lemmerz Endeavor

The Endeavour is an advanced Energize III. It has a manual pendulum level but the digital readout guarantees a precise set. An increase/decrease button sets braking levels and a digital display indicates the amount of power being sent to the caravan brakes. The digital display also provides visual warning of several fault conditions, including current limit and short or open circuit. The easy to use manual override slide operates independently of the power setting to allow full braking output when desired.

TIME DELAY CONTROLLERS  

AccuPower Pilot

The AccuPower Pilot mounting options are very flexible as you are able to mount it in any direction even upside down. It has a large digital two-digit display making it easy to read the the voltage output to brakes (vs. a percentage output) as well as connection to the trailer.

Features include microprocessor allowing control to be mounted upside down and still have a readable display, protection against short circuit and loss of ground & with an optional ball mount available.

 

 

 

AccuPower POD

The POD (Power On Demand) can be mounted in any direction, even upside down. It features solid state electronics, power on LED for a positive tow vehicle to trailer connection & manual over-ride controls.

Hayman Reese

The Hayman Reese controller features simple operation, slim design and unlimited mounting positions. Not being a pendulum based controller its power level is varied by adjusting the Sync and Output controls on the unit. The sync relates to the timing of the brakes, (advanced or delayed) and the output level control adjusts the power. Because there is no internal pendulum sensor the Hayman Reese controller will deliver the same braking performance every time you apply the vehicle brakes which limits its ability to deliver smooth and effective braking in all stopping scenarios. The unit also has a manual control that allows variable independent application of the trailers brakes.

Redarc

The Redarc is a miniature solid state controller which provides a smooth and progressive brake application when the vehicle brakes are applied. Adjustable braking force is by a finger tip rotary control, while a manual switch provides manual override to operate the trailer brakes and brake lights without applying vehicle brakes. The intensity of the braking depends on the position of the sensitivity adjustment. An LED indicator advises operating mode by changing from green to red as braking force is increased.

ATS  

All Trailer Spares in Brisbane have their own electronic in house brand  brake controller which is suitable for mounting in the vehicle.

 

GSL

GLS Electronics have their XLE12 which is a compact sized electronic brake controller, suited to be mounted in any position. Operation is reliable even on the roughest of roads. Brake pressure is adjusted via a control knob.

 

A FEW DEFINITIONS

ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass)
The total laden weight of a trailer, which includes the tow ball mass and whatever you add as payload (eg. water, gas, luggage). The ATM is specified by the trailer manufacturer and must not be exceeded.

GCM (Gross Combination Mass)
The maximum laden mass of a motor vehicle plus the maximum laden weight of any trailer it can tow. The GCM is specified by the vehicle manufacturer.

GTM (Gross Trailer Mass)
The total permissible mass which includes whatever you add as payload (eg. water, gas and luggage) that can be supported by the wheels of a trailer. This does not include the mass supported by the tow ball. The GTM is specified by the manufacturer and must not be exceeded.

Tare Mass
The unladen weight of the trailer.

Tow Ball Mass
The weight imposed on the rear of the tow vehicle's tow ball from the coupling of a trailer or caravan.

Payload
Payload is specified by the manufacturer. It must not be exceeded under any circumstances. Safety, insurance & warranty may be affected if the specified payload is exceeded.

Info by Rob