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Old 08-23-2015, 12:27 PM   #1
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Brake Controller

Hi, We are finalizing our preparations for our trailer and are deciding on a brake controller. Does anyone have experience with the Prodigy RF by TEKONSHA? It's a remote controlled controller so nothing is mounted in vehicle. What other kinds of Brake Controllers have people had good experience with? We have an Audi Q7 tdi if that matters. Thanks so much!
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Old 08-23-2015, 04:16 PM   #2
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Yes, the Prodigy RF has been discussed a few times. Here's a Google search of EscapeForum for "Prodigy RF".
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Old 08-23-2015, 04:53 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Owlbnthecar View Post
We have an Audi Q7 tdi if that matters.
It most certainly does matter. The Q7 comes either with or without the factory wiring harness for a controller. If yours comes with the factory controller wiring, you can use a Tekonsha P3 or any high quality wired brake controller and just plug it in. If not, the RF might be a better option due to the wiring hassle.
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Old 08-23-2015, 07:30 PM   #4
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Radio or wire, the brake controller is still mounted in the vehicle.
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Old 08-23-2015, 08:01 PM   #5
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Radio or wire, the brake controller is still mounted in the vehicle.
The controller in the Prodigy RF system is mounted on the trailer. It measures deceleration, checks for brake light signal, determines the voltage to apply to the brakes, and controls that braking power.

The part in the tow vehicle is just a radio-connected display and adjustment panel; without it you can't change your settings (but the brakes still work), and you can't manually apply the brakes... but you still have a working controller (on the trailer). A Prodigy RF without the remote working is much like having surge brakes on the trailer.
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Old 08-23-2015, 08:09 PM   #6
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What does that mean "surge brakes on the trailer"?
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Old 08-23-2015, 08:47 PM   #7
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What does that mean "surge brakes on the trailer"?
Surge brakes are a system which applies the trailer brakes without any kind of control or power from the tow vehicle. When the tug brakes, the trailer pushes against it (though the ball), and that force on a mechanism in the coupler (the part of the trailer which latches over the ball) applies the brakes.

In North America, surge brakes are generally hydraulic, so the brakes at the wheels are just like brakes on a car. They're usually drum-style, but disks are available as well. The coupler pushing back on the trailer is just like a person pushing on a brake pedal. Boat trailers often have hydraulic surge brakes (to avoid submerging electrical components when the trailer is backed into the water; rental trailers normally have hydraulic surge brakes so that the tow vehicle doesn't need to be set up to match the trailer.

In Europe, small trailers normally have a surge system which is all mechanical (rods and cables), not hydraulic; they call it an "overrun braking" system. These cable systems are always drum-style. The only trailer sold in North America with this system that I have ever heard of was the original version of the T@b (which was built on a European chassis).

Surge brake systems don't use the electric brake components used for Escapes (and most small travel trailers).
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Old 08-24-2015, 05:10 PM   #8
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Prodigy RF with VW Touareg

I have experience with using the Prodigy RF with a Escape 19 and 2012 VW Touareg tow vehicle (built on same platform as Q7 and Porsche Cayenne). When I researched brake controllers for the VW, it became apparent after going on the Touareg Forum that hard wiring a controller was a real challenge, as the wiring under the dash is not a plug and play situation. Also, the controller would have to be mounted under the dash on the left of the driver, which would be a real knee banger. Also required defacing of the vehicle . So, I went for the Prodigy RF. Controller unit goes on inside of trailer tongue, and remote controlling unit plugs into 12V in vehicle. Once it is initially "paired" with the vehicle, a procedure which can be a bit troublesome, you are good to go. When you are not towing, you remove the remote so there is nothing left in the cabin. You can go on Tekonsha's website to view/download the user manual for the RF to get more detail. One thing you must do, however, is purchase a:
#20142 Trailer Connector Adapter w/ Lamp-Out Sensor Bypass - 7-Way RV to 7-Way RV - Vehicle End
from eTrailer (we purchased the Prodigy RF from them as well) which plugs in behind the controller on the hitch tongue, and the trailer is plugged into it. This is necessary since the German vehicles have lamp-out sensors which sense a drop in voltage draw if a light burns out, and alerts the driver. Escape trailers have all LED exterior lights. The story goes that when the trailer electrics are hooked up, there isn't enough power draw so the vehicle shuts off the power to the trailer. The adapter is a $20 part. We had a bit of trouble pairing our unit to the VW at the factory, but Rease was more than patient, and we finally got it. Seems the trick was to have the adapter plugged in behind the controller and the trailer battery switch off and 110 AC disconnected. Follow the Prodigy RF's installation instructions exactly, and should do the trick. If you're having problems, call eTrailer for tech advise. They were most helpful.
Also note that your Q7 Owners Manual probably says not to use an equalizer hitch. We just bought a hitch ball mount (again from eTrailer) to give the correct height for the ball (ask Escape). The Touareg's tow rating is 7700# max and 600# tongue weight. Our 19 is about 3200# the way we load it, and the tongue weight is about 330#. The VW handles it well -- the back only drops about 2 in. when the trailer is lowered onto it and the bi-zenon headlamps adjust to compensate for that. We have no sway control on the hitch, and with the 19's tandem axles, sway has not been an issue at all. It pulls like a dream.

Hope this helps,
Dave
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Old 08-24-2015, 05:39 PM   #9
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Dave, I know it is likely just me, but my eyes can't read your post very well at all, with it all jambed into one paragraph. Just an FYI.
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Old 08-24-2015, 06:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Owlbnthecar View Post
Hi, We are finalizing our preparations for our trailer and are deciding on a brake controller. Does anyone have experience with the Prodigy RF by TEKONSHA? It's a remote controlled controller so nothing is mounted in vehicle. What other kinds of Brake Controllers have people had good experience with? We have an Audi Q7 tdi if that matters. Thanks so much!
I have the Prodigy RF and installed it on my rig at the factory when I picked up my 19'. It took 15 mins. Pairing was pretty easy. It works well, but it took me some time to figure out the proper brake settings.

I like that there are no permanent fixtures inside my truck cabin. Although, a mount for the remote unit would be nice.

There is a trade-off to consider with this unit. On one hand, the remote unit can be transferred to any tow vehicle without a brake controller to pull the RV. Its nice if you have friends or family that want to borrow your RV or if you have multiple tow vehicles. However, its probably not a good option if you have multiple trailers because the braking unit is permanently mounted on the RV.
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