Brake controller install on 2004 Lexus RX330? - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 08-11-2017, 02:07 PM   #1
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Brake controller install on 2004 Lexus RX330?

Does anyone have any experience having a brake controller installed on a Lexus RX330? I pick up my 17B a little over a month from now. Escape web site even has a photo of a 17B being towed by the same vehicle as mine so I figured I was golden.
The full story: I have a 2004 Lexus RX330 with the factory tow prep package, so after putting a deposit on the Escape, I installed a Curt receiver and the factory 4-pin harness. Wiring checked out OK with a 4-pin tester; so far so good, on to Phase 2.
I tried to read up on this online thoroughly and, as usual, there’s a mass of conflicting information in cyberspace on what is/is not compatible with this vehicle. I watched the install video eTrailer had on a similar vehicle (Toyota Highlander), figured I could handle this, so I ordered a 7-pin adapter kit and Tekonsha P3 Prodigy, and their website said it would all work with my vehicle. Got too busy to install, and frankly a bit scared to: a) drill a hole in the firewall of a car that wasn’t a beater, b) tap into the brake light sender wire amongst that mass of spaghetti under the dash, and c) screw the controller mount under the dash without setting off the knee airbag into my head.
I then called a local trailer shop who said they would be happy to install customer-supplied parts, made an appointment and dropped it off this morning. Two hours after dropping it off I get a call telling me they can’t install it on this vehicle per advice from “Something Trailer” (a vendor or online shop resource). I can’t say I quite understand the issue, but they said it’s due to a possibility of sending the whole 12V to the brakes (they indicated they were tapping into the brake wire at the tail light fixture rather than under the dash) and that I would have to use an RF controller – which they don’t have in stock and would be $500+. At this point, I don’t know what to believe and would love to hear anyone’s advice on this, especially if you have had a brake controller installed on your 2nd gen RX. Bonus points if you’re in the Seattle area and can point me to the shop that installed it for you.
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Old 08-11-2017, 02:35 PM   #2
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This sounds very familiar. Had a receiver hitch already for a Murano to use for bikes only. Had Nissan do the wiring with their harness and it turned out to be a huge job with removing the headliner(they stuck to their estimate). My hitch shop said installing a standard controller was too risky as it could affect other electronics. He said it would have been better to use an aftermarket harness for the four pin. On that note you are going to need a 7-pin plug. What he did for me was to make up a pigtail that utilized the four pin, however a charge line from the battery with fuse and something else I cannot remember now needed to be done. A mobile mechanic did it for me in 30 minutes.

We did use the Tekonsha Prodigy RF and it worked great. I see it on Amazon Prime for $264. I installed it myself- was very easy.
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Old 08-11-2017, 02:47 PM   #3
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Maybe this video helps since its on a Lexus (but newer). I would be curious as to why an installer couldn't do exactly what is shown on your vehicle. This is a rather standard installation on vehicles without a factory 7 pin.

www.etrailer.com/Brake-Controller/Lexus/RX+330/2004/90195.html?vehicleid=2004203254

Not sure what shop you went to, but a quick google search turned up these guys. Definitely can't hurt to go to a place where hitches are their core business.
http://mannshitch.com/
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Old 08-11-2017, 03:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rossue View Post
...We did use the Tekonsha Prodigy RF and it worked great. I see it on Amazon Prime for $264. I installed it myself- was very easy.
I had similarly high quotes from local hitch shops to hardwire a brake controller into my FJ (of the order of $500), so I also went with the Tekonsha Prodigy RF. Only wiring I had to do was the addition of a 12V charge wire to the 7-pin connector. The RF has been working flawlessly now for about 4 years.
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Old 08-11-2017, 04:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rubicon327 View Post
Maybe this video helps since its on a Lexus (but newer). I would be curious as to why an installer couldn't do exactly what is shown on your vehicle. This is a rather standard installation on vehicles without a factory 7 pin.

www.etrailer.com/Brake-Controller/Lexus/RX+330/2004/90195.html?vehicleid=2004203254

Not sure what shop you went to, but a quick google search turned up these guys. Definitely can't hurt to go to a place where hitches are their core business.
Welcome to Mann's Hitch and Trailer: Professional and custom trailer hitch installation, trailer, brake, light and wiring repairs
Thanks for digging up that video. Ironically, I went to another shop called Mann's (appears to be unrelated) https://www.mannswelding.com/ for precisely the reason that it's their core business, close to my house, and have been in business since I was a kid. After hearing others' good results with the Tekonsha RF, I think I'll just exchange my P3 for the RF and run the charge wire myself.

If I'm reading all this correctly, the RF unit (Tekonsha 90250) completely bypasses having to tap into the brake wires anywhere. I'm happy to pay extra for simplicity. https://www.etrailer.com/question-38292.html
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Old 08-11-2017, 05:11 PM   #6
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I tend to think that Mann's - which sounds just like Heacock Welding in Arroyo Grande, CA and long-time pro who sells utility trailers just shy away from tampering with wiring harnesses in these newer cars and causing potential major problems. Probably have been some horror stories out there and from a cost vs. value point for the shop I can't blame them. Probably why the Prodigy RF is popular and lucky for many it exists.
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Old 08-11-2017, 06:06 PM   #7
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Cascadian,
Three years ago I installed a Prodigy in our 2003 4Runner. I had to order a $14 wiring harness/adapter, after which there were no wires to cut, no firewall to drill. Mine may have been a P3. I'm pretty sure it was not the RF. After getting the adapter it was pretty easy, once I was able to figure out where the adapter plugged into an existing open harness connector. Then it was just two screws into some safe plastic. Mine was above my right knee.

Hopefully someone in your area who has done one, will step up.
If no one does, call e-trailer again.
Bill
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Old 08-11-2017, 06:56 PM   #8
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I would normally check with the manufacturer of the controller, rather than a retail site or installation business, but since Tekonsha does not sell a plug-in harness specific to the RX, they don't specifically confirm compatibility (in anything I saw).

The wiring of a Lexus RX 330 is not a particularly obscure. It should be similar (if not identical) to the same vintage of Highlander (the Toyota-branded vehicle on the same platform) and my 2004 Sienna (which shares the same engine and some other components). The Sienna stop switch wire was easy to tap, and I didn't drill a hole in the firewall (I poked the wire through some extra space in one of the existing grommets).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cascadian View Post
If I'm reading all this correctly, the RF unit (Tekonsha 90250) completely bypasses having to tap into the brake wires anywhere. I'm happy to pay extra for simplicity.
Yes, it does avoid tapping wires, because the controller is mounted on the trailer and uses the stop lamp (brake light) signal from the towing connector instead of a more direct connection to the switch on the tug's brake pedal. It also minimizes mounting work, since the RF-linked control unit just needs to stay reliably within the driver's reach - it doesn't need a specific orientation or to stay rigidly in place.
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Old 08-11-2017, 07:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill and Earline View Post
Three years ago I installed a Prodigy in our 2003 4Runner. I had to order a $14 wiring harness/adapter, after which there were no wires to cut, no firewall to drill.
...
After getting the adapter it was pretty easy, once I was able to figure out where the adapter plugged into an existing open harness connector.
This is normal for a vehicle (such as the 4Runner and most pickup trucks) which is pre-wired for a brake controller. I would not expect the RX to be pre-wired, so there would be no connector for this purpose, and the lack of an available brake control adapter or factory 7-pin trailer connector is consistent with that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill and Earline View Post
I'm pretty sure it was not the RF.
Since you used a wiring adapter, and placed the Prodigy entirely in the vehicle (not a main unit on the trailer and a control unit in the vehicle), it was not the RF.
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