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Old 04-16-2017, 12:49 PM   #1
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Brake Controller Setting

I have successfully installed my Tekonsha P3 brake controller in my 2016 Explorer! I wanted to get any suggestions about what setting to use for pulling our Escape 15. On our Ford 150, we have the setting at "2" and I am wondering if that is good for this brake controller as well. Thank you in advance for any help with this, and what settings others might be using with their trailers and this brake controller.
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Old 04-16-2017, 01:43 PM   #2
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Hi Neighbor,

We have the P3, a 2015 Explorer, and a 2016 21. Trademasters in Chilliwack installed the controller and Dennis at ETI set the controller at 6.0. He told us how to adjust it, but said it may never need adjustment. Our trailer is heavier, but 13,000 miles later and it is still good. Dennis said some folks report no adjustments necessary in 6+ years of use.
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Old 04-16-2017, 07:07 PM   #3
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same here, Dennis at ETI set the Tekonsha P3 at 6.0 to 6.5
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Old 04-17-2017, 02:43 AM   #4
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He set mine at 6.5 last week. Worked just fine on the 1300 km trek home.
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Old 04-17-2017, 07:10 AM   #5
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You want it just below locking up the brakes. Here's a short write up from etrailers.

"First take the trailer to a level area with space like an empty parking lot. Set the brake controller output to 6. Then tow the trailer at about 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) and fully apply the manual override on the brake controller.

If the trailer brakes lock up then adjust the power down and do the test again.

If the brakes do not brake enough, adjust the power up. You want to get it set to a point just below wheel lock up. After you have the setting just right you can choose the boost level you may need."
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Old 04-17-2017, 03:13 PM   #6
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Since the locking-up of brakes is determined by the amount of force required to skid tires, and that depends on factors which have nothing to do with the right controller setting (such as tire traction and road surface), it's a pretty bad way to set the gain of a proportional brake controller. I think it originated with the old timed controllers, and remains the most popularly promoted method - even by controller manufacturers.

Some trailers will not lock the brakes at any controller setting. This is most common when the axle is loaded close to its capacity (so the brakes are relatively small for the load): this could be the case with an Escape 17' but is less likely with a 15' and unlikely with a tandem-axle Escape. Another factor causing failure to lock up is good tire traction: different types and brands of tire will have different amounts of traction when all other factors are equal. A really obvious factor is road surface: the lowest setting which skids the tires on loose gravel will not lock the brakes on pavement. There are other factors, too, and it's not practical to consider them all. If you use the lock-up adjustment method under these circumstances you could end up setting the controller to maximum and having unpleasant and actually unsafe towing - I've read reports of this in these forums.

I would treat the lock-up test as a starting point. I think the setting used by another person with a very similar trailer (same tires, brakes, and axle load) would also be a good starting point... but my tires are smaller and my trailer is heavier so my setting wouldn't be of much assistance.

The correct final gain setting is the one which makes the trailer do most of its own share of the braking. The relationship between how hard you push the brake pedal and how rapidly the tug and trailer combination slows should be about the same whether you have the trailer attached or not.
  • If you have to push the pedal much harder with the trailer, the setting isn't high enough;
  • if you don't have to push the pedal as hard as normal because the trailer is pulling the tug back, the setting is too high.
It's a trial-and-error thing.
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Old 04-17-2017, 03:22 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
Since the locking-up of brakes is determined by the amount of force required to skid tires, and that depends on factors which have nothing to do with the right controller setting (such as tire traction and road surface), it's a pretty bad way to set the gain of a proportional brake controller. I think it originated with the old timed controllers, and remains the most popularly promoted method - even by controller manufacturers.

Some trailers will not lock the brakes at any controller setting. This is most common when the axle is loaded close to its capacity (so the brakes are relatively small for the load): this could be the case with an Escape 17' but is less likely with a 15' and unlikely with a tandem-axle Escape. Another factor causing failure to lock up is good tire traction: different types and brands of tire will have different amounts of traction when all other factors are equal. A really obvious factor is road surface: the lowest setting which skids the tires on loose gravel will not lock the brakes on pavement. There are other factors, too, and it's not practical to consider them all. If you use the lock-up adjustment method under these circumstances you could end up setting the controller to maximum and having unpleasant and actually unsafe towing - I've read reports of this in these forums.

I would treat the lock-up test as a starting point. I think the setting used by another person with a very similar trailer (same tires, brakes, and axle load) would also be a good starting point... but my tires are smaller and my trailer is heavier so my setting wouldn't be of much assistance.

The correct final gain setting is the one which makes the trailer do most of its own share of the braking. The relationship between how hard you push the brake pedal and how rapidly the tug and trailer combination slows should be about the same whether you have the trailer attached or not.
  • If you have to push the pedal much harder with the trailer, the setting isn't high enough;
  • if you don't have to push the pedal as hard as normal because the trailer is pulling the tug back, the setting is too high.
It's a trial-and-error thing.
Really good info Brian. Thanks for posting

Yeah I am far more ignorant than most, but on a gut level the "almost locking up" does worry me.

Dennis at ETI described it as "if you feel you are being pushed by the trailer, increase it a bit"

Etc etc etc.

He generally poo-poo'd the need for boost on our Prodigy p2.

Right now we are at 7.5 and it feels good. 6 was not enough.

John.
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Old 04-17-2017, 03:28 PM   #8
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The instructions with my Prodigy P2 shows when and how much boost is needed for what trailer weight. And, so, I do not use boost on my 17'.
Suggest a review of the instructions that came with the controller.
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Old 04-17-2017, 03:51 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by kkinna View Post
On our Ford 150, we have the setting at "2" and I am wondering if that is good for this brake controller as well.
Ideally, the setting doesn't depend on the tow vehicle at all. In practice, people with heavier tow vehicles may set the controller lower than it should be, because the effort to hold back the trailer during braking is not as noticeable. With the Explorer, you might find that the setting should be higher... but it '2' might be just right.
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Old 04-17-2017, 04:01 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
The instructions with my Prodigy P2 shows when and how much boost is needed for what trailer weight. And, so, I do not use boost on my 17'.
Yes, but that's the boost setting, not the gain. The boost is an extra feature which is not needed; gain is the fundamental setting for any proportional controller. Logically, and explicitly in the manual, the gain must be set properly before setting (or using) the boost feature.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
Suggest a review of the instructions that came with the controller.
Always a good idea!
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Old 04-17-2017, 04:26 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
The instructions with my Prodigy P2 shows when and how much boost is needed for what trailer weight. And, so, I do not use boost on my 17'.
Suggest a review of the instructions that came with the controller.
Just re-read the P2 manual

To the best of my knowledge - our Tug does weigh more than the 21' trailer as we have it. (Loaded as we do)

So they recommend no boost, or a boost of 1.

I can try a boost of 1, but given that Dennis the installer pop-poo'd any amount of boost in our setup, and also it feels great right now... I'm hesitant to make a change.



But yes - always good to re read the manual.



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Old 04-17-2017, 06:35 PM   #12
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I increased mine to 2.5 so that I can feel the drag when the brakes are applied.
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Old 04-17-2017, 07:42 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
...
  • If you have to push the pedal much harder with the trailer, the setting isn't high enough;
  • if you don't have to push the pedal as hard as normal because the trailer is pulling the tug back, the setting is too high.
It's a trial-and-error thing.
Well said Brian. When we sold our 17b and I was helping the new owners get everything setup, the brake controller was our last job. They had a 4Runner, I have the Highlander and the two being so close in capacities, etc it was easy for me to "feel" the right setting point. Driving the tow and making several full stops from various speeds and then immediately doing the same with the trailer attached will help get the settings as you describe.
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Old 04-17-2017, 11:32 PM   #14
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Thanks for the great info. I do not think I need a boost with the 15. It sounds like those of you with a 17 are using a setting of 6.0. now my question is do I go higher or lower with 400 or so less pounds with the 15? Anyone using g a brake controller with a 15'? Thank you all so much for the help.
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Old 04-18-2017, 01:27 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by kkinna View Post
It sounds like those of you with a 17 are using a setting of 6.0. now my question is do I go higher or lower with 400 or so less pounds with the 15? Anyone using g a brake controller with a 15'? Thank you all so much for the help.
Although I don't have a 15', I can say that since the 15' and 17' have the same brakes and probably the same diameter tires, the 15' should need a somewhat lower controller gain setting to get a suitable amount of braking force. If the 15' has smaller tires, it would need an even lower setting.
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Old 04-18-2017, 07:16 AM   #16
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It's really not difficult to adjust the brakes as the manufacturer meant them to be adjusted. I've had it recommended to do it on a dirt or gravel road, which makes sense to me.

Adjusting the Power to the Trailer
Brakes (Prior to setting Boost)
Once the control has been securely mounted, it is
necessary to set the power needed to stop the trailer
during a braking event.

1. Connect trailer to tow vehicle.

2. With engine running set power (with Power
Buttons) to indicate 6.0

3. Drive tow vehicle and trailer on a dry level paved
surface at 25 mph and fully apply Manual Knob.
If trailer brakes lock up:
Turn power down using Power Buttons.
If braking was not sufficient:
Turn power up using Power Buttons.

4. Repeat Step (3) until power has been set to a point
just below wheel lock up or at a sufficient force as
to achieve maximum braking power.

5. Using the brake pedal, make a few low speed
stops to check the power setting. Trailer braking
is initiated and terminated via the stoplight switch.
When the brake pedal is released, trailer braking
will cease.
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Old 04-18-2017, 04:59 PM   #17
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It's really not difficult to adjust the brakes as the manufacturer meant them to be adjusted. I've had it recommended to do it on a dirt or gravel road, which makes sense to me.
...
3. Drive tow vehicle and trailer on a dry level paved
surface...
Pick a different road; get a different result. If I set them on slushy ice, I'll get a setting of "1" or less. Accepting that makes no sense to me.

The many people who can't get the brakes to lock at any setting (typically not on Escapes, but with trailers having higher axle loading compared to the brake capacity) would all run "12" (the maximum) if they followed the published instructions, and would have horrible braking behaviour.

None of the instructions which I have ever seen specify a dirt or gravel road - including the set quoted which specifies dry and paved - so using that type of road is not adjusting the brakes as the manufacturer specifies. It appears that it is often difficult to get a proper result using the manufacturer's instructions.
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Old 04-18-2017, 06:55 PM   #18
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Please explain specifically what is brake lock up. I think it means trailer tires don't move but skid. Tia.
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Old 04-18-2017, 07:16 PM   #19
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Please explain specifically what is brake lock up. I think it means trailer tires don't move but skid. Tia.
Yes, exactly.
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Old 04-18-2017, 07:21 PM   #20
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Thanks Brian. Wanted to make sure I understand the concept!
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