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Old 03-29-2018, 04:01 PM   #1
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Brakes

Looking for experience/opinions on DirecLink trailer brake system? Supposedly ties vehicle ABS to Trailer via tow vehicle computer.
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Old 03-29-2018, 04:20 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anderson View Post
Looking for experience/opinions on DirecLink trailer brake system? Supposedly ties vehicle ABS to Trailer via tow vehicle computer.
I'd be interested in hearing user's opinions of that system also.

It's not something that I'd ever thought about until very recently when I-5 turned into a skating rink. My truck ABS was chattering away and I was wondering about the effect of an active ABS on the tug and the trailer brakes not acting in the same way. As it turned out, there were no incidents but I may have just been lucky.

Ron
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Old 03-29-2018, 07:53 PM   #3
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Tuson RV Brakes, LLC: DirecLink Brake Controller

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anderson View Post
Supposedly ties vehicle ABS to Trailer via tow vehicle computer.
It certainly connects to the vehicle through the On-Board Diagnostics port, but I don't see much value in that connection, or any evidence that the tow vehicle's ABS is involved in any way. The brochure lists these items being monitored by OBD:
Quote:
• Trailer Connection
• Tow Vehicle Battery Voltage
• OBDII Network Connection Integrity
• Brake Controller Ground Connection
• Brake Controller Power Connection
• Brake Switch Voltage
• Blue Wire Voltage Output
• Blue Wire Current Output
• Blue Wire Short
• Engine RPM
• Low Speed Brake Adjustment
• Transmission Temperature (Ford & GM)
None of those items indicate the amount of braking required, so that list makes this statement look like a bunch of bull:
Quote:
Stop relying on brake controllers that use devices to sense what’s happening. DirecLink gets its information direct from the source - your tow vehicle
The wiring even includes a connector for the classic 4-wire (blue, white, red, black) controller connection. It needs that for power (black and white) and the output to the trailer brakes (blue and white), but why the red wire... the installation manual confirms it is for the the brake pedal switch, an input which should be coming over the OBD connection. Perhaps it is used as an output to turn the vehicle's brake lights on during manual trailer brake application, but that's not very impressive integration with the tow vehicle.

The installation manual describes use of the vehicle speed (presumably from OBD), even though it is not listed as a monitored parameter (in the brochure of features chart). This could be used to calculate deceleration, instead of using an accelerometer. That might be an interesting input for proportional braking, but it is not integration with the tow vehicle's braking system.

For context, I'll note that OBD and OBD-II were created by U.S. Federal government decree to facilitate the management of emission control systems, so any information (such as ABS operation) beyond what is relevant to exhaust emissions may or may not be available. Some vehicles segregate control network traffic so that even information which may be useful and is on a network may not be accessible via the diagnostics port.

I would be interested in the manufacturer's response, but I'm not buying one anyway so I'm not asking.


My general impression is that one of these controllers doesn't make a lot of sense unless it is to be used with their electro-hydraulic actuator, preferably with ABS and sway control.
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Old 03-30-2018, 12:55 PM   #4
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Thank you Brian B-P very helpful. Will post what manufacture response is.
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Old 03-30-2018, 02:08 PM   #5
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I agree with Brian's comments - I am very skeptical that this system adds anything useful. It sounds like marketing bs to me.

Bottom line not yet mentioned is that, as far as I am aware, abs systems are absolutely dependent on some sort of rpm sensor on the involved wheels, and there are no such sensors on the trailer, so there is no bloody way this system could actually integrate with the tug's abs. Further, the abs computer in the tug would have to actually be programmed to deal with 8 wheels (if the trailer has 4), and I very much doubt that it is, or that it can be modified by an add-on device.

As to the interaction between tug abs and the trailer, it can at least hypothetically cause a serious problem on winter roads, and maybe even gravel ones. If the abs on the tug is successful in generating more braking force than the trailer wheels are, the arrow is flying feathers first - this is not stable, the trailer will "want" to pass the tug, thereby causing a jackknife. Whether an actual jackknife will occur will depend on lots of details, but on icy roads with good winter tires on the tug, an aggressive stop is in my opinion highly likely to cause a jackknife, even, horrifying thought, at highway speeds.

In another thread touching on this topic, someone mentioned that several jurisdictions have rules requiring chains on at least one trailer axle during winter conditions - which would put the feathers back where they belong, on the trailing end of the arrow.
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Old 03-30-2018, 07:33 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by AllanEdie View Post
I agree with Brian's comments - I am very skeptical that this system adds anything useful. It sounds like marketing bs to me.

Bottom line not yet mentioned is that, as far as I am aware, abs systems are absolutely dependent on some sort of rpm sensor on the involved wheels, and there are no such sensors on the trailer, so there is no bloody way this system could actually integrate with the tug's abs.
I generally agree with everyone's comments.

But I have a slight clarification. I have heard from the dealer that my Ford F150's trailer brake controller does integrate with the trucks ABS. I asked what the brake controller does with this information. I was informed that if truck ABS thinks it is very slippery, the trucks brake controller decreases the braking force to the trailers brakes to prevent the tires from locking up and "the feathers passing the tip of the arrow" in your words. I think this is logical and does not necessitate having any type of wheel sensors on the trailer.

I have not researched it extensively so take it FWIW, but I thought this may add to the discussion.
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Old 03-30-2018, 08:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericw View Post
I have heard from the dealer that my Ford F150's trailer brake controller does integrate with the trucks ABS. I asked what the brake controller does with this information. I was informed that if truck ABS thinks it is very slippery, the trucks brake controller decreases the braking force to the trailers brakes to prevent the tires from locking up and "the feathers passing the tip of the arrow" in your words. I think this is logical and does not necessitate having any type of wheel sensors on the trailer.
This makes sense to me for an integrated controller from the vehicle manufacturer. Unfortunately, the information required to do this probably isn't available via the OBD port, and the DirectLink documentation doesn't indicate any use of ABS status information.
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Old 03-30-2018, 09:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericw View Post
I generally agree with everyone's comments.

But I have a slight clarification. I have heard from the dealer that my Ford F150's trailer brake controller does integrate with the trucks ABS. I asked what the brake controller does with this information. I was informed that if truck ABS thinks it is very slippery, the trucks brake controller decreases the braking force to the trailers brakes to prevent the tires from locking up and "the feathers passing the tip of the arrow" in your words. I think this is logical and does not necessitate having any type of wheel sensors on the trailer.

I have not researched it extensively so take it FWIW, but I thought this may add to the discussion.
Thanks for the clarification, that is an interesting potential improvement that I hadn't heard about. No doubt other manufacturers may be doing similar things. Adjusting the gain on one's add-on electronic controller to match slipperiness might accomplish the same thing.

In any case, when I hear the claim that trailer brakes are being incorporated into the abs system, that means to me that the trailer brakes are being prevented from locking up with the same effectiveness as the tug wheels are, which can't be done without having rotation sensors on the trailer wheels.

Even with the system on your Ford, which is certainly better than nothing, the brake controller is still just guessing what brake pressure is tolerable without locking up the trailer wheels. If it over-brakes the trailer, the trailer wheels will lock, and the abs on the truck will brake better, and we have the "feathers at the wrong end". If it underbrakes, we have the same problem - too much braking on the front, not enough on the back, and away we go again. Further, and considerably worse, even if it gets the maximum non-locking brake pressure to the trailer wheels perfect - even if it had wheel sensors on the trailer - that will not fix things if the tires on the tug grip better, which winter tires usually will. You would still have more braking on the front than on the back. Chains on one trailer axle, and none on the tug, fix this, which is the reason for the legal requirement where it exists, but we know how much fun that solution is.

This issue has no completely effective fix that I am aware of. Towing heavy trailers always includes risk of jackknife events, although the risk is small on dry paved roads when the grip of both tug and trailer tires is reasonably well matched, and the likelihood of a braking event violent enough to lock the trailer wheels is relatively small. As roads get slipperier, and as the comparative grip of the tug tires relative to the trailer tires goes up, the risk of jackknife goes up.

We just need to be aware of the nature of this issue, and understand that, with a trailer behind us, the task of matching our driving behaviour to road conditions is more difficult. Pretty much our only options under really slippery conditions are to slow down, likely a lot, and look a long way ahead to anticipate the need to slow down. Or safer yet, stay put until conditions improve.

Bottom line - on icy roads, no built in or added brake controller will keep us safe if we try to stop too quickly with a heavy trailer, so we better be able to anticipate every need to slow down a long way ahead. Not too difficult as long as there are no other drivers out there.

As always, just my two cents.
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Old 03-30-2018, 09:18 PM   #9
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I’m not much on this electronic stuff. I was in the smokies in the late fall with the 19.
It snowed up in the mountains the way we
were leaving. I turned the controller voltage lower and had no problem even on black
Ice. Easy does it
Iowa Dave
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Old 03-30-2018, 09:24 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iowa Dave View Post
I’m not much on this electronic stuff. I was in the smokies in the late fall with the 19.
It snowed up in the mountains the way we
were leaving. I turned the controller voltage lower and had no problem even on black
Ice. Easy does it
Iowa Dave
Good on you Dave, turning down the controller to accommodate slippery conditions is a really good idea - combined with care and attention of course, which you seemed to have exhibited nicely.

Cheers,

Allan
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