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Old 09-11-2014, 08:16 PM   #1
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Controlling the Brake Controller

How do I set-up and control my brake controler? I followed the instructions and it seems to work okay, but I'm not sure. When I engage the controler manually I feel the trailer drag at about 1.5-1.7, there abouts. Is that the number I should put the controler at? Then, when climbing steep mountains the trailer felt like a huge load. When I looked at the controler it was at about 1.2 even though my foot wasn't on the brake. Was I trying to drag a trailer with it's brakes applied? When I stopped the trailer brakes were not hot. I'm confused.
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Old 09-11-2014, 09:10 PM   #2
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Forgive me, but your profile says "none." WHAT model Escape trailer are you trying to tow? Help us, help you...
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Old 09-11-2014, 09:18 PM   #3
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And, what brand and model of brake controller?
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Old 09-11-2014, 10:54 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by pkgman51 View Post
I followed the instructions and it seems to work okay, but I'm not sure. When I engage the controler manually I feel the trailer drag at about 1.5-1.7, there abouts. Is that the number I should put the controler at?
The trailer dragging means the brakes are functioning, but not that they are at the right level.

The instructions for most controllers say to coast at about 25 mph and fully apply the manual lever; the setting which causes the full manual application to just lock up the trailer wheels is the appropriate setting. It doesn't sound like this is what was done.

The idea is that when you fully apply the manual lever, it applies the same amount of trailer braking effort as during a hard stop, which should be enough for the trailer brakes to do the trailer's share of braking. With most digital controllers, the displayed number is the voltage applied to the trailer brakes, so "12" (when the manual is fully applied) is the maximum setting.

If you have a good feel for the behaviour of the tow vehicle, the confirmation that you have the controller setting right is that the pushing effort on the brake pedal required to slow down the rig with the trailer is about the same as the effort to slow down just the tug at the same rate without the trailer.

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Originally Posted by pkgman51 View Post
Then, when climbing steep mountains the trailer felt like a huge load. When I looked at the controler it was at about 1.2 even though my foot wasn't on the brake. Was I trying to drag a trailer with it's brakes applied? When I stopped the trailer brakes were not hot.
There's nothing about the controller's setting which will make the brakes drag, so difficulty towing the trailer uphill when you're not pushing the brake pedal is not going to be related to the controller, as far as I know. The brakes not being hot confirms they are not dragging.
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Old 09-11-2014, 11:20 PM   #5
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This is my story.

I've owned a 16' Scamp for 12+ years. Towed with a 2000 Ford F-150 and a Tokonsha p2 brake controller. Set it up according to the instructions. The trailer brakes always came on when applied, but I NEVER expected those brakes to slow down or stop the Ford and even at the highest level would I ever SKID the trailer tires.

Fast forward 12+ years. New truck with the brake controller on the dash, new Escape 5.0TA towing. When I hooked up for the first time, Dennis told me to set the dash controller to "6" and test it.

Works just like my previous combo. I would never expect my trailer brakes to "stop" both. As long as the trailer brakes are working for the trailer and the tug brakes work for the tug.. I'm a happy camper. My trailer is now close to TWO tons, do I expect those brakes to stop both tug and tow... no. YMMV
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Old 09-11-2014, 11:46 PM   #6
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I would never expect my trailer brakes to "stop" both. As long as the trailer brakes are working for the trailer and the tug brakes work for the tug.. I'm a happy camper. My trailer is now close to TWO tons, do I expect those brakes to stop both tug and tow... no. YMMV
Right - as I said, the trailer brakes should do the trailer's share of braking. Applying the trailer brakes alone is just part of the setup procedure, not something you would ever do to stop the rig.

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... I NEVER expected those brakes to slow down or stop the Ford and even at the highest level would I ever SKID the trailer tires.
Obviously, if you apply just the trailer brakes, the trailer will pull back on the tug; that two-ton trailer has a lot of braking power, because it needs it to do its share. Not a good way to stop, of course, but it would slow down.

Again, the lockup thing is just part of the setup procedure, not something you would deliberately do or that would happen in normal brake application.
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Old 09-11-2014, 11:52 PM   #7
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When I hooked up for the first time, Dennis told me to set the dash controller to "6" and test it.

Works just like my previous combo.
If by that you mean that the rig slows down the same way as without the trailer - same pedal effort for a given rate of braking - then you have the right setting.

In general, copying someone else's setting for even the same model of trailer won't necessarily be right, because the required setting depends on how much the trailer (with your stuff) weighs - perhaps Dennis understood how heavily Ten Forward would be loaded and what the corresponding setting would be. The setting for another trailer is not of much value at all.
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Old 09-11-2014, 11:54 PM   #8
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Forgive me, but your profile says "none." WHAT model Escape trailer are you trying to tow? ..
Forgive me but , What difference does it make?
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Old 09-12-2014, 09:02 AM   #9
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Forgive me but , What difference does it make?
Anytime anyone asks a question, it's helpful if we know some detail. The OP is trying to setup a brake controller and is pulling a "trailer." We don't know what brand brake controller, what tug or what trailer. We can either be helpful in two or three posts or fifty.

Kinda like, I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow... what route should I take?
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Old 09-12-2014, 09:40 AM   #10
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I totally agree with Donna, the more information given, the better. I MUCH prefer that people fill out their user info, including location, trailer, tow vehicle, and first name (or whatever they like to be called). It does help a lot in how and what your response may be. The more information we are armed with, the more helpful we can be.

It feels weird conversing with an seemingly unknown entity.
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Old 09-12-2014, 09:54 AM   #11
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I totally agree with Donna, the more information given, the better. I MUCH prefer that people fill out their user info, including location, trailer, tow vehicle, and first name (or whatever they like to be called). It does help a lot in how and what your response may be. The more information we are armed with, the more helpful we can be.

It feels weird conversing with an seemingly unknown entity.
Sure but the break controller isn't tow or trailer specific and don't most break controllers operate somewhat similar. It seems so after reading Brian B-P 's response.
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Old 09-12-2014, 10:07 AM   #12
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Sure but the break controller isn't tow or trailer specific and don't most break controllers operate somewhat similar. It seems so after reading Brian B-P 's response.
My response has nothing to do with brake controllers specifically. I was just pointing out a general courtesy that could be beneficial in any instance.
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Old 09-12-2014, 10:14 AM   #13
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My response has nothing to do with brake controllers specifically. I was just pointing out a general courtesy that could be beneficial in any instance.
Hi-jacking the thread were ya
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Old 09-12-2014, 10:18 AM   #14
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I updated the profile, thank you for the suggestion.
I'm driving a Chevy Tahoe with a Tekonsha P3 controler pulling an Escape 19.
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Old 09-12-2014, 10:28 AM   #15
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I updated the profile, thank you for the suggestion.
I'm driving a Chevy Tahoe with a Tekonsha P3 controler pulling an Escape 19.
THANKS GARY, I see you now. I think those that have a Tekonsha P3 should have first dibs on answering your question.
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Old 09-12-2014, 10:39 AM   #16
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My brakes first engage around the 1.7 setting and I have my controller set at 2.1 which gives a solid feel to my stop. As others have said, you need to go to an empty lot and practice stopping with the various settings, too high and your trailer will skid, too low and your tow vehicle may skid, just right where both engage together to stop you without skidding.
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Old 09-12-2014, 11:21 AM   #17
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what type/name break controller are you referring to cpaharley2008?
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Old 09-12-2014, 12:08 PM   #18
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If someone asked "I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow... what route should I take?", it would of course not be possible to answer without asking where they want to go.
This is more like "I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow... how do I read a map?" We can teach someone how to read a map without knowing where they are going or even which map they are using.

The only way to provide a nice tidy answer immediately is to tell him what specific setting to use. Since every trailer is different (mostly in weight) and there is some variation in controllers, there is no way to get that right... only maybe close enough.

Also, the question wasn't "what number do I use on the controller setting", it was "How do I set up and control my brake controller", followed by a start to the discussion of the method for determining the correct gain setting.
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Old 09-12-2014, 12:11 PM   #19
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I agree of course that the specific controller will determine the details of setup and operation - although any common proportional controller works in fundamentally the same way - so knowing that it is a Tekonsha P3 does help. The setup instructions for this controller are in the "install instructions" which are linked to the product page of the Tekonsha site, in the section "Adjusting the Power to the Trailer Brakes". They are fundamentally the same as for previous generations of this controller (the Prodigy series), and for most controllers, although the Prodigys also have "boost" settings to confuse things a bit.

It also helps somewhat to know that the trailer is an Escape 19'. Since all trailers of this model have the same brakes (although they vary in condition), and they generally have the same size tires (which affect brake behaviour), the right setting will be roughly similar. For instance, if other 19' owners find that "6" works well, it would be unlikely that "2" would be right for this trailer. The right setting does depend on the trailer weight, so there is no single answer for all Escape 19's.

The tug doesn't really matter to the right setting, or at all to the setting method, but it is somewhat helpful to note that it will be a little harder to tell when the setting is right with the Tahoe than with a lighter tug, for instance.
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Old 09-12-2014, 12:14 PM   #20
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what type/name break controller are you referring to cpaharley2008?
Mine is a Hayes Energize III model, 6 years old. Gee time to think about a new one...
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