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Old 06-13-2016, 09:00 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by bel73 View Post
A few quick pulses might not over heat the brakes, I agree. It will warm them up more than the tow vehicle and when things go wrong the trailer brakes will die first.

The knob on the controller should really only be used to test and adjust the brakes. Again, just my 2.

Do a little reading on the subject and you will find that the knobs are not there just for gain adjustment.These are designed for manual electric brake over ride and are used for controlling a swaying trailer and to reduce speed on a either slight or a steep hill.They are not designed for continuous usage and are only to be used as a temporary aid in these situations.Just another arrow in your quiver of trailer equipment.Learn to use them and you and you will be more comfortable in these situations.

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Old 06-13-2016, 09:25 PM   #16
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I would not use the brake controller to slow the whole rig down.
On grades steeper than 5% I shift my Tundra down to assist in slowing the rig.
I never tow over 60 mph and rarely drive in 5th or 6th. 4th is my preferred tow gear because it is the highest gear that is not overdrive.
I pay close attention to the yellow sign indicating recommended speed along with the standard speed limit signs. I will stay 5-10mph below those posted speeds.
I brake periodically to keep from exceeding my comfort zone.
If your Tundra is like mine and you are going too fast and attempt to shift into any gear lower than 4th you will hear a beep and it will not shift down.
The trick is to never allow the rig to get to the higher speeds. If the transmission and engine will hold you back let them do the work. If you find yourself pushing on the brakes for more than 5 seconds out of every 30 seconds you need to slow down and shift to the next lower gear.
Your Tundras brakes will dissipate the heat much faster than the trailer brakes. But if you overheat the trailer brakes to the point of failure then it's up to the truck brakes to slow or stop. Not a good position to be in.
Before descending any grade you should operate the brake controller manually for a second or two to make certain you can feel the trailer brakes engage.

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Old 06-13-2016, 10:02 PM   #17
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Brakes on an appropriate TV will stop both trailer and TV. Most are disk and will provide more stopping force than the trailer drum brakes.

There was a time when brakes were poor and engine braking was needed to help slow a tow. There may even be an emergency loss of brakes that needs engine braking. However, unless the downgrade is 7-10%, you can maintain a 50-60 mph rate with steady soft pumping of the brakes. Slow down and coast in gear. When speed gets back up, slow again.

The TV engine brake apples force on the TV rear axle or the front and rear if 4x4. That lets the trailer run free and is not ideal. You need a properly proportioned brake controller that apples braking on the trailer with the TV to maintain alignment. The balance here is to not over use the drums on the trailer.

The brake controller application is needed to manually straighten out sway or align the trailer if it is over running the TV. Not usually the case.

A lower gear reduces the coast speed build up. A big diesel will maintain a steady down grade speed with minimal braking to settle the rig. A big gasser will slow some, but require more brake. A smaller engine will likely need more braking or a slower target speed on the down grade. The size of the rig, brakes, and available engine braking are all a balance.

We hardly use the engine to slow much. We start slow, coast up 5-10mph and gently brake back to our starting speed.

USA Interstates are about 5or6%. Western Canada has 6-7% grades.

A short down grade is not much to wory about unless there are significant turns as you go down. But long 7-10 mile grades, which are not usual, but do exist and therefore deserve a bit more care.

Suggest you discuss the techniques with veteran tow RVers and adjust for what your rig requires.

If you are not comfortable with the braking on your rig, aftermarket performance pads can offer improved performance. Disk brakes can be added to your trailer, but with reasonable care the drums should do the job.

A quick warning - be able to come to a complete stop on the down grade. It is not enough to just slow. If a vehicle pulls out or stops dead, you must avoid a collision. Be conservative, especially if there are blind turns.
Travel safe. Pat
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Old 06-13-2016, 10:09 PM   #18
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Be sure your trailer brakes are adjusted with enough gain on the controller to engage when stepping on truck brakes, then they will work together.

Start descent slow and stay slow, especially until you gain experience and confidence. Shift way down at the top of the grade, the engine will need to rev over 3500 rpm to get enough engine compression braking, that's what it's supposed to do. Add truck brakes which should also add trailer brakes together to maintain the chosen slow speed, do not let it speed above your chosen slow speed.

Stay in control of speed all the way; with experience you will be comfortable. The combination of engine compression braking, truck brakes, and trailer brakes will work well for you.

One note of caution. If the road becomes wet and slippery or icy, do not use engine compression (or exhaust) braking, especially without truck and trailer brakes at the same time. The trailer will always try to overtake the truck using only engine compression or exhaust braking, only the truck's rear tire traction is holding the truck and trailer. The trailer may push the truck into a jackknife condition if rear tire traction is lost.
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Old 06-14-2016, 12:15 PM   #19
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You're getting some great advice. I might also suggest the ordering a copy of that part of the country's Mountain Directory. We have the printed book versions and spend a lot of time in the mountains and canyons in Southern Utah and this is a must have to be able to know what you will be facing and when in terms of grades as well as roads to avoid.
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Old 06-14-2016, 12:25 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Sbb View Post
We have not really driven very much on those grades, I have dumb question, I drive a 2103 2500 Suburban with brake controller part of the dashboard, not an add on. Where do I squeeze or how do I squeeze the brakes to test? Do I use the plus minus push buttons by it? I have it set at 3.5, not even sure that is correct. I drive fully loaded TV, a normal loaded Bambi 19' 2006. Thanks for help.

On your dash usually just above the +/- buttons there are two prongs that you can squeeze to manually check your brakes are functioning on the trailer only.

For me personally with my 2500HD GMC pick up and factory controller with my 1976 Overlander (27 ft) I have the gain typically set in the range of 6-7 depending on how much load I have in the trailer. I set my trailer brakes so that I can just barely feel them tug me when I tap the normal brake pedal. Setting them up prior to a trip is key. Your setting of 3.5 might be correct with the lighter trailer.

With all the above said if you have a Suburban 2500 and a 19ft trailer you should be in good shape. TV heavier than trailer is a safe thing. My truck and trailer are about equal. Truck might be a tad heavier.

Safe travels.

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Old 06-14-2016, 12:28 PM   #21
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I live in CO. I have a 5.6L gasser Nissan Armada, so, not the engine-braking capability of a diesel.

I park it in 2nd gear and top out at 40mph. Then I watch the world go by.

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Old 06-14-2016, 12:37 PM   #22
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Good advice, above. Here is one more...learned from ugly experience...whenever you stop for whatever check the connection between the TV and AS. Mine came loose on a steep downhill section of PA. It was ugly...once the umbilical is disconnected you have no trailer brakes. Not fun. Safe travels. jon
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Old 06-14-2016, 12:44 PM   #23
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I'm sure some on here will disagree with me, but the formula I use (I drive a manual 6 speed tranny, and Cummins diesel)...... when I get to the top of the hill and start the descent, I engage the exhaust brake and start in the same gear that I used to climb the hill.
Very seldom do I have to downshift, and very seldom do I have too use either the trailer or truck brake.
For whatever it's worth.
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Old 06-14-2016, 12:48 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Moflash View Post
As mentioned above travel at a comfortable and safe speed.Use the transmission as your brake down shifting to reduce speed.Stay in the slow lane.Your engine will make some noise but do not panic as long as you do not go into the redline on your tach you will be fine.Keep a eye on the traffic behind you as Semi's have been known to loose their brakes on steep grades.50-55mph should be your target speed in most cases.Use just your trailer brakes if needed by squeezing the two levers together on your brake controller a brief couple of intermittent light squeezes will slow you down on steep grades.Just keep calm and you will do fine.
There are plenty of roads in the Rocky Mountains that you would surely die on if you went down them at 50-55 mph. Why is everybody in such a hurry anyway?
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Old 06-14-2016, 01:41 PM   #25
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Like Blevi said, definitely get a copy of the Mountain Directory West if traveling anywhere from the Rockies to the Pacific. (I understand there's now an East version as well.) It covers and "reviews" just about every mountain pass and steep grade you'd ever encounter.


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Old 06-14-2016, 01:54 PM   #26
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We have seen RV's that had their brakes literally smoking from over use. Using brakes going down a grade will quickly overheat brakes which reduces braking effectiveness and eventually renders the brakes useless. You will see "run away truck ramps" along the major highways in Colorado and other mountain states that are to be used specifically for trucks and other vehicles to pull safely off the highway and be slowed down by deep sand in the case their brakes fail. It's been rare but I've seen trucks that have used these ramps.

The good news is you can avoid over heating your brakes even towing a trailer. The transmission combined with the engine can be used as for braking action. The driver downshifts their transmission one gear at a time to maintain a safe speed. Most of us have automatic transmissions now and one thing to keep in mind is that as you shift into the lower gears there is a safety feature which will keep the engine from over-revving and the request for a downshift is denied until RPM's are brought down. A quick pump of the brakes to slow down is completely okay. When I'm coming down the north side of Raton Pass there is a tight turn associated to an off-ramp. I will already be in a lower gear by that point but will give the brakes a good push and take 10 mph off my speed and then let off the brakes and let the gears do the rest. It takes some practice but you'll be fine - enjoy your trip!
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Old 06-14-2016, 02:19 PM   #27
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I discovered that using cruise control on my 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited seemed to control the downhill speed. This was observed on several long hills in the Appalachians this spring. Not sure how, but it must control the rpm and the transmission. I wasn't towing my new AS, but a T@B which weighed about 2,000# and had surge brakes. Perhaps with the weight of the trailer pushing into the Jeep the surge brakes engaged.
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Old 06-14-2016, 03:08 PM   #28
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Toyota Tacoma cruise control in my 4x4 does the same thing. Tranny downshifts to limit speed.

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