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Old 04-25-2015, 11:34 AM   #1
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BRAKING with Tow Vehicle / Controller?

This probably has been discussed somewhere at some time on the Forum. Braking options.

I have 40,000 miles on my 2012 Tundra. I use to sell my Toyota's when they had 180,000+ miles just because I could not risk a break down in some out of the way place that I frequent, much too often. Now, maybe 50,000 to 60,000 miles I find myself a new truck and have to relearn how to turn the radio on and what all of the buttons and switches are operating.

One thing that has not changed. How I brake using the Truck AND the brake controller connected to the Airstream in tow.

I trust brake shoes as much as I trust that my taxes will not increase over time. I recall the days when all vehicles had brake shoes and each operated with more or less friction over time. This would be discovered in snow or slick pavement where some wheels could lock up and other wheels were undecided, what to do. No set of brakes worked together. Disc brakes on all four wheels eventually solved that. I guess...

When I brake while towing I use a combination of options.

-Tow Vehicle brakes.
-Trailer brakes controlled from the brake controller.
-Shifting down the tow vehicle's transmission while braking.

It is remarkable how well using all THREE options at the same time work best. I am braking and manually downshifting the transmission for a steady, controlled slowing down or stopping. Much like landing an aircraft on an Aircraft Carrier. A coordinated mix of all three options. I find the modern automatic transmissions dependable and maintenance free. The stopping process is like a well written song with all instruments blending into a melody worth listening to on the radio.

Rocky Mountain traveling is NOT Texas flat land traveling. So, if you are in Houston, Texas it is not the same as traveling on a stretch of highway that drops 5,000 feet elevation in ten miles. You must understand that overheated brakes can create a disaster when the brake fluid reaches its boiling point in the tow vehicle. Again, you must learn to use the Tow/Trailer brakes AND downshifting the transmission to keep control of your... descent. It is a learning process. It cannot be taught from a booklet or video. You must experiment with what works best with your brand of tow vehicle, trailer brakes and transmission.

This Thread could not be introduced with one paragraph or a smart one sentence introduction. Braking in City traffic, Flat geography, Mountain travel, etc. all have their challenges.

Next time you are going East from the Front Range, Colorado back into Denver, Colorado... SMELL the 18 wheeler brakes smoking. Obviously an inexperienced trucker... as they are everywhere as are poor drivers towing a travel trailer in these same conditions.

This may seem to be preaching to those who have been towing boats, trailers and UHauls for decades... but there might be some new trailer owners that never considered using the truck's transmission as part of the "slowing or stopping" options.

What do you have to say? Yes... it IS easier to SLOW OR STOP GOING UPHILL. What about steep downhill grades? City traffic spacing ahead of you while towing? Only your experience in print can help.

Do you know what to do IF you are driving in snowy conditions and your trailer begins to JACKKNIFE on packed snow? There is a way to regain control. Maybe... lets start there. I had a friend explain how he learned. It makes sense to me.
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Old 04-25-2015, 12:15 PM   #2
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A few years ago we were coming east on 70 towards Denver having entered from Rt. 40. The signs warned of steep downgrades and took the big rigs down to 25mph. That should be a good indicator of what's to come for the rest of us. Towing my 30' AS I was comfortable at 35mph. On the way down the grade leveled out for awhile and then there was another sign warning that it wasn't over yet. Another warning sign is the pull overs with signs indication places for trucks to put chains on. We don't see these things on the east coast as much although we do have some steep grades too. In my view it all comes down to speed. To much speed = too much braking power needed. Another trip we took Rt. 149 from the south towards Lake City. That was the first and only time I smelled brakes on my truck. Very steep downgrade on a small state road. But again, all comes down to speed. I think my front rotors were close to glowing red.

Another warning sign is that if you just spent 20 minutes climbing steep uphill grades ....... What goes up must come down.
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Old 04-25-2015, 12:59 PM   #3
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When a pucker factor emergency occurs there is little time consider a whole of list options. Instinct kicks in. Foot goes to brake pedal and pray that everything works as advertised. A couple of weeks ago I was at Fort Pickens National Park. There was standing water and a great deal of wind blown sand on the road. The car in front of me for some unknown reason decided it was good time to quickly stop in the middle of the road. I went to slow down as quickly as I could. The brakes on the Jeep and trailer all locked up. The Jeep brakes starting doing the pulse shuffle. I got stopped too close to the rear of the idiot in front of me for comfort. The look on his face in the rear view mirror was priceless. I do not think that he even knew that anyone was towing big bright trailer behind him. Thankfully the speed was low and there was no one else behind me.
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Old 04-25-2015, 01:20 PM   #4
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BRAKING with Tow Vehicle / Controller?

I've driven in mountains all my adult life and would not consider going down a steep continuous downgrade without some help from engine braking. As for the truckers, I don't have any experience with diesels, but my understanding is that engine braking doesn't work the same on diesels as it does in gasoline engines. Maybe someone with more experience could chime in on this.

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Old 04-25-2015, 01:42 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Ray Eklund View Post
...It is remarkable how well using all THREE options at the same time work best. I am braking and manually downshifting the transmission for a steady, controlled slowing down or stopping. Much like landing an aircraft on an Aircraft Carrier. .... You must understand that overheated brakes can create a disaster when the brake fluid reaches its boiling point in the tow vehicle. .......
Next time you are going East from the Front Range, Colorado back into Denver, Colorado... SMELL the 18 wheeler brakes smoking. Obviously an inexperienced trucker... ...Do you know what to do IF you are driving in snowy conditions and your trailer begins to JACKKNIFE on packed snow? There is a way to regain control. Maybe... lets start there. I had a friend explain how he learned. It makes sense to me.
That smell is DENVER... at least that's what I smelled! If you're smelling 18 wheeler brakes... you're following too close!

Tell me please... exactly HOW is downshifting and using brakes simultaneously anything like "landing on an Aircraft Carrier"..??
Carrier-landings are done with full throttle applied.
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Old 04-25-2015, 02:16 PM   #6
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Since I've upgraded from a 1600 lb TaB to a 3500 lb 2015 BAMBI 16 Sport TT, I am acutely aware of the increased challenges ahead of me. My preferred regions to RV TRAVEL ARE MOUNTAINOUS. I drove the San Juan Skyway, towing the TaB in 2013, and have no desire to repeat that 'white knuckle' experience towing Bambino!

I will, however get to experience Wolf Creek pass early June, as I travel to Durango.
I most certainly intend to be ever mindful of speed and all surroundings, other vehicles, etc., as I make my way there and back. The trimethod of braking will be practiced faithfully! If I smell anything,i will look for the first resting spot!

This maiden trip will be a test of my ability and of my 'nerves', as I prepare for my big trip to Glacier NP, and the Pacific NW coast! I appreciate the reminder, guys, and will be cautious. I'm hoping for safe travels for all of us!
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Old 04-25-2015, 02:48 PM   #7
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I don't have any experience with diesels, but my understanding is that engine braking doesn't work the same on diesels as it does in gasoline engines. Maybe someone with more experience could chime in on this.
Ah, but diesels have a "Jake Brake," an exhaust brake. The tranny will take you down to about 50 or 55 on an 8% downgrade, the exhaust break will take you down to 20.

Here in AZ we have an 18 mile stretch coming off the Mogollon Rim that varies between 6 and 8%. I set "tow/haul" and speed at 50 and let the Allison and the Cummins do the work. I've made the entire 18 miles without ever once touching the brake pedal. Ditto both sides of the Grapevine on I-5 going into Bakersfield, or coming out of the Targhee National Forest into Ashton, ID, or about a 1,000 places in NM, CO and WY. People who sing the praises of diesels know whereof they speak.
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Old 04-25-2015, 03:04 PM   #8
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Boxite- That smell is DENVER... at least that's what I smelled! If you're smelling 18 wheeler brakes... you're following too close!

Tell me please... exactly HOW is downshifting and using brakes simultaneously anything like "landing on an Aircraft Carrier"..??
Carrier-landings are done with full throttle applied.
*******
You are being a bit harsh about Denver... I am reminded more of the Feed Lots of Texas and Sulfur from the Petroleum Refineries. As an oilman or rancher would say, "that is the smell of money".

Fresh Air to a Texan does smell. That is the smell of the Fresh Air of Colorado had you taken the time to roll a window down. Brought to you at no charge.

Anyone who has driven through the Rocky Mountains understands what I meant about the scent of hot truck brakes. Distance from the source can be in miles.

Obviously you did not know that five speed stick shift transmissions are standard on some Aircraft. You are talking about the upgraded models used by the USAF. I would prefer to autorotate onto a deck with a helicopter and save on fuel.

Want to see some USAF aircraft?

http://www.doyletics.com/tidbits/militaryadvice.pdf

All of this applies to Towing Trailers and unexpected situations.
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Old 04-25-2015, 04:43 PM   #9
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Wolf Creek Pass ain't bad. Nice wide road and no sharp curves. Still warrants caution but a lot better than some others. I suggest taking a break at the top to let things cool down after the upgrade. This is a photo of our rig at the top of Wolf Creek Pass. Enjoy your trip. Can't wait to get back there this summer.
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Old 04-26-2015, 04:43 PM   #10
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Ray, thanks for the 'air show'! You must be a USAF pilot?, I'm guessing? My Joe was career USAF, and I was RN, working civil service at USAF hospitals where ever we ended up. I'm just north of Parker...retired many years, now.

Roger, I notice you are also USAF retired. My Joe came from NJ. Yes, Wolf Creek is doable, cautiously. A very lovely area. We are so fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful states in the USA!☺️�� I do envy you for the close proximity to that terrific fresh lobster! It loses a lot of flavor in transit to the mountains! We do get great steak here, though. I guess we can't have it all!

Happy Trails, all! Evelyn.
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Old 04-26-2015, 06:14 PM   #11
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Yes EV, the north east coast lobsters are worth the wait. I try and hold my self back until we make a trip to Maine or Canada. I really enjoy my travels into Colorado and will be heading back this summer. I really liked the 4x4 trails outside of Lake City. We'll be spending some time in Ouray and Durango this go around. I did my active duty in the Army and did a year in Vietnam. Then the remainder of my 3 yrs was spent in Germany. Later I went back in and did Air Nat. Guard here in NJ until retirement.

See ya'll on the road sometime.
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Old 04-26-2015, 11:39 PM   #12
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Roger, ooh, Ooooh, Ooooh! Could you bring me some fresh lobster? LOL!
If you camp in Durango, go to ALPEN ROSE RV park, just west of Durango on hwy 550 N. Very nice, reasonable prices, well maintained, nice hosts. Very accommodating.
HAPPY TRAILS, YA'LL!
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Old 04-26-2015, 11:56 PM   #13
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I live in CO and drive I70 a whole lot. It's littered with people who really don't know how to drive, or what equipment is needed for 11,000 feet and a blizzard. Our favorites (not) are the Nebraskans with 2WD and All Season Tires. SorryNotSorry, Nebraska. Don't get too smug, Texas, you're 2nd on the list.

We see trucks in flames at least once a year.
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Old 04-27-2015, 08:28 AM   #14
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Yes We will be staying at Alpen Rose for a couple of days with an AS caravan. Our last time in Durango ( tent camping long ago) we stayed across the road along the RR track. That was nice too. Sorry on the lobsters though. We won't be going to Maine before we leave. Not sure how to transport them that far.
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