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Old 01-21-2004, 07:42 PM   #1
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Basic Brake information

Here is my problem, I have never pulled a trailer that had anything except surge brakes. I need to prepare my pickup for a 1961 Overlander. I have no ideal where to start and the nearest place that does trailer brake work is about 50 miles. I need to know what parts the PU needs. I have a 4 wire light connector only on the PU. The Trailer has a 7 wire plug. I know that I need a 7 wire plug hook up, I also know there has to be something to activate the brakes on the trailer from the truck. If someone could tell me where to get this information or just give me a starting point to work this out. What I need and where to get it for the truck, then I can work back to the trailer. Then I 'll be asking for more help then.
Thanks ....Dave....
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Old 01-21-2004, 09:59 PM   #2
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Basic Brake Information

Greetings Dave!

After retreiving two Vintage Airstreams in the past eight years, I would suggest that you go prepared to re-wire the trailer connector to match your tow vehicle. I chose to have my tow vehicles wired to the modern tow vehicle wiring standard so that I would be able to tow other trailers with the current standard. Airstream didn't begin to follow what is now the industry standard until the last decade or a little more. Your Overlander will likely be wired very similar to the 1964-65 Airstream Connector Plug wiring color code. When I picked up my Minuet about 18 months ago, I had a new Bargman plug in my toolkit as well as wiring tools and a 12-volt garden tractor battery to test the function of the wires before connecting them to the terminals on the new plug. I am not fond of electrical wiring, but was able to accomplish this task in a little less than two hours.

You will also need a brake controller for your tow vehicle. There are a number of different models out there, and each person has his/her personal first choice. If you do a Forums search of the keywords "brake controller", you will learn of the variety out there and find a number of recommendations - - Tekonsha Prodigy is often mentioned as are a number of others. I am a near loner with my preference for the Hayes-Lemmerz XPC Brake Controller with Manual Remote - - it is a pendulum type, but has never really caught-on in Airstream Circles. The Jordan Brake Controller, and the Tekonsha Prodigy are probably the two most frequently mentioned trailer brake controllers.

Something else that you may want to consider, if you haven't already, is a good set of supplemental trailer mirrors. The mirrors on your truck, unless they are special optional RVing mirrors likely won't extend far enough from the sides of the tow vehicle to see around your Overlander. I use McKesh Trailer Towing Mirrors with both my Suburban and Cadillac.

Good luck with your Overlander!

Kevin
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Old 01-22-2004, 04:03 PM   #3
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Brake Lights

While checking lights with Battery and Ground at trailer . I have taken plug off and wireing directly to a 12V battery to check lights through trailer, all lights work except the brake lights, I think they should work with being hooked to battery but I'm not sure sense all other lights are working. It's hard to beleive that both wires would be bad. I need to know how to check them out.
While hooking other lights up I received a small spark at the battery. with the brakes I didn't get the spark as I should have.
All susgestions welcomed. Thanks to all. OL 64 thanks for the information, everything was a mess but it's working out. Thanks...Dave...
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Old 01-22-2004, 06:11 PM   #4
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Basic Brake Information

Greetings David!

If I am interpreting what you have written correctly, you may not have a problem with the lights. If your left and right turn signals are working then the brake lights should be functional. If the wire identified as going to the electric trailer brakes is the problem then, you might have a broken wire at one of the wheels, at a point where the wire enters/exits the underbelly, or there could be a problem with one or more of the brake magnets.

I am sure that there is a testing device to help isolate the actual problem, but I am not sure which would be used. If you have a helper available, have him/her hold a compass near the brake hub when you apply power - - if the compass reacts when you apply power to the line that you are suspicious of - - then you will have verified that it is the electric trailer brake wire (there should also be an audible clicking or clunking sound when the brake magnet is energized).

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 01-24-2004, 11:33 AM   #5
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I have a 29' Sovereign and use a Jordan brake controller which I feel gives me more information while towing than others ...... the Jordan brake controller has a cable that goes from the unit to the brake pedel ..... once calibated it "mirrors" the braking of the tow unit to the trailer ...... both brake at the same time with the same amount of braking force ..... hence you don't get the trailer braking for the truck or the truck braking for the trailer ...... as well the readout on the unit is in "amps", the number of amps that are being delivered to the trailer's brakes ...... if each magnet that operates the brake on each wheel of the trailer draws 3.2 amps then at full braking you should see 12.8 amps on the unit (with 4 wheels/ two axles) ...... so if you only see 9.6 amps then you know that one of your brakes isn't working..... if you see more than 12.8 amps at braking, you know that you have a "shorted" magnet and it needs replacing ...... The Prodogy and others work on changing momentum ..... you put your foot on the brake the unit senses the change and puts on the trailer brakes ...... these types of units don't know that you may be going downhill and may put the brakes on the trailer on when you don't want them on ...... with the Jordan, you can look at the readout on the unit and know for sure what's happening with your braking ........... if your foot isn't on the brake, the brake are on ........ sometimes analog beats digital in the case of trailer brakes I think that this is one of those cases ..... hope this helps, I'd be interested in hearing the comments of others .... Good luck and safe trailering.
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Old 01-26-2004, 09:28 AM   #6
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Dave, I rambled on about brake controllers and never addressed your question on wiring so ..........regarding your PU wiring, it's pretty simple if your already have the 4 wire set up ..... the four wire now in place has your ground, brake/ lights, left turn and right turn ..... if your truck is newer, this set up probably is hooked into your truck wiring harness by an adapter plug or may be just spliced into the appropreate wires .... in any case I have a 1981 Chev and just picked up an 4 - wire adapter plug at my local auto parts store hooked it into the truck wiring harness which then gave me the 4 wire set up hanging at the back of the truck ... same as you have on your truck ...... I then ran three wires from the front of the truck..... I have a spare battery in the truck to provide additional battery power (left over from the old camper days) .... the three wires are battery negetive, battery positive and trailer brakes from my brake controller. You could just plug into you existing 4-wire outlet presently at the back, use the Brake/lights wire, the left turn signal, right turn signal wire and hook these into your new 7 wire trailer plug following the wiring diagram and then run three wires forward for the three remaining wires required ( +, - & electric brakes)..... the reason I would use the negative from the battery (ground) rather than the existing one in the present 4-wire set at the back is that the one at the back is probably only grounded to the frame and that's not as good as a direct connection to the battery. The process is pretty simple and the installation of the brake controller is straight forward as well ..... it only has battery positive, battery negative and the wire that runs to the trailer plug for the electric brakes ..... if you do this yourself, you'll understand how the system is wired and you'll be able to figure out what the problem is if you have issues. Your issue with the electric brakes can be diagnosed ..... if you have an volt/amps meter ...... put the meter on "DC Amps" and put it in series(in line) with the trailer brake wire ..... have someone step on the brake ......if you don't have your controller set up yet, connect to in series with your battery (make sure negative side of the battery has a good ground on the trailer) if you see an amps reading then you have a complete curcuit ...... by looking at the number of amps being drawn you can tell if you have all brakes working or only some ..... each brake unit (maganet) should draw about 3 amps .... 4 brakes/magnets about 12 amps ...... if you has only 9 amps or so and you have four wheels/brakes one of them isn't working and the suggestion from the previous note regarding the use on a compass will help you find out which one .... Hope this helps, good luck in your project and travels ..... thanks Brian
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Old 01-26-2004, 07:22 PM   #7
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Basic Brakes

Hi Guys and thanks for all the information, things seem to be coming together slowly but surely. Got the lights working on the 4 way hook up for now. Problem starts here for me. There were 10 wires inside the 7 way plug at the trailer, I think this is for the running light and such running down both sides of the trailer. There was no brake line to the center pole. there is a hook up on the other 6 lugs. I pulled the wheels and the brakes look new inside the hubs, but they look like a disk type brake, maybe this is what a elec brake looks like, I don't know. Rin tin tin gave me some information but I don't understand the brake wire portion. Should this go to the center lug of the recep. and from there to what.
The wheels have 2 elec wires hooked to each one. I really don't know where they are coming from.just hope it's from the 7 way recep. From the truck end there are 4 wire not hooked up as of yet. Blue, Black, Yellow and white. If I haven't confused everyone and anyone who can tell me which way to go from here, please do. Thanks.....Dave.....
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Old 01-27-2004, 11:33 AM   #8
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Dave, hope that I haven't confused you too much .... maybe the following will help ....... in my airstream manual and confirmed on my trailer is the following: on your trailer plug there is a small square raised portion used to ensure that you can only attach it to the car/truck one way ..... if you look at the plug with this square piece at the top you will get a picture of six slots around the outside and one in the center. look at it as if it were a clock with the raised portion at 12 o'clock ..... to the right at 1 o'clock is the clearance/tail lights slot (color code green), below at 3 o'clock is stop/left turn signal (color code red), below at 5 o'clock is - 12 volts (ground) (color code white), around at 7 o'clock is the electric brake (color code Blue), up above at 9 o'clock is stop/right turn (color code brown), above at 11 o'clock is + 12 volts (color code Black) and in the center is Back up (color code yellow ..... often not used) The connections on your car truck side should be wired to mate with these ....... each magnet at each wheel should have two wires ..... probably one colored blue for braking power and one white for ground. As for your brakes some trailers have disc brakes, some have drums .... looks like you have the disc type ...... some have hydraulic systems other have electrical ones ..... if you have wires running to your brakes they're most likely electrical and if they look like disc brakes they probably are ...... not really to familiar with your exact unit .... Your 4 wire connection from your truck is most likely ... white ground ..... yellow left turn, green right turn and brown running lights ....... checking with your electrical tester would confirm ...... hope this helps ..... if you need further info, I'll keep an eye out .... can't promise total clarity, but will try ..... Brian
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Old 01-27-2004, 05:04 PM   #9
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Basic Brake

Thanks Brian , I'll try and work with this and will get back with you, it can't be much better than this. Thanks ...Dave..
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Old 02-07-2004, 01:29 PM   #10
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Related Question

On my electric brake controller, under the dash, there is a small wheel that shows adjustment <increase decrease>. One person told me its to increase, decrease braking force in the trailer, another told me it was increase, decrease delay for trailer braking.
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Old 02-07-2004, 02:24 PM   #11
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Trumpowers .... I think you're right on both ..... the way it was explained to me was that on the momentum type brake controllers (like the Prodogy) that increasing the "wheel" sends more signal to the brakes sooner/with less change in "sensed" movement .... decreasing the "wheeL" sends less current initally (less senstive to perceived change) and you have to step on the vehicle brake more to get more braking (more lights on the controler to light up) on the trailer. I'd be interested if anyone agrees with my interpretation/what people have told me .... thanks Brian
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Old 02-07-2004, 04:39 PM   #12
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Originally posted by rin-tin-tin
Trumpowers .... I think you're right on both ..... the way it was explained to me was that on the momentum type brake controllers (like the Prodogy) that increasing the "wheel" sends more signal to the brakes sooner/with less change in "sensed" movement .... decreasing the "wheeL" sends less current initally (less senstive to perceived change) and you have to step on the vehicle brake more to get more braking (more lights on the controler to light up) on the trailer. I'd be interested if anyone agrees with my interpretation/what people have told me .... thanks Brian
That is pretty close, the only thing I disagree with is from an earlier post that stated the momentum-type brake controllers can apply the trailer brakes while going downhill. In order for that to happen, you have to be using the brakes on your tow vehicle, otherwise, no braking signal is sent. The brake controller is hooked into the brake light switch on the tow vehicle, not just a pendulum.
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Old 02-08-2004, 10:32 AM   #13
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Argosy 20, You are right ....... as you say there's no current unless you have touched the brake pedal. On my "old" truck (1981 chev 3/4 ton) there is a "dead" spot when I put my foot on the brake where the brake light would be on, but the brakes have't engaged on the truck ..... the Jordon controller makes an allowance for this on setup ...... not sure that the momentum type do this. ..... thanks for the post ..... my note was misleading
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Old 02-08-2004, 10:52 AM   #14
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The Prodigy has no pendulum. It uses an inertia sensor similar to that used for rocket guidance. That's why there is no levelling required as there is on pendulum units. On any normal highway grade, I can tell no difference in operation uphill or downhill.

The only grade that has ever seemed to fool my Prodigy is my driveway which is over 30 degrees for a short distance. When i still had my International which I could barely get up the driveway, if trailer was still up on the level and the truck was on the down slope, the Prodigy tended to overbrake. Of course this is a condition not found on public roads.

On any "normal" road, the Prodigy is "set it and forget it". The trailer is barely perceptable during braking.
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