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Old 07-03-2010, 02:09 AM   #1
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Brake Controller ?

I am not sure I am correctly understanding the need for one of these add-on inside your car type brake controllers?

I have a '07 Expedition with the heavy duty towing package. It has the brake (more than 4 pin) wiring for the brakes & lights on my '92 25ft. Airstream Excella. I do not have any type of brake controller (Prodigy or otherwise) that I've read about numerous times on the forums. We hooked this up when I picked it up from the owners (great fellow airstreamers!) in North Carolina, and drove it back to Houston, TX without any braking problems.

So, my questions: Is the add-on (Prodigy or whatever brand) brake controller inside your tow Vehicle for older trailers or older tow vehicles? Is it just one of those "cool to have" items that you get after you've been Airstreaming for a while? or Is it actually a real safety need for towing any Airstream? Just not really understanding why I didn't have any trouble in 1,100 miles, but others seem to see it as a neccesity?

Please, help Thanks!!!
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Old 07-03-2010, 04:59 AM   #2
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If you don't have a 'Brake Controller' installed inside your tow vehicle, you won't have anything to energize the brakes on your trailer! You ran that trip with out any braking from your trailer...bad kind of situation when ever you have to make a 'panic' stop, or slow down during a downgrade!

One of the connectors in your 7-way plug energizes the trailer brakes - to make it work you need to buy a brake controller and install it up front near your dash...you might have to install a fuse or two under the hood in the fuse panel to energize the trailer harness wires; brakes, battery charging, backup light, etc - check your owners manual...

If your TV came equipped with the towing package, you will have a square, 4-wire connector under the dash, usually above the accelerator, thats provided just for the brake controller to plug into...

Make sure you get the matching 4-wire mating connector for your Ford when you buy your brake controller, as it's then very easy to hook up - just find a place to mount the controller where you can get to it for adjustments, 'manual' trailer brake actuation, etc...

I'd sure get this project rolling before your next trip - life's much easier when you can stop quicker!

Also, most states REQUIRE you to have workable brakes, if the trailer is equipped with brakes - just another incentive to get that controller...

BTW, when you get the controller operating, you can check to see if each brake magnet is working (assuming you have electric brakes, here) by holding a compass near each wheel when someone applies the brakes in the TV - the needle will swing toward the magnet inside the brake assembly when energized...

Of course there's lots of other trailer brake stuff to check out as well, lining, wheel bearings and seals, shoe adjustment, to name a few...

Ray
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Old 07-03-2010, 08:29 AM   #3
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I towed our 68' with no trailer brakes the first few trips. Our TV seemed to do just fine, WHY get one. Well it doesn't matter how well you think it works. When I hooked it up it made a lot of difference. Your stopping distance in an emergency is a lot shorter. And if going down long steep mountain passes it can save you TV brakes. You can even just use the trailer brakes to slow you. It's not expensive to get one and you can put it in yourself.
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Old 07-03-2010, 08:41 AM   #4
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The first panic stop you have to make while towing without brakes will make you understand why you need it. Any object will take the path of least resistance. For a brakeless trailer, that path happens to be in front of your tow vehicle. If you have to get on the brakes hard in a curve, the weight of the trailer is going to want to keep going and will try to push the rear end of your truck off to the outside of the turn. The result can be very serious. Run down to Camping World or anywhere that sells truck accessories or trailers and buy a controller. Most places will have the wiring harness you need to plug right into your truck's wiring so installation is a plug and play affair.
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Old 07-03-2010, 09:32 AM   #5
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Probable the most exicting moment with your airstream will come when you have to stop while rounding a cornor in the rain as the airstream swings past you and you can see the galley through your drivers window while taking up 3 lanes, on a 2 lane road verrry bad.

Your truck came with a Reese style tow receiver but you had to buy the insert thingy with correct ball to hook the trailer up (I hope you did, ball the wrong size not good either).

Get a brake controller installed to complete the package and travel merrily and safely along.
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Old 07-03-2010, 10:45 PM   #6
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What everybody else said. There is room for various points of view on whether and what kind of sway control but for a big trailer a WD hitch and properly working trailer brakes are non-negotiable must-have pieces of safety equipment that you would only want to do without under extenuating circumstances, like if they failed on the road and you were driving to the first reasonable place to get them fixed.
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Old 07-03-2010, 11:51 PM   #7
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Without a trailer brake controller in your tow vehicle, the brakes on your trailer are not operational. A trailer brake controller is an absolute necessity. Pulling a large trailer without any brakes is unsafe and foolish. It is courting disaster.

Where did you ever get the idea that a brake controller was unnecessary?

Brian
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Old 07-03-2010, 11:57 PM   #8
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I agree with all the previous posts. Are you certain your Expedition does not come with a factory installed integrated brake controller? I know the Super Duty's come with them but maybe not other models?
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Old 07-04-2010, 12:47 AM   #9
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Thanks!

I appreciate all the input! I understand the controller's function more clearly now. Thanks a lot I bought a new anti-sway, WD hitch, from ProPride, and it is being shipped right now. Will now look into the brake controllers, and check on my wiring, etc...

moosetags: I was unsure about the controllers, because my grandparents & aunts & uncles that trailered with silver streaks & avions for 20+ years never used them, and never lost/wrecked their trailers. So, really hadn't been brought up on these controllers.

Sincerely,

tinlove t
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Old 07-04-2010, 01:07 AM   #10
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wiring pics

Ok...just shot 2 pics of the wiring under my dash. I have a grey 4 pin plug (pic 1), and also a very large multi-pin plug(pic 2). Sounds like what ya'll are talking about! I'll have to check out what's what after the 4th! Have a Happy 4th everyone!
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Old 07-04-2010, 07:03 AM   #11
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hi tinlove

congrats on the new2u 92 25 footer.

with the expedition and pp hitch that's ALMOST a completely sweet set up.

as u have learned since the o.p. a brake controller is required.

once past this awareness, selecting a BRAND/model brake controller is important.

ford has been providing an oem ITBC (integrated trailer brake controller) since 2005.

they were the FIRST major brand to do this, but it was only available for 3/4 or 1 ton trucks (250/350s)...

NOW they also provide an itbc on the 1/2 trucks (150s) but they've YET to include the option in the suv side.

so the 2007 doesn't have one, but at least you've FOUND some WIRING.

the shop/computer scanner plugs in under the dash so don't confuse THAT with the 7 pin wiring harness.

it might be best to have a qualified shop do find/wire

or check one of the ford enthusiast forums for specifics on the exp'

i suspect that eventually we'll see oem ITBC on many different new vehicles used for towing.
___________

trailer brake controllers come in a variety of designs,

each with + or - features (price, easy install, basis for stopping signal, wiring, sensitivity, adjustability, display)...

their are several popular brands used by streamers,

and one can SEARCH the brand names here and find long threads on most of them.
___________

imo the brand/model YOU should consider is max brake...

without digging into HOW each brand works, the maxbrake is the CLOSEST/most similar to the ford oem set up.

basically the MB installs OFF the master cylinder (a fitting is placed off the plumbing)

and uses a pressure/transducer to convert hydraulic info form the tv brakes into an electrical impulse.

install is diy OR a shop mechanic can do it in ~1-2 hours.

read about it here, watch the video, download the install/owners manual and so on...

MB website, with links to many useful tidbits...

there used to be 2 other companies offering similar type controllers but mb seems to be the only 1 now.
________

again there are other options, but this would be a very very good choice.
________

it's also important to be SURE the brakes on this trailer are FULLY functional and with fresh internals.

did your rv shop OPEN A HUB and inspect/adjust the shoes, magnets, wiring and so on...?

very very important.
_________

you've decided on a great hitch (the pp) and can read users reports and set up info and plenty of pix here....

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f464...ide-57179.html

so don't skimp on braking or the interface (controller) that lets the expedition/stream work together...

cheers
2air'
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Old 07-04-2010, 08:03 AM   #12
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2air is correct that the MaxBrake is the best available. It's what I have. I also run the ProPride hitch you've just ordered. Southwest wheel is the online dealer for MaxBrake and should be able to send you one with a wiring harness that will plug into the gray connector on your Ford. With the MaxBrake there is also the need to attach the sensor to the brake system, which is simple to do if you've worked on brakes before and have a line wrench, but probably best left to a mechanic otherwise.

While opinions vary the electric brake components on the trailer don't last forever and unless you know they've been looked at in the last year or two it's time to jack up the trailer and pull a drum, or maybe all four of them, and evaluate the situation. Routine maintenance. Probably best to get the controller installed first though so you can be sure everything is working right at the conclusion of the brake inspection.
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Old 07-04-2010, 08:44 AM   #13
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Thumbs up Early days of trailering EGADS

Quote:
Originally Posted by TINLOVE View Post
I appreciate all the input! I understand the controller's function more clearly now. Thanks a lot I bought a new anti-sway, WD hitch, from ProPride, and it is being shipped right now. Will now look into the brake controllers, and check on my wiring, etc...

moosetags: I was unsure about the controllers, because my grandparents & aunts & uncles that trailered with silver streaks & avions for 20+ years never used them, and never lost/wrecked their trailers. So, really hadn't been brought up on these controllers.

Sincerely,

tinlove t
Good move you'll be safer and love the rig more, brakes will last longer.

Back in the earlier days (71) I worked at a trailer lot. A bunch went out coupled to cars that sagged in the rear with a WD hitch setup, they went out like a V rig. I was told by the GM they do that, I was a young pup but didn't like what I saw. Many lighter ones (4500 lbs) went out without a brake controller. Folks would return saying Gee this thing really pushes my car a lot.

I remember an owner returning and showing us he shortened the links so the weight bars bowed like crazy, wonder when one snapped in half? At least he had a hydrallic controller hooked up. I bought my first motorhome soon after thinking trailer folks are crazy driving those dangerous rigs.

The hydrallic brake controllers then hooked by brake line directly to the master cylinder and then by wire to the brakes and used a slide resister to adjust how hard they applied, pretty basic, hit the brakes made the fluid move the controller lever or it could be moved by hand. Now we have inertia electronic controllers that are a dream.

I'm still amazed that there are no basic requirements given by the MVA's to at least teach folks the basics before they hook up a new trailer, kinda like grabbing a parachute and jumping out a plane without instruction, should work, just pull the cord, right?
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Old 07-04-2010, 10:53 AM   #14
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I am towing with an '06 Expedition with the tow package. My wiring is identical to yours under the dash. The grey plug is the one that the brake controller attaches to. I have a prodigy which works just fine. When you order make sure you inlude the make and model of the Expedition. That way, you will be sure to get a compatible plug. You should only have to plug the contoller into that grey plug, find a place to mount the unit, and you're good to go.
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