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Old 09-18-2010, 12:51 PM   #1
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Brakes for beginners

Hello all. I'm looking for some advice for an Airstream a friend's daughter has bought. I picked it up off the dock as it came off the boat, and only then did I find out it has a different braking system to our caravans! In fact, the plug was missing and it just had some bare wires on the a-frame.

She's cleaned up the outside and re-fitted it inside and plans to live in it while she's at university.

But..She's asked me to tow it to London next week. And it still doesn't have an brakes. Can I rig a system where the brakes can be manually operated on a switch by the passenger? It's not going to used to tour, and it will be there for the next 2 years before it has to move. I'd rather have some sort of braking than none at all as it's a big weight behind the Land Rover.

Your advise would be very much appretiated.

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Old 09-18-2010, 01:43 PM   #2
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The electric brake systems used in the USA are designed to be activated with a proportional type brake controller - this allows the voltage to be adjusted according to brake the force needed - these controllers have a small accelerometer type circuit built in...

If you were to use a single switch to provide full voltage to the brake circuit, you will get a 'full' lockup of the brakes - not the best situation, to say the least!

I don't know of any way to use your brakes without some kind of proportional control the the trailer's brake circuit...

Ray
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Old 09-18-2010, 01:45 PM   #3
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If you don't have a brake controller in the TV (tow vehicle), you will not be able to control the brakes properly. Controllers vary the voltage and current. You won't be able to just connect 12 volts and switch it on and off, the brakes will lock up. Are you sure the brakes even work?
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Old 09-18-2010, 02:03 PM   #4
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I figured it would be variable somehow. I thought about rigging it through a potentiometer somehow to reduce the voltage.

Is there a general rule for wiring on these brake systems? I.e. a colour system for the wires?
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Old 09-18-2010, 02:41 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by spacemutt View Post
I figured it would be variable somehow. I thought about rigging it through a potentiometer somehow to reduce the voltage.

Is there a general rule for wiring on these brake systems? I.e. a colour system for the wires?
I have attached a wiring diagram for the plug that matches the one in my Service Manual. Note that the connections for the Tow Vehicle must mirror this.

The problem for you is assuming that the brakes still work you need to:

Find a plug for the end of the wire (Amazon.com: 7 way Plug Plastic Bargman: Sports & Outdoors)

A compatible socket for your Land Rover (Amazon.com: 7 way Socket Plastic Bargman: Sports & Outdoors

A brake controller (Amazon.com: Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control: Automotive)

Get them all to the UK and install them properly by next week. (The links are for illustration. There are other places to get these.)

It sounds like a tall order given the time frame. Best of luck and keep us informed.
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Old 09-18-2010, 02:55 PM   #6
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The lighting isn't a problem as we used a lightin board with a very, very long wire! This was attached to the back of the Airstream and the cable run through the inside and out the front window. It simply plugged into the car's 7 pin plug.

But your diagram above shows me that it's the blue wire which triggers the brakes. What I need to do is figure out a way of safely putting a suitable voltage to that wire to give me the required amount of braking. I know it's major bodge, but if it works then it will give us 2 years to sort out a proper braking system for it.

I must admit, it wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be. And I think she'll have a very comfortable 2 years living in it.
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Old 09-18-2010, 02:58 PM   #7
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Vaughn,

That is some straight forward 1st class support.

Kudos to you.
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Old 09-18-2010, 02:58 PM   #8
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From your photo, I would not try to tow the Airstream without working trailer brakes. It is probably illegal, and certainly unsafe.

There are many brake controllers that work fine, but a lot of people use the Tekonsha Prodigy. Tekonsha makes newer models, but this one is reasonably priced, reliable and works well. You should be able to find one locally or over the Internet for less than $100 USD.

As for the wiring, depending on how experienced you are with trailer wiring, you might check the local RV clubs, neighbors, relatives, etc. to see if anyone can help you install a new trailer connector. Or, your auto dealer, service department or whoever installed your trailer hitch on your tow vehicle, may be able to help with the trailer wiring. Alternately, a local RV or trailer rental company (e.g., U-Haul, or the local equivalent) should be able help you with the wiring.

12 volt wiring in a travel trailer isn't rocket science, so there should be numerous, local "experts" that can assist.
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Old 09-18-2010, 02:58 PM   #9
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Just noticed that the black wire is actually the +12v... Normally that's the earth. What does that 12v supply? Do the brakes need this extra 12v supply to work? I would also have to earth the white wire to the vehicle too...
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Old 09-18-2010, 03:01 PM   #10
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Phoenix, good advice, but hard to find here.


Whoops...hang on...did I mention I'm in the UK? It's a fresh import to the country. Luckily I knew to change the tow-ball, but I wasn't told about the brake set-up.
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Old 09-18-2010, 03:16 PM   #11
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Spacemutt the type of braking system we you on this side of the pond is illegal in the U.K. You must use a surge type braking system. It requires modifications to the A frame to have the surge system installed. You would be risking a very hefty fine if the bobbies stopped you there. If the distance to tow is not far why not hire a recovery vehicle to move this trailer and avoid the penalties and liabilities if anything happened and you had a collision. You would be totally liable for all damages and injures by not complying with U.K. regulations. Check here for the full list of requirements.
Transport Technology and Standards 3

Department for Transport

Zone 2/04

Great Minster House

76 Marsham Street Tel: 020 7944 2078

London Fax: 020 7944 2196

SW1P 4DR Email: TTS.enquiries@dft.gsi.gov.uk
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Old 09-18-2010, 03:26 PM   #12
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Just noticed that the black wire is actually the +12v... Normally that's the earth. What does that 12v supply? Do the brakes need this extra 12v supply to work? I would also have to earth the white wire to the vehicle too...
I did remember that some of the old British cars were Positive Earth (Ground here in the US), but the later ones imported to the US were Negative Ground. I wasn't sure if they were Positive Earth in the UK now, so I didn't mention it. Negative Ground/Earth is standard in the US. Just something else to deal with.

The trailers also have a 12v battery inside to power the 12v negative ground wired lights (as part to the entire 12v negative ground system that included a converter for changing 120v AC {US} to 12v negative gound). Also attached to the wiring system is a breakaway switch that is attached via a lanyard to the tow vehicle. If the trailer were to come uncoupled and the safety chains fail, the lanyard pulls the center of the breakaway switch activating the brakes preventing the uncoupled trailer from running away. The only source of this emergency power is the coach's internal battery. There are other reasons related to the 12 system to have a battery or batteries installed in the system, but this is the one that related to towing and braking.

There are other forums members in the UK. Maybe you can, in time, get in touch with them and learn how they dealt with the issues in converting all the US stuff to UK standards.

I appreciate the thanks, too!
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Old 09-18-2010, 03:32 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by wasagachris View Post
Spacemutt the type of braking system we you on this side of the pond is illegal in the U.K. You must use a surge type braking system. It requires modifications to the A frame to have the surge system installed. You would be risking a very hefty fine if the bobbies stopped you there. If the distance to tow is not far why not hire a recovery vehicle to move this trailer and avoid the penalties and liabilities if anything happened and you had a collision. You would be totally liable for all damages and injures by not complying with U.K. regulations. Check here for the full list of requirements.
Transport Technology and Standards 3

Department for Transport

Zone 2/04

Great Minster House

76 Marsham Street Tel: 020 7944 2078

London Fax: 020 7944 2196

SW1P 4DR Email: TTS.enquiries@dft.gsi.gov.uk
Sounds like great advice to me.

I was also thinking that your best bet would be to hire pros for this move.
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Old 09-18-2010, 03:39 PM   #14
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Good stuff. In an ideal world it will be fitted with a proper UK spec braking system. But it needs to be moved soon, so want to rig a system that will give me some sort of braking. If it's good enough for the US then it's good enough for me! I will be keep speed very low anyway.

Once it's sited then we can spend time converting it properly. It's all been very last minute, and not the way I normally do things. But needs must. I will have a play with a system over the next couple of days and see what I can come up with.
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