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Old 07-20-2005, 09:37 AM   #1
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Thumbs down Check the Brake Controller

Just a reminder to periodically check the settings on your brake controller! On my way home from a recent trip I was forced into an emergency braking situation due to a left lane closure that was posted, but ignored by a large group of drivers until the last minute. The offending drivers switched to the right lane, just after cresting a hill, filling the gaps, and braking hard to avoid colliding with the respective cars ahead of them. What I thought had been a reasonable separation for the reduced speed zone quickly deteriorated. Braking hard, I headed for the emergency lane with the trailer wheels locked and smoking, only microseconds ahead of an identical maneuver by the driver immediately ahead of me! I then turned back into the travel lane to enter the space he had just vacated, bringing the rig under control with only a few feet to spare.

As in almost any rear end collision situation I would have been at fault if I had collided with the car ahead of me. The point of this long-winded story is that I had not re-set or tested my Prodigy controller since I can't remember when. The setting was at the maximum for the trailer - a full 12 volts - which caused the early lock-up of the trailer wheels. Since the road was dry, the quick swerve to the emergency lane, followed by a return to the driving lane, only caused the start of a jack knife - and not the full monty!

I plan, hereinafter, to make it a point to check my controller settings at the start of every trip. I have no idea how the controller got moved to the highest setting - but suffice it to say I have grandchildren that love to crawl around in Grampy's truck!


2003 GMC 3500 D/A, CC, LB, 4x4 and 2000 Airstream Excella 30. WBCCI 7074
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Old 07-20-2005, 09:49 AM   #2
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Glad you made it through that scary moment. It brings up a good issue.

I was going to post about setting brake controllers and have never gotten around to it.

What is the proper way to set a brake controller? I have a voyager.

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Old 07-20-2005, 02:13 PM   #3
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My way to set my controller is to find a flat street or parking lot, get the speed up to 20-25 mph, and then manually activate your brake controller to fully activate it. The gain is set to about 50%. If the trailer brakes lock the wheels, I back off the gain a small amount. I continue the test again until I can get the maximum amout of braking force just short of locking the trailer wheels up. That's your best braking performance under worst case conditions when full power is being applied to the brakes. I mark that setting on the controller in case it gets moved.

Now I do make adjustments on the road, especially if in wet weather where I might find the gain to be slightly too agressive for road conditions (wheels locking).

Even though I have used about 4 different controllers in my towing history, the process seems to be pretty similar. Some controllers may contain an extra button that compensates for the weight of your trailer (affects the amount of power delivered to the brakes). Sort of a preset gain that works in conjunction with the gain knob.

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Old 07-20-2005, 04:55 PM   #4
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I currently have the Prodgiy...I use it in 3 different trucks with 5 different trailers I made a little sticker for each truck with the different setting required for each trailer. It isn't perfect but gets me in the ball park and I can make minor adjustments as needed. What is interesting to me is that both my Coleman Popup and the Airstream use the same setting except I use the first boost level on the Airstream...go figure.

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Old 07-20-2005, 05:09 PM   #5
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Thumbs down

Just one thing to mention in passing. My rig sits outside and I have found that the shoes grab for the first 10 or so applications and smooth out afterward. Probably due to slight rust insde the drums. They are really bad the first time out. If the controller is adjusted OK at the start of the trip the brakes may feel "loose" at the end.
I usually tweak the settings when I get out of the towns and on the open road.
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Old 07-21-2005, 07:47 AM   #6
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The minor inconvenience with the Prodigy (---which I use) is that the vehicle has to be stopped in order to set the energy level. It would be nice if you could simply dial a lower number in - or reset the boost - when it starts to rain and you don't have any place to pull over. One of these days maybe we'll get a heads-up display on our instrument panel that gives us the settings and allows us to make changes while underway. It's my dream - but maybe one of the big three will figure out what a lot of us are using their trucks for - "towing!" At least Ford has become to include a brake controller as standard equipment. On the other hand, I don't know why you couldn't provide the aforementioned "heads-up" display via a remote "stick-on" LED display plugged/wired into one of the present family of controllers???

As an aside, with the current trend towards disc brakes on trailers, a more sophisticated controller is probably overdue.


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