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Old 11-22-2011, 11:50 AM   #1
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1968 28' Ambassador
Debary , Florida
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Do I have to use Kelsey Hayes???

I have a 1968 Ambassador that I am trying to get road worthy so my wife and I can use it a few time over the winter here in FL before I start a major tear down and restore in 2012. Just got new tires and wheel bearing on as well as replaced the trailer connector with a new blade type. I picked up a cheap brake controller at “Wally World” and the brakes seem to be functioning but do need some adjustment.


Here is my question upon review of the manual they state you should only use a Kelsey Hayes controller. For short term temporary use is it ok to use a non Kelsey Hayes controller or does it not really matter.


Second question: Does anyone have a recommendation for a brake controller for long term use.


Thanks in advance for the advice.
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Old 11-22-2011, 12:14 PM   #2
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I believe that Kelsey Hayes is no longer in business.

Bill

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I have a 1968 Ambassador that I am trying to get road worthy so my wife and I can use it a few time over the winter here in FL before I start a major tear down and restore in 2012. Just got new tires and wheel bearing on as well as replaced the trailer connector with a new blade type. I picked up a cheap brake controller at “Wally World” and the brakes seem to be functioning but do need some adjustment.


Here is my question upon review of the manual they state you should only use a Kelsey Hayes controller. For short term temporary use is it ok to use a non Kelsey Hayes controller or does it not really matter.


Second question: Does anyone have a recommendation for a brake controller for long term use.


Thanks in advance for the advice.
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Old 11-22-2011, 01:16 PM   #3
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Do I have to use Kelsey Hayes???

Greetings cvpfl!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstream ownership!

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Originally Posted by cvpfl View Post

Here is my question upon review of the manual they state you should only use a Kelsey Hayes controller. For short term temporary use is it ok to use a non Kelsey Hayes controller or does it not really matter.
In the days when our coaches were new, the Kelsey Hayes controller was state of the art and considered the "Cadillac" of its domain. It was a controller that required tapping into the tow vehicle's hydraulic brake system as well as special electronic "resistors" mounted to the tongue of the coach or under the hood of the tow vehicle to modify the signals sent to the trailer for proper braking. The last tow vehicle that I had with a Kelsey Hayes Controller was a 1983 GMC G20 VanDura -- and it illustrated the problem encountered when trying to "marry" old and new technology -- the hydraulic brake tap for the controller displaced too much brake fluid and the van had greatly reduced braking ability so the controller had to be abandonned. My understanding is that the Kelsey Hayes trailer brake controllers disappeared from the market close to 25 or 30 years ago. Even if you happen across a used Kelsey Hayes trailer brake controller, I would suggest letting it pass as they are not compatible with our tow vehicle's modern braking control systems.

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Second question: Does anyone have a recommendation for a brake controller for long term use.

A search of the Forums will turn up a number of trailer brake controller discussions, and you will find that there are three or four controllers that account for those chosen by most Forum members. Like many things in Airstreaming, feelings about particular brake controllers can run very deep. Among the more popular brake controllers are:There are several variants of controllers from each of the above companies as well as several others out there. Most of these controllers are proportional controls that utilize a pendulum function for their operation. I am not certain, but my understanding is that the Hensley Tru-Control might be the only one that taps into the tow vehicle's hydraulic brake system -- I have Hayes-Lemmerz units on my tow vehicles so am not as familiar with the other two popular choices.

You may find that you have the remnants of an old Kelsey-Hayes system on your coach. Should you have the "resistor" hardware mounted on the hitch and connected to the brake wiring, it could explain some problems with braking effectiveness. It is also possible that your trailer brakes may just need to be adjusted as they are not "self-energizing/self-adjusting" like modern automobile drum brakes; rather, electric trailer brakes do require periodic adjustment unless they have been upgraded to the recently released self-adjusting electric drum brakes for trailers. A third possibility would be that your trailer brakes may be in need of replacement -- something that is not uncommon with a recently acquired vintage unit -- in that case, fully-loaded backing plates are usually the way to go as they typically represent a cost savings over purchasing the various parts individually -- and also insure that all wear parts have been replaced other than the drums themselves.

Good luck with your research and investigation!

Kevin
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Old 11-22-2011, 05:29 PM   #4
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I suspect you'll find Kevin's post insightful.

The Hensley brake controller is of inertial design and does not sense the pressure in the hydraulic system. The only brake controller on the market today that does that is the Maxbrake. I have them in both of my tow vehicles, and like many other Airstreamers with larger trailers, find its performance to be unsurpassed.

The cheap brake controllers -- including, most likely, the one you have now -- don't sense anything and just apply the brakes progressively over time after the brake lights go on. I don't recommend them.
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Old 11-23-2011, 12:52 PM   #5
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1968 28' Ambassador
Debary , Florida
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brake advice

thanks to everyone for the info...... the brakes seem to be working on one side and not the other ....probably just needs adjustment .....after much back and forth with my wife we have decided to skip the camping trip and go into full resto mode starting in January. Going to take everything down to the bare walls and just do it correctly the first time instead of piece meal and duct tape method. While it is in good shape for it's age and very original ....the age is really catching up on it. On an old trailer like this I have figured if it is working .... just wait a few days and it will break ...especially when you are away from home Have a safe Holiday
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