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Old 03-22-2003, 08:43 PM   #1
 
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Question Improving brakes performance

It has been suggested that an improvement in braking power can be had by increasing the size of the wire throughout the system from the typical 14 or 12 gauge up to 8 gauge. That would be from the battery, to the controller, and all the way back to the magnets at the wheels. Additionally, the same wire size could be used for the brake magnets Grounds, running them all the way back to the tow vehicles battery negative terminal.

No doubt the reduced resistance would result in more of the voltage reaching the magnets. But would this really help? Judging by the wire size provided by the controller manufacturer, it doesn't appear that they think the brakes require a huge current to work efficiently.

What do you think ?
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Old 03-22-2003, 09:00 PM   #2
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Mike, what I think, is that the brake controller has a lot to do with how good your brakes work. Since replacing my Voyager with a Jordan, I have seen quite a difference in brake performance. As far as I am concerned that Voyager shouldn't even be on the market, in my opinion. The difference is astounding.

Now one of the nicest things about a Jordan is the buit in AMMETER. You should in theory, be drawing 3 amps per brake magnet, so a 4 brake system will draw 12+ amps at full braking power. With the built in digital ammeter you KNOW if all magnets are working. If you are drawing 12 amps and not stopping then you know the brakes need adjustment or some other kind of maintenance. This also tells you your wiring integrity is good.

All the Voyager has is a red led. You know how much current is being drawn by how red the led turns, but since it works on 1-4 axle brake systems, it really doesn't tell you anything, except that it is sending SOME current to the brakes.
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Old 03-23-2003, 10:20 AM   #3
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I think based on my findings on the forum that controller has a bunch to do with it (as long as the brakes are in good shape and good working condition).

I found that the Voyager isn't really really that good. The brakes seem to be grabby, need constant adjustment, etc which is similar to what others were posting about it.

I found a member on the forum that had a used Prodigy that he wanted to sell. I bought it because it got rave reviews from folks here and in a few other circles. So I am going to try that. If that does not improve it, I will try the Jordan next since I think I recall that was the next one on the list.

I'll post when I get the unit and have some time on the unit to compare the findings on both Voyager to Prodigy.

I miss the old brake units that were tied to the cars master brake cyl. Those units worked flawlessly. These electronic ones are nice, but so far my exp with the Voyager has been less than positive.

Regards,

Eric
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Old 03-23-2003, 10:43 AM   #4
 
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OK, guys, nice try.... but ....that was not our question:
Quote:
It has been suggested that an improvement in braking power can be had by increasing the size of the wire throughout the system
Bellow is an answer on target, we received from "Lou Schneider on the Escapees Forum:"
Could somebody comment on this please ?

"Let's take a typical example, upgrading from #14 wire to #8.

"14 gauge wire has a resistance of .0026 ohms per foot.

"Trailer brakes draw 3 amps each at their full rating, so four brakes will draw 12 amps.

"12 amps * .0026 ohms = 0.031 volts lost per foot of #14 wire.

"A typical 30 ft. 5th wheel will have at least 30 ft. of wire between the controller and the trailer brakes. Multiply this length by two, since the current has to go to the trailer axles and back again.

"60 ft. * 0.031 volts per ft = 1.86 volts lost along a run of #14 wire.

"Now let's look at using #8 wire.

"8 gauge wire has a resistance of 0.00067 ohms per foot. At 12 amps it will lose 0.008 volts per foot, about 1/4 of the voltage lost in #14 wire.

"60 ft. * 0.008 = 0.48 volts lost along a run of #8 wire.

"The difference is 1.38 volts, or about 11% of the system voltage.

"Gaining 11% in voltage delivered to the brakes may not sound like much, but remember that Power = Voltage squared. 11% more voltage = 22% more power developed by the brake magnets.

"Your mileage may vary, depending on the particulars of your rig. But the numbers are nothing to sneeze at."

Any thoughts on his comments ?
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Old 03-23-2003, 12:28 PM   #5
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If it's a mod your interested in, that's great, but I would assume that unlike GM they engineer it thinking of voltage loss. I gotta tell you, that the voyager brake controller, even with the voltage loss still can lock the brakes on the trailer loaded, no problem. Could that be because there is more meat to grab since it's very new? Perhaps, but properly maintained brakes I don't think would make a difference if you lost 1.38 volts. Power may equal voltage squared, but remember all you are doing is forcing brake pads/shoes against a drum/disc. Now add the fact that you would have 4 well maintained brakes, that should be able to stop your rig with the assistance of the two vehicle.

If if gives you piece of mind, fantastic, but also keep in mind that I am dealing with only one axle and 5000lbs gross.

I could also compare this situation to the way GM does front disc rear drum brake proportioning. On a 5300lb gross car, the front has 65-70% of the braking. The rear drums get about 30-35%. Given those stats, could the car stop better,? Sure, if I had the time, money and desire. But it's within spec and still can stop on a dime provided I have all 4 brakes in proper condition.

Anyway, those are my .02 comments.

I'm sure John HD could comment further.

Eric
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Old 03-23-2003, 01:32 PM   #6
 
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Eric, Thank you for your comments.

Having been through a few brake controllers, I have some idea what they Can and Can't contribute to trailer brake performance.

However, my post was about the effect of a change in wire size and the attendant decrease in electrical resistance. I never mentioned whether I was or wasn't delighted with the performance of my current brake setup.

Over the past 12 years I've dragged travel trailers through most of the states east of the Mississippi. Much of it on the smaller mountain roads. I've experienced more than simply inadequate brakes. We've seen plenty of brake fade from heat, brake lock-ups, hydraulic failures, disk failures, and brake fires, and I've been on a couple of unwanted roller coaster rides. I take braking seriously.

Discounting under-loading, I don't think I've ever seen a rig that had too much braking power. And probably as important is precise control of the braking action. Brakes that lock up can kill you quite as dead as those that don't. If someone plausibly suggests I might make a refinement to my braking system that might help realize its full potential, I'm going to look in to it.

The gain in power at the magnets sounds interesting to me and I intend to pursue it further.

Thanks again for your interest.
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Old 03-23-2003, 01:52 PM   #7
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If the brakes can be locked up with the existing wiring, it is not at all clear to me what bringing higher voltage to the brake magnets is supposed to accomplish. If, on the other hand, the voltage was not high enough to allow the maximum braking possible, I could see making the change.

Could higher voltage allow better control? That is, could it allow the brake controller to act with more finesse?

Mark
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Old 03-23-2003, 04:49 PM   #8
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Mike, I guess the real solution to the question is this: Hook up a digital voltmeter to the brake magnets at the splice and see, if indeed there is a need for increased wire size. It would be also helpful to know how many WATTS the trailer magnets are capable of handling. An increase in voltage could be detrimental to the magnet coils, and cause heating, shortening the life of the magnet. I doubt however that this is the case. I would think that they would engineer them to withstand 18-24 volts.

They say the new oval magnets have 40% more power than the earlier round magnets.
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Old 03-23-2003, 07:44 PM   #9
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magnets

to quote pick:" They say the new oval magnets have 40% more power than the earlier round magnets."

i would make sure everything was in working order first, then upgrade the magnets if you had the round ones. before rewiring the truck and trailer.

mike,

can you even tell if the trailer is brakeing behind that international?

the brakes on mine at work are very good. (air) even with huge loads behind it i have not noticed any lack of stopping power.

john
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Old 03-23-2003, 08:01 PM   #10
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John,

I'd be interested on your thoughts on femuse's post at 10:43am today. I know you are the pro when it comes to electricity. Whadda think of the different wires vs. delivered volts, etc.?

Eric
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Old 03-23-2003, 08:02 PM   #11
 
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1-No airbrakes.
2-When we have to change the magnets, will make sure we get the oval ones.
3-What a lot of people have missed: this was a rethorical question. Mike had followed various conversations on that subject on Compuserve. So he was curious. Could always be useful in the future.
We do not have any problem with our brakes. In fact we have used our new trailer only 160m to take it home with the van. Flat ground.
Quote:
can you even tell if the trailer is braking behind that International?
Only because we tested it carefully and know what it feel like. Do we need brakes? By law : YES. I guess we want them anyway.

Here is a question for you John:

I hate the common crimp connectors you find in blister wrap at parts stores. The finished job looks half baked and failure prone. More to the point, I'd expect them to have high resisitance due to the nature of the contact between the wire and the sheath it is inserted into.

On the Compuserve CARS Forum, I got into an interesting discussion when I suggested that soldering connections would have to be better that crimp connectors. Some of the respondents had aircraft experience and made a strong case in favor of well made crimp connections, but also made the point that industrial crimp tools made a much superior job of it. That leaves me still wondering about the type of crimp joint I'm likely to produce without specialist tools, etc.

It was also argued that soldered joints had a tendency to be fragile. The idea being that for a number of reasons, wires often fracture immediately next to the solder. I found that interesting and credible, but I don't think it is necessarily unavoidable.

What do you think?
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Old 03-23-2003, 09:34 PM   #12
 
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Pick

I do plan to use a multimeter. And in fact, this might be just the excuse I need to get an Ameter. We'll see.

I kind of think the magnets are going to be designed for the maximum an automotive system is likely to put out. There's probably a margin of top of that. But I really don't know, but I really doubt that running heavier wire will do any harm.

I had heard that the oval magnets were more powerful. Also that they don't wear as fast. I'd be happy with either one of those benefits.



Mark
Quote:
If the brakes can be locked up with the existing wiring, it is not at all clear to me what bringing higher voltage to the brake magnets is supposed to accomplish
Frankly, I'm not at all sure I understand that either. One benefit might be that given fully realized peak power, you might be able to spread the spectrum of power levels over a broader range instead of being force to set your controller to the max and hope for the best.
I like your use of the term "finesse". Braking should involve real control.

Thanks
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Old 03-24-2003, 12:14 AM   #13
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connections

mike

i was taught at line school that good connections are:

clean

tight

adequate (right size)

i have used soldered connections in high vibration areas on my vintage bike for years. with no failures. but, i always use heat shrink tubing over a splice. it acts not only as an insulator but also provides strain relief. it also keeps the water out.

not running a ton of solder into a joint helps too, don't fill the wire up! just the joint. pre tinning helps this so less solder is used.

i also use crimp connectors with a good quality tool, makes good joints. i also use shrink tubing on these for the same reasons.

on connectors that terminate at a screw i slide the wire through the connector just enough to be captured by a washer. a little extra insurance if you make a bad crimp.

loom your wires! not letting wires blow around or vibrate will last longer!

you get what you pay for with connectors! buy good stuff and you will get good results. tools too!

as far as your idea about the wire size, i see no flaw in your logic. if you find that you have excessive voltage drop, more than a couple of percent, then change the wire size.

assuming all of your connections are in good working order of course.

with the overall length of your rig, i can understand why this might be an issue for you.

john
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Old 03-24-2003, 09:02 AM   #14
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I find it useful to be able to disconnect the wires behind each wheel and measure the current to individual wheels when the brake line is activated. I use a digital voltmeter with a 20 amp capacity.This helps me to track down an imbalance in braking, indicated by differing hub temperatures between wheels after a trip.In automobile or marine work I use solder and heat shrink for a beautiful result, but for Airstream brake lines I use exterior grade wire nuts, pre-filled with silicon, (Home Depot), or fill my own empty wire nuts with silicon calk. Just another option, but it works for me. Nick.
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