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Old 06-03-2011, 07:41 PM   #1
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ITBC 'connected' / 'disconnected' error?

Hi Folks

I'm on the road right now and only have 1 bar (no 3G) on my iphone otherwise I'd make better use of the search function. Here's my problem:

We have a 2009 International, and this winter we sold our old tundra and upgraded to a 2010 Ram 3500. Last weekend we got the new combo out on the road for the first trip of the year and it wasn't long before I started getting a chime and "Trailer Disconnected" from the ITBC on the vehicle's electronic display. Usually, within a few seconds it would "reconnect" on it's own for a few km until I hit another bump or rougher patch of road and then I'd get the "disconnect" message again. I pulled over, checked all the connections, couldn't find a problem. In the campground I cleaned all the connectors, checked all the external wiring on the TV and TT - again, couldn't find a problem. The other change we made from last year was adding an AirSafe hitch which added about a foot of length between the trailer and TV. The cable still has a bit of slack in it, so I didn't think that it was pulling out. Also, the 7-pin connector has a little catch that prevents the chord from being pulled out accidentally.

So, this week I booked the vehicle with the dealership and they replaced the OEM brake controller under warranty without a quibble. Today, we hook up, drive a few kms and bang, "trailer disconnected" plus the chiming again. This time, however, it would stay in the disconnect mode for several seconds to a few minutes. During that period I would have no brakes on the trailer, but I would have power to the lights, thankfully. Once again, it would reconnect on its own and then a few seconds later trip off - VERY annoying. Luckily, we have a lot of truck or this could've been a major problem. Needless to say, we pulled the plug on our original camping plan (involving a 3 hr drive) and opted for something 20 minutes out of town with no highway driving.

On the way we dropped in on a RV dealership to chat with their technicians, none of which were intimately familiar with an Airstream. The net of it is that they think the problem is likely on the trailer side, possibly a loose connection or something of that sort. We never had a problem with the trailer before with our old TV so I'm a bit skeptical, but I really don't know what to think at this point. We don't have an Airstream dealer in Calgary, but we do have one that does service and parts on Airstreams. I'll likely book in with them next week to get the trailer inspected, and hopefully fixed, if that's where the problem is. If not, at least I will have eliminated one variable from the equation.

Meanwhile, I followed the 7-pin cable into the junction box under the left galley seat and couldn't see anything obviously wrong. That's about the extent of my skill and knowledge, unfortunately. If anyone has some other ideas or suggestions I'd be most grateful!
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:09 PM   #2
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Does the trailer have LED tail/brake lights? If so, the controller may not be seeing enough resistance to think it's connected. A light bulb wired into the brake light circuit of the trailer will stop this until you can get in for a more permanent repair.
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:14 PM   #3
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Yes it has the LED brake lights. Interesting idea, thanks.
Don't the brake magnets themselves have some resistance on their own too?
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:33 PM   #4
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The resistance issue is usually with the lights between European vehicles and LED tail lights. If your loosing your trailer brakes that is something else. Perhaps you are losing a good ground contact between the hitch and the trailer. Maybe try connecting a separate ground wire between the trailer and the truck and see if that helps.
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:39 PM   #5
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Look at the connections at the trailer brakes.......the ones that are usually shielded in heat shrink tubing near the brakes themselves. I had a similar problem with my '06 CCD when new and went thru 3 Tekonsha brake controllers in a short time period. After realizing that the controller was not the problem, I started to look deeper.

I began by tracing the brake wire from the cold side of the brake pedal all the way back thru the harness to the 7-way plug at the hitch. After the TV checked out, I started with the trailer plug and followed the brake wires right to the brakes themselves.

What I found was a bad crimp at one of the brake wire connections as described above resulting in an intermittent connection. the controller saw this as a lack of a trailer plug connection and I had no brakes, like you, when the warning was illuminated on the controller. After removing the offending crimp connection and re-stripping and crimping properly, I then added 2 layers of heat shrink tubing (this was done on ALL brake connections, even if they looked OK) and I never had the problem again!
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Old 06-04-2011, 10:39 AM   #6
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Thanks for the advice. I'll see if adding the extra ground works on the tow back. Wish I had access to another trailer to test the TV on that. Loose wire somewhere seems the most plausible.
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Old 06-04-2011, 05:56 PM   #7
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So I spoke to some boaters today about my issues and one of them mentioned that too much grease on the ball can cause a poor ground too. Didn't think I did but will clean the ball and see if that helps. It got me thinking, though, that the other new variable in our system is the AirSafe hitch. I wonder if that could be causing a poor ground? Anyway, I'll add a ground wire between trailer and TV tomorrow to see if that fixes it.

...so many things to learn!
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Old 06-04-2011, 07:03 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freeheel View Post
So I spoke to some boaters today about my issues and one of them mentioned that too much grease on the ball can cause a poor ground too. Didn't think I did but will clean the ball and see if that helps. It got me thinking, though, that the other new variable in our system is the AirSafe hitch. I wonder if that could be causing a poor ground? Anyway, I'll add a ground wire between trailer and TV tomorrow to see if that fixes it.

...so many things to learn!
If you are using a standard 7-way trailer plug and umbilical wire connection, there should be a dedicated ground wire that ties the two vehicles together. Looking into the plug on the end of your TV, it should be the wire located at 7:00 (lower left).

The grease on the ball has no bearing on getting a good ground, as the ball to trailer connection should not be giving you a ground connection in the first place. Perhaps you should check all of your ground connections from your TV thru the umbilical and into the trailer.

That's why they are boaters, NOT RVers!
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Old 06-04-2011, 10:18 PM   #9
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Grounding an RV is good. Grounding a boat, not so much.
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Old 07-04-2011, 11:41 AM   #10
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I started my road trip last week and the first thing I did when I pulled out of my driveway was check the trailer brakes- I had none. I pulled into a nearby school parking lot and began to trouble shoot the system. Using a voltmeter I checked for voltage on the unplugged trailer connector when I pulled the emergency brake pin out. I had 10 Volts- not too good but at least that part of the circuit was working.

I checked for voltage at the vehicle and had plenty there and with the plug connected all the lights came on including the brake lights when I manually applied the trailer brakes. The brake controller was showing that I was connected so I assumed there was an open circuit on the trailer side somewhere.

I decided to proceed slowly to the Airstream dealer about 30 mi away. On the way there, I checked the brakes manually again and they were working fine! The dealer (Camper Clinic II) took me right in and the technician looked at the trailer plug and noticed it was showing signs of corrosion. He cleaned it and everything worked properly from then on. He explained the corrosion could have initially limited the current to the brakes and then as the vibration from towing rubbed it away the connection improved and began working normally. Perhaps this is the cause of your intermittant connection as well.

I have a 2005 Safari with the LED tail lamps and tow with a 2011 Dodge Ram 1500.

Lesson learned: Check the trailer plug for corrosion and clean it before each trip.
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Old 07-04-2011, 12:59 PM   #11
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I had problems maintaining electrical brake contact at the 7-pin connector until an Airstream repair technician suggested that I spray the contacts with CorrosionX. I have had no problems since. It is available from the Airstream Store https://store.airstream.com/product_...roducts_id=292
and from the manufacturer's on line site.
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Old 07-04-2011, 01:44 PM   #12
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In our trailer, the umbilical cord is terminated at a terminal strip under the front couch. At that point it connects to the the trailer's wiring. While tracing a intermittent braking problem, we found that the nut holding the braking wire at that terminal strip was loose.

Ken
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Old 07-04-2011, 01:51 PM   #13
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I spray WD-40 into the plug and receptacle. Then I use a Cutip and clean it as best as possible.

I had new brakes put on one axle at the Airstream Service Center and later I discovered the wires to one wheel had come apart. It had not been crimped properly, had not been taped nor had it been shrink wrapped as Lew suggests. I soldered it and taped it and it has stayed together. I check the brakes to make sure they all operate periodically. If you don't jack it up to check if the brakes stop a wheel from rotating, you can have someone under the trailer (probably you) put their head next to the back of the brake plate and when someone else (my wife in my case) operates the manual lever on the brake controller with the ignition on. You should be able to hear the magnet energize.

Lew told me a couple of weeks ago not to solder electrical connections on an RV because they crack and loosen. It's better to get a crimper and proper connections. You can use the heat activated shrink wrap but you need a special heat gun to do that. Good quality electrical tape works, but check periodically because it won't last forever and will need to be renewed.

Gene
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