View Poll Results: What is your preferred Brake Controller?
Draw Tite Activator Series Controller 6 3.92%
Hayes-Lemmerz Energize/Micro Control Series 3 1.96%
Hidden Hitch Brake Master Electronic Controller 0 0%
Jordan Research Corporation Actuator or Ultima 23 15.03%
Kelsey Hayes Hydraulic/Electric Controller 6 3.92%
Reese Brakeman Series Electronic Controller 2 1.31%
Tekonsha Prodigy/Voyage/Sentinel/Envoy Electronic Controllers 100 65.36%
Other Hydraulic/Electric Controller 5 3.27%
Other Inertia Electronic Controller 4 2.61%
Other Timed Electronic Controller 4 2.61%
Voters: 153. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 01-22-2003, 12:43 PM   #29
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Smile Failure rates and patents

Failure rates

Of the Prodigies that I know about, all have been quite reliable. One thing about electronics; once past the infant mortality, things usually work for a very long time.

Patents

Since I am pretty familiar with patent language, having filed 30 patents myself, I decided to do some patent searching on the net and see what is happening out there.

Surprisingly, Jordan J. Pokrinchak has a 1971 patent on the old ramp type controller. Remember those? The longer your foot was on the brake pedal, the more braking you get. They were terrible, but I towed my 25' sailboat all over using one. I didn't find anything more recent for Jordan.

What I did find was a lot of other patents that, from the abstracts, seem to apply to Jordan's application. Hays has been, by far, the most active recently in brake controller patents. Nine out of eleven that turned up on one search were Hays.

One patent was filed by Hensley. It used an optical sensor that does exactly what Jordan's cable sensor does; however, the output of the sensor is then processed with temperature and other factors before being sent to the trailer brakes.

Just about every recent patent that showed up uses microprocessors, regardless of the filer. In several patents, the processor allows the user to choose one of a number of current profile tables to get the best current profile to the trailer brakes. This is a work-around for linear sensors.
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Old 01-22-2003, 01:01 PM   #30
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Braking Safely....

Maurice et al,

I currently have an older Draw-Tite Actuator (10 years old) on my Expy which for the few times I have pulled since buying the A/S has worked OK.. (25' Excella is 5,000+ lbs.)

I have read on this and other forums hundreds of posts on the different thoughts on the Prodigy and the Jordon and I have decided that the Jordan Ultima looks a little better...., although I agree with Pahaska and others that there seems to be only slight differences in practice.

My plans were to hold off upgrading to the Ultima till I was able to get a 2500 Surburban and just leave the older unit on the Expedition. But this thread got me thinking again that for THIS year's outings that I SHOULD go ahead and buy the better controller for BETTER SAFETY!!

I have read several accounts of close calls that is telling me for a measely $130, I might offset some of the safety disadvantages of the shorter wheelbase and underpowered EXPY.

Your thoughts?

TIA, Steve
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Old 01-22-2003, 01:28 PM   #31
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Maurice etal;
I have very little experience with a brake controler ( just picked up the AS on Friday){ 2003 19' Bambi}. I didn't know anything about controlers other than I needed one and I wanted it installed on a weekend. I called the local U-haul hitch place and they told me that they had several and that Icould have the instalation done on Sunday morning.
I ended up with a Draw tite Activator rated up to 12,000#. It seems to work just fine, although all my stops have been on dry pavement. I have stopped fast once ( a sudden light change from approx 35mi/hr)and everything behaved exactly as I thought it should.
The installer at the U-haul said that this is their most popular model. They also had some controlers made for them by Tekonsha. Tell me honestly, did I make a mistake?
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Old 01-22-2003, 01:38 PM   #32
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Pahaska,

Most interesting about the patents. Maybe there is some good competition heating up. I'm snowbound till spring.

I think that in my case the Prodigy is for me. I have two towing rigs, so I can get an extra cradle, and not have to buy two brake controlers. That is a good advantage in itself.

Thanks for your insights.

BTW, does the Prodigy activate the brake lights when you use the manual control? I remember that as issue some time back. Or it could be a non issue, just something more to argue about.
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Old 01-22-2003, 02:11 PM   #33
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Rod, I don't think U-Haul would be long in business if they were putting inferior brake controlers on their customers rigs. The only negative thing I have heard personally about any controler was from a friend who said he had to adjust a Tekonsha more than he thought he should. Personally, I'm just nitpicking and looking at the different models. Pahaska made a good comment about marketing what you have the patents for. They all have to work.

Until somebody goes out and really tests these different controllers against each other we will not know. My guess is that they all work about the same, and other factors, like the condition of your brakes, tires, and everything else is much more worth your time worrying about.
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:02 PM   #34
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Steve and Rod,
Go to the Yahoo! Airstream List. You have to join to read the message archives. Click on Messages in the left bar. In the Msg # box enter 25744 which will take you to the top of the thread named "Hensley jacknife. Read it, as well as mine and the original posters responses (right click on the links at the bottom of the page and select "Open In New Window." IMHO, this accident was caused primarily by the Draw-Tite time-based ramp controller. The fact that he was towing a 31' trailer with a little SUV compounded the problem.

[Edited to add:]

BTW, Rod, I forgot to congratulate you on your new Bambi! I know you're a proud Papa.

Honestly, yes, I think you made a mistake with a time-based controller.

Regardless of how John and I may debate the finer points of the best controllers, we certainly agree on the time-based. Take it back and get a Jordan OR a Prodigy. Both are MUCH better than what you have now.
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:04 PM   #35
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I agree

BarbWire

You hit the nail right on the head. I think at the top of the pecking order, a driver would not know the difference in the controllers without looking. By top-of-the-line, I mean the Prodigy, the Jordan Ultima, and the Kelsey-Hayes. If they are installed and set up properly, they willall work pretty flawlessly.

But ...

What I like about the prodigy is that I took the GM supplied connector out of the glove box, crimped four butt connectors, screwed the cradle to a convenient place, and I was done. I like the fact that the Prodigy is pluggable. I can and do take the controller out when theft is a concern.

I'm not impressed with the advice to unhook the Jordan from the brake pedal when not towing. That is not only inconvenient, it tells me that there is a potential wear problem.

While I am sure that the Jordan will do the job, I think it is horribly overpriced when I look at what is physically there. Based on the patent art, it is old technology from which everyone else has moved away.
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:10 PM   #36
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Good point Maurice

Some years ago while towing my Scamp 5th-Wheel, I had an electrical fire under the dash of my S-10 which totalled my brake controller among other things. I replaced it with what I could get which was a ramp-type controller so I could get home. When I arrived home, I removed the ramp controller and put on another Tekonsha (way pre-Prodigy).

I had ramp-type controllers when pulling my 25' keelboat in the 70s and they are a terrible way to control brakes. Interesting that Jordan patented the ramp concept in 1971.
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:14 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally posted by barbwire
I ruled out thinking that the Jordan gave me direct control of braking for some reasons Pahaska mentioned.
John is correct that a hydraulic pedal travel isn't linear with brake system pressure. But where you make the leap to assuming you don't have direct control over braking escapes me.

Quote:
On modern vehicles proportional braking is not possible because computers of some sort control most everything.
Even on modern vehicles, braking is as it has always been until one or more wheels lock up. Then, and only then, ABS starts switching the braking pressure on the non-rotating wheel rapidly on and off between no or reduced pressure (bleed-off) and the pressure you are applying with your foot. The tire alternates between rolling without brakes or with reduced brakes, and skidding. The main reason for doing this is that your front tires have steering effect during the roll portion of the braking. That's the main difference. It is still better to not skid a wheel in the first place, and if you do, let up on the brakes.

The Driving for Dummies ABS philosophy says smash 'em to the floor and let the ABS do its thing. Driving with all the idiots on snow and ice, I wish ABS did work as planned. Problem is, the same fear that freezes people's foot to the brake pedal also freezes their input to the steering. They'll drive right into you with their ABS pulsing when they could turn the wheel and maybe miss you.

Quote:
My tow vehicle has 4 wheel anti-lock brakes. If I am on a slippery surface, and punch the brakes, the ABS will kick in. The Jordan will think I am dynamiting the brakes and brake hard.
The Jordan will brake the trailer as much as you are pressing the pedal. If you had one so you could watch the ammeter, you'd see that's the case. The Jordan puts the driver in control of the braking. In return for that control, the driver accepts the responsibility not to do something stupid like punching the brakes on a slippery surface... or if he does have his head up his ... and do something stupid like that, at least have the common sense to back off the brake pedal. To me, the Prodigy is like having big government to protect us from ourselves and make decisions for us.

Let's clarify the "leading" situation. As John mentioned, there's significant travel before the brake pedal begins doing anything. In fact, there's signifcant travel before the brake light switch even activates. A Jordan with the cable properly adjusted begins sending current to the brakes even before the light activates, and by the time it does is sending some amount of current to the brakes, depending on the knob setting.

The Prodigy sees the light activate and does one of four things; 1. stops ignoring the inertia sensor and now responds to it, not leading, but following the tow vehicle 2. #1 plus shifts the whole braking curve up, starting at 13% braking force. 3. #1 plus shifts the whole curve up starting with 25%, and 4. #1 plus shifting the whole braking curve up some unspecified (on the instructions) amount starting between 13 and 25%. These are pretty crude compared to the Jordan, which applies the brakes increasingly smoothly as the pedal is pressed... not instantly to 13% to 25% without regard to the situation.

If you read the Prodigy instructions, you see the boost control does nothing more than you could by cranking up the braking force (i.e. full vs empty trailer, degraded braking) with one important exception. By applying more braking than the inertia sensor says is needed with the light braking, they think it lets them say they have an inertia controller that leads the truck. Here's what Teknonsha says, "Some cases where you might want to use the boost button: 1. You like the trailer braking to 'LEAD' the vehicle's braking..." This is admission that an inertia controller without the boost follows rather than leads the tow vehicle.

And even while it might lead at the very first press of the brake pedal, after that, it's FOLLOWING the truck. If the boost is on, it just REACTS harder to what the truck is doing. One more time... an inertia controller is always REACTING (following) what it senses and thinks the driver is doing with the truck. If it feels the truck slowing, then it must be time to brake, right? If it feels the truck slowing harder than it would expect based on its own application of the trailer brakes, then surely the driver must be pressing the pedal harder and it must be time to brake more. If it feels the deceleration decreasing, it does the opposite of the above.

After initial pedal press, the Prodigy is like a deaf blind man in the car making the braking decisions based on what he feels the truck doing. Yeah, it happens faster than that, but is the decision right for the circumstances? Was that a gust of wind slowing the rig? Or a bump? Or does the driver really want to brake? And right or wrong, is it what the driver wants? I sure don't want a box of rocks making trailer braking decisions for me. I'm not saying I'm smarter or faster than it is, but I have a helluva lot more information about the situation than it does.

Quote:
The Prodigy will sense that I am not decelarating that fast, and brake softer, hopefully not locking the brakes.
If you use the boost to get the trailer leading, the Prodigy brakes 13-25% more than normal and is more likely to lock the brakes going from zero braking to 13-25% the instant you touch the brake pedal. I would definitely NOT use the boost on the Prodigy with slippery conditions.

Quote:
An obvious question... Do you have to set the brakes for every road condition you are on? Setting the brakes on a dry road would not give you the same breaking if you hit a wet spot. I would think you might have to recalibrate.
An obvious (at least I thought it was) answer. Do you reset the brakes on your car for every road condition you're on? No! Same with the Jordan. You just don't press the brake pedal as hard with reduced traction situations! How simple is that? I guess it isn't the rule for good driving anymore these days with ABS brakes. Now with all the complexity of the Prodigy, maybe you do have to make some adjustment, like turn the boost off.

The inertia controller has significant inherent disadvantages. Adding the brake light wire got rid of the braking during lifted throttle deceleration when braking wasn't called for. Adding the boost lets them do something to make the trailer lead the tow vehicle at the first instant of braking, but after that, it's following. And that boost can be too much in slippery situations.

The fact that the Jordan isn't perfectly linear with pressure, as the old hydraulic systems were, doesn't detract from it's inherent superiority and simplicity compared to an inertia controller. Properly adjusted, the trailer leads the tow vehicle without some boost hack that may be too much for some circumstances. Its input is based ONLY on the drivers input to the brake pedal.

The fact that it isn't perfectly linear, and doesn't ramp braking up as quickly because of reduced travel in the heavy braking region of pedal travel, may actually be an advantage for those who stomp and hold rather than brake lighter on slippery surfaces. This reduces the chance of the trailer tires from skidding (where a jacknife situation could occur) when braking is heavy enough to activate ABS.

Give me simplicity and control every time.
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:40 PM   #38
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Wow

That's a lot of words, but the fact is that the very folks who patented the system Jordan uses have gone on far past that technology as is shown by the patent record.

With the Prodegy boost set correctly, the trailer brakes do in fact lead. The trailer brakes contribute to the inertia, as well as the truck brakes. This can be demonstrated by setting the current purposely too high. You can feather the brake pedal and the trailer will supply its own braking and bring you to a stop. With the current correctly set, the trailer is just slightly holding back on the truck as you stop. The two "boost" modes just get you into this regeime more quickly. I have never needed the initial boost modes on this trailer.

I have never had an inertia response to bumps in the road.
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Old 01-22-2003, 04:31 PM   #39
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Re: Wow

Quote:
Originally posted by Pahaska
With the Prodegy boost set correctly, the trailer brakes do in fact lead.
No, they don't. They can't. It's a matter of time.

Quote:
The trailer brakes contribute to the inertia, as well as the truck brakes.
The fact that they contribute to the inertia doesn't prove they lead, it proves they FOLLOW (react to) the changes in inertia they themselves caused earlier in time. And reacting to something that occured earlier in time is following, not leading. Whether following the truck or following themselves, they aren't leading.

Quote:
This can be demonstrated by setting the current purposely too high.
Just because the trailer is braking harder than the tow vehicle doesn't mean it's making changes to the amount of braking earlier than (and thus leading) the tow vehicle... regardless of how much its set to overbrake by the adjustment or the boost button.

If you do set the Prodigy to overbrake, the truck brakes a little, which the accelerometer senses, then the trailer brakes a lot, pulling the truck back, which the accelerometer senses and gets into its increasing braking loop.

If the driver finds this is more braking than he wanted, he eases up on the brake pedal and the accelerometer senses the slowdown and then eases up on trailer braking. Even though the trailer is braking harder than the truck the whole time, it's following what the truck does as far as braking. Its an inertia controller and can't do otherwise.
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Old 01-22-2003, 06:09 PM   #40
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I never had ABS Driving for Dummies Maurice, and I realize there are situations that do not call for a full pedal stop. The simplest thing I could think of was just coming to the fastest stop holding everything in line. I remember a post on another board some time back about a guy who came to a full pedal stop with his brakes chattering on wet pavement and held everything in line with a Prodigy. I have used 4wheel ABS for twelve years now and love it, but have never tested it towing. Maybe my initial idea is wrong...

Right or wrong I think the Prodigy is for me.

Thanks for the help.
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Old 01-24-2003, 03:43 PM   #41
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Jordan or Prodigy- the debate continues

I was amazed at how many other RV forums have this same debate going on.

A couple of people have used both types and the main difference that I read was that the Prodigy doesn't really help you out on ice, as the Jordan will.

Other than that, there was some talk about being stopped on a steep incline/decline and that the Prodigy didn't hold the trailer brakes as well as the Jordan did.

Again, this was from 2 people who had both units.

Interesting note: out of 27 people who have polled so far, 21 Prodigy- 6 Jordan.

All I can say is that if it wasn't for this thread, Thanks Kevin, I still would have been using that sorry Reese Brakeman controller with malfunctioning brakes. I, being a novice when 1st heading out, just thought that's how the trailer brakes were.

Thanks to all for helping me to becomer a safer Airstreamer-John
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Old 01-29-2003, 08:05 AM   #42
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John, I would suspect that more people would be buying Jordan's if they were sold at trailer and RV supply/service centers. Everybody seems to carry the Tekonsha line. The fact that you have to "seek out" Jordan, and either order on the web, or call them, surely contributes to the reason you see more Prodigy than Jordan. Most people "want it now!", and don't want to take the time to search for a better or different product. I also suspect quite a few folks don't feel they have the skill level or tools to install the Jordan.
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