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Old 08-07-2020, 04:20 PM   #1
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1978 31' Excella 500
Fort Walton Beach , Florida
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Electric Brake Signal Question

I just finished replacing the axles on my 78 Excella- The PO had switched the vac-u-disk brakes to electric brakes so at one point there was electric brakes on the trailer- while removing the old axles I cut the wire at the axle that was ran under the trailer back to the electric brakes. I am now in the process of installing new led taillights so I wanted to check that all the wiring is good- To check the wire running back to the brakes for signal I hooked up the tow vehicle to the trailer- I have a brake controller on my vehicle already- I then hooked an led light up to the wires that will go back to the brakes and pressed the brakes to check to see if I have a signal down those wires- The led light will come on when the brakes pedal is pushed- It only comes on momentarily every time the brake is pressed- If I hold down the brake the light does not stay on. Is this normal or should I expect the light to stay on the entire time the brake pedal is depressed. Any insight would be helpful.
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Shiny Shanty
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Old 08-07-2020, 04:31 PM   #2
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The brake controller sends a momentary voltage to test for continuity and a voltage signal to the brakes that is proportional to the actual deceleration of the vehicle. Since the vehicle is not moving it will be low or none depending on the controller programming. So it is hard to say how it should respond to your test, but that you got an initial signal is encouraging.
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Old 08-07-2020, 04:31 PM   #3
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Depending on your brake controller, it may sense an LED as a fault for not drawing enough current. Brakes draw up to 3 amps each wheel. A better test would be to put an ammeter in series, + to the truck, - to the trailer and see how much current it puts out. Also, some (most) brake controllers are proportional. Pushing the manual control lever, if you have one, should show more current the more you push the lever.
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Old 08-07-2020, 09:06 PM   #4
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Disconnect trailer umbilical. Jack the trailer up on one side. Pull the breakaway switch. Can you spin the wheel(s)?

Place an iron part next to the drum. Does the armature become magnetized?

If the wheel doesn't turn, the brake shoes may need adjusting. If there is no magnetism on the armature, the wiring is not right.
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Old 08-08-2020, 05:24 AM   #5
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Shiny Shanty,

What is your tow vehicle and is the brake controller an integrated unit or add on?

Gary
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Old 08-08-2020, 11:42 PM   #6
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1978 31' Excella 500
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I tested it with my 2004 Toyota Sequoia that has an after market brake controller- My main tow vehicle will be our 2016 Toyota Sequoia Platinum- The platinum is equipped with the factory installed 7 pin & 4 pin plugs and the tow haul package - no brake controller so I will be purchasing one to install on the new tow vehicle. Not sure what I am going with yet—- Also when I towed the trailer back to Florida from Baton Rouge (480 miles) all the running lights and brake lights worked- When I towed it home with the old axles my brake controller was getting a numerical read out on the controller display- while removing the old axles I noticed that only a couple of the brakes were connected. Thanks to everyone who has replied - I really appreciate the advice/info
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Old 08-09-2020, 06:43 AM   #7
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Just a minor clarification on brake controller activation. An accelerometer based brake controller changes the brake output based upon a "change in velocity" (slowing) when pressing the brakes. Thus when standing still there is no deceleration. When driving down the road, when brake is pushed, IF a accelerometer based controller is used the trailer brakes would not activate until the tow vehicle slows (decelerates) both the vehicle and trailer. To reduce this "delay in applying trailer brakes" these types of controllers will initially pulse brakes when brake pedal is initially pushed. That is why you see that initial pulsing. To diagnose brakes a single pulse is sent, generally one pulse every two or three seconds, not enough to activate a brake. The only brake controller I know of that "know vehicle speed and deceleration" is the DirecLink controller that monitors vehicle network data to activate brakes immediately, will provide pulses when stopped on a hill (setting for this) and so forth. Not all accelerometer based controllers send a diagnostic pulse. Pulling the manual lever, on any brake controller will provide the standing still pulsing you may be looking for to test your wiring. Good luck on your diagnosis.
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