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Chitown AirStreamers 04-05-2005 12:54 PM

Which Brake controller
We have a new tow vehicle- a 97 4x4 1500 Suburban, which brake controoler should I go with? How do I decide?

1956Safari 04-05-2005 12:57 PM

Good post, but I have an additional question. My 31' Soverign has electric brakes already and I always wonder if the controller has to be paired with the actual brake portion? or is the brake component not related to the controller?

overlander64 04-05-2005 01:30 PM

Which Brake controller
Greetings Chitown AirsStreamers!


Originally Posted by Chitown AirStreamers
We have a new tow vehicle- a 97 4x4 1500 Suburban, which brake controoler should I go with? How do I decide?

This is a subject of much personal preference. There are basically three units that receive frequent mention in these forums.

1.) The Tekonsha Prodigy - - Sophisticated Electronic Initerial Device -- See:

2.) Brake Master -- Sophisticated Electronic Control with sensor attached to brake master cylinder of tow vehicle -- See:

3.) Jordan Research Corporation -- Electronic Control with cable link to tow vehicle's brake pedal (proportional control) -- See:

I don't have personal experience with any of the top three most-mentioned controllers as I am very well-satisfied with my Hayes-Lemmerz electronic pendulum controller -- I have been utilizing one of these for more than 15 years -- the current controller that I have in my Cadillac is an Energize XPC with manual remote control -- see:

Good luck with your research!


bake315 04-05-2005 01:47 PM

can't really go wrong with any of those
Kevin pretty well nailed it, it really boils down to personal preference - but in the end they'll all do a superb job for you.

overlander64 04-05-2005 01:51 PM

Which Brake controller
Greetings mediaetc!


Originally Posted by mediaetc
Good post, but I have an additional question. My 31' Soverign has electric brakes already and I always wonder if the controller has to be paired with the actual brake portion? or is the brake component not related to the controller?

The brake controller is typically an electronic device mounted to the tow vehicle that uses one of three technologies to sense the tow vehicle's rate of deceleration:

1.) Electronic "Ramp" type controller (least sophisticated) that increases the amount of power applied to the trailer brakes based on the length of time that the tow vehicle's brake pedal is depressed. This type of controller may "pulse" the trailer brakes every time the turn signals are used depedning on how it senses brake application -- the one that I had in 1980 used a brake light wire tap as its sensor so the trailer brakes pulsed any time the turns signals were turned on in the tow vehicle.

2.) Electronic "Pendulum" type controller (introduced as an improvement over the "Ramp" or "Timed" type controllers). This type of controller is the base model that it seems like most of us who have been towing for several years started with as an initial brake controller. Leveling the device is very important as it has an internal pendulum whose movement determines the force with which the trailer's brakes are applied.

3.) "True Proportional Controls" that either have a mechanical sensor attached to the tow vehicle's brake pedal (Jordan) or a sensor mounted to the tow vehicle's hydraulic brakes (Brake Smart). These devices sense the actual force of the tow vehicle's brake application and establish proportional force on the trailer's brakes.

The older style controllers actually tapped into the tow vehicle's hydraulic brake lines with a line running from near the master cylinder under the hood to the dash mounted control. These displaced much more brak fluid than engineering tolerance allowed; and have been quite unusual for more than two decaded (I last had one of these mounted on an '83 GMC Vandura -- it displaced so much fluid that the brakes were "soft" all of the time so it was removed in favor of a Hayes-Lemmerz fully electronic unit. The side disadvantage to the old hydraulic controllers was that they required the mounting of resistors on the tongue of the coach to adjust the level of current applied to the trailer brakes (my '64 Overlander's owners' manual actually has several pages devoted to the selection of a resistor and its setup).

Your selection of brake controller is one that is quite usually based on personal preferences and budget. The only caveat is with any controller that attaches in any way to the tow vehicle's hydraulic brake lines or master cylinder must meet the tow vehicle manufacturer's guidelines for maximum hydraulic fluid displacement. So long as your coach has the traditional drum-style electric brakes, your controller selection is wide open -- with the Excella Hydra-Vac Disc Brakes, there are recommended controllers for use with that system.

All of the modern electronic controllers that I have had the opportunity to utilize have had controls for adjusting the application of the trailer brakes such that resistors or other regulating devices don't need to be mounted on the trailer -- at least with my older-style electric drum brakes.

Good luck with your research!


Silvertwinkie 04-05-2005 02:02 PM

There are really two that get the biggest press round here...

1) Prodigy

2) Jordan

Both are excellent units. I would have tried the Jordan with our new Suburban, but it has adjust pedals, so the Jordan was a bit more complicated....additionally there is an issue with the Jordan with GM trucks that have hydroboost braking. I have seen first hand what they are talking about. So I stuck with what has served me well in the past, the Prodigy.

I doubt your truck has hydroboost or adjust pedals, so either of these two would be a great choice. The others mentioned might also be good, it's just that if you do a search on brake controllers, you'll find far more folks have either the Prodigy or the Jordan.

wayner1239 04-05-2005 03:01 PM

I recommend that you stay away from some of the cheaper ones. I had one that worked OK but it was a "pain in the neck" trying to keep it adjusted properly. Posts in this forum steered me to in the right direction for which I am thankful.

markdoane 04-05-2005 03:16 PM

:D The best brake controller is the 'Tow Command'. The cost is $40,000 and it comes with a brand new (you choose the color) Ford Superduty. :p

mswartz 04-05-2005 04:10 PM

Some brake controllers not for electric/hydraulic brake systems
Be aware that if you have an "electric over hydraulic" disk or drum brake system, some controllers are not to be used. I'm thinking of the Tekonsha Prodigy, which in their manual specifically cautions that it 'is not designed for use with electric-hydraulic trailer brake systems.' See the Tekonsha Prodigy website below, page one of the manual, lower left side.

I checked with a local Airstream dealer, who mentioned that they didn't have experience with any new disk-brake equipped Airstreams, and so didn't know of the warning in the Prodigy manual against using that controller.

IceKing02 04-05-2005 04:43 PM

Proportional braking's the best
My vote is for the BrakeSmart. It is very easy to set up and use. The displacement is nil. It works well in wet weather and "extreme evasion" buffalo at 3:30am on a twisty, fog-covered road...

It is the best investment I've made besides the Airstream itself! BTW, the support at the company was fast and fabulous. No complaints...just resist the temptation to "tweak" it for at least five miles--its perfect from the factory.

Good luck, and don't allow tyranny of the majority to sway your opinion...check them all out yourself.


TomW 04-05-2005 05:05 PM

Ya know, Kevin just plain kicks butt with his excellent responses. I got a lot out of his exisiting material when I first started figuring out my Overlander many months ago, and now that I know more, I feel kinda guilty that I do not help newcomers as much as he does.

Kevin rocks!:cool:
p.s. I am thrilled with my Tekonsha Prodigy

85MH325 04-05-2005 09:27 PM

What is your Brake Controller of Choice?
Kevin started a thread a while ago on brake controllers that is pretty much the most definitive discussion on them to date. In addition to Kevin's excellent post, I HIGHLY recommend that you read RoadKingMoe's post in that thread as well as the subsequent discussion. I have quoted Maurice's post, with appropriate credit on other towing forums. It's really an excellent summary as well as discussion on braking and brake controllers.


AgZep 04-05-2005 10:15 PM

I have nowhere near the towing miles under my belt as Kevin or some of the others, but I do have a BrakeSmart and highly recommend it. I'm amazed at how much better it works than the old inertial unit I used to have. So far, it feels as if my truck brakes pretty much the same when the trailer is there as when I'm driving without it (although I'm well aware of the stupidity of driving as if that were true). I have not adjusted it once in any way since it was installed, because it's just perfect the way it is. It works transparently under any kind of driving, including long grades, very slow manuevers, and backing.

Having had a hand in the engineering of guidance in ICBMs, I understand inertial technology pretty well, yet I still think a pressure proportional system makes more sense on the road. I don't want to get into deep geek-speak here, but I'd be happy to correspond with the engineers out there that might want to discuss it. Those of you with that background will be happy to know the BrakeSmart can be set to display all kinds of entertaining things, like instantaneous A/C voltage and brake pressure, and even a daily devotional passage!

On the other hand, I've heard very few complaints about the Prodigy, and it's significantly cheaper.

68 Overlander 04-06-2005 12:26 AM

Kevin Allen is the most articulate person on the site and his guidance is worth gold in every post he makes. Dang I wish I could type like that.
The main reason I'm replying to this is because as a vendor, it's allowed and this is one of the few sites that a vendor is able too. I'm an Airstream enthusiast first but happen to own a few companies, and one that relates to the topic so if you take offence to me "drumming business" as was mentioned a few days ago about another vendor, feel free to ignore me and read not further. I don't feel too out of place considering a couple others do it too, but I try to limit it.
When I bought my first Airstream, I was intrigued about towing, particularity Safety, and had a time (ramp) control. Don't remember the brand, but it doesn’t matter because they are all junk IMO. The thing nearly got us killed a few times so the search began for something better that was not time or inertia based.
The next one I bought was the Prodigy and I will admit it is a good control but still works on inertia to an extent. Then my uncle recommended the Jordan Ultima to me and I balked because I didn’t want to fool with 45 minutes of installation when I had something that worked pretty well. I even sold Prodigy for a while to a bunch of members here.
Long story short, I compared the Jordan to others extensively and you can tell from my signature which one I decided on. Within a year, I was the largest distributor/dealer for the Jordan Ultima in the country, and still am to my knowledge.
Truth be known, I can sell more of the others because dealers prefer them and there is a good, viable reason; installation is about 1/3 the time and they get a full hour of labor for 15 minutes of work. I promise you that is why your average dealer (Airstream or otherwise) recommends a cheap brake control.
Problem is… they don’t stop trailers as good! How’s that for analogy?
I’m so tired of explaining the differences that you will have to do your homework and compare features for yourself. Here is what I suggest, gather all the “Prodigy rules” hype you can find and compare the words. You will likely have to venture off this site but the theme is the same, plug and play, this and that rules, best thing since sliced bread, etc. Then listen to the veterans of towing and what they say.
Even consider the brakesmart. I have but I don’t want to tap into my hydraulic system yet because of all the hungry attorneys out there and my personal preference (That is my decision and shouldn’t influence yours because it does fine from everything I’ve read at a very high price)
When you are done, and if you want the a ramp or pendulum, I recommend Camping World. It you decide on the Jordan, I will admit that you can get it 2-3 dollars cheaper if you search around. Just get rid of that time-based unit if you have one and move to one of the big three.

Chitown AirStreamers 04-07-2005 09:47 AM

Another newbie question- What type of brakes do I have on a 66 SAFARI?

Chitown AirStreamers 04-07-2005 09:48 AM

Has anyone heard of the HIDDEN HITCH Pilot & Omnitrac brake controllers? Anygood?

Silvertwinkie 04-07-2005 09:53 AM

My pops has a hidden hitch....I didn't care for it all that much FWIW.....

Chitown AirStreamers 04-07-2005 10:02 AM


Originally Posted by Silvertwinkie
My pops has a hidden hitch....I didn't care for it all that much FWIW.....

What was wrong with it?

overlander64 04-07-2005 10:02 AM

Which Brake controller
Greetings Chitown AirStreamers!


Originally Posted by Chitown AirStreamers
Another newbie question- What type of brakes do I have on a 66 SAFARI?

Your '66 Safari would have either Kelsey Hayes or Dexter drum type electric brakes -- I am not certain whether they are 10" x 2" or 12" x 2". If they need many new parts, it is usually quite a bit more economical to purchase "fully loaded backing plates" that include all new parts (shoes, springs, hold-down hardware, magnets, etc.) -- these were utilized when my Overlander's brakes were overhauled about six seasons back.


Silvertwinkie 04-07-2005 10:25 AM

It wasn't as smooth at the Prodigy. It would grab hard sometimes and other times it felt as if it wasn't kicking enough volts to the brakes.

All in all, compared to the Prodigy, it was a night and day difference. I would compare the Hidden Hitch to the Voyager (which was the first controller I had).

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