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Old 05-28-2020, 12:54 PM   #1
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Brake Controller Setup and Brake Locking

I cannot believe that for an area so important as the trailer brakes there is such a lack of clear information. Here is my understanding.

Wolf Pup 16FQ, weighs empty 3,500 lb. Single axle.

The instructions in the Tekonsha P3 manual say to set the max power output to 6.0 (on a scale of 0 - 10), drive at 25 MPH, move the manual lever and see if the brakes lock up. If they don't increase power. If they do decrease, and repeat. The idea being to find the power level that locks the brakes then reduce it slightly to get the maximum braking effect without locking up.

When I picked up the trailer I tried this in the dealer's car park at the max power output (10.0 on the controller, I presume 12V output) the brakes did not lock up. I asked the service department and they set the power output to 3.6, which is enough to stop my vehicle (auto transmission) from creeping forwards. They said that was the correct approach.

Then I did some googling. It seems some people have brakes that lock and some don't. Some have found brakes coated in grease and fixing that improved brake performance. Some people believe the brakes should be able to lock and some believe they shouldn't. Some people get confused over the brake locking misunderstanding that it is part of the set up of the brake controller and not how it should be set for use.

So lots of confusion.

I called my local Forest River dealer yesterday about it and they told me the brakes should lock up. The opposite of the selling dealer (several States away from me).

Now I have contacted Brandon Harker @ Forest River service. He has told me:

"The breaks[sic] will ony lock up if the break away cable is pulled. Other than that they will not due to amp draw"

When I asked him about the Tekonsha P3 instructions he said:

"Break[sic] controls are a after market item and we are not able to advise for liability reasons, as id doesn’t come from the plant."

OK, I can understand that. So I asked him:

"When 12V is applied to the brakes what is the expected current draw if they are correctly working? Under normal operation should the full 12V be applied for maximum braking effect?"

and all he said was:

"12v is all you will need"

So the conclusion here from the factory is that the trailer brakes will not lock and the brake controller should be set to provide maximum power under maximum braking.

That means the selling dealer set me up for underpowered brakes which I have now driven in that configuration for over 2,000 miles!

The trailer comes with manuals for the fridge, microwave, CO detector, etc. but why no instructions for the brakes? Seems crazy to me.

What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks, Andy
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Old 05-28-2020, 01:26 PM   #2
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I believe their is zero reason to actually lock up the brakes. Your vehicle has anti lock brakes. Locking up your trailer brakes in a panic situation could be very bad.
If your trailer brakes are operating correctly and adjusted correctly they should stop you in about the same manner as when you don't have your trailer behind you.
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Old 05-28-2020, 01:36 PM   #3
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I believe their is zero reason to actually lock up the brakes. Your vehicle has anti lock brakes. Locking up your trailer brakes in a panic situation could be very bad.
If your trailer brakes are operating correctly and adjusted correctly they should stop you in about the same manner as when you don't have your trailer behind you.
Yes, of course. This is not about normal usage, this is about setup. So how do you find the correct max output of your brake controller? Do you pick something at random or do you follow a known and proven procedure? If so what is it?

Andy
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Old 05-28-2020, 01:42 PM   #4
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Yep, I've found it impossible to lock them up with newer tow vehicles.
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Old 05-28-2020, 01:47 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by bikendan View Post
Yep, I've found it impossible to lock them up with newer tow vehicles.
Do you therefore set your output on your brake controller to max?

How do you know the trailer brakes are working properly? Can you feel them? Have you measured the current draw?

Andy
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Old 05-28-2020, 01:48 PM   #6
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I am also curious about this. I just installed the same brake controller and I will be
picking up a 2020 wolf Pup 16FQ as well. The dealer said they would setup everything up for me. I'll let you know how it goes.
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Old 05-28-2020, 02:02 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by AndyA View Post
Do you therefore set your output on your brake controller to max?

How do you know the trailer brakes are working properly? Can you feel them? Have you measured the current draw?

Andy
I activate the manual knobs and see how much the trailer brakes engage, without using my truck's brakes. Then adjust accordingly.
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Old 05-28-2020, 02:06 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by bikendan View Post
see how much the trailer brakes engage
What does that mean? Do you go by feel of the trailer pulling? How much pulling is good and how much is bad? What feeling causes you to increase the power? When do you know to stop increasing the power?

What speed are you going when you do this test?

Andy
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Old 05-28-2020, 02:24 PM   #9
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I set my brakes as follows (tekonsha prodigy)

25mph, I set the controller so that the brakes will lock up, I then back it up about 2-3 clicks.

I routinely adjust my brakes while I'm driving, when they get hot, they get grabby, and I turn them down.

I also have my boost set so that when I just touch the brake pedal I can feel the trailer brakes grab ahead of the truck. I want that tension in the coupler as I'm going down a hill to keep everything nice and straight.
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Old 05-28-2020, 02:32 PM   #10
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I set my brakes as follows (tekonsha prodigy)

25mph, I set the controller so that the brakes will lock up, I then back it up about 2-3 clicks.

I routinely adjust my brakes while I'm driving, when they get hot, they get grabby, and I turn them down.
Thanks! This is where the confusion comes in. You are able to follow the Tekonsha manual and I am not. FR tells me that the Teknosha manual can't be followed for my trailer.

Your trailer can go up to nearly twice the loaded weight of mine. I would have thought it would be easier for me to lock my brakes than for you.

It's all very confusing.

How do I know my brakes are working properly without having to pay a FR dealer to look at them? There should be a service manual for this.

Andy
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Old 05-28-2020, 02:38 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Warren Z View Post
I am also curious about this. I just installed the same brake controller and I will be
picking up a 2020 wolf Pup 16FQ as well. The dealer said they would setup everything up for me. I'll let you know how it goes.
OK, here is what would be really helpful to me. Once they have set it up there is a troubleshooting item in the Tekonsha P3 menu (see the manual page nine). Please go into that and tell us what voltage they set it to and what the output current is when the brakes are applied. Thanks!!

Andy
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Old 05-28-2020, 02:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyA View Post

How do I know my brakes are working properly without having to pay a FR dealer to look at them? There should be a service manual for this.

Andy
There should be a service manual for your axle.
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Old 05-28-2020, 03:14 PM   #13
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There should be a service manual for your axle.
Did your trailer come with one? Does it tell you how to test the brakes by looking at voltage and current or some other way without disassembly?

Thanks, Andy
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Old 05-28-2020, 03:57 PM   #14
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Did your trailer come with one? Does it tell you how to test the brakes by looking at voltage and current or some other way without disassembly?

Thanks, Andy
Don't know, it was just a suggestion since the brakes are part of the axle and should have some information on them.
Sorry.
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Old 05-28-2020, 04:07 PM   #15
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You likely have Dexter axles and brakes.


https://www.dexteraxle.com/docs/defa...rsn=12dee048_0
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Old 05-28-2020, 07:20 PM   #16
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Correction to my first post - 10.0 on the controller = 10.0V out.

I went under the trailer and tool a photo of the label. It's an LCI 3,500lb axle.

I found the manuals on the LCI website here: https://support.lci1.com/spring-axles

In the 2K - 7K manual it says:

Quote:
Voltage in the system should begin at 0 volts and, as the brake pedal of the tow vehicle is applied, voltage will gradually increase to about 12 volts.
so the brake controller needs to be set to 12.0 to give a max output of 12V. OK.

It also says:

Quote:
A quick increase in voltage will cause the braking system to feel like the coach is grabbing too quickly
and:

Quote:
Amps/magnet: 3.0, two brakes: 6.0
so for my single axle at 12V the current draw should be 6A.

Now for the test. I set my Tekonsha P3 to a max output of 12V and put it into troubleshooting mode. I drove in a straight line at 25MPH and quickly flicked the manual lever on the P3 (not pressing the brake or accelerator pedals) and held it.

The display showed that the brake controller was outputting 12V and the current draw was 6.1A. So it should be maximum braking.

However all I could feel was a very slight slowing of the vehicle. I flicked the lever on and off a few times and each time it was just a slight retardation of the vehicle motion. No "grabbing", no skidding, no whiplash, nothing.

I can't believe that a slight retardation is correct performance for the brakes.

The other option is a faulty brake controller, but how would it be able to measure 6A being drawn if it was not already applying 12V to the brakes?

I guess I will be calling LCI in the morning...

Meanwhile I have printed out the axle manual to keep with all the other manuals that came with the trailer.

Andy
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Old 05-28-2020, 07:33 PM   #17
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Did the manual talk about "breaking in" the new brakes? Typically 15-20 stops from 25 MPH using just the trailer brakes and allowing them to cool between applications. Brakes need to be "broken in" The rest of the equipment seems to be working properly


https://www.wagnerbrake.com/technica.../break-in.html
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Old 05-28-2020, 07:44 PM   #18
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Did the manual talk about "breaking in" the new brakes? Typically 15-20 stops from 25 MPH using just the trailer brakes and allowing them to cool between applications. Brakes need to be "broken in" The rest of the equipment seems to be working properly


https://www.wagnerbrake.com/technica.../break-in.html
This is what I needed to do. When I bought my trailer there was minimal braking until I burnished the brakes.
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Old 05-28-2020, 07:51 PM   #19
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I guess everyone is going to have their own theory, but I have always approached it from the angle that the trailer brakes are supposed to stop the *trailer*, not the tow vehicle. I have always set my rigs like this:

At 25 mph or so on the open road, I brake slightly. If I don't feel the trailer 'tug' when I brake, I increase the gain on the controller and try again. I keep doing that until I feel the trailer tug the truck, and then I back it off until I don't feel the tug anymore.

My goal is to have stopping with the trailer attached feel as close as possible to stopping without the trailer - that way, the truck's brakes are stopping the truck and the trailer brakes are stopping the trailer.

You have to understand that this isn't rocket surgery. There isn't one single, precise, razor's edge, *correct* value or setup. Get it good, and then don't sacrifice that good on the altar of perfect.
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Old 05-28-2020, 10:13 PM   #20
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This is what I needed to do. When I bought my trailer there was minimal braking until I burnished the brakes.
OK, so, I was never told I needed to do that. I wasn't given a manual for the brakes. However, at the selling dealer I tried to set up the brake controller so in the end I did end up doing it in their car park anyway.

Andy
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