Go Back   iRV2 Forums > TRAVEL TRAILER, 5th WHEEL & TRUCK CAMPER FORUMS > Trailer Towing and Tow Vehicles Discussion
Join iRV2 Today

Mission Statement: Supporting thoughtful exchange of knowledge, values and experience among RV enthusiasts.
  This discussion is proudly sponsored by:
Please support our sponsors and let them know you heard about their products on iRV2
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 03-13-2011, 06:57 AM   #1
Nor'easters Club
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 40
Brake Controller

I have a very inexpensive brake controller in my truck (I think I paid around $70 for it). It is incredibally touchy, seems like it is either doing almost nothing or its locking up my trailer tires. Does anybody have any experience with having a cheap controller and upgrading? Did it make a difference? Might it solve my issue? Any help is appreciated!

2010 Kestone Bullet 295 BHS
2004 Chevy Suburban
Reese Dual Cam hitch
charlie.b is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 RV Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

iRV2.com RV Community - Are you about to start a new improvement on your RV or need some help with some maintenance? Do you need advice on what products to buy? Or maybe you can give others some advice? No matter where you fit in you'll find that iRV2 is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with other RV owners, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create an RV blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 03-13-2011, 07:26 AM   #2
Moderator Emeritus
RustyJC's Avatar

Texas Boomers Club
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Cypress, Texas USA
Posts: 8,851
There are 3 basic types of brake controllers. Going up in technical sophistication (and price), these are:

1. Ramped time base - these controllers can only sense that the tow vehicle brakes have been applied via a signal from the tow vehicle brake lights. When they receive this signal, the ramped time base controller (as its name implies) ramps up the voltage to the trailer brakes over a time period. The ultimate voltage applied and the speed with which it is applied depend on the user settings that are entered into the controller. The problem with these controllers (as you are experiencing) is they do not take into account vehicle speed, road conditions (high traction surface or slick with rain), the amount of stopping power needed (are you making a gradual approach to a stop light or is this an OMIGOSH situation where someone has just pulled out in front of you?) The result is that, if you have the controller set up for typical low speed in-town conditions, you won't have enough braking power on the highway. Conversely, if you have the controller set up for highway conditions, it will be grabby and tend to lock the trailer brakes in town.

2. Inertial - these controllers use an accelerometer (the old ones actually used a pendulum and rheostat!) to sense the amount of deceleration the tow vehicle is undergoing and, if they sense that the tow vehicle brakes are being applied (again, by the tow vehicle's brake light wire), they send an output signal to the trailer brakes that's based on the rate of deceleration they sense. These are a step up from the ramped time base controllers, but they can have their problems as well. For instance, we had a Tekonsha Voyager set up for optimum stopping under dry road conditions when we encountered a sudden Texas Gulf Coast downpour. This resulted in extremely slick road conditions as the oil on the road floated on top of the water as it typically does when the rain first begins. Naturally, Murphy's law being what it is, that's the exact time we encountered one of those OMIGOSH moments when a driver ran a stop sign at an intersection and we were forced to make a heavy brake application. The truck brakes were trying to lock up (thank goodness for anti-lock brakes), yet the truck was not generating enough deceleration due to the slick conditions to energize the trailer brakes - in other words, the trailer was pushing the truck into a jack-knife attitude and trying to shove the truck into a deep ditch. We managed to save it only by getting off the brakes, countersteering and accelerating hard out of the situation.

3. Brake-sensing proportional controllers - these controllers actually sense what the driver is doing with the tow vehicle brakes and directly translate that into a proportional output to the trailer brakes. This sensing can be via direct mechanical linkage to the tow vehicle's brake pedal (e.g., Jordan Optima 2020, no longer in production) or by a hydraulic pressure sensor in the tow vehicle's braking system (e.g., MaxBrake). This is the optimum approach as the controller output to the trailer brakes directly mimics what the driver's right foot is doing on the brake pedal. The tow vehicle and trailer feel like they stop as a single unit. Once set up for a particular trailer's brake sensitivity and weight, you probably will never have to touch this controller's settings again.

With brake controllers, as with many other things in life, ya pays yore money and ya takes yore choice. To me, however, spending $400 or so on a top-of-the-line brake controller to protect an $80,000 to $100,000+ tow vehicle and RV combination (not to mention your family's safety) is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, many RV dealers will only install the cheapest brake controller they can to make the sale and get the unwary consumer off the lot.


2016 Ram Longhorn 3500 Dually 4x4 CCLB, 385/900 Cummins, Aisin AS69RC, 4.10
2014.5 DRV Mobile Suites 38RSSA #6972
Come join us on a TEXAS BOOMERS rally!
RustyJC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-13-2011, 07:55 AM   #3
Moderator Emeritus
TXiceman's Avatar

Vintage RV Owners Club
Texas Boomers Club
Oklahoma Boomers Club
Ford Super Duty Owner
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Full Time, TX Home Base
Posts: 17,139
Blog Entries: 21
I agree with Rusty 100%. Like most of us that have been towing trailers fro a few years, we started with the first two types.

A lot of people love the Prodigy P2 or P3. They are easy to install and cheaper than the hydraulic based unit. But they are still the inertia based controller, just a fancy electronic version.

After one bad experience with a Prodigy on a wet road, that was the last trip it took with me. We now use a Max Brake, hydraulic based unit. It's performance far exceeds the Prodigy controllers.

I have yet to meet anyone that will praise the Prodigy once they try a Max Brake. The ones that have never tried to step up to the Max Brake, love the Prodigy...they have never used anything else.

My Max Brake was $350.00, which is a very small percentage of the cost of the truck and trailer.

Amateur Radio Operator (KE5DFR)|Full-Time! - 2012 6.7L Ford Crew Cab Dually -2013 HitchHiker Champagne 38RLRSB - Travel with one Standard Schnauzer and one small Timneh African Gray Parrot
TXiceman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-14-2011, 07:27 PM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: On the road
Posts: 137
Maxbrake is the only way to tow. I ahve used several controllers over the years, but the Maxbrake is by far the best. Hooing to several different and no need to worry about readjusting it.
'13 Ram Laramie 3500, Aisin auto,4:10, Reese adapter and 20K hitch, '10 HitchHiker 36LKRSB
Larry is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Dodge Integrated Brake Controller with Trailer Disc Brakes gdbontly Excel Owner's Forum 10 08-10-2011 12:41 PM
Recommendation on a brake controller? OSB iRV2.com General Discussion 8 05-26-2010 08:18 PM
trailer wiring and brake controller csp Monaco Owner's Forum 2 10-14-2009 08:28 PM
Installing Brake Controller on Ford Chassis gregorys50325 MH-General Discussions & Problems 4 03-10-2008 02:39 PM
brake controller mamaloya Pop Up, Tent Trailer and Teardrop Topics 8 01-02-2007 02:11 PM

» Virginia Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Our Communities

Our communities encompass many different hobbies and interests, but each one is built on friendly, intelligent membership.

» More about our Communities

Automotive Communities

Our Automotive communities encompass many different makes and models. From U.S. domestics to European Saloons.

» More about our Automotive Communities

Marine Communities

Our Marine websites focus on Cruising and Sailing Vessels, including forums and the largest cruising Wiki project on the web today.

» More about our Marine Communities

Copyright 2002-2015 Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:32 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.