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Old 06-18-2014, 07:39 AM   #1
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Brake Buddy etc. power wiring safety

The Saturn Vue I just bought came with a Brake Buddy. I placed it on the passenger floor and plugged it in to give it a try. The compressor ran, pressure went up, but the compressor never stopped. The problem was a leak due to a crack in the plastic bowl of the air filter.

Here is my concern. When I removed the cigarette lighter plug, after several minutes of the compressor running, I sustained second degree burns (i.e. blisters) on my thumb and index finger where they came in contact with the metal of the plug. Other than a light bulb, no electrical component in the car should be getting that hot, particularly a connector. The manufacturer offers a dedicated wire/fuse/connector kit, but it also uses the cigarette lighter connection point.

Since other owners have reported smoke and melted connectors, I am seeing this as a bad thing waiting to happen. I am considering a direct battery connection with a connector like the following:

Amazon.com : CES 12 Gauge 2 Pin Quick Disconnect Harness : Automotive Electrical Wiring Harnesses : Car Electronics

Also, a thermal cut off attached to the compressor seems like a good idea. Any suggestions on a specific model?

Your knowledge and real-world experiences would be appreciated.

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Old 06-19-2014, 10:31 PM   #2
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OK, too complex a question. I wasn't really expecting an answer except from the two or three diehard techies out there. They must be busy RVing in the summer sun. So I will continue with the purpose of starting a discussion or just passing on information and experience to the next generation.

First, please ignore the product reference in the original post. I subsequently read further in the user reviews to see that one person used the connector to capacity and had poor results. His observation was that despite the fact that the connector had 12 gauge wires protruding from each side of it, the metal of the connector itself was not capable of supporting that level of current, resulting in heat and smoke. Household and commercial AC receptacles are always rated for current (15, 20, 30 amp). Many connectors listed online only state the wire size they come with or support, but not the current carrying capacity of the connector itself.

I figured out the reason for the extreme heat in the Brakebuddy's 12 volt plug. The stranded wire was fraying inside the plastic cigarette lighter connector. There was no strain relief between the flexible wire and the solid metal it was clamped to, and the wires were not shrink wrapped or otherwise insulated from each other. As the wire frayed strand by strand, the effective gauge of the wire was reduced, creating more and more resistance. Eventually the stray strands shorted to the other conductor and blew the car's 20 amp fuse. The smaller fuse in the tip of the BB connector did not blow. So my first task is to replace the cable with a heavier gauge, find a more serious electrical connector, and wire a matching connector directly to the battery or fuse panel.

I talked to a retiring RVer who had a BB Classic that he had become discouraged with and discontinued using in favor of no brake at all. He was slow to admit to the problems, feeling foolish because he felt it was his fault. The problem was that the BB seemed to be wearing out his brakes and tires, significantly increasing the cost of his initial investment. Apparently this is not an uncommon theme in online discussions.

FYI: I bought his BB, thinking I would at least have some spare parts handy. It had not been used in some years and the compressor sounded terrible, just barely making it to pressure with a lot of knocking, coughing and sputtering. I was about to write off the compressor, but continued to play with it as a learning exercise. Holding down the Purge button and running the compressor with no load for one or two minutes seems to have done the trick. Now it runs at a steady hum and gets up to pressure easily in about 45 seconds.

Back to the tires and brakes. It would appear that some new owners buy their auxiliary braking product and don't feel they are getting their money's worth unless they feel that satisfying, cost justifying tug back there. It isn't until many miles and dollars down the road that they come to realize the problem with this logic. If you feel a tug when you brake, it means that you are asking the humble toad (1.5 tons) to stop the mighty elephant (15 tons) by grabbing it by the tail and pulling. It won't happen, but the ever faithful toad will happily leave tire rubber and brake pad dust in its wake trying. If you feel the tug, you're doing it wrong. The MH is capable of stopping itself. The purpose of the aux brake device is to stop just the toad, thereby placing no additional load on the MH brakes.

As a new user, I found that driving the car with the BB on the passenger floor was a great learning exercise. Before you start, plug it in, press the test button until the LED's change from red to green, set the sensitivity to its highest setting, and set the pressure to 20 psi. Now start driving. Just touching the brake causes the BB piston to shoot out. This demonstrates the fact that the BB Classic is not a proportional brake. It is all or nothing. We have all probably ridden with a driver who uses this same braking technique. If you were in a driver's ed car with passenger side brake pedal, you would realize that the BB is braking much harder than you are, throwing you forward every time you touch the brake. Now try stepping back the sensitivity and see the difference in performance at each level. You will hear the compressor turning on from time to time. Keep in mind that this is a much higher rate than it would run in practice because there is no load on the piston and it is extending its full length every time. The farther it extends, the more air it consumes and the longer the compressor has to run to replenish that air. This is why the instructions recommend setting up your pneumatic aux brake device as close to the pedal as possible to reduce the amount of air used up on each activation.

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Old 07-03-2014, 11:04 PM   #3
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TwelveVolt, thanks for the write up. We're new to motor-homing and recently purchased an older motorhome, toad and brake buddy. We're on our first venture and still haven't used the brake buddy. One of my concerns was how to set the system so the brakes are effective without excessive wear on the tires and brakes. Your post was quite helpful.
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Old 07-03-2014, 11:14 PM   #4
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I'd suggest getting an IR gun and check the brake temperatures every time you stop.

If the brakes are going on too much or intermittently you will see some variations in brake temps.
2004 Monaco La Palma 36DBD, W22, 8.1, 7.1 MPG
2000 LEXUS RX300 FWD 22MPG 4020 LBS
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Old 07-04-2014, 10:54 PM   #5
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Thanks Arch. That's something I've been thinking about. IF I recall Harbor Freight sells something like that.
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brake, power, safety, wiring

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