Choosing a Brake Controller

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Choosing a Brake Controller

Speaker 1: Today we're going to be taking a look at the different types of brake controllers available and help you to determine which one might best suit your needs. Now, brake controllers are important because this is what sends power back to the brakes on our trailer and helps us to stop safely, and also stay in compliance with state laws. Without a brake controller, even a trailer with brakes is going to have no power.The first decision we're going to make in our brake controller selection is going to be whether we want to go with something that's time delayed like the Curt Venturer here, or something that is proportional, which would be like our Prodigy P3, our Prodigy RF, or our Hopkins Insight. Now, the main difference between our time delayed type controller and our proportional type controller is how they activate the brakes on our trailer.A time delayed system is going to have a certain amount of time in which this brake controller is going to go from zero power output up to whatever your maximum power output is. That's the way it is every time you brake. Now, with our proportional system, these have internal sensors.

These can sense the negative acceleration or the deceleration of our vehicle and apply the appropriate braking output out to our trailer. This is going to give us a more fine tuned braking experience. If we're slowly coming up to a stop, we'll have light braking power. If we need that more emergency braking or if we really slam on the brakes, we're going to get the additional braking power. It's going to get to the maximum much more quickly.Now, whether you choose the time delayed or the proportional, they're both going to allow some fine tuning of the braking power and the braking intensity, your quickness.

Now, the first adjustment that we're going to have on brake controllers is going to be the gain. That's essentially going to be how much braking power is going to go back to our brakes. They're easily adjustable up and down. Now, the second adjustments that we see with brake controllers are going to be kind of the fine tune settings. Now, on some of our time delayed systems, they're going to have what's called a sync setting.

That sync setting is going to determine how long it takes to get from zero braking power to the maximum that we have set.Now, the proportional systems are going to have something very similar. It's not exact, but similar. What they call it is typically a boost mode. Now, the boost mode is going to boost the initial braking. These don't have a certain amount of time that they're going to take to get to maximum power.

That's not how they work. They use the accelerometer or a sensor. What does happen, however though, is if we go from let's say boost zero up to boost one, when our brake controller initially comes on, it's going to come on at about 13%. If we go to boost two, it's going to come on around 25%. We're getting a little bit of boost in the beginning to raise that braking power up just slightly so as our trailers get heavier, we can increase our boost or we can increase our sync to help get more braking power more quickly.As you can see with a time delayed brake controller, we hae a preset amount of time it's going to take for our brake controller to get to the maximum gain that we have set. This means with a setting too high, we can cause premature wear on our trailer's brakes and tires. Or, with a setting too low, we can cause premature wear on our vehicle's brakes. Now, when you reach 100% with a time delayed controller, it's going to stay at that gain level the entire time your foot's on the brake.Now if we take a look at how a proportional controller works in an emergency stop situation, it's going to give us the braking power we need to very quickly. That's going to keep us safe and under control, and also prevents excess wear on our vehicle's brakes. It then tapers off very rapidly. That way, we're not going to have to worry about wearing out the brakes on our trailer. Now, in a regular stopping situation you'll see we're only going to get the braking power we need. It's going to save excess wear on our trailer brakes. They're not going to be held at the maximum gain we hae set the entire time.Now, we're also going to have a slight variation in the mounting positions that we can use from controller to controller. The time delayed brake controller really can be mounted in any position in any orientation; upside down, sideways. But, it's a very good idea to always keep your manual operation lever handy so if you have a sway situation you can get that under control.Our proportional brake controllers will have a slight variance on which way we can mount them up and down in the front. Some are 90 degrees. Some will go, like the P3 here, this you can mount 360 degrees, but it needs to be mounted in direction with the line of travel of the vehicle. That's how our sensors are going to work. They need to be traveling the direction the vehicle's traveling, and then when our deceleration occurs, they sense that.Now, another benefit to the proportional brake controller is that during prolonged stops, this is actually going to reduce the amount of power being sent to our brakes so we reduce overheating. With the time delayed style, as long as you sit stopped, it's going to be delivering maximum power to your braking magnets. They both have built in safeguards, however, that will protect against any kind of shorts. Also, it will let you know if your trailer becomes disconnected.Now let's talk about where each brake controller is going to be best suited. With the time delayed systems, I think these are going to be best suited for the really custom installations where you can turn them on it's side or upside down, but keep in mind, you really need to be able to get to this manual override lever. These are also going to work out for the most cost effective way of just meeting minimum state requirements.Now, the proportional type controller would definitely be the controller that I chose to go on my vehicle of any type. This gives us a more customized braking feel for each different braking situation. It senses what kind of power we need and delivers it. We're not relying on time delay system to slowly get us up to the braking power we need, especially in those emergencies. Now, this one's going to be very well suited for truck applications. This is going to be really good for the lager SUVs. This is going to be mounted on the dashboard, so you have to make sure you've got enough space and you've got enough room so you're not going to be bumping into it with your knee as you get in and out.Now, when we get into our smaller SUVs, when we get into the limited dashboard areas for mounting, that's where our alternative style Hopkins Insight is going to work out really well. This, which acts as the brake controller itself, is going to be mounted on the kick panel or on the center console. It has to be mounted in direction with the line of travel, but that can be down and out of the way.We then plug our flex display into it. This is going to give us a reading and percentage of braking power, that can be easier to understand for some folks. We've got our flex control, which just like the other controller, it allows us for our gain adjustment, has a manual override lever, and has a boost control. Now, this is going to allow us to just mount this and this where it can be visible. The wiring and our controller can be hidden down behind the dash.Now we can talk about our Prodigy RF and where it's going to be applicable. Now, this is going to be the perfect solution for a company that has maybe three or four trailers, but hauls with 50 different trucks. All the truck's going to have to have is a working seven way connection on it. It doesn't have to have brake controller signal. It just needs 12 volt power, left turn and brake, and right turn and brake. It's all we need to do, and then this just gets plugged into the dash.This is going to stay with the trailer. Our trailer plug goes in right here. Then this is going to get plugged into the truck. This will be mounted on the tongue. Plug this into the dash, and this is going to give you your manual override button right here. It's going to give you full gain adjustment here on the side, just like what we've got with our others, and the boost control. It's going to be right here on top, so all the same functions that we have with both of our other proportional brake controller.This is also going to be ideal for the situations in which we have complex, multiplex wiring inside of our vehicles. Some vehicles just don't provide a usable brake light signal on the cold side of the brake light switch, which is going to be required for both the other proportionals and also for the time delayed system. This is also going to be for the person that doesn't really want to touch any of the wiring in his vehicle. If you don't want to tap into the cold side of the brake light switch, if you're not comfortable in doing that, you're going to be heading down the road with proper braking force, you're going to meet all of your state requirements, and this is going to work exactly like a standard brake controller would.Now let's do a quick summary. When it comes to smart braking or the brake controller's ability to deliver the amount of braking force you need in any given situation, that definitely goes to the proportional style controller. Now, when it comes to the ease of installation, all three of the more standard style vehicle mount brake controllers are going to require you to hook up the four wires. Our trailer mounted options require no modifications to the vehicle wiring. The RF version will even eliminate any modifications to the trailer wiring.Now, when it comes to the mounting options, the time delayed's definitely going to allow you more variance in the angle it can be mounted. The alternative style also allows for flexible mounting options. Now, when it comes to appearances, the trailer mount is certainly a good choice here because nothing will change inside of your vehicle at all. Now, for brake controllers mounted inside of the vehicle, the alternative style is going to be the least visible. However, some of the time delayed systems are pretty compact.That's going to complete our look at the different types of brake controllers available. We hope you'll find this helpful in selecting which one's going to be the best for your application.

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