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Old 10-21-2015, 01:15 PM   #1
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Default Newbe: 1994 24' Towlite brake questions

I am new to Hi-Lo, and campers in general. This is the first time I've had a trailer with brakes, and do not really know much about them.

First is how to determine what kind of brakes I have? It has a 7 pin connector, but how would I tell if I have surge brakes, or standard electric brakes?

Second, how would I test them?

At this point I have hooked everything up and have power to the connector on my truck (tested with a volt meter). I started to pull slowly and pressed the slide button on my controller. I expected this to function the brakes on the trailer, but it did not seem to.


Thanks in advance for your help.
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Old 10-21-2015, 02:06 PM   #2
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Hi, msstas, welcome to the forum!

I'm sure your trailer has electric brakes, but they may not be working. If you look behind a wheel, you should see two wires going into the back of the wheel. That is the electrical supply for the brakes.

The easiest way to see if they are hooked up and functioning, in my opinion, is to jack up one side of the trailer (put the jack on the frame next to the axles, not on the axles themselves) or use one of those ramps that you can drive one of the tandem wheels up on so that the other hangs free. Then, spin the free-hanging wheel(s) by hand. They should turn easily with only a small amount of noise. Next, pull the breakaway plug on the tongue, which should connect the trailer battery directly to the electric brake(s) on the free hanging wheel(s). Now the wheel(s) should not rotate at all.

Re-innsert the breakaway plug so that your battery is not drained and do the same test on the other side of the trailer.

If a wheel is very noisy or it feels like it may be binding a bit with the brakes off, you may have a brake that has fallen apart in the wheel (I had this happen twice), or, you may have bad bearings. Either one needs to be addressed before you try to tow it again.

If the wheel continues to rotate easily with the breakaway plug pulled, the electric brakes are not working. Possibly, the wiring is disconnected, or, they may just be worn out or broken. Again, you need to fix this before using the trailer.

Electric brake assemblies are not particularly expensive or difficult to install. I've replaced the ones in my trailer myself. And, I inspect my brakes when I service the wheel bearings. I got this kind: 10" Nev-R-Adjust Electric Brake Assembly for 3.5K Axles - RH Dexter Trailer Brakes 23-469

If your brakes seem ok using the tests I've described, you possibly need to adjust the "gain" or current that the brake controller is supplying. You want to feel the brakes grab at a speed of about 25 mph on level ground but you don't want the wheels to lock up. Ideally, if you've adjusted everything right, stopping should feel about the same whether you're towing or not.

And, it's possible your brake controller is not sending current to the trailer brakes. That circuit is fuse protected in your tow vehicle, and the fuse can blow.

Hope these thoughts help.

- Jack
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Old 10-21-2015, 08:43 PM   #3
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Surge brakes would have a brake fluid reservoir and large actuator box up by the hitch. Like this

They are more likely electric as described above. Somebody could have changed it to hydraulic but normally that type of brake is found on rental trailers and boat trailers. Boat because water and electric don't mix, and rentals because not every tow vehicle has a electric brake controller.
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Old 10-21-2015, 11:00 PM   #4
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msstas,Welcome to the forum. We are a very friendly and helpful group. Welcome from Niagara Falls,NY.
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Old 11-16-2015, 12:20 PM   #5
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Thank to you all for helping. Unfortunately I've been sick for a few weeks and did not have the opportunity to take the camper our or even work on it. Over the weekend I found that my controller was not operating properly and now the brakes are working just fine.

Again, thank you for your help.
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Old 11-16-2015, 03:40 PM   #6
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Not always- but stuff usually turns out to have simpler solutions that you first think. Glad it worked out.
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Old 11-16-2015, 04:44 PM   #7
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I'm pleased you found the problem too. While I've had brakes that have fallen apart, I seem to be rather unique. Fortunately, after replacing both of them, they seem to be holding up fine now.

I try to perform any troubleshooting sequence in "simple" to "more difficult" order. Usually, as hilltool said, the simple cause seems to be the most likely one.

- Jack
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Old 07-15-2017, 10:22 PM   #8
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This is an old thread, but I want to ask about the following inexpensive Tekonsha Power Trac brake controller with wiring adapter for my Nissan Frontier. I've read about the praises for the much more expensive Tekonsha Prodigy, but will the Power Trac work OK and what are the advantages of paying $98 more for the Prodigy? Here's the URL-
https://www.etrailer.com/bc-2017_Nissan_Frontier.htm
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Old 07-16-2017, 12:41 AM   #9
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Doug, you may be getting tired of my opinions, but I highly recommend the Prodigy P3. It is all digital, which means there are no mechanical levers or wheels to set the braking force. You will be able to set it up very precisely and once set, it stays set.

My first controller was a Primus, and the brake setting controls kept getting bumped, which altered the trailer braking. Setting the braking force was "fiddly", too - a real pain. I bought a Prodigy P3 when I traded my truck for a newer one and was amazed at how much nicer it was. I thought it was more than worth the added cost.

I don't like the specs on the cheap one you are considering at all. It does not appear to offer "proportional braking", which I think is a must. Proportional braking applies harder braking force when you are doing a "panic" stop, compared to what is applied during normal stopping. (In other words, the braking is "proportional" to your brake application in the tow vehicle.)

- Jack
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