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Old 03-03-2015, 09:45 AM   #11
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We are struggling with understanding what we need to have done to our Highlander to get it ready for the trailer. We have the factory installed tow package, but no hitch. It seems like the two people we have talked to have given us conflicting information regarding the electrical work that is needed and no one seems to be able to just straight up tell us what needs to be done and how much it will cost. Does anyone have any advice?!?!
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Old 03-03-2015, 10:03 AM   #12
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You are going to need a brake controller kit, and a 7 post connector by the hitch, and a good frame hitch itself. I purchased my controller and 7 post connector here:

Brake Controller 7- and 4-Way Installation Kit (ETBC7) | etrailer.com

You have a couple of choices as far as installation is concerned: have it installed by a professional such as U-haul (in your area) or comperable, or by the dealer that you are buying the camper from (unless this is a private camper purchase). For my first truck, I had the dealer I bought my camper from do it, and it cost me $150.00 (they quoted me $300.00 during the contract, but I negotiated this down). That included the controller and the 7 pin connector by the hitch, but the bracket was cheap; it always wanted to bend when connecting the plug from the trailer to the connector.

Now the fun part; there are two types of brake controllers: a "Proportional" and a "Time delayed". I prefer the Time delay, as I can adjust the controller for brake "feel" that suits me.

Proportional brake controller

With a proportional brake controller, you can get heavy-duty emergency braking, general braking, or slow-to-an-idle braking for your trailer automatically. The intensity with which your trailer brakes are activated and the rate at which they are applied are dependent on the deceleration of your tow vehicle. This means that, unlike time-delay controllers - which send the same amount of preset power to your trailer brakes every time - proportional controllers are able to adapt to every braking situation differently. So if you slam on the brakes in your truck, your trailer brakes will activate with the same extreme intensity. And if you merely slow down as you approach a red light, your trailer will gradually brake in the same manner.


Pros
  • Smooth, quick braking
  • Less wear on both vehicle and trailer brakes
  • Increased braking efficiency
Cons
  • More expensive than time-delayed controllers (though the cost difference between the 2 types has been decreasing)
  • Not as easy to install as a time-delayed controller
Time delay Controller
A time-delayed brake controller applies your trailer's brakes when the brake pedal in your tow vehicle is engaged. Every time you apply the brakes in your tow vehicle, a signal is sent - via the brake switch - to the brake controller. The controller then sends power out to your trailer brakes to activate them with an intensity set by you, at a rate determined by you. Both the amount of braking power (output) and rate of application (sync) can be adjusted to suit your preference, the road conditions, type of trailer, and size of the load. To determine which levels are best for your application, you must test out your towing setup and choose what feels best.

A time-delay controller is so named because there is a delay between the time that you initially apply the brakes in your tow vehicle and the time that the controller reaches maximum power output. Unlike a proportional brake controller, which activates your trailer's brakes based on the deceleration of your tow vehicle, a time-delayed controller sends power out in the same way, with the same gradual delay, no matter the braking situation. Although this delay always exists, it can be adjusted by changing the sync setting.


A time-delayed brake controller doesn't rely on internal parts to sense braking motions of the tow vehicle. This allows you to mount the controller at any angle.


Most time-delayed brake controllers can allow the brakes to pulse on and off when the hazard flashers are activated and the brake controller is set aggressively. This happens because power from the brake lights can feed back into the brake controller. A pulse preventer can isolate the brake controller from the flashers and will eliminate this problem. Pulsing of the brakes when the hazard flashers are in use is not usually a problem for vehicles that have a different bulb for the stop and turn signals. You can usually identify a vehicle that has separate stop lights and turn signals because it will have amber turn signals.


Pros
  • Easy to install - can be mounted at any angle
  • User friendly
  • Low profile
Cons
  • Uneven brake wear between tow vehicle and trailer
  • Chance of brake pulsing when hazard flashers are used
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Old 03-03-2015, 12:46 PM   #13
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[*]Not as easy to install as a time-delayed controller
I've had both types of controllers. They are both easy to install. The "issue" with not being able to install a proportional controller at an angle isn't really an issue, it's just something you take into account. Wiring for both is identical.

I'll also say that my Prodigy P2 is going on 10 years old, I never have to reset it except when I've changed tow vehicles or trailers. Once you adjust it, you're done. I will never go back to using a time delay type controller.
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Old 03-04-2015, 06:00 AM   #14
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The use of a time delay verses a proportional controller is always going to be preference of the user, as well as location of the controller itself. Many mount them on their dash, pointing vertical, within easy reach to adjust, or press if/when they need to manually operate the trailer brakes. Others prefer to mount the controller horizontally in a dash 'pocket' if available. The important key is to be sure it's easily within reach of the driver. This location will depend on the vehicle, so this could be a variable in deciding which controller is best.

I think the OP is simply overwelmed with all the extra requirements they need in order to tow their travel trailer, as would anyone who is new to towing a large trailer with electric brakes. My intent was not to offer one over the other, but rather to provide information they could read and hopefully understand as to what brake controllers are for, what they do, and the types. The prices for each are now close, so that is no longer an issue.

Many folks simply allow the dealer they purchased the TT from to install the controller, its wiring, and the back 7 pin connector, as well as the tow hitch, and never really know what it all does, or understands its full operation. It's always best to realize your skillsets and tools required to do it yourself. I agree that its not a difficult job; you only have to be careful in how you route the wiring from the rear to the controller and vehicle battery. There is at least one relay required for the TT electric brakes which the controller "controls" (usually a blue wire), and possibly one additional 12 volt wire and seperate relay (usually a yellow wire) that is connected to an extra pin of the rear 7 pin connector. This additional 12 volt connection is an option, and the TT may or may not be wired for this. My ultra light was, and its the same model as what the OP purchased. So if the OP has the install and wiring done by someone else, they should inform them to provide this additional wiring for this pin.

The install requires 'common sense' as to its routing. Wiring should be clear of any suspension movement as to not scaff off the insulation, and kept away from heat. It should be tie wrapped as to not drag or touch any area that could damage the wiring.
For this reason, most folks simply don't wish to spend the time required under the vehicle to do this, and have it done by a professional.
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Old 03-04-2015, 09:03 AM   #15
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Bucko you raise a point that many of us often forget, in that wiring for some vehicles needs to be done from scratch. With most late model trucks and full size SUVs the wiring is already there, you just need to find it and connect your brake controller. No so much with small SUVs, cars, or older trucks.
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Old 03-04-2015, 11:27 AM   #16
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You've gotten some great information here already. I'll just repeat a little of it in my own language in case it helps you.


I have a proportional brake controller, the tekonsha P3. Very nice unit. I strongly prefer the proportional brake controller to the time delay unit, as I feel is gives much smoother braking. The proportional units still have a setting for how hard the brakes are applied, but it also senses how hard you are braking by using an accelerometer. If you are lightly riding the brakes to a stop light it lightly applies the trailer brakes. If you jam on the brakes in a panic stop it applies the full pressure you have set. The time delay version applies the brakes at your preset level anytime you press the brake pedal.


Either type of controller needs to be set by you so it matches the braking pressure to your load. The brake controller is just getting an "on" or "off" signal from your brake. When your trailer is hooked up and loaded you pull it up to about 30-40 mph and press the manual button on your brake controller unit. It then applies the set amount of braking pressure (voltage sent to the electric trailer brake.) Keep repeating that process and adding pressure until you lock up the trailer brakes, then back it off a couple notches. Now anytime you apply your brakes the controller will send that set amount of pressure to your trailer brakes.
I prefer the proportional controller because it will only send the full pressure when it senses you are braking hard, and less pressure for gentle stops. The time delay one will send the full amount you set anytime to apply the brakes, which makes for a little more jerky braking action from the trailer when you are gently slowing. You can turn down the pressure for a less jerky braking experience, but then you're not getting full braking potential in hard braking.


Wiring the controller is something you can probably do by yourself. It's easier than hooking up a car stereo. If you are lucky your toyota is already wired for the round style plug. Most pickups already are, but SUV's may not be. If you do have to do it from scratch, you just need to find and tie into your brake lights and run power and ground from your battery. My Mercedes was really a job because of the canbus system in it that senses any changes to voltage and sets off brake error codes. I needed a special box that fools the system. Your Toyota might be easier. I suggest checking it out at etrailer.com. That's a really great company that has a bunch of techs available and they really know their stuff. Prices are very good too.

Next, the weight distribution hitch. This is a sort of lever system that distributes the tongue weight of the trailer better across the frame of your truck. It's a little like if the trailer were holding the handles of a wheel-barrow, and that lifts the weight off the rear of your truck and puts it more to the front wheels. This levels out your truck and makes a major improvement in handling. You might have seen a tow vehicle with lots of weight on the hitch and the back end squatting down low. that totally screws up the steering, braking and balance of the whole system. Weight distribution hitches can't perform miracles, but they do make a major improvement. I have the Curt model which is about $325 on etrailer.com and it works fine. There are lots of other choices too.

Finally, there is a sway bar. Some weight distribution hitches have a built in sway control, but not all. On my curt unit it's a separate bar that attaches to a smaller ball the hitch and another on the trailer frame near the lp tanks. It is just a couple metal bars that you tighten together so the trailer and tow vehicle have more resistance to turning. Sort of a stabilizing arm. This helps keep the rig in a straight line going down the road. It reduces the amount of sway you get in winds and passing semis. Some of them need to be removed before you back up the trailer so it doesn't jam up if you turn tightly, but mine hasn't been a problem.
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Old 03-04-2015, 11:36 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DocBrown View Post
Bucko you raise a point that many of us often forget, in that wiring for some vehicles needs to be done from scratch. With most late model trucks and full size SUVs the wiring is already there, you just need to find it and connect your brake controller. No so much with small SUVs, cars, or older trucks.
For sure, you speak the truth. My 2007 Ford F150 had an ebrake controller listed as a factory option, so I assumed that Ford had the wiring harnesses all there, tucked nicely away in the dash, and out back by the bumper; all I had to do was buy a controller and the connector for the back. Plug and play, with perhaps a harness adaptor for the controller to adapt to the factory harness.

Boy, was I wrong with that assumption! I ended up buying the kit and doing it all. Not complaining though, as I learned how it all went together, and therefore feel comfortable with it should I ever need to troubleshoot a fault with it.
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Old 03-04-2015, 11:42 AM   #18
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This made me do a bit more research on this, as I was told proportional controllers require they be mounted in a vertical position. My truck did not provide me with a safe vertical location that was within easy reach if I needed to operate it manually. That should be a factor as to which type is purchased.

I found this for the Tekonsha Prodigy P2 Brake Controller as it pertains to its installation:

"As long as the P3 controller sits level on a horizontal plane and is pointed in the direction of travel, it will sense - via an internal inertia sensor - how your tow vehicle brakes.

If ever there is a time that you need to brake your trailer separately from your tow vehicle - when traveling down a steep incline, for example - the manual override lever is easily accessible. Pushing this lever engages the brakes on your trailer with full power. In addition, when you activate this override, the brake lights on your trailer will illuminate, properly warning those behind you of the braking action of your rig"

I won't deny that this is a great controller if you have a vertical location to mount it, and the driver can easily reach the manual override lever.
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Old 03-04-2015, 02:11 PM   #19
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Thank you everyone for your help. My husband has taken the information and found someone who can do what needs to be done I think!
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Old 03-05-2015, 06:58 AM   #20
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Great. let us know how it goes, and happy camping!
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