Common Mistakes when Installing a Brake Controller

April 15, 2019 by

Common Mistakes when Installing a Brake Controller

There are many reasons why you may need to haul a trailer and it is important to ensure that the cargo trailers for sale Ontario you’ve been checking out is always safe and secure. One of the most important aspects of safe haulage is good, effective braking but this is often overlooked as most people are more concerned with how fast they can tow, rather than how quickly they can stop, but it may well be your brakes that save your life.

Towing can be dangerous, and trailers are known to get out of control and cause catastrophic accidents.  Using the tow vehicle’s brakes alone works well in many situations but sometimes you need more stopping power and that’s where good trailer brakes are essential.

Hydraulic brakes vs electric brakes

There are two main types of trailer brakes, hydraulic and electric. Hydraulic brakes operate in the same way as the brakes on your car or truck. A hydraulic master cylinder pushes fluid to the pistons on the wheel hubs on each axle, operating the brake pads and slowing the vehicle down. The hydraulic brake system is mounted to the tongue of the trailer and is operated by inertial force, i.e. when the tow vehicle slows down, the trailer pushes forward on the ball hitch. This means that the braking system only works when the tow vehicle slows down. Electric trailer brakes, however, operate in a similar way as an emergency brake but instead of a cable, a magnetic piston is used to operate the brake. This type of braking system operates via a trailer brake controller that is connected to the vehicle’s braking system, providing a smooth braking response.

Fitting electronic trailer brakes

Electric trailer breaks can be fitted to your trailer at any time and while it may seem like a quick and easy installation, you should always consult the user manual for specific installation instructions to ensure that you avoid these common mistakes.

Incorrect connection to the battery

When you fit electronic trailer brakes you need to ensure that the brake controllers are powered directly from the battery via a circuit breaker, this allows you to retain the trailer brakes even if the ignition cuts out unexpectedly.

The requirements for a suitable electronic brake connection are that it must provide battery voltage output when the vehicle brakes are applied and no voltage output when the vehicle brakes are not applied. It must receive battery voltage when the brake controller manual override is engaged and still illuminate the trailer brake lights.

The brake controller improperly mounted to the vehicle

It is essential that the brake controller is securely mounted to the vehicle so that the internal accelerometer can sense how hard the vehicle’s brakes are applied and vary its output accordingly.

Bad wiring or connectors

The wiring and connectors need to be installed correctly. Under full braking force, a trailer can draw as much as 25 amps and inadequate wiring or connectors can cause the electronic brakes to fail. Some trailers may only have a single axle, but some can have three and it is important to have sufficient cable width for your type of trailer and to install robust blade fuses or crimp terminals.

Badly installed remote head

The remote head of the electronic braking system needs to be installed in a suitable location on the dashboard of your vehicle where it is within easy reach and can be firmly depressed. Before you install anything, make sure the dashboard is thick enough and that there are no important wires, airbags or other components installed underneath the section of the dashboard that you have chosen. A standard electronic braking system remote head typically needs to be installed in material that is between 2 and 3 mm thick.

There are many cargo trailers for sale in Ontario and at McFarlane’s, we will ensure that you find a trailer to suit your requirements. And if you prefer to leave the technical work to the professionals, we can help with that too.