New to electric brakes

Hello, I have just purchased a '19 TAB 400, and I have installed a DrawTite brake controller on my TV.   

I have never used electric brakes on a trailer before.  I have turned the gain on the controller up as far as it goes, and manually testing it from about 5mph I get a very gradual (graceful) stop even when moving the controller's manual activation lever immediately to its full travel.  Walking beside the trailer, I can hear the Tab's brakes activate and release, but there is not a lot of stopping power.

When I fully activate the trailer brakes manually, using the controller, what should the braking force feel like?  

Comments

  • BaylissBayliss Member Posts: 618
    edited January 1
    @Intrinsic, I do not have your make of brake controller (I have a Prodigy), but it is important that you set the power according to the manufacturer's instructions.

    For best performance, you need to warm the brakes slightly before setting the power.  You can do that by driving a short distance (approximately 1/4 mile) at 45 mph with the manual lever engaged about halfway.  After that, follow the manufacturer's instructions.  You will probably initially set the power gain about halfway and then likely be instructed to drive at about 20-25 mph on a flat level surface and fully apply the manual knob/lever.  If the brakes lock up, the power is set too high.  If the trailer wheels turn freely, it is too low.  At the 20-25 mph speed, you want the brakes to grab and slow the trailer, but not lock up.

    Testing the braking power at 5 mph is insufficient to properly set the controller.  Again, review and follow your specific manufacturer's instructions.  If you don't have a copy, look online for one.  Otherwise,  contact the brake installer for a copy or help with setting the controller.  The installer should have given you a basic overview of the controller operation.

    Once you have the brakes set properly at 20-25 mph, if they feel like they are applying too much braking power, or too little, at a higher speed, you can make slight adjustments while towing.  Some brake controllers also have a power boost that you can use to incrementally adjust (probably three levels of power gain) to add increased braking power as needed (e.g., when going down a steep grade.)

    Hope this helps.
    2019 [email protected] 320 S Boondock Lite; Alde Compact 3020 Boiler; 2007 Toyota Tundra TRD (5.7L V8)
    Greg & Marlene (Tucson, AZ)


  • MiquelCamoMiquelCamo Member Posts: 91

    @Intrinsic, As the brakes are designed to control the trailer they won't seem that strong stopping it and your tow vehicle. Especially if your TV is heavy. @Bayliss has great advice above for determining the gain you will need. It makes sense that you felt a gradual stop using trailer brakes alone. 
    Mike and Lisa Campbell
    Springfield, MO
    2016 [email protected] Max S - Sold March 2020

  • DougHDougH Member Posts: 644
    You might possibly need to tighten your drum brake adjusters a bit as well.  If you jack a camper wheel up, and can rotate the wheel without any resistance (it just spins for several revolutions without slowing down) and if you don't hear any scraping noises of the brake shoes, then both sides will need to be tightened up.

    At 50% manual trailer brake application, my [email protected] locks the wheels at 5mph, but only on gravel.

    If you do adjust the drum brakes, make sure both sides are identical so the trailer doesn't pull one way or another under heavy braking. 

    2014 328d diesel wagon, 2016 [email protected] S Max, D/FW Texas

  • TampakayakerTampakayaker Member Posts: 148
    I keep playing with/adjusting mine.  I did the adjustment on the controller to slow it down without touching the truck breaks. When I stopped after about 6 miles to check everything before getting on the interstate there seemed to be quite a bit of heat coming from the drums.  Also when I would take my foot off the brakes it felt like the [email protected] brakes would pop and the truck would jerk a little.  If I backed off that popping went away, but then there didn't seem to be a lot of stopping power.
    2006 RAM 1500 4 door, 2016 [email protected] 320 MAX S 
    Tampa FL
  • Sharon_is_SAMSharon_is_SAM Moderator Posts: 5,418
    @Tampakayaker, nuCamp recommends having the Tab brakes adjusted after traveling a couple 100 or 200 miles or so.  Have you done that yet?  
    Also, with a large truck, I would think that you would need a modest setting on your brake controller.  To me it sounds like your brake controller is set too high.  I know when we first towed, ours was too high.  When we came to a stop, the Tab brakes would grab and then clunk when we released our TV brakes.  If your truck is adequate to stop the Tab, you may not feel the Tab brakes all that much.  What kind of controller are you using?
    Sharon / 2017 [email protected] CSS / 2015 Toyota Sienna Minivan / Westlake, Ohio
  • TampakayakerTampakayaker Member Posts: 148
    @Tampakayaker, nuCamp recommends having the Tab brakes adjusted after traveling a couple 100 or 200 miles or so.  Have you done that yet?  
    Also, with a large truck, I would think that you would need a modest setting on your brake controller.  To me it sounds like your brake controller is set too high.  I know when we first towed, ours was too high.  When we came to a stop, the Tab brakes would grab and then clunk when we released our TV brakes.  If your truck is adequate to stop the Tab, you may not feel the Tab brakes all that much.  What kind of controller are you using?
    [email protected] is a 2016 so it definitely has more than 200 mikes on it.

    This is the controller I purchased  

    Tekonsha 80500 Pro Series POD Brake Control


    That is the feeling I'm getting, the slight grab then the clunk when taking my foot off the brakes.

    We just did about a 140 mile round trip and I reset them to very low, when I tried the actuator for just the trailer brakes I didn't really feel anything, but then again I'm towing with a 4 door 2006 Ram 1500.
    2006 RAM 1500 4 door, 2016 [email protected] 320 MAX S 
    Tampa FL
  • Sharon_is_SAMSharon_is_SAM Moderator Posts: 5,418
    Sorry, didn't notice the signature line:).

    I think that with a hefty TV, you may not feel like the Tab brakes engage much - unless you brake hard.  I would try to go about 20 mph and brake hard and see if you can't feel the Tab brakes.  That might make you appreciate that your Tab brakes are engaging.  Also, are you using a hitch tightener?  If not, the drawbar clanking inside the hitch can create a little noise, too. Lastly, consider adjusting the Tab brakes.  
    Sharon / 2017 [email protected] CSS / 2015 Toyota Sienna Minivan / Westlake, Ohio
  • TampakayakerTampakayaker Member Posts: 148
    I'll try your ideas next trip.

    Yes I used a tightener on the second trip, did eliminate some noise.

    My biggest issue was the clunk sound and slight bump? when taking my foot off the brake pedal when strting from a stop.
    2006 RAM 1500 4 door, 2016 [email protected] 320 MAX S 
    Tampa FL
  • Sharon_is_SAMSharon_is_SAM Moderator Posts: 5,418
    I think the sound and sensation that you are experiencing may also simply be the Tab brakes releasing.  @Bayliss and @DougH have good advice above.  Do you have many miles on those brakes?
    Sharon / 2017 [email protected] CSS / 2015 Toyota Sienna Minivan / Westlake, Ohio
  • TampakayakerTampakayaker Member Posts: 148
    I think the sound and sensation that you are experiencing may also simply be the Tab brakes releasing.  @Bayliss and @DougH have good advice above.  Do you have many miles on those brakes?
    No idea on the miles or if the previous even used electric brakes.

    We towed it from Atlanta to Tampa without brakes hooked up and had no issues with stopping.

    We've done two round trips to Orlando from Tampa, so we put on maybe 300 miles.
    2006 RAM 1500 4 door, 2016 [email protected] 320 MAX S 
    Tampa FL
  • Sharon_is_SAMSharon_is_SAM Moderator Posts: 5,418
    I think I would have the brakes checked just for peace of mind.  
    Sharon / 2017 [email protected] CSS / 2015 Toyota Sienna Minivan / Westlake, Ohio
  • JeffroNCJeffroNC Member Posts: 113
    I think I need to adjust my brakes. Does anybody have an explanation or photo of doing do on a Tab 400? Where is the hole? How does the adjuster work?
    i did lots of drum brake jobs back in the day but never fooled with a trailer. 
    2019 [email protected] 400 BDL 2017 F150 3.5L Ecoboost
    Jeff & Amy
    Asheville, NC

  • pthomas745pthomas745 Member Posts: 1,272
    This might help:  a detailed description from the 320.

    2017 Outback
    Towed by 2014 Touareg TDi
  • JeffroNCJeffroNC Member Posts: 113
    @pthomas745 perfect!
    FYI I emailed Creed and he answered in a couple of hours. He suggested I get a pro to do it but also gave me a general answer on how to do it myself. I understand his position and appreciate his response. 
    I am also very grateful for the knowledge here. 

    2019 [email protected] 400 BDL 2017 F150 3.5L Ecoboost
    Jeff & Amy
    Asheville, NC

  • falcon1970falcon1970 Member Posts: 562
    @JeffroNC
    The electric drum brakes on a trailer and the hydraulic drum brakes on your tow vehicle are basically the same. They differ only in size and the method of activation of the brake shoes.  Electric brakes use an electromagnet to move the brake shoes against the drum instead of a hydraulic cylinder used in hydraulic brakes.  Adjusting the shoes is identical in each.  If you have adjusted brakes before then you have the skills to do it now.  It is important to ensure you have each side adjusted to the same amount of braking force.  On a vehicle it may not affect safety to have one side applying more braking force than the other but it could get interesting on a small trailer.
  • tabiphiletabiphile Member Posts: 193

    Arggggg….oh the horror! Yes to the general idea but unless you want to bugger up the brake adjuster you should not use a screw driver to adjust the brakes. There is a proper tool made for adjusting brakes. It will not damage the adjuster. A screw driver can strip out the teeth on the soft metal adjuster nut. You can get these at any auto parts shop, Harbor Freight, Amazon etc.
    Also, be sure to use the correct jack locations on your trailer and always use jack stands if you jack up your trailer....Using a bottle jack without an adapter on the axle is an accident waiting to happen.
  • TrailpixieTrailpixie Member Posts: 147
    I’ve had a whole bunch of trouble working out my brakes with my 2018 [email protected] Outback. All my problems stemmed from my bad prodigy wireless controller. But....during all my troubleshooting, I learned a few things.

    1) how hard or soft the brakes come on is partially personal preference.  You can set them to be barely noticeable or to pull a little bit. Don’t adjust them so that the trailer will ever lock up it’s wheels. There is a lot of room between barely noticeable and locking the brakes.
    2) the controller is adjustable for a reason. Depending on the conditions like temperature, length of your trip, amount of hill climbing, you may want to adjust the controller.  In the course of a day, you may adjust it several times.  
    3) when you are in safe places, casually recalibrate your controller.  I often do it when I drive out of quiet highway rest stops or drive out of campgrounds. 
    4) adjusting the brake shoes/drums is easy. If you are comfortable with jacking up the camper and crawling under the camper, go ahead and do it. Get the little tool. It’s cheap. To do the job well, you will want to have both tires off the ground at the same time because you want to adjust both sides to have just a tiny bit of resistance, and you want it be be equal. The instructions say to adjust the brake until the tire spins freely, and then tighten it until you can barely hear and feel it make contact with the drum. 

    With all that said, be gentle. As a general rule, LESS IS MORE. 
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