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Hitches are for pulling…Not stopping

Over the past several decades, trailers with any significant weight come with electric brakes. This requires a brake controller in the tow vehicle to work those brakes. In times past, hydraulic/electric aftermarket brake controllers were the answer. This system would tap in the hydraulics on the tow vehicle and simultaneously send a signal to the electric brakes on the trailer when the brakes were pressed. There were flaws in this system to which the vehicle manufacturer stepped in and came up with guidelines that required an installer to hook in the hydraulic line farther down. By doing this, there would be no bleed off or displacement of the brake fluid.


If you are going to stop your trailer, and you do not have an integrated brake system, you will need a brake controller. The good news is with today’s technology, it is no longer necessary to tap into the hydraulic line on your tow vehicle. It is very helpful to know which type of brake controller you will need.


There are two general categories when it comes to break controllers: Inertia-based proportional brake controllers and time-based brake controllers. Every brake controller on the market sends a signal to the trailer when the tow vehicles brakes are pressed. The words “time-based” will not be located on many manufacturers’ labels or boxes. A good rule to follow is if it doesn’t say “proportional” somewhere on the box or in the literature, it is most likely a time-based brake controller.


Time-based brake controllers are precisely what they sound like. They have a timer that sends an output signal for your trailers electric brake system. This timer can be set for delay in situations where you want a slight delay in the brakes on the trailer. You can also set this to activate simultaneously with your tow vehicle. There is also a small knob on the brake controller to manually activate the trailer brakes independent of the tow vehicle.


The inertia-based proportional brake controller sends a signal that is proportional to how much pressure you put on your brakes. It will do this by measuring the tow vehicles rate of deceleration with a pendulum. The faster you slow down, the further that pendulum moves or is displaced by inertia. By measuring this, it will send a signal to your trailer braking system which is in direct proportion to your tow vehicles rate of deceleration.


However, any pendulum or inertia-based brake controller will be subject to inaccuracies based on road grades that may be very steep. Some brake controllers use a damping sensor for road vibrations which does help with the “wagging “problem.


The pendulum can be adjusted to compensate for a true stop position which is considered “leveling”. This allows the driver to adjust the pitch in order to set up the trailer for aggressive or a delayed brake.


Most drivers want their tow vehicle and trailer to work in unison. In a sudden or panic stop, drivers want the response of the trailer brakes to be the same. A timed-based brake controller will not give the driver this option because the brake controller is fixed for a certain timed duration. Whatever your need, there is a brake controller out there for you. Find a hitch store you are comfortable with, and make a selection.



Introduction to Towing

Most all vehicles, whether you have an SUV, passenger car, truck, van or even a mini van, can be equipped properly for towing. What you are towing will determine what type of hitch you will need. There are various sizes and types of trailers and will most likely fall into four catagories: open trailers or flatbeds, marine trailers, enclosed cargo trailers and recreational vehicle trailers which will include travel trailers, fifth wheel trailers, horse and cattle trailers, and folding camp trailers.


The tow vehicle you will use may have a tow package from the manufacturer that has upgraded the springs, oil cooler, transmission cooler, radiator, battery, flasher system and brakes. It may already have a wiring harness as well as specific axle ratios. Some vehicles will have stronger wheels and tires with higher ‘ply’ in order to carry and manage heavy loads.


Your vehicle, if it has a tow package from the manufacturer may also have a trailer hitch receiver already mounted to the frame of the vehicle. Things that most likely will not come with that package is a draw bar or ball mount and hitch ball. These are separate units that depending on your height and weight needs will differ from vehicle to vehicle. Some trailers need a 2 inch ball and some need a 2 5/16 inch ball. To find this, you will need to check the tongue or coupler of the trailer. This is what the ball will be covered by and locked in.


Another item you may want are side mirror extensions. This allows you to be able to extend your view without replacing your current mirror on your tow vehicle.




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