Install brake controller on the actual trailer?

Submitted: Monday, May 01, 2017 at 07:45
ThreadID: 134772 Views:5784 Replies:8 FollowUps:18
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Hello, Is it possible to install an electric brake controller on my camper trailer /caravan? I have a new leaseplan car and dont really want it installed in the car.

I remember hiring a caravan many years ago and they gave me one that plugged into cigarette socket but not sure how it worked or if its legal.

Thxs SS
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Reply By: Kazza055 - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 08:47

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 08:47
You can do it with a portable brake contoller.

It is picking up the brake signal from the brake light on the trailer plug rather than the brake pedal.
AnswerID: 610708

Reply By: Member - Bigfish - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 09:20

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 09:20
I was told by a chap who had one installed on his camper that he was putting it in the car as it is illegal in Qld. I know Redarc say to check with state motor vehicle authorities regarding the legallity of mounting controller to the trailer......So, once again probably legal in some and not in others. They can easily be fitted to a car and with a decent bracket there should not be any drilling on car interior panels. You also need access to alter the characteristics of towing on dirt or bitumen.
AnswerID: 610709

Reply By: 9900Eagle - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 09:31

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 09:31
There are a couple of things you will need.
Brake controllers need to have either an manual over ride button or lever in reach of the driver. You will still have to run power cables for the brakes with a resettable circuit breaker, you will still have to run the power cable to the trailer as per the plug in remote one. Cigarette lighter, for me that is not a good way to go.
Another thing is, many new vehicles have a can bus system and don't like the activation wire picked up at the brake light.

Maybe you can install a conventional red arc or tekhonsa with velcro and have the wiring removable with no drilling of holes. Brackets can be velcoed on and cable ties used. Double sided tape is also great to use.
AnswerID: 610710

Follow Up By: Keir & Marg - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 09:40

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 09:40
Absolutely correct 9900Eagle. As you need to have a manual over-ride button within reach of the driver, the controller can't be mounted on the trailer. Also, by law, the power to the brake controller has to be supplied by an automatic resettable circuit breaker, not a fuse, so powering a brake controller from the cigarette lighter plug is not only illegal, but may result in your brakes not working as most cigarette lighter plugs are only designed for a maximum of 10A for a few seconds (long enough for the cigarette lighter to glow red). The current draw of electric brakes (even on a single axle) may exceed 10A (so the fuse will blow) or during a long descent or when at the traffic lights for a couple of minutes with your foot on the brake, you may overheat the cigarette lighter plug.
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Reply By: Member - peter_mcc - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 10:57

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 10:57
I'm puzzled - where does it say that there has to have a manual override within reach of the driver? I have looked extensively but couldn't find anything.

The closest I could find (it was a while ago) is that the trailer brakes had to be operated by the driver from the normal driving position (see below). As far as I can tell that is satisfied with a brake controller in the trailer because the trailer brake controller is operated by the brake signal which comes from the brake pedal.

That requirement came from a
Tasmanian doc (a bit old).

To quote:

123. Operation of brakes on trailers

(1) The braking system of a trailer with a GTM over 2 tonnes must allow the driver of a motor vehicle towing the trailer to operate the brakes from a normal driving position.

NSW says
Brakes must be operable from the driver’s seating position.


Ditto for the resettable circuit breaker - where is that required by law? I'm not doubting that it is a fantastically great idea - just the legal requirement for it.


I asked the Tasmanian roads authority and they were ok with a brake controller being mounted in a camper trailer. I asked NSW RMS and they never replied...

Personally, I can't see any difference between mounting the brake controller in the trailer and having override brakes. In both systems it can't be adjusted while driving but the brakes come on automatically when the vehicle brakes.

We ran our Tvan that way for years - a RedArc TowPro connected to the Tvan battery and nothing in the car. It seemed to work well enough.

Of course it has to be done properly. In my case, it was hooked to Tvan battery by an auto-reset circuit breaker and the Tvan electrics have a low-voltage cutout which disconnects all the other loads (lights, pump, etc) when the battery gets to about 50% of capacity.



Two other things:
With the cigarette lighter socket, if it has a 10A fuse it should be able to support a 10A load. There are good plugs and bad plugs out there - the good ones are rated for a 10A load. The Narva 82110BL is rated at 15A at 12V.

If the brake controller picks up the signal from the brake lights on the trailer it wouldn't interfere with the CAN bus system in the vehicle - it would just look like a ever so slightly higher lighting load.
AnswerID: 610712

Follow Up By: Kazza055 - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 11:18

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 11:18
Fully agree with most this but the part about the "manual override within reach of the driver?". Common sense tell me the driver must be able to take control and even you acknowledge "Brakes must be operable from the driver’s seating position"

Can someone point out where it stipulates that the 12V supply can not be from a fuse supply?
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Follow Up By: Member - peter_mcc - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 11:27

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 11:27
I don't think a manual override is *legally required* within reach of the driver because if it was override brakes would not be allowed. They are legal and so I can't see how a manual override within reach of the driver could be a legal requirement. A great idea perhaps but not a legal requirement.

My position is that the brakes are "operable from the normal driver seating position" with the brake controller in the trailer because the brakes are operated by the brake light signal. For override brakes they are operated by the deceleration of the towing vehicle.

I'm not sure of the intent of the "brakes must be operable from the normal driver seating position" is - I'm guessing it is stopping people from having a broken braking system and then claiming it is ok. Eg if there was no brake controller but they could apply the brakes by using the hand brake lever - in this case there are trailer brakes but they can't be operated by the driver while seated. A stupid case perhaps but a large section of the law is trying to stop people "working around" fairly simple requirements.
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Follow Up By: 9900Eagle - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 15:05

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 15:05
Peter, it actually isn't and I must tell you I used a bit of poetic license about the actual manual override for a reason.

All decent systems have a manual override for a trailer in case you encounter sway or you are being pushed by the trailer because the brakes have been setup badly, or you can at least try and control sway and straighten her up.

I would not have a controller without that control lever or manual over ride button.
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Follow Up By: Member - peter_mcc - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 15:10

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 15:10
9900Eagle - no worries! We hire out a camper trailer with the brake controller on the trailer (so people without one in their car can take it) so I'd looked into it in detail a while ago. I agree manual override is a good thing to have just not a legal requirement.
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Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 10:23

Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 10:23
hi peter
connecting any system to vehicles with can bus systems will result in it been detected by the vehicles cpu and that item shutting down the vehicles cpu
trailer brake wiring becomes part of the whole system the moment you put the trailer wiring plug into the car trailer socket
claiming that the connection will just be and an extra small load draw and wont make little difference is wrong
I had have had an expensive experience caused by southern towbars in Adelaide ( not the current owners) doing that
it took several months of weird things happening within the vehicle and then one day stopped briefly and it wouldn't start again
problem was diagnosed due to extra wiring not going through a special necessary mini computer that is required so that the extras wont cause problem with cpu
if someone hires a modern vehicle with can bus unit and messes with its wiring system they could be up for some very expensive extra costs
cheers
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FollowupID: 880736

Follow Up By: Member - peter_mcc - Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 17:19

Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 17:19
mazcan - I'm not talking about tapping into the vehicle wiring, I'm talking about tapping into the trailer wiring after it has gone through the vehicle trailer driver. I don't believe that anything (sensible) done on the trailer side would affect a CAN bus vehicle if it was working before the mods.

Sorry to hear about your experience with an incorrectly fitted towbar - the other issue I've seen is when people use LED lights on the trailer sometimes the vehicle doesn't detect the trailer and the trailer lights flash on and off. That one is solved by adding some extra load to the trailer lights circuit (usually high wattage resistors either permanently mounted to the trailer or in a box inline with the vehicle plug).
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FollowupID: 880746

Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 23:51

Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 23:51
Peter_mcc wrote

"I don't think a manual override is *legally required* within reach of the driver because if it was override brakes would not be allowed. "

Peter, you're mixing two standards.

Over-ride brakes are not allowed for trailers GTM over 2000kg

Provisions for over-ride brakes apply only to trailers GTM 2000kg and under.

The braking systems under discussion are required for trailers GTM over 2000kg.

What you can do for trailers GTM 2000kg and under is not relevant to what you must do to trailers GTM over 2000kg.
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Reply By: The Bantam - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 15:01

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 15:01
The idea of fitting the controller in the trailer is nothing but cheap and nasty.

YES I know people that have operated electric brakes off the brake light circuit alone ...... OH HELL good luck with that. ... particularly in a modern vehicle.

I remember in the past people with electric brakes operated of a jug element type resistor with a adjustment ....... OH please.

If you are to have electric brakes that work properly you need and adequate power supply, the brake light circuit is not sufficient ..... so there is a wiring job any way.
so ya might as well run a brake wire.

Many of the factory trailer plug wiring looms have a brake wire in them and best on many new vehicles to wire all the way to the front of the vehicle to bypass all the tail light shenanigans they have.
Yeh and some of the factory looms just plug in ...... they may run the length of the car .... but there may be a plug ready to go ...... no butcering your rear wiring harness.

As far as screwing things to a lease vehicle ...... oh please seriouilsy ..... as long as you aren't butchering the dash nobody will care ..... probably nobody will ever look.

OH YEH ..... if you have the brake controller other than within reach of the driver ...... how do you expect to adjust the brakes.

Yeh and those of us that know what we are doing will adjust the trailer braking as we change terrian and surfaces.

As for legal requirements
15.2 All other trailers that do not exceed 4.5 tonnes ATM

These trailers must be fitted with an efficient brake system that complies with ADR 38/-. Except for over-run brakes, all brakes must be operable from the driver's seat of the towing vehicle.

For trailers up 2 tonnes GTM, an efficient braking system is considered to have brakes operating on the wheels of at least one axle. Over-run brakes may only be used on trailers that do not exceed 2 tonnes GTM.

Every trailer over 2 tonnes GTM must have brakes operating on all wheels. The brake system must cause immediate application of the trailer brakes in the event of the trailer becoming detached from the towing vehicle. Under these circumstances, the brakes must remain applied for at least 15 minutes.

All flexible hydraulic brake hoses, air or vacuum brake tubing and air and vacuum flexible hoses must conform to SAA, SAE, BS, JIS, DIN, ISO or ECE Standards and be fitted to the vehicle in a way that will prevent chafing, kinking or other mechanical damage under normal motion of the parts to which they are attached.

(For further information, refer to ADR 38/02 clause 5)

Remember too that the controller is required to be installed to manufacturer specifcations ....... if the manufacturer specs require a self resetting circuit breaker ...... that is a legal requiremet

cheers
AnswerID: 610717

Follow Up By: Member - Roachie - Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 21:00

Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 21:00
I agree that the brake lights THEMSELVES should NOT be used to provide power to the electric brakes via a controller.

Surely, it would go without saying, that anybody with even half a brain would use a relay (triggered by the brake light/s) and powered by the trailer's onboard battery/ies.

If the trailer doesn't have its own battery/ies, then a supply from the vehicle (Anderson plug or aux pin on a 7 pin plug) would need to be used.

As for the over-ride option, I reckon in over 30 years of towing with electric brakes, I may have utilised that particular feature once, maybe twice.

Roachie
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FollowupID: 880749

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 13:21

Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 13:21
unfortunately in the past very common for people to power electric brakes from the existing brake light circuit .... possibly with a larger fuse fitted ...sort of the whole point of trailer mounted brake controllers.

if someone is going to the trouble of adding a supply wire and relay ..... might as well install a brake controller ion the car.

If you don't use the manual over ride switch how do you set up your brake gain.

cheers
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Reply By: ss--ss - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 16:31

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 16:31
Did some looking around and also found a redarc version which mounts on the trailer.

https://www.redarc.com.au/trailer-mount-electric-trailer-brake-controller
AnswerID: 610720

Follow Up By: Member - Bigfish - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 19:52

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 19:52
And as I stated in my previous post..

"Confirm with local transport authorities regarding the usage for trailer mount electric trailer brake controllers in your state."...from the Redarc site regarding trailer mounted brakes...
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Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 21:49

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 21:49
Is it something like this what you have in mind SS?

As you say, caravan hire companies use them.

Motherhen

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AnswerID: 610730

Follow Up By: ss--ss - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 22:21

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 22:21
Yep thanks,, something like that..
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Follow Up By: Kazza055 - Tuesday, May 02, 2017 at 07:25

Tuesday, May 02, 2017 at 07:25
I don't think that one is available in Australia because of it being wireless.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Tuesday, May 02, 2017 at 08:28

Tuesday, May 02, 2017 at 08:28
Wireless ones are used by caravan hire places, so wireless must be legal. SS's need is similar - to use with a leased vehicle.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 13:23

Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 13:23
just because some one uses it ..... that does not make it legal ..... or advisable.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 13:47

Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 13:47
Are wireless units as used for caravan hire not legal in Australia Bantam?
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Reply By: andrew t - Tuesday, May 02, 2017 at 17:23

Tuesday, May 02, 2017 at 17:23
we have the redarc trailer mounted brake controller mounted to the drawbar of our camper trailer as we tow it with both the troopy and the prado and the old troopy, works great it means that our camper can be towed by any tow rig as the camper batteries supply power to the brake controller and the brake light signal in the trailer plug is used to activate the trailer brakes, it is fully adjustable (yes you must stop and get out to do it) we towed the camper over the west did half a lap the gibb river rd and never had a problem with it. as for reaching for the controller in an emergency i would rather keep my eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel if it turned nasty than go fumbling for a brake controller, and besides most people would not even go for it if it all turned pear shaped anyway. if you need anymore info feel free to message me happy to answer any of your questions.

















AnswerID: 610745

Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 23:55

Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 23:55
How heavy is the CT?

If GTM is 2000kg and under, you can do what you like with electric brakes because they are not subject to the rules applying to trailers with GTM above 2000kg.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 13:26

Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 13:26
fumbling for the electric brake switch will pull a fistailing trailer straight is very short order ....... if a trailer is serioulsy unstable nothing you do with the steering wheel is going to help you ...... you WILL be in the ditch.

Cheers
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