camper Trailer power & Electric brakes

Submitted: Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 12:33
ThreadID: 65863 Views:6160 Replies:10 FollowUps:4
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Hi there

We have just purchased a Tambo Camper trailer and would like some advise on what type of dual battery to purchase to use for lighting and running a labtop.

We have a dual battery in a Prado that is dedicated to running a Engel Fridge.

Also we have Electric brakes fitted to the Tambo and just learned that its an extra $600 to get a unit fitted in the Prado. How necessary are these electric brakes for a camper weighing about 750kg.

We plan to travel for 10 weeks so its important to be set up well. Also we have a swing out kitchen and just plan to use our $69 gas stove. Should we spend extra and get an italian Italian "Lido" Junior 2 burner + griller, elbow & hose valued at $295.
any advise is most welcome thank James
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Reply By: Sigmund - Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 12:43

Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 12:43
If your CT weighs over 750 kg by law you must have brakes I'm afraid. Even if you're under this they're a good investment.

$600 seems a bit steep to me just to put in a controller and wire it to the hitch. See about getting a 2nd quote and also consider going for a manual rather than auto controller - will save about $100

As for your power needs, you'll need to figure out how long the aux batts will sit before being recharged, and what your daily drain will be.

Good luck.
AnswerID: 348449

Reply By: Member - Nick (TAS) - Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 12:54

Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 12:54
I have just purchased a Tekonsha P3 brake controller off ebay for $199(free freight aus wide).It isnt goinng to cost $400 to fit and wire it if you can do it yourself.
On our setup, we run duall batteries in our cruiser and then run power from the aux. battery to an anderson plug at the back of the vehicle, which then supplys charge to a deep cycle battery on the camper.Then everything on the camper runs off the deep cycle.
AnswerID: 348452

Reply By: MEMBER - Darian (SA) - Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 13:12

Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 13:12
Agreed with the above - its the law, but even if just under 750kg, the brakes are a great investment in safety anyway - and you are half way there ! Re the controller - a Tekonsha Prodigy seems the ants pants and you should be able to get closer to $400 supply and install (the units are sold on eBay - installation quotes from auto electricians ?). I'm using the foregoing hardware on a camper and have never looked back - very effective and very durable too. The Lido sounds a bit rich - a BIGW 2 burner stove, maybe backed up by one of the little black stoves with the small "fly spray" sized can of gas, can be very effective.
AnswerID: 348455

Reply By: Member - Mark (NSW) - Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 14:02

Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 14:02
We had a CT just under 750kg but once loaded sfor trip more like 900kg. After three years and a couple of heart in mouth moments (roos, blind corners over crests on dirt roads etc) when nothing appeared to happen when hitting the brakes we bought a controller. Much better stopping. Manual control is also fantastic for assiting descent of CT and 4WD on very steep tracks if your 4WD is an auto.

Not necessary at 60km/hr on bitumen, but anything more or on dirt (especially if your Prado has ABS) should be strongly considered.

If you are old enough bit like comparing cross ply tyres to radials or drum brakes to discs. Just a lot safer.
AnswerID: 348463

Reply By: DaveO*ST-R - Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 16:36

Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 16:36
I have a Tambo Cooper on order...the wait is killing me. Roll on the first week of April !! I have just pitched my very old Tekonsha brake controller and replaced it with a Tekonsha P3 off Ebay for $199. You can get the Prodigy for about $20 less. They do exactly the same job, just the P3 has more display and troubleshooting information etc. I wired my controller myself. It is an easy process if you are that way inclined. If you paid $400 to have one installed, you would be ripped off.

I also was in a quandry with the Lido stove. I originally said to Tambo I would source my own stove. (I was hoping to use my existing 2 burner) I found that it would not fit in the recess of the swing out kitchen because the gas thread is on the side. (There is only 500mm available in width) The Lido has the thread at the rear and will fit nicely in the slot. Hence I went back to Tambo and lashed out the $270. (got mine just before the price rise to $295) From all accounts in the research I did, the Lido Junior is pretty much the ducks guts of stoves. I have fired it up at home and it wins hands down over my standard 2 burner) So, more than happy to spend the dollars on a quality stove etc.

AnswerID: 348483

Follow Up By: DaveO*ST-R - Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 16:44

Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 16:44
I should also say, as you would be aware, anything over 750 kg GVM & you require brakes. The Tambo Cooper weighs in at around 570 kg empty. That leaves 180 kg. If you have a full 85 litre water tank like mine will, you only have about 95 kg to play with. You will find you will exceed 750 kg easily and in my opinion, it would be very unwise and dangerous to run without brakes, not to mention doing so illegally. Just my two bobs worth.

FollowupID: 616672

Follow Up By: imjames - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 00:05

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 00:05
Hey thanks Dave and everyone else for the info. Looks like I should get one off ebay and save some bucks. Thanks too all for the advise on brakes. We did a lot of research on CT and almost got a Casarina ( think thats how u spell it) bet ended up with the Tambo. Its sitting proud outside Im dying to use it but its prime photography season for me so have to earn the bucks b4 I try it out. Maybe I should set it up out the front for the kids. So thanks Dave and all for your comments
FollowupID: 617062

Follow Up By: DaveO*ST-R - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 09:34

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 09:34

You are welcome. Exploreoz is a fantastic forum to share ideas and have questions answered. I'm not one to rush out and buy something without doing plenty of research, so the more info I can get, the better. And with the Tambo camper, I spent months and months researching for the best value for money camper for me, and Tambo came up trumps. (And as a bonus, I reckon you would agree Keith & Amanda run a top business - they would be the most helpful people I have had the pleasure to deal with, nothing is too much trouble - fantastic service - hence people can understand why they do not attend any of the camping shows etc, their business is mostly through word of mouth) I rang again the other day to get them to alter the jery can holders from 25 to 20 litre, so I don't have to stuff around making up something to pack them out - no problems they replied !!

One thing I forgot to mention previously was about my battery setup. I have a Navara STR dual cab and to install a dual battery system under the bonnet was going to be difficult, if not impossible, and not suit my purpose, as I could not fit a big enough battery. Instead, I have an auxiliary battery (100 a/h AGM) in the tub in the back that sits next to my 40L Engel. It is fully portable and can be taken out and placed in the camper if I wish. Whilst driving, the fridge is powered off the car. It has Volt and AMP meters and is switched/relayed so that when I turn the ignition off, power from the vehicle is cut to it, and the battery kicks in and runs the fridge. It is not a true dual battery setup with isolator etc, rather the 12V supply to the rear powers an inverter (electrically isolated) which in turn powers a 3 stage smart charger - gives me a full 100% charge. Did the Simpson last August and it worked a treat. Will be doing Cape York in July for 8 weeks and it will get another workout then.

So, for my camper, rather than install another battery in the camper, I will simply run an extension lead if you like with a home made box with cigarette and hella plug sockets to power the lights etc. The fridge will stay in the car most of the time. To make it easier to run the extension lead, Tambo is putting a second access zip in the PVC wall, at the other end from the door, so for overnight stops, I can just run the lead from the back of the car into the tent via the shortest route.

Enjoy your camper and your upcoming trip.



FollowupID: 617074

Reply By: Brian (Montrose, Vic.) - Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 21:30

Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009 at 21:30
We recently purchased a small Jayco pop up van,on our first trip, without a brake controller it was a bit of a hairy trip,mind you the whole thing comes in under the weight limit for unbraked trailers, but geez we could have done with brakes.
After that trip I purchased a Tekonsha Voyager control unit from Autobahn, cost only $100 for the unit and about $80 for the 6mm twin core cable, 25 amp auto reet breaker plus odds and sods needed to do the job.
The difference between before and afterwards is incredible and it only took me about 3 hrs to install (1 1/2 of which trying to get cabling through the firewall!!) and about 1/2 hr to set the system up so I don't lock the wheels at the traffic lights.
Best $200 we spent on the outfit. The van already had brakes fitted, which helped.
Brian T
AnswerID: 348518

Reply By: Member - Lance S (VIC) - Wednesday, Feb 11, 2009 at 11:46

Wednesday, Feb 11, 2009 at 11:46

I bought my Tambo about 3 1/2 years ago. I put on Trojan 105 deep cell to run all lights, dvd player ( the one that is in the car for the kids ) etc, like you i have 110lt waeco that pretty much is permanatley in the back of the Navara with the same battery.

When adding the extra battery you will need to wire up an anderson plug with in-line fuse from battery to A-Frame of the trailer, then from trailer to the Prado.

We also have electric brakes, i think they are a must especially when needing to brake on wet or gravel suddenly down hill or similar, i think it is cheap insurance and peice of mind and of course safety.

I have 2 gas stoves as well, but i also got the Italian Lido burner in the swing out kitchen, its a great set up. But i think the best money i spent on the trailer was the roof rack, its a god send, i use it all the time and you don't have to remove the gear on the rack if you are setting up, i asked Keith to add a couple more strengthen the rack by adding 2 more 2" x 2" tubes of steel.

Also change your gas bottle carrier size from the 4.5kg to the 9kg size, worth the extra $10.

Did you get the flooring for the annexe and the protection for the main room?

Also if you have kids, i do recommend the bedroom, it just zips on and kids all have there gear in there and out of the way.

Of course it is all extra $$$ but compared to prices of other trailers i think its a great buy and product for the price.


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AnswerID: 348571

Follow Up By: imjames - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 00:18

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 00:18
He Hi Lance

Thanks for the vital into. Yes we did get the flooring and we did get the extra room as we have 2 boys. Yes the Tambo is well priced. I feel they keep their costs down due to keeping business word of mouth and using the www. I think we have the smaller gas bottle carrier. So will they just change it over for $10? Well my wife would be keen to get the Lido burner. My fridge is the Engel 40Ltr and its terrific. Bit of an outlay but worth it. I did a trip in 07 using a Waeco and it failed to work. It seems they need room for air.
FollowupID: 617063

Reply By: Maîneÿ (wa) has - Wednesday, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:32

Wednesday, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:32
James, you ask: "would like some advise on what type of dual battery to purchase to use for lighting and running a laptop"
I assume you mean the actual battery itself?

I would have to recommend an AGM Deep Cycle !

Yes, they are more expensive, but they will charge much, much, much faster than 'normal' batteries and in the bush battery charging *quickly & fully* is imperative, it uses less fuel, less (generator) noise and the battery is also far more efficient, as it can be discharged lower, more often than a 'normal' battery and they will out-last a few 'normal' batteries when used this way.
The type I use (pictured below) have an expected 10 year life span and are fully sealed with connections suitable for heavy duty use with thick battery cable.

Mainey . . .
AnswerID: 348576

Reply By: mattd - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:57

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:57
Hi there,
I also have a Tambo, and swapped my brake controller onto my X-Trail recently. Cost me $290 to connect my controller and he also ran a cable from the alternator through to a Anderson plug on the towbar to charge the my extra battery. Your quote seems very high, but maybe their is a little extra work involved???? In regards to the controller, "GET IT" for your families sake. When trying to stop 1000kg, your Prado will be tried very quickly..

Go for the Lido burner. I have one and find its worth it.

As with Lance, i also have the camper powered, makes for a better trip.

I live in Berwick if you want a look at the work my auto elec did.

Cheers Matt

AnswerID: 349070

Reply By: GGtriton - Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 22:12

Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 22:12
I also have a tambo and purchased it second hand. It did not have brakes fitted and fitted them once i got the trailer. I also have fitted a P3 controller myself and it works a treat. As many have said the trailer once full of a few odds and ends and a belly full of water will easily go over the 750kg mark where brakes are mandatory.

I have had a battery box made to go on the rear guard of my camper and fitted two AGM batteries charged from the camper. More than happy with the Tambo. I also constructed my own kitchen.

A good source of information on campers is,

You can see my modifications and additions on the first site.

AnswerID: 349563

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