Electric brake options for stationary camper on a hill

Submitted: Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 15:34
ThreadID: 89467 Views:2249 Replies:10 FollowUps:4
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I recently started a thread about taking a camper to the high country and the replies got me thinking about how to handle a situation where I have to stop on a hill.

a)In the event that I had to stop for a period, is it possible and would it make sense to wire the handbrake of the vehicle into the brake controller in addition to the normal brakes so the trailer brakes would be on when I am stopped but on a steep hill when I need to get out fo the vehicle to evaluate the situation or similar. I guess this would be like manually holding the brakes on with the lever on the brake controller.

and / or

b)Could a break away controler be set up to act like a big hand brake for a similar situation, even if I had to disconnect the trailer?

I hope I described these properly, I guess the question is how hard are the brakes on if the brake away controller is on?
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Reply By: Member -Dodger - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 15:47

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 15:47
Their is no way that you can operate a breakaway electric brake controller from within the vehicle. In fact I am not sure if the vehicle controller will hold the brakes on when stopped even if you hold the slide over.
IMHO, the only way to really hold the rig in steep sections whilst you leave the vehicle is to apply the hand brake put vehicle in park if auto and if manual turn of engine and engage 1st gear low range then disembark to check everything out. Chocking trailer wheels would also help.

If you have to disconnect the trailer then the breakaway could be activated however I would chock the wheels first and apply the hand brake.

I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

Cheers Dodg.

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AnswerID: 467183

Reply By: snoopyone - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 17:16

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 17:16
Most handbrakes are not connected to an electrical circuit so wouldnt be able to be done.

Even if it could it will run your battery flat and probably burn out the brake magnets in the trailer. They are not designed for prolonged "Stuck On" usage.
Once you disconnect there is no power to hold them on unless you have a

Brakesafe unit which is not usually used in a van of under 2000kg

These have definite instructions to NOT USE AS A HANDBRAKE
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Follow Up By: Baz&Pud (Tassie) - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 17:54

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 17:54
Agree with all that has been said above.
Go caravaning, life is so much shorter than death.

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Follow Up By: Keir & Marg - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 21:55

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 21:55
"Most handbrakes are not connected to an electrical circuit"

Thought most handbrakes are connected to an electrical circuit - that's why the little red light comes on to say the handbrake is on!! So, in theory at least, you could drive the trailer brakes via the handbrake circuit
FollowupID: 741328

Follow Up By: snoopyone - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 22:51

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 22:51
The little red light is worked by a make or break switch that is not part of the brake or brake light circuit. Is simply held down when the lever is in the off position and releases to the make position whenlever is pulled up.

Did you not read the reasons why you dont use them as handbrakes.

Would be great if you had them activated in this way and someone unknowingly disconnected the connector to the trailer.
FollowupID: 741335

Reply By: Crackles - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 18:38

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 18:38
That's what passengers are for Boo. To get out & chock the wheels. Of course when you get into that position you'll know you've arived at one of the places the majority on your other thread suggested you don't tow to ;-)
Cheers Craig..........
AnswerID: 467204

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 19:53

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 19:53

No need to rewire anything.
My Redarc Control has a manual activator which enables you to press the controll button and apply the electic brakes independent of the vehicle operation.

I would assume other brands of controller would have a similar feature.


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AnswerID: 467209

Reply By: Member - Joe n Mel n kids (FNQ - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 19:56

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 19:56
i can see you have one problem that requires a bit more thought ....... if you are worried about it moving cause it is so steep, and it appears your are on your own, how are you going to get out and dis connect a trailer, it would take off like a rabbit ............
My guess is you need to travel these tracks without a trailer so you know exactly what you are in for, trailers can be MAJOR problems in a tight situation, if it starts to slide you are in really big trouble and you wont be able to back out ...... even if you are loaded and the trailer is loaded it may not even hold if stopped and placed in 1st low .......
There are cable controlled brakes that can be locked on like a handbrake ..... but i think you need to look at preventing it before it happens, passed a camper trailer (pop top van) on the tablelands hwy that was spread along the road for probally 800m, thousands of bits smashed up into peices ... not a pretty sight at all.
AnswerID: 467210

Reply By: Bushranger1 - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 21:07

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 21:07
G'day Boobook,
I think it was me that mentioned this in your last post.
I most definatly would NOT leave the vehicle in this situation. Basically I remain seated in this situation with the overide on and use my time to assess my retreat for reversing back down the hill.
You could use a passenger to exit the vehicle & assist in your path back down but of course you need some pretty good reversing skills to do this.
Of couse it goes without saying that if the track was wet & muddy this is a very dangerous manouver & you should have not attempted the climb in the first place in these conditions.
AnswerID: 467214

Follow Up By: Bushranger1 - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 21:11

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 21:11
I should add that I keep my foot firmly on the brake pedal & do not release the brakes until I have selected reverse gear & are ready for my planned retreat.
I don't use the handbrake as it would be pretty useless in this situation hence the reason to remain in the drivers seat.
FollowupID: 741326

Reply By: The Original JohnR (Vic) - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 21:24

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 21:24
Boobook, there are differing electric braking systems and as far as I can see, you haven't said what yours is.

The one I am accustomed to is electronic over hydraulic and you can operate it from the car or outside by an actuator button. Having operated the button, the brake line from the pump can be locked off by a quarter turn tap, which can operate as a locking brake.

A button can actuate any braking system, but electronic with magnets can only be temporary in comparison and then you need to chock the wheels.
AnswerID: 467215

Reply By: V8 Troopie - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 00:42

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 00:42
The electric brakes for my boat trailer do come on when the hand brake is applied.
Its my own braking system and it is powered off the auxiliary battery.
I made it to work with the hand brake as well because the boat & trailer is close to the max car towing capacity and when stopping for red lights on a hill the whole load on just the car handbrake is a bit too much.
Turning the engine off cuts out the electric brakes so it never can be left on accidentally and flatten the battery. If I need to stop the rig on a hill for some time I leave the car in gear (manual box) and turn the engine off.

The breakaway system is completely independent of the above with its own battery on the trailer.
AnswerID: 467225

Reply By: Member - Boobook - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 07:10

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 07:10
Thanks everyone for your replies.

This forum is great for getting varied responses. It's clear to me that while most people haven't tried what I am asking about, the conscencus is that it won't work, or that I should avoid the situation.

I should note that I only ever intended something like this as a last resort.

What is clear from this, and my other thread is that if I proceed with a camper that the best thing is to increase my towing experience in high country conditions then form an opinion based on that, the camper and the conditions.

I see that wet tracks are the biggest risk and luckily I have time to wait out wet weather so would always go with that.

Any more feedback would be welcomed too.

AnswerID: 467230

Reply By: Andrew & Jen - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 20:31

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 20:31
Hullo Boobook

I have actually been in this situation of losing traction going uphill in slippery conditions with the CT in the HC. Fortunately there were very experienced people in the group without CTs to assist. The first vehicle (a Patrol) tried to tow uphill but slipped sideways off the road and got stuck. Then a LC ute winched both of us out together.

FWIW, here are my observations and comments plus advice from others at the scene.

IMHO, unhooking a CT on a up slope is fraught with danger. Firstly, most trailers have drum brakes with a leading shoe design so that forward movement helps apply the brakes. In reverse (down hill backwards), the opposite occurs - they work against effective use. The hand brake is rarely as effective an electric system. While chocking can be effective, I have seen a wheel ride over what many thought at the time was an adequate chock.

Trying to actually unhitch it would present a problem as the weight of the trailer would need to be relieved to get the pin out, or whatever other way you disengage. One slip up in this operation, with 1.2 tonnes on a (say) 1:4 slope in slippery conditions and you have a potential disaster wrt to damage to the CT or worse, to those involved.

Try doing any of the above with only you and a passenger is probably out of the question, particularly if, like me, you are getting on in years ;-)

If you are contemplating dragging the CT out by itself afterwards, that is not straightforward either. The jockey wheel leg is not designed to withstand the large forces in these conditions, nor does the small tyre have much floatation in poor conditions. Damage can also occur to the hitch if it impacts on the ground.

So speaking for myself, I would try to avoid unhitching at all costs and then only consider it as a last resort if I had a skilled and experienced team and not just anyone who rocked up and said "she'll be right mate - we'll just have a go and see what happens!"

AnswerID: 467284

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