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Should I buy a Brake Controller for Ocassional Towing?

Discussion in 'Towing' started by JsAZ, May 1, 2009.

  1. May 1, 2009 at 6:10 PM
    #1
    JsAZ

    JsAZ [OP] Member

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    I am planning on borrowing my father's pop-up camper for an outing and would like to tow it with my '09 Double Cab TRD Sport with the factory Tow Pkg. I plan on borrowing the trailer once or twice a year to go up to the mountains with the family.

    The camper fully loaded will weigh about 2500 lbs. and has electrically controlled brakes. This is about the only thing I will tow, should I invest the $125 to buy a brake controller for such occasional usage and with a relatively modest weight?
     
  2. May 1, 2009 at 6:11 PM
    #2
    FlawedXJ

    FlawedXJ mall crawlin', web wheelin', concrete cowboy

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    I actually have a jeep now. Imagine that.
    i wouldn't. I've towed my dads camper (3k loaded) and boats (about 3k loaded as well) haven't needed a controller yet.
     
  3. May 1, 2009 at 6:31 PM
    #3
    Brunes

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    I vote for no...Give it a whirl without and see how it feels...I'm sure you can handle it for one trip and decide from there if you want it.
     
  4. May 1, 2009 at 6:32 PM
    #4
    FlawedXJ

    FlawedXJ mall crawlin', web wheelin', concrete cowboy

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    I actually have a jeep now. Imagine that.
    his first post says it has them :D
     
  5. May 1, 2009 at 6:34 PM
    #5
    Brunes

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    Gah...I completely zoned...Good look!!
     
  6. May 1, 2009 at 6:43 PM
    #6
    Austin Taco

    Austin Taco Well-Known Member

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    I pull a popup camper, Fleetwood E3, that weighs 4500 loaded. I HIGHLY recommend the brake controller. Matter of fact there's no way I'd drive without it. The dealer wouldn't allow me to take delivery of the popup unless I had a brake controller.

    I always say better safe than sorry. It can't hurt to have it but it could hurt without it.
     
  7. May 2, 2009 at 4:29 AM
    #7
    Janster

    Janster Old & Forgetful

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    $125 is cheap to pay for safety.

    Get one..... you'll be glad you did.

    Having the ability to adjust and fine tune the braking for any type of load is a major benefit for your (and everyone else) safety.

    Not to mention..... a good brake controller will allow you to activate the trailer brakes only if/when the trailer starts to sway. Believe me, anything can happen while you're towing - and having the abilitiy to activate the trailer brakes without the truck brakes can be a god-send.
     
  8. May 2, 2009 at 5:24 AM
    #8
    PPD934

    PPD934 Well-Known Member

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    I say yes, specially in the mountains. I have a popup and use the brakes system on there. it works wonderfully. I wish my 16 ft tandem trailer I use for my mowing company had them. It is daylight an dark the amount of ease to stop. Think about the what ifs, mountain driving is hard enough on a truck with no camper, also if you had to slam on your brakes the camper is going to push up farther before you stop. a few inches or feet may cost you more than 125 bucks
     
  9. May 2, 2009 at 7:00 AM
    #9
    maverick491

    maverick491 Towing Guru

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    brake controller for $40.78

    Brake controllers are cheap insurance, I wouldn't tow without one, and for the record it IS illegal to tow without one. Try explaining why you didn't have a brake controller under oath in your civil suit if you have an accident.

    If you are not going to tow regularly then you do not need the $125 controller, but you do need A controller.

    Tow smart and tow safe, or don't tow at all.
     
  10. May 2, 2009 at 7:03 AM
    #10
    Ghost96Romeo

    Ghost96Romeo What is the Search Tab for????

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    In what state? Its not illegal in Texas.
     
  11. May 2, 2009 at 7:12 AM
    #11
    Brunes

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    I kinda think your Tow Smart/Tow Safe comment is a bit one sided...I've towed plenty of large trailers with a variety of trucks using hydraulics or no trailer brakes at all and been just fine. You've never ever towed without a controller?? What happens when your controller shits the bed on the road?? Are you instantly going to crash??

    I agree it's cheap insurance- but it's also another thing to fail.

    Civil suits and legal are two different things.

    If they were legally required to tow...they would come with any vehicle capable of towing. (Just like Air Bags, Seat belts, mirrors, and ABS). What class of trailer is required to use a controller?? Cause I've seen some BIG ass utility trailers that barely have lights...I doubt they have electric brakes.

    If you have an accident and someone comes after you they could use the fact you didn't have a controller against you...but again-That's liability...not legality.

    I'd love to see the statues from your state that require you to have a controller...It would give me a place to start looking in FL to find out the truth (cause all of the above is my opinion)
     
  12. May 2, 2009 at 7:53 AM
    #12
    maverick491

    maverick491 Towing Guru

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    In all states except Missouri, Wyoming, and Oregon actually. FYI in Texas trailers are required to have brakes when the trailer weight is 4500 lbs or higher. Having trailer brakes, means having a controller or a surge system as the trailer brakes need to work, not just be there.

    True, not every trailer has brakes. My boat trailer does not have brakes, and as such I am doubly cautious when towing the boat as opposed to the RV, motorcycle trailer, or car hauler as they all do have brakes. However, in my opinion if you are going to tow a trailer that has brakes then you should add the little component that makes them function.

    The laws vary widely from state to state, but all but 3 states do have laws requiring trailer brakes. In your case, Florida requires functioning brakes on trailers 3000 lbs or over.

    Yes, legality and liability are different, but not mutually exclusive, and the civil suit example was just to try to show that the less than $50.00 for a controller was really cheap insurance.

    Perhaps the tow smart, or don't tow at all statement was a little harsh, but I have spent a good portion of my driving life with something hitched to the back of my rig, and I feel strongly about doing it safely.

    Here's the towing laws broken down by state.
     
  13. May 2, 2009 at 7:57 AM
    #13
    Brunes

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    Thanks for the links and info!!
     
  14. May 2, 2009 at 8:06 AM
    #14
    Ghost96Romeo

    Ghost96Romeo What is the Search Tab for????

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    Awesome info Maverick. Rep for you. I don't have a trailer that weighs more than 4500 lbs so I didn't know the law applied for that. I only tow a 18 foot flat bed occassionally.
    But yes I agree with you completely, if the trailer already has electric brakes, buy the controller. It will be worth it both on your trucks brakes, and your piece of mind.
     
  15. May 2, 2009 at 8:59 AM
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    Janster

    Janster Old & Forgetful

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    You can tow anything at any amount without trailer brakes and without a brake controller and consider it *Just Fine* for daily normal driving.

    When you have a situation that requires emergency braking - having trailer brakes, a brake controller, and having the trailer brakes setup properly for the load....can make the difference between stopping 20,10 or even 5 feet closer than without and can save someone's life (if not yours and your family).

    This reminds me of an accident back in 03 that I was involved in. A multiple car accident rear-end collision chain of events that involved a pickup truck with a heavy load that couldn't stop quick enough. I was 5 cars UP ...and I've got 2 plates in my head from it. I don't know if the guy was setup properly or not - that's not the point. The point is.....do you feel lucky enough that you won't be involved in an accident - and wish you had that extra 5 feet shorter stopping distance.
     
  16. May 2, 2009 at 9:13 AM
    #16
    JsAZ

    JsAZ [OP] Member

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    Thanks for the great info and discussion. According to the link from Maverick491 Arizona does not require me to have brakes for a trailer < 3K lbs. If I really can find a brake controller for a decent price, I'm convinced it would be worth it.

    The Amazon link for the $40 brake controller says that it doesn't work with my truck. I would prefer to find one that has an adapter so I can plug right in to the factory harness, is < $100, and can either be removed and stowed when not in use (362 days out of the year) or has a very clean mounting.

    The only mount that I've liked so far was Maverick491's mounting that goes under the seat and has a separate control head. It looks a little more complicated than I would like and the controller is a bit pricey. The only other mountings I've seen aren't what I 'm looking for:

    http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/towing/25866-mounting-brake-controller.html#post373184

    OR

    http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/towing/25866-mounting-brake-controller.html#post373163

    Does anyone else have a mounting that they are especially proud of and wouldn't mind sharing?
     
  17. May 2, 2009 at 9:14 AM
    #17
    MJonaGS32

    MJonaGS32 MJ on a GS

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    why don't u check craigslist or ebay for a good deal? i got a barely used tekonsha prodigy brake controller off of craigslist for only $50 :D someone else's lost is your gain
     
  18. May 2, 2009 at 9:22 AM
    #18
    Brunes

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    It can make the difference....but it may not too. The driver has alot to do with that. Getting a controller doesn't make you invincible to accidents...bad things can still happen

    Calling it not safe to tow without one isn't fair. Exhibit A- I've never had an unsafe situation (sway, runway, detachment, bad stops, or crashes) and I've never towed with a controller. Only one trailer had hydraulic brakes...all the rest were non-brake. And I've towed the entire length of the East Coast, highways and back roads.

    I will agree that it is probably a good idea...and the reading I've done that Mav posted...I'll swap to: "Sure...Get something" Look around...Find a mid level one and roll with it!!
     
  19. May 2, 2009 at 9:39 AM
    #19
    maverick491

    maverick491 Towing Guru

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    That reese controller on amazon will work with a Tacoma, in fact any brake controller will work with any vehicle. What they mean by won't work is that reese does not sell a toyota specific plug and play pig tail for that controller. That controller is hard wired, and just has the 4 wires coming out of the back of it with bare ends. You would have to solder those 4 wires to the 4 wires that come out of the tow package pigtail that was in your glove compartment when you bought the truck.

    The tacomas are hard to find a really clean place to mount a brake controller in, that was why I went with the old school activator III (which has been discontinued), however you could replicate my install with the $40 Amazon controller. You could put the two pieces together with bullet connectors, and un-plug it when not in use. It's not even that much bigger than the hand box on my controller, so you could theoretically route it the same way, since it is an electronic time activated and not an inertia activated controller it does not have to be level, so you could just let it sit in a cup holder like I do, and disconnect it when you are not towing.

    Regards,
     
  20. May 2, 2009 at 11:35 AM
    #20
    JsAZ

    JsAZ [OP] Member

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    Thanks Maverick491. I went ahead and purchased that Reese brake controller from Amazon. I'll go down to the hardware store and try to buy some kind of a 4-wire connector so I can connect / dis-connect the controller when not in use, and a couple feet of wire so I can put the controller somewhere convenient when in use.

    The bullet connectors that you mentioned looked to be a "per wire" connector so I would probably need 4 of them if I went that route? Thanks again for the advice.
     
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