5th Wheel Brake controller recommendations

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elm_tx

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May 19, 2006
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Houston, Tx
Hey all, I've got more questions and would truly appreciate feedback from anyone/everyone that has an opinion/experience regarding brake controllers.

I heard a high recommendation for the Prodigy - Tekonsha controller. It sounds like a very nice device, but I don't know squat about it in regards to other types of controllers as well as what is are desirable features. I understand what a proportioning valve does for breaks in a street car, but no clue in this application.

I was at a place today that seems very knowledgeable regarding setting up trucks to pull 5er's, (recommended the Reese 16k sliding hitch, which I pretty much knew I wanted), and they did not like/recommend the Tekonsha, saying that they had many people come in complaining about the Prodigy line. They were saying that the Tekonsha has moving parts and could break or screw up if you bumped it, causing the trailer to unintentionally apply the breaks. They pushed for buying their (as they called it) "traditional electronic" brake controller, as they have installed 1000's and no one complains.

I have no experience to make an educated decision here, please let me know what you think.

I will be pulling a 36' New Horizon Ultra 5er with a 2006 Chevy 2500 4x4 HD Diesel Crew Cab short bed.

I really appreciate any and all feedback y'all can give me.

Thanks,
Eddie  :)
 

joelmyer

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Mar 5, 2005
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Georgia
Eddie,

Went down that road a couple of years ago.

Bought the SuperGlide & Prodigy with the 5th Wheel.  When the day came, the RV dealer sent me over to the hitch shop.  The hitch shop installed the SuperGlide & a generic brake controller.  When I noticed, the RV dealer swapped them.

Like you I heard high recommendations for the Prodigy.  I really can't say it's better than any other since I only have experience with it.  Works fine.  It has a pretty easy way to adjust and little lights that let you know it's connected to the trailer.  I think any alternative ought to have those two things.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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They pushed for buying their (as they called it) "traditional electronic" brake controller, as they have installed 1000's and no one complains.

In a word, "Hogwash!  There are no moving parts in a Prodigy - it is all electronic, even the acellerometer that lets it determine when and how much the tow vehicle is braking. 

I think your installer is talking abot older Tekonsha controllers.  Previous generation Tekonsha's were inertial controllers that had a pendulum to detect decelleration and those were position sensitive. They worked extremely well as long as they did not get moved around, e.g. "bumped" by somebody's knee or toyed with by a child.. Hitch shops did not like them because their customers sometimes came back and complained they had stopped working right and they usually ended up have to adjust them for free. Bottom line is that the hitch shop was looking out for its own profits and not the best quality controller for the job, so they recommend controllers that did not require any positioning or adjustment.  But those controllers have several other drawbacks, e.g. they are not proportional and some (many?) of them apply braking based on the amount of time the pedal is pressed rather than how hard it is pressed.

Hayes has a new electronic controller called the Genisis that is supposed to be pretty good, but I don't have any experience with it so cannot recommend for/against.

What brand/model "traditional" controller are they pushing?
 

billr

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Jan 7, 2006
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Location
Georgetown Ontario Canada
I have to agree with Gary's comments.  I have used a few different controllers and found the Prodigy to be the best one, hands down. Set it once and leave it alone! It was very consistant and even during backing it is very smooth.


Bill
 

elm_tx

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May 19, 2006
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Location
Houston, Tx
Thanks for the feedback, I will check Monday to see what the brand/model is that he normally sells, but I'm leaning real hard towards sticking with the Prodigy based on you feedback as well as what I've heard about it up til now.

Thanks!!!

I'll post his brand tomorrow evening if you're curious.
:D
 

N Smock

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Mar 9, 2005
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246
Location
Long Branch, NJ
I must agree with Gary and Bill. I have towed for many years with many different controllers, I currently have a Prodigy, the BEST controller that I have ever towed with. The tow shop does not know what they are talking about.


Nelson
 

davidsimmonds

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Sep 17, 2005
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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I have the Prodigy. I find that when I am in the city in traffic, I have to adjust the unit to prevent the brakes from coming on so quick and hard (using the pot on the front-left side). Is this a normal behaviour? I had thought that this would not be required when I bought our new 5er and the new controller.
 

John From Detroit

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Davison Michigan
Several years ago I watched a Lucy Ball movie (and I'm sure someone will pop in with the name) where she and Desi are newly weds pulling a house trailer across the country to wherever.  I remember Desi giving her instructions for stopping which involved pulling the handle on the brake controller at the proper time.  I forget those instructions though

About this same time I was trying to date a young lady named Dixie, her father founded Tekonsha Trailers, Very nice girl, alas, it did not work out. (My fault, I was a bit shy back then)

They made horse trailers, but the brakes were a problem, so they designed what was, at the time, a revolution, an AUTOMATIC brake controller, you steped on the brake pedal in the "Tractor" (Towing vehicle) and it automatically applied the brakes in the towed.  NO more messing with that handle, though it was still there in case you wished to set the trailer brakes w/o setting the tractor brakes. (A very useful feature which still is used by SEMI drivers by the way)

About 15 or so years ago I had a chance to read a bit about Tekonsha Engineering (As the company is now called) and a classmate of mine, Terry Hampton of Hampton Amusements, was the CEO

Now the company is affilated with Bargman (Makers of lighting products and connectors, including the popular round trailer connector)

Now, thier products are still considered the best in the business. as for something you could bump and set the trailer brakes by accident... Not if it's properly mounted and you use the simple step of checking it.

This is not a "Bug" like your salesman (Who is only interested in selling HIS product) but a feature, a very useful feature as it turns out,  A good brake controller allows you to set the brakes fully, or partally (porportionally) it allows you to set them manually or automatically, it may or may not allow you to adjust the ratio of tractor to trailer braking, it will be progressive, that is the harder you brake the tractor, the harder the trailer brakes, and finally it may well allow you to disengage (disable) the automatic control of the trailer brakes (I'm not sure where that would be useful, but it may be there)

Tekonsha controllers incorporate most of these features, and are considered to be the cadillac line as it were, there are simply none better.

And that's not just because I'm from Tekonsha
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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I have the Prodigy. I find that when I am in the city in traffic, I have to adjust the unit to prevent the brakes from coming on so quick and hard (using the pot on the front-left side). Is this a normal behaviour? I had thought that this would not be required when I bought our new 5er and the new controller

No, it's not normal.  You probably have something out of adjustment, either the gain (total braking power) or the "attack" (how fast braking is applied).  Question: whathappens if you just leave it on your "city" setting at all times? Why are you turning up the pot again when you leave the city environment?

I no longer have a trailer, so I'll let some of the Prodigy owners here coach you on the set-up. Or use the owner manual to re-do the set-up process. Or go to a Tekonsha dealer and get it prefessionally set-up for your rig.
 

davidsimmonds

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Sep 17, 2005
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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I found out what the problem is. It's a user error. I need to swing the manual brake lever to the far left and then set the power level to 6.0. Then let go of the lever and drive the rig down a flat road at 25mph. Then I am to swing the lever to the left again and see how the trailer stops the truck (without applying truck brakes). If it stops too slowly, then I need to adjust the power level higher. If it locks up the trailer brakes, then I need to adjust the power level lower. After doing all of this, I just set the boost level (with a button) to no boost for city driving and set it to level 1 or 2 for non-city driving if necessary. The decelerometer will take care of all the rest.

All of this came from the tech support at Tekonsha.
 

elm_tx

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May 19, 2006
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106
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Houston, Tx
I talked to the shop today, they Brake Controller they sell is Draw-Tight.

Sounds like the Tekonsha is probably the best way to go. I really appreciate everyones input.

Thanks,
Eddie
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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David,

That's sort of what I remembered for the initial set-up procedure, but I couldn't remember any details.  Glad you were able to get it straightened out.  You sometimes need to fine tune the power level a little after a few trips, to get just the right balance, but the initial procedure should get it pretty close.  A common mistake is to try to get too much trailer braking, to make the truck + trailer stop quickly on trailer brakes alone. That's usually too much . Remember, you want the truck brakes to stop the truck and the trailer brakes to stop the trailer. That way the combination will be just right.
 

davidsimmonds

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Sep 17, 2005
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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Lots of things to get used to. We just got the trailer a few weeks ago and have only used it two weekends (I still have to work for a living; no travelling all the time yet; two kids still in high school). I suck at backing up so I need lots of practice. Not quite the same as a tent trailer. I have seen lots of tips here on how to do it. Mostly, just take your time and go slow.

I must say though, now that I have a 5er, I sure don't want to go back to anything else, especially tenting!
 

Shayne

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Jan 22, 2006
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elm---- many of us have been there, done that, and forgotten what we did.  Ut all comes with age and Rving.  What a great life,  Enjoy.
 

Jeff

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SD/AZ
davidsimmonds said:
The Long, Long Trailer, 1954

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047191/

Desi Arnaz made Robin Williams look like a pro! ;D
 

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