Installing a Brake Controller

Discussion in 'Shop Talk' started by Tango, Jun 10, 2005.

  1. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    My horse trailer salesman told me the installation of a brake controller was very easy to do. My two previous pick ups have had one but this one doesn't and needs it. I took it to the dealer the other day and they quoted me $300 for the brake controller, and installation. That's the highest I've ever heard. Is the installation really simple enough that I could do it myself or was that salesman hype? I can get a controller for around $100 - $120.
     
  2. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

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    On older vehicles brake controllers are easy to install. Now a newer vehicle with anti-loc brakes might be a different story. I'm not familiar with installation on newer trucks and I know that many now come from the factory with controllers because of all of the problems from people installing them after they buy the truck.
    I would do a search for prices on trailer brake controllers and find the most popular brands and compare prices. Then contact the company and I'm sure they will tell you about the proper installation of their controller on your particular truck. travel trailer forums are also a good place to look. on my Old 81 Ford it probably took 1/2 hr. to put the controller on and the hardest part was running the wire from the controller to the plug at the back of the truck. On my Suburban the wires were already there so it was even easier.
     

  3. cfabe

    cfabe Well-Known Member

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    $300 seems a bit high. What is the truck? Many of the newer ones come pre-wired for a brake controller so all you have to do is buy the proper harness and plug it in.
     
  4. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

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    Does your vehicle have anti-lock brakes? That is the first thing to determine. If yes ignore the rest of this post.

    The activator is engagued by brake fluid pressure that is gained from the master cylinder, you need to splice in a line from the master cylinder to the control box which is mounted in your cab. This line carries fluid which pushes an electronic switch to add more electrical currant to the wire that activates the trailer brake. The harder you push the petal, the more brakeing power is transfered to the trailer brake. This can also be accomplished by useing the hand portion of the cab mounted control box, seperate of useing the brake petal.

    If you feel comfortable doing your own mechanical work, have at it. But if you have no experience doing these things, it is best left to others. It involves drilling and mounting the control box under your dashboard, splicing in brake lines, running wires to the rear of the vehicle, attaching the wire into the transfer connector; bleeding the brake system, adjusting the trailer brakes to equalize their grabbing ability, mounting the wire where it will not get pinched, and more yet.
     
  5. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    It is a 2003 GMC Sierra and yes on the anti-lock brakes :( I'll check the manual to see if it is pre-wired. I remember the salesman said something about wired about towing readiness but not sure if that included the brake controller. Thanks for your help guys :)
     
  6. shelbynteg

    shelbynteg Well-Known Member

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    I just put one in, I purchased it over the internet for around $100. I went to
    www.etrailer.com and found both instructions and a wiring harness for my particular vehicle. Turns out mine was pre-wired for the controller. I say give it a try. Uhaul also has pretty reasonable prices on installing trailer 'stuff', you might give them a call.

    Good Luck
     
  7. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    Thanks :) I read the manual and my truck is pre-wired also. Called the dealer and they told me to look for the harness beside the spare tire. Now I just need to call them back to find out if that means I don't need to install the actual controller. :confused: In my next life I'd like to be a little more mechanically inclined :bash: Thanks for the link.
     
  8. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ..................Tango , the Controller will be mounted Under the dash of your vehicle , either right <or>left of the Steering column . Most controllers will have 4 wires to connect TO . If your vehicle is already wired for a Brake controller , the Mfger has already run a Group of 4 or 5 wires from under the Dash and ALL the way back to the rear bumper area of your vehicle . This plugin on your van will be what the power cable FROM the Trailer will Plug INto . All the Controller really does is sense when you've started applying your vehicle brake(s) AND THEN , it , in turn starts applying the Brakes on the trailer you're pulling . A good conntroller shouldn't cost more than a 100 bucks and the mounting and connection shouldn't cost more than ANother 100 bucks . 300 is just TOO high given the fact that your vehicle is ALready wired by the Mfger . fordy.. :)
     
  9. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

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    son bought a controler for his (actuly mine) trailer, and it is a new type that doesnt splice in to any of the brake lines it has a inerisha sensor in the controler, and you hook up a hot wire and one to the brake light and to the trailer I think very slick

    when breaking the brake light tells it to feed the brake sensor and the weight in the controler says how much, works very well, and very easy to wire, I dont think it cost him over $100, there are a few adjustment you make after instaling to get the sensor in a level plain, and then the agressiveness of the brakes,
     
  10. unioncreek

    unioncreek Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The newer pedulum type controllers are way better than the old type you spliced into the brake line. I have a 96 Dodge 2500 with the Cummins, auto tranny and anti locking rear brakes. I have had no trouble and in fact pulled a triple axle trailer with a 5 ton Cat crawler on it without any problems.

    Bobg
     
  11. cfabe

    cfabe Well-Known Member

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    Tango, we have a 2003 3/4 ton suburban (same chassis as yours) to tow a 31 foot camper. Ours came with the trailer wiring package, and it included the hitch receiver and the 7-pin trailer connector in the back already wired in. If yours is the same, all you need to do is buy a brake controller and also order the proper harness for your truck, no hooking up wires or messing with brake lines required. The harness will plug right in to a connector just above the fusebox under the drivers side dashboard, and plug into the back of the brake controller. You may also need to install a fuse in the underhood fusebox if you need power to the trailer to keep the backup battery charged.

    We used the Tekonsha prodigy which is very highly reccomended on the RV forums, and it's performed great so far. It's a little over $100, I believe.

    If you need more information check in the forums at rv.net, lots of people there towing with these trucks.
     
  12. idahodave

    idahodave Well-Known Member

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    Another good source for info on newer Chevy trucks is at: http://www.chevytalk.org/threads/postlist.php?Cat=0&Board=UBB11

    You can buy the cable from a dealer, but it's expensive. After market brake controllers usually have a cable available for pre-wired trucks.

    Prior to 2003 GM supplied a cable with the truck if it had a pre-wired connector, but stopped in 2003. Make sure you get the right cable as the plug wiring changed in 2003.

    If you need battery power to the trailer, it's wired, but a fuse needs to be added under the hood see: http://www.chevyavalanchefanclub.co...ard=19;action=display;threadid=16375;start=20

    Dave
     
  13. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

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    On a 1993 you will have a harness at the back near the hitch/spare/frame rail. It will just be a pack of wires with no ends. You will then have to install a trailer plug in and wire this harness to it. Under the hood near the master cyl. there will be a red and a purple wire rolled up and taped off. These are the wires for your brake controller feed to the rear and an auxillary 12v feed to the rear. these will run all the way back to the wires in the back that you found. The red wire is only used if you want to run a continuous 12v to the trailer connector to possibly run lights in your trailer or charge the onboard battery on your trailer. The purple wire will have to be run through the firewall and to the brake controller that you purchase.
    Even with the antilock brake system you have installing a totally electric controller will be no problem. I have installed them on these exact vehicles with no problem and probably the whole job takes less than an hour done right. The only part of the brakes you will be tapping into is the brake lamp wire to get a signal for the controller. I would not advise using a controller that taps into your hydraulic brake system. I don't know if they still make them but they used to be the norm. The electronic controllers are very reliable, easy to adjust and simple to install. Any chain auto parts store like Advance or AutoZone will stock a decent brake controller. I have one from Advance on my pickup and it works fine. I believe it is a Draw-tite brand. Tekonsha is one of the oldest and best known brake controller companies and their best controller the Prodigy is only $125.
     
  14. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

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    One more thing. If you install the controller be sure to fuse it. On the right (passenger) side of your firewall there will be a place to access current to feed your controller. When you tap in at the terminal for power install an inline fuse or circuit breaker to protect the system. I have seen many installed with no protection, and I have seen many needlessly connected directly to the battery usually causing battery connection problems.
     
  15. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    Thanks everyone. I took it to a trailering shop and had them do it. It would have been cheaper to do myself but at least these guys didn't try to rip me off like the dealer did. I was charged $151 for controller, harness (which was missing from my truck) and installation. I'm spread toot hinly right now to do it all myself but it sure does sound easy. Don't know why ittook them 45 minutes to do it.