Trailer brakes on ~1,200 lb pop up

Discussion in 'Tires / Brakes / Bearings / Axles' started by popupmtber, Apr 9, 2018.

  1. popupmtber

    popupmtber Member

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    Apr 4, 2018
    One of my first posts here, and my first since getting a pop up this weekend. This site is a great resource, still pouring over all of it.

    Purchased a 2002 Coleman Taos yesterday and brought her home. Specs say 1,175 lbs, and it's got the AC unit on the roof (not sure if I'll ever actually use it). Electric brakes were standard, and are still on the camper - but prior owner cut/disconnected the wiring for them (possibly trying to circumvent state law, see below) Tow vehicle is a RAV4, which is speced to be able to tow up to 1,500 lbs. Last year I installed a flat four wiring harness on the RAV for a small utility trailer. Trailer has been converted to a 7 blade. Ordered a Hopkins 47185 adapter, and used it for the drive home - but without the extra three wires connected to anything.

    Long story short - what's my best course of action? Tow vehicle has no trailer braking stuff installed currently. Low weight trailer has brakes on axle (no idea of their condition), with incomplete wiring currently. Virginia state law states, and I quote - "trailers having an actual gross weight of less than 3,000 pounds are not required to be equipped with brakes; however, if brakes are installed, these vehicles must be inspected" (so I'd have to have the trailer inspected, and in order to pass the brakes must be operational - but doesn't say anything about them having to be utilized....at least that's how I'm reading it). Would rather not have to get it inspected annually if I can help it. Don't currently plan on using the trailer that often, but who knows. Some hilly roads in area, but not the rockies by any means.

    Sounds like either is uninstall the brakes (what prior owner may have been trying to do, but they're still there best I can tell)......or get the brakes in a working condition and get trailer inspected annually. If option 2, what's the best case total cost of doing so? Buddy of mine suggested installing 4 pin flat on trailer (no wiring at all for brakes and other stuff)....then if ever pulled over play dumb and say I never knew the trailer even had brakes to install, this is how I got it. Thanks.
     
  2. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

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    Apr 24, 2017
    Maplewood, MN
    IMHO, I would try to get the trailer brakes working. They make a huge difference for emergency stopping. The cost of getting them working is far less than the cost of repairs after an accident. I would venture to guess that the cost is even less than your insurance deductible.
     
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  3. giadiep

    giadiep Active Member

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    Syracuse, NY
    Whenever I have brought my HTT to a place for inspection, they look at me like I am stupid. Only RV places inspect them regularly, but all they do is look it over and check the lights, connect a power source to the brakes to check if they are working, and pull the emergency break-away switch. Basically, I get it inspected every couple of years, but don't bother on a yearly basis.

    I do believe that getting the brakes working is a good idea. It helps tremendously if you have to stop suddenly and it will take some of the wear and strain off of your tow vehicle.
     
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  4. SteveP

    SteveP Active Member

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    May 21, 2015
    I hate to be the first to tell you this, but with a driver and an ice chest in the Rav4 you are overloaded. Base weight of the trailer, 1175, + the weight of the air conditioner, 90, + 20 lb propane bottle, 40, + g24 battery, 40 = 1345 lbs before you even put a sleeping bag in the trailer. You will definitely need those brakes fixed and functional.
     
  5. jnc

    jnc Welcome from New Hampshire

    I will add that if you ever have the trailer start to sway applying the trailer brakes alone is the fastest & easiest way to stop it. For this reason alone it is worth the effort to have trailer brakes.
     
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  6. popupmtber

    popupmtber Member

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    Apr 4, 2018
    Thanks for all the replies. Sounds like going with getting the brakes functional (which they may currently be, I don't know and currently have no way to find out) is the way to go. With that said - can someone help me with the "soup to nuts" description of what would be needed to accomplish this? I see two wires from each brake (one blue, one white), they get tied together two wires enter frame right above axle (actually, looks like another white wire gets linked in there too - ground perhaps?). I assume the wires then go directly to the tongue, where there looks to be a disconnected break away unit as well. It does look to get fed into the square 6 plug, which is then adapted to a 7 blade with a ~3' cable. Not sure what seller meant when she said they "disconnected the brakes", maybe just meant they never used them? So that would connect to the 7 blade vehicle plug's blue wire, which gets connected to a brake controller I assume (any recommendations given vehicle and trailer - keeping costs down if possible?). What does that get connected to so that it knows to apply brakes? If I was able to install the 4 flat in the RAV, is installing a brake controller doable for me?

    Yes, prior owner never got it inspected.

    Also a bit concerned about weight as prior poster pointed out. It's the smallest pop up that Coleman made, so it was my only real option. All work done to it will be done with the thought of keeping weight down. Currently no battery is in trailer, propane tank that was included is empty. I'll see if I can find a scale around to officially get it weighed so I know what I'm starting with. Wont get used a ton, and can borrow a family member's Toyota Tacoma if we want (which currently has no hitch or wiring - so also adds to my above questions about how far do I go with this), and my next vehicle will definitely have more towing capability (2019 RAV4 Adventure can do up to 3,500).
     
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  7. SteveP

    SteveP Active Member

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    You need to get to know etrailer.com. AFIK the best source of parts on the web, they also provide expert advice and installation videos. If anyone can point you to a video of a brake controller install on a Rav4 they can. Watch a couple of installation videos and decide if you want to tackle it.

    Most people here will recommend a Tekonsha controller and I'll recommend their Voyager as the most cost effective choice. You definitely want a proportional controller, rather than the cheaper time delay controllers.

    You'll also need a breakaway kit with a battery. Hit up etrailer for an install video for this also.

    And you need to think about weight reduction. I'd recommend removing the air conditioner and replacing it with a roof vent. You'll need the 14x14 size. If the ac works you should get $200 to $300 for it on craigslist and if it doesn't work there's no sense hauling that weight anyway.

    You can also downsize the propane to a 10 or even 5 pound cylinder. I don't think anyone exchanges the smaller cylinders so you would have to get them refilled. Unless you're running a heater you can probably run that little trailer for a day on a 1 pound bottle from Walmart with a steak saver. It would be more efficient with the bottle connected to a regular camp stove.

    Another place to easily lose weight is the dinette table. Ours wasn't comfortable and we never used it so we put it in storage. We use a piece of 12 x 24 inch shelving from Home Depot as an end table for our, now, sofa.
     
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  8. crackerJack

    crackerJack Active Member

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    Jan 6, 2014
    Scottsville, KY
    Before you go tearing apart the camper and rebuilding brakes, take it out for a drive.
    Is the TV and the camper level when hooked up or is there a sag in the middle? How does it stop? Does it sway at highway speeds.
    Try it out.
    Trailer brakes are great. They are safer. I love mine. But I wouldn’t cancel a short distance trip if they were not working.
     
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  9. davido

    davido Active Member

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    Towing a 1300 pound trailer with no brakes behind an F-150? Sure. Go for it. Towing the same trailer behind a RAV4? Get the brakes working -- it will improve your safety, and will reduce wear and tear on the vehicle's brakes.
     
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  10. popupmtber

    popupmtber Member

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    Apr 4, 2018
    Thanks for all the great advice. Wife and I worked up three "phases" of projects for the camper, and have them posted on a board in the kitchen (so we don't forget about our little project). Good call on the AC - if it doesn't work (and it's not a super easy fix), it's gone which will reduce overall weight, roof weight (making cranking it up easier), as well as improve viability when towing (it's right in the way of seeing if anyone is directly behind you). Will also remove empty propane tank (and stove) for now (propane work is phase 2/3 anyway) to save some weight, and see what other easy reductions I can make this weekend. The original dinette table wasn't included, so that's one less thing right there.

    The only trip it's been on thus far was from seller ~20 miles back to my house, and I never got it above ~40 mph on that trip. Before towing it again we'd like to get all "phase 1" stuff done which include wheel bearing work, testing brakes (neighbor has truck with 7 blade and brake controller - can't I lift one wheel off ground, spin it by hand, then use brake controller to test?), testing AC unit and other plugs/lights and a good cleaning. I'll look about trailer and hitch height and sag after all that's done - it seems pretty level initially but I didn't give it a hard look. Will also get very friendly with etrailer.

    Also, any sense doing anything to the RAV4 to possibly improve towing capability? Possibly a separate transmission cooler? I drain and fill the tranny every Spring (which swaps about ~3.5 quarts of the ~12 qt. capacity. Every other year I also drop the pan and change the filter, which gets you another ~1 qt out for a total of 4.5qt of the 12qt total. I'm not hard on the RAV at all, treat it very well, but I understand I'm testing it's limits with this trailer.
     
  11. SteveP

    SteveP Active Member

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    May 21, 2015
    You can do this with your breakaway switch if you have a small 12 volt battery you can use. Hook the loose wire from the switch to the battery + and run a temporary ground from the battery - to the frame. Spin the wheel and pull the breakaway cable out. To see if it's a faulty switch tap into the wire from the switch to the axle for the battery + and just tap the ground cable to the battery -. However, testing using your friends controller would verify that all the wiring, including the plug, is intact.
    I would definitely add a trans cooler before towing very far, or into any hilly areas, and double up on your tranny maintenance schedule, replace the filter every year, instead of every other. If you have enough ground clearance, you might want to add a high capacity pan with a magnetic drain plug at your next change. The magnetic plug will trap any metal filings in the fluid and give you a visual indicator of tranny wear at the next service. Its also not a good idea to tow in overdrive, keep it in a lower gear if possible.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2018
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  12. popupmtber

    popupmtber Member

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    Apr 4, 2018
    Thanks for the tips. Might do a Spring and Fall tranny flush and fill at this point. The Rav's factory drain pan has 3 little magnets built in to get all the metal filings - and I've not found a deeper high capacity pan that would fit the Rav. Hadn't heard that tip about overdrive, thanks.
     
  13. Rusty2192

    Rusty2192 Active Member

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    Jul 30, 2014
    Kentucky
    My pup is a similar weight. I chose to add brakes to it for peace of mind. They really do help a ton with emergency braking.

    I used this kit from etrailer to easily convert the 4-way to 7. It comes with just about everything you need to add the wiring for brakes and a charge line from your battery. I paired it with a Tekonsha Primus IQ controller.

    https://www.etrailer.com/Accessories_and_Parts/etrailer/ETBC7.html

    I also added in a battery isolator relay that cuts power on the charge line when the van isnt running. That way I don’t have to worry about killing the battery.
     
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  14. popupmtber

    popupmtber Member

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    Apr 4, 2018
    Yeah, I got a similar adapter (just the actual 4 way to 4 or 7 way - not all the extra stuff that I'll have to get separately). Will be testing the brakes this weekend - both by the breakaway switch currently there, as well as with neighbor's truck which has a brake controller.
     
  15. mpking

    mpking Active Member

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    Jun 17, 2014
    Raynham, MA
    No one seemed to answer your question on how brakes work.
    Most of this comes from etrailer.com
    https://www.etrailer.com/faq-wiring.aspx

    The emergency Break-away requires a battery to function. Most Camper's utilize the Camper Battery for this. You can also utilize a dedicated Breakaway battery. The dedicated option might be for you if you plan on removing the battery from the camper.

    A brake controller provides a breaking signal to the 7 pin connector. This is typically a blue wire.

    You can see on Diagram 1, the blue wire goes all the way direct to brakes. It's spliced, and connected to one of the magnet leads. The other lead goes to ground. It usually doesn't matter which is which.

    Diagram 1:
    [​IMG]

    Diagram 2 explains how the emergency breakaway switch is wired. It's designed so that if the camper separates from your car, the cable pulls out, which cause 12volts from the onboard battery to be sent to the trailer brakes, hopefully causing to to come to a stop very quickly.

    Diagram 2:
    [​IMG]


    Make sense?
     
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  16. popupmtber

    popupmtber Member

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    Apr 4, 2018
    Very much, thank you! It has some brake wiring already, but I don't know what works and what doesn't. I believe it has a break away switch but not break away box. I'll look more this evening.
     
  17. Fbird

    Fbird Active Member

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    Sep 10, 2017
    Ferndale MI
    for the trans, install a cooler and get the system flushed every 60,000 miles. a flush will change all the fluid including the garbage that's in the torque converter if its done properly. i'm not going to say it will increase the towing capacity but it will definitely improve reliability.
     
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  18. popupmtber

    popupmtber Member

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    Apr 4, 2018
    Yup, right there with you on all of this. On the RAV, I do a "flush and fill" where you open the drain plug at the tranny pan and you can empty about 3.5 qt of old fluid out (of a system that has about 10 qts best I can tell). I do that every Spring. It's not a full and complete flush, but it's also easy to do for a DIY. Once out of factory warranty, I might pull the return line and do an official full DIY flush and fill (start car and let 1-2 qt flow out of return line, turn off car and fill that amount back in new fluid at dipstick and repeat till fresh new fluid comes out of return line). Looking into aux cooler options for it as well - but first will test tow it a few times to see how hot the tranny fluid actually gets (have an OBD2 scanner tool and a smartphone app that reads two different tranny fluid temp sensors). Thanks for the insight.
     

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