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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I pull my travel trailer with a Toyota Tundra that has a tow package. I was wondering even though it has the tow package, if I still need the add-on brake controller unit. I've pulled a loaded 16' flat bed trailer many times and haven't had any problems.

Steve
 

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What year is the truck? Usually a Tow PKG from the Factory is just a hitch, Trans cooler, heavy duty Alt and pre-wired for brake control which has to be added extra. If it isn't mounted somewhere already, then you need one.
 

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yeah, here is what I found on Toyota's web site.

TOW PACKAGE [3] -- Includes tow hitch receiver, trailer brake controller prewire, 4.300 rear axle ratio (4.100 on 4.6L V8), TOW/HAUL mode switch, transmission fluid temperature gauge, supplemental transmission cooler, engine oil cooler, 7-pin connector and heavy-duty alternator and battery.
 

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brake controller

I started towing with an old 64 Dodge half ton perhaps slightly heavier than your Tundra perhaps not, but it weighed 4600 lbs empty. I felt that it could probably safely pull AND stop my old 13 ft flatbed empty. Loaded with my 1500 lb tractor I didn't feel that confident so electric trailer brakes with a controller. I had a friend move a friend's small old travel trailer, probably 2500 lbs, without GOOD working brakes. Long story short when he crested a hill on I-5 in southern Oregon the trailer started to whip and going down hill without a independant brake control for the trailer his only choices were to use power to straighten it out, and going downhill at 50+ that wasn't an option so he hung on and shortly thereafter rolled the whole rig. Even my Dodge 2500 when I 'm pulling my little 10 ft flatbed I have brakes. People that cut corners with safety in my opinion are not only risking their safety but mine. Sorry if I sound like I 'm preaching but I strongly believe in towing safely. For the same logic I also believe if you're towing over 4000, depending on the size and weight of the tow vehicle, you should have an equalizing hitch to keep the tow vehicle well balanced.
 

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check your states rules/regulations, i bet your required to have brakes/controller on the trailer.

besides that, it makes stopping a lot safer. about 50 bucks and an hour labor for a cheap one that will get the job done is well worth it.

i can be as cheap as the next guy but if your gonna go, you gotta be able to stop....
 

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In California I believe any trailer 3,000 lbs and up needs a brake controller. Your location might vary, but don't wait for your state do dictate what you should be doing. A brake controller is a great idea because it adds more braking to your stops. For the price of the controller and if your trailer has the brakes to support it, by all means go get one!

Your Tundra has the connector but you need to buy and install the controller itself. All you need is to fasten a bracket, typically under the dash with a couple of screws, then snap the controller into the bracket. The controller's connector will plug right into the one installed via the tow package on the Tundra to provide power and the signals for it to work. Make sure you prefit it so it doesn't interfere with anything and you MUST be able to reach it and see it when driving.

Read the instructions on how to adjust it and as long as the trailer connector has the wire lead (with a tow package and the plug I would imagine this is taken care of). You will find that adjusting it will not stay forever. Weather and the condition of the trailer brakes will require you adjust the controller each time. You might not need to make a change but don't be surprised if you do.

In some vehicles (Chevy/GMC) the vehicle owner had to go get and install a fuse for the circuit but I have a feeling this is not the case for the Tundra. You should be ready to use it.

Do make sure your trailer has electric brakes, too, which is what this "controller" controls. If your trailer has hydraulics, then a different controller is needed, but I don't think this is your case, because hydraulics are typically used in larger and heavier applications.

Very good controllers can be as high as $80. A small price to pay for lots of extra safety and less wear and tear on the Tundra brakes. Without it the truck is doing ALL the braking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I was sort of putting two and two together, but came up with five. I thought/assumed that since pickups come with towing packages that they had some kind of brake controller somewhere. Anyway, you know hwat they say about assuming.

Steve
 

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some of the newer heavy duty trucks do have a brake controller as an option but i don't think any of the half tons do.

don't do what i did when i tried to move my controller to another truck without the directions. i tied it to the wrong wire, every time i turned on the right-turn signal, the trailer brakes would lock up every time the signal light would come on. for a few minutes, i didn't know what was going on...:rotflmao1:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
LOL! I bet that was a head scratcher. I think I saw that the new Fords (maybe even the F150s) come with a controller in the dash.

Steve
 

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Yes, Ford has what is called a Integrated Brake Controller and is typically listed along with an option called Tow Command. This is in addition to the Tow Package but at the factory they are put in at the same time. So while they are listed as separate options they are bundled together. Kinda like power windows and power locks. They are separate options but often "bundled" together.

This is now being offered with 1/2 ton F-150s but for some time just the Tow Package was installed and the closest thing to a brake controller was just the connector and the owner was required to purchase a separate brake controller which connected correctly and easily.

I believe the larger Chevys and GMCs now have an integrated brake controller offering.

Another assumption to avoid, is that a connector for a brake controller is included in a tow package. In this case wiring the controller into place might cause problems if connected to the wrong wires. I believe when using a "connector" these are standardized so that if a vehicle has one it will work correctly with all the brake controllers where the connectors have been standardized as well.

BobRussell describes one of these installations where the owner/installer must do the individual wiring. The wires include power, electrical brake, brake lights and a ground. You can guess that wiring these wrong can cause all kinds of problems. This is a big reason why this segment of the industry standardized and uses a "connector" jack. I think when Bob Russell used individual wiring the electrical brake was wired to the turn signal, oops.

Assume nothing, check everything and nobody gets hurt!
 

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We forgot to ask some details on the travel trailer. What kind of electrical connector is on the trailer? I mentioned you should check that the trailer has brakes but neglected how to tell.

Besides crawling under the trailer to check an easier way to do this is look at the connector that connects to your truck. The minimum connector on a trailer is a flat four pin connector. This means the trailer does not have electrical brakes. If the connector is 6 or 7 pin, then the chances are high that the extra pins are for a "brake" and the other is for a "hot" wire. If you have seven pins then this might include for "reverse".

The brake lead is usually blue and would be the one to connect for the brake controller to apply the trailer brakes when using a brake controller in your vehicle.

The hot wire is usually white and is a 12v lead for charging the trailer's battery systems.

If there is a reverse lead I've seen these in orange or some other color and this provides the power for the backup lights of the trailer and when the truck is in reverse (and the backup lights engaged), then the trailer's backup lights will be turned on, too. This is a nice feature but not all trailer's have it. I use a 7 pin connector on the truck and while my trailer also has a 7 pin connector, the reverse is not used.

In the case of the flat bed trailer you might only have a 4 wire connector providing turn signals, running lights, brake lights and the return ground. Since theses trailers are typically designed to weigh NO more than 3,000 lbs and an auxiliary brake system is not needed. This means the tow vehicle does ALL the braking for both it and the trailer.

Finally, if a flat bed or rental trailer (like most U-Hauls, etc.) will still have a 4 wire connector and still must carry more weight (>3,000 lbs). What is done in this case since many vehicles with a tow option still only have a 4 pin (not 6 or 7 pin) connector, these trailers will have what call an inertia brake system. These are mounted on the tongue with a device that senses movement (especially nosedive) and detects when the tow vehicle is slowing down, then automatically applies the trailer brakes accordingly.

Whatever the case, know what type of braking system is on your trailer:

- none (for lightweight trailers)
- inertia brakes - mounted on the trailer's tongue and operates independent of the tow vehicle.

or

- electrical brakes and requires corresponding wiring from the tow vehicle for applying the brakes by measuring the amount of pressure on the brake pedal to apply for adequate trailer braking and for also activating the trailer's brake lights.

Notice I am only covering my experiences with utility and recreational trailers. I am not covering the much more advanced hydraulic or air systems used with brakes. I haven't had to tow anything that large.

I hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
This is a lot of help. My trailer has a seven pin connector and of course my pickup does to. So I should be okay with just purchasing a brake controller...right?
 

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This is a lot of help. My trailer has a seven pin connector and of course my pickup does to. So I should be okay with just purchasing a brake controller...right?
Possibly - you will only tell after you install one. Case in point (actually two):

1. I moved my brake controller from a 2006 Suburban to a 2003 Dodge 2500. Went to Camping World, bought the cable for a Dodge (goes between the brake controller and the plug in next to the fuse box). When I hooked it up to the trailer - nothing. Got a technician to look at it - they had to run a separate ground wire for the controller (not a design flaw, just something wrong with my truck).

2. Got a 2010 F-250 with the integrated brake controller. First time I hook it up to the trailer - nothing. Took the truck to the dealer - there was some monster fuse under the hood for this that had blown. This was a used vehicle (had been a rental for some company), so it must have been that way before I bought it, because it hasn't blown since.

Now, back to the trailer. There should also be an emergency cable that you hook to your truck, so that it the trailer comes loose from the vehicle, the cable will pull a switch that will turn the trailer brakes on (using the trailer battery, so don't use this for parking, etc.).
 

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I forgot about that possibility that "happiestcamper" brings up to look for this small block near the trailer tongue for the emergency trailer brake. But this works independently of the tow vehicle when engaging if the trailer separates from the truck. The cable connected to the truck detaches at the trailer allowing the trailer's brakes to engage and help the trailer to stop.

I know of one person who removes their trailer's emergency cable when they store their trailer - they actually pull the cable out of the rectangular block (shouldn't take much force). He did this because he had heard these cables get stolen and a second benefit was that the trailer's brakes are permanently engaged and will prevent theft of the trailer.

I didn't do this because I don't believe there's all that much of a market for these things but maybe a prankster is involved. Nevertheless I don't believe that's a big issue. As for the trailer brakes being engaged, this would wear down my battery with the magnetics being engaged constantly and expect this to drain the battery and who knows what to the brakes over time.

Again the emergency trailer brakes do not come into play unless your trailer becomes detached (we hope that NEVER happens).

To answer your last question, I anticipate all you'll need is the brake controller, fasten it to your dash well within your reach, and all should work. To test it use a voltmeter with the negative lead on the ground pin of the seven pin connector and the positive lead connected to the brake pin on the seven pin connector. You'll need to locate the lead in the brake controller and trailer schematics. As a helper slowly depresses the brake pedal, you should see the voltage raise the further down the pedal is depressed. THEN test the trailer to learn how to adjust the "knob" that helps control how much voltage is needed from the truck to the trailer.

I'm starting to get carried away. Get the controller, install it and if you have any issues then let us know. I hope you have a lot to go on now. Good luck to you. You'll be glad you have it and your Tundra will even be happier not having to do all the braking work.
 
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