We depend on Anti-Lock-Brakes in our cars and trucks, why not in our trailers. Trailer braking is so important. Hydraulic disc brakes are dramatically more powerful than electric brakes. Now add ABS and you have the ultimate braking system for smooth and fast stopping on dry roads, mud, snow, ice, black ice and the fast side of mountains. I live near the mountains in Colorado and worry about my brakes on trailer trips. We have our share of high altitude steep highway grades and runaway ramps. It’s downhill you worry about. When I first heard there was a company offering ABS trailer brakes on “smaller than semi trailers without air brakes,” I got excited. My guess is big brother will probably require Anti-Lock-Brakes on all trailers at some point. This is the safer solution for ABS brakes for horse trailers, RV trailers, car trailers and construction trailers.
Electric trailer brakes are not known as the best solution, just the cheapest solution. I remember being tickled when Ford introduced the first 4 wheel disc brakes in the 1999 Super Duty model. Front disc brakes have been around for decades because of the improved braking ability and 4 wheel disc brakes completed the picture. I liked the rear ABS on trucks in the eighties. With rear ABS, the front was still full braking and the ABS rear brakes kept the truck braking straight. It stopped fast but you couldn’t steer the truck. 4 wheel ABS does allow you to steer and brake, but the braking is not as powerful.
DirecLink a product of Tuson RV Brakes, LLC, has 4 channel ABS trailer brakes. 4 channel means each wheel is independently controlled for brake application, tire traction and monitoring. One tire could be on ice, one tire on dry asphalt, one tire on gravel and one tire in a pot hole and all four would be braking differently. That’s as good as it gets for brakes. Smooth, powerful and fast, dramatically fast. Our tests showed you could almost double your braking force with hydraulic disc brakes verses electric drums. ABS on the trailer brakes increases driver confidence. You know in traffic, you try to be couscous and put some room in front of your truck and trailer. Then the cars cut in front of you and they hit their brakes, you don’t have enough
room for safe braking. With DirecLink ABS, you can use full brake controller gain with a smooth fast stop. Generally with auto’s the ABS will pulse 16 times per second, the pulsing (off and on with brake fluid pressure) can be as low as 5 times per second with DirecLink using ActuLink which is better braking. You have an initial pull and then skid with normal brakes, with DirecLink ABS, each pulse is a pull.
With very little hydraulic boost gap that is associated with some hydraulic brake systems, DirecLink already knows how hard your trucks braking and speed from your trucks computer thru the OBD-ll (on board diagnostic port, which is used by your mechanic to talk to the truck), other trailer brake controllers have to sense how hard you’re braking after you brake. Electric-hydraulic ABS trailer brakes can be used on a lighter trailer. Standard hydraulic brakes generally takes a heavier trailer as the powerful brakes can skid a light trailers tires. www.TusonRVBrakes.com
It starts with hydraulic disc brakes. You can convert your hydraulic trailer brakes you have now to ABS with a DirecLink controller, Tuson ActuLink actuator and ABS module. You can convert your electric brakes to hydraulic ABS disc brakes. Or you can order your new trailer with the complete system from a trailer factory.
The unique link from the trucks computers digital network communicates to the DirecLink brake controller to the ActuLink actuator to the ActuLink ABS module to apply the trailer brakes. Truck, trailer and brake controller communicating for diagnosis and braking speed management. You want the trailer wheels turning during braking, just slower giving rolling resistance. If the tires lock up, they just drag and are skidding not braking. The flat spot on a tire that’s been skidded to a lockup ruins the ride and the tire, it would take thousands of miles on the trailer to wear the flat spot down. By then your horses and you will need therapy.
My test trailer is a Logan Coach Maverick 2 horse gooseneck with a 5 ft. short wall LQ. With heavy steel horse expo displays on board, it weighs just under 10,000 lbs with water tanks full. First we replaced my worn electric brakes with new brake assemblies, which gives us new wires, new shoes, springs magnets etc. This makes for a fair test as the hydraulic disc brakes will be new.
We burnished (30 times 30 mph 30 %) the new brakes, so we were ready for the brake test at the Bandimere Speedway in the foothills at Morison Colorado. We used a measurement wheel for time and distance which was wired to a counter and then wired to our in cab laptop. We did 3 runs per test and averaged the distance. We tested the trailer brakes on Bandimere straight track for feel and ABS ability on the quarter mile track that was glazed over with spent race car tire rubber. Our distance test was on the track return asphalt road. We accelerated to 60 mph on the smoothest, level part of the road. The wind was slight at over a mile above sea level at the base of the Rockies.
Why you need hydraulic brakes
Hydraulic disc brakes are plumbed in, like your truck with steel tubing and rubber hoses. It’s a hydraulic hose at your trailer wheel, not a wire bouncing with your axle. We’re all familiar with the “wire problem” junction boxes, wire connection corrosion. several connections to get to the brake magnet in the wheel. Hydraulics’ are more reliable. I’ve never heard anyone bragging about how good their electric brakes are, but they are cheaper.
Hydraulic disc brakes, self adjust, are dramatically more powerful, pads are cheaper to replace and faster. You don’t have to take the rotor off to change pads. There’s a reason modern cars and pickup trucks have gone from drums to disc brakes, even high end RV coaches have gone to disc brakes. What you won’t find is an auto with electric magnet drum brakes or any vehicle that transport humans.
At slow speeds, (30 mph) electric brakes do well, hydraulic brakes do better at higher road speeds (60 mph.) Electric brakes alone aren’t much. They need help from the truck. Hydraulic brakes on the other hand are powerful by themselves. Disc brakes are vented for cooling. Disc pads are cheaper than electric drum shoes. www.TusonRVBrakes.com
Why you need a better trailer brake controller.
DirecLink trailer brake controller works with electric drum brakes as well electric-hydraulic actuators. It automatically detects the type of trailer brake you hookup. DirecLink doesn’t have to be installed level. Instead of sensing what your trailer is doing, DirecLink reads the data network of your trucks computer. This constant communication, networks the truck, brake controller and trailer brakes for instant reaction for trailer braking. True proportional braking. DirecLink knows truck speed, so when you’re stopped you’re not running high amps to the brakes. DirecLink monitors wire connections, and warns the driver of any problems making it a great trailer brake controller by itself.
Picture left, ActuLink actuator with 1.1 liter fluid reservoir, puts out 1600 psi. How it works; electric hydraulic actuator, pump and motor, electronic board, input output pressure and return line to ABS module. When the ABS pulses, it releases the brake pressure so you have to have a return line for a closed loop. Four independent hydraulic lines come out of the module, 4 channel, each wheel senses and reacts independently, pulses separately. Tone rings inside the brake rotors enable wheel sensors to monitor each wheels speed. As wheel comes down in speed nearing lockup, ActuLink module releases pressure and re-applies to keep each tire at maximum rolling resistance for maximum traction. Fluid level sensor in reservoir displays on DirecLink, if fluid is low or is out, you get that warning. DirecLink Brake Controller plugs into the Control Module which plugs into normal 4 wire trailer tow package harness and OBD-ll port both under the dash.
It doesn’t just pulse, it monitors wheel speed, monitors deceleration and acceleration for optimal levels. You won’t flat spot your tires with hard braking, so your tires last longer. The ABS pulsing of the trailer tires stops 10% shorter on dry pavement and 20% shorter on wet pavement than skidding the tires in full lock-up without ABS. It also keeps the trailer directly behind the truck, preventing trailer slide-out.
DirecLink controller doesn’t have an accelerometer, so it doesn’t have to be installed level like most of brake controllers. The controller is easy to install, plug it in, start your truck, touch brakes and it powers up, finding the vehicle brand (GM, Ford, Ram, Toyota and Nissan) network automatically. Goes to brake scale if it shows green OK, ready to go, connected to truck, connected to trailer. For town, low speed brake setting, adjusts minus 5 to plus 5 just once. On GM and Ford the DirecLink will also give you transmission temp. As fast as the truck hydraulic sensor used in some trailer brake controllers.
Hydraulic brakes are powerful, dramatically more than electric brakes. But it takes some weight to control it. A light trailer will lock up the brakes with hydraulic discs. But with DirecLink, it doesn’t lock up, so can use it on any trailer. Much safer for empty as well as loaded trailers. 5 ABS pulses per second most auto’s are 16 but 5 will give you more road contact thus more braking.
Data and diagnostics
DirecLink has power and ground from both directions. Most brake controller can loose power from trailer and they are dead. DirecLink does diagnostics, black wire, low voltage, DL mode, direct link, digital message back and forth. black wire voltage is low, when you fixed problem, it will tell you. Ground is a problem with most brake controllers, with DirecLink, it will tell you if open ground, blue wire short, trailer harness worn through etc.
Red warning and beep from the DirecLink controller; will switch from network mode to PWM conventional mode if the connection is bad. It tries to always have working brakes even with a poor connection. Other things you can use, truck battery charging, brake voltage, temperature sensor for electric brakes, amps thru the blue wire, actuator temperature, will still pulse but controls temperature, so the controller doesn’t get damaged, power save mode, truck RPM, MPH. Has actuator data like, voltage drop, bad ground, real time test for wire integrity. fluid level OK, low or out, shorted or not connected.
But wait there’s more, actuator temperature, vehicle battery and trailer battery volts, abs diagnostics, checks wheel sensor, pressure transducer, with manual override, you can see brake pressure which can tell you if you have air in the system. With the fault screens, you can find, by slowly building pressure, the exact problem, call Tuson and they can assist in diagnosing your exact problem with help from the screen display.
DirecLink controller can tell if you have a flat tire (smaller tire spins faster), it will tell you “right front tire low.” Tire pressure monitor is coming in the future. The emergency breakaway cable is wired to the ActuLink actuator. It will apply your trailer brakes for about 20 minutes with a charged battery.
Electric Drum Brakes
Hydraulic Disc Brakes with ABS
Road Simulator at Transwest Truck Trailer RV to measure brake force.
Trailer Brake Results
First two brake tests with a gooseneck trailer below at Bandimere Speedway by MrTruck.com, our test dummies drive faster
Our first series of tests is with the brake controller only. This makes the trailer brakes do all the work with no discrepancy between whether the truck or the trailer is doing more braking. When ran each series of tests for 3 or more runs and averaged the distance. I used an external digital thermometer with laser pointer to monitor the heat of the brakes, allowing time to cool off between runs by idling the rig in low gear back to the starting position at Bandimere Speedway. We used two trailer brake controllers, DirecLink and Prodigy. DirecLink is the only controller with ABS capability. We also used two actuators, Tuson’s ActuLink with ABS and Carlisle Actuator.
Two tests below conducted by Tuson RV Brakes with a bumper pull trailer
For more ABS trailer brake info; Tuson RV Brakes, LLC www.DirecLink.com
Thanks to Transwest Truck Trailer RV for the Road Simulator testing and use of their state of the art shop.