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Discussion Starter #1
My truck came equipped with a trailer brake controller and I'm about to buy an 18 foot car hauler type trailer. When I pick up the trailer for the first time should I put in some gain ahead of time? Like a 1 or 2 setting or leave it on 0 while empty and towing it home? I've read how and watched videos on how to set it and you need to be driving with the trailer to do it. The trailer dealer is on a very busy highway and I doubt I can do the setup until I get near my house. When normally towing I'll have about a 3,000 lb tractor on it.
 

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If there is any paved parking area when you pick up the trailer then I think it should be enough room to adjust the gain. I usually set it for just short of locking up the trailer tires with a full squeeze of the brake control override.
 

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There are various how-to instructions online for setting your brake controller to the trailer. The gist of it is that you want the trailer to be able to stop the tow vehicle from like 15 mph (flat ground, paved) without locking the trailer tires when you use the controller switch alone. What setting you use will obviously vary with each trailer but also with the current weight of cargo on the trailer. An unloaded trailer doesn't need as much gain as a loaded one or you'll be skidding the tires.

Rob
 

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If there is any paved parking area when you pick up the trailer then I think it should be enough room to adjust the gain. I usually set it for just short of locking up the trailer tires with a full squeeze of the brake control override.
That’s exactly what I do also - only have to roll forward around 10’-20’ and mash it. If he needs to back up a couple times so be it.

Either that or leave it at zero until you find the first big parking lot and adjust it then.
 

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My truck came equipped with a trailer brake controller and I'm about to buy an 18 foot car hauler type trailer. When I pick up the trailer for the first time should I put in some gain ahead of time? Like a 1 or 2 setting or leave it on 0 while empty and towing it home? I've read how and watched videos on how to set it and you need to be driving with the trailer to do it. The trailer dealer is on a very busy highway and I doubt I can do the setup until I get near my house. When normally towing I'll have about a 3,000 lb tractor on it.

A good point to start out with is around 5 or 6 or about the mid point of the available settings. Every controller is a little different. Each trailer is also different, so there is no specific setting. DO NOT set it to zero as you will have NO braking. Second thing to remember is that a loaded trailer requires a higher setting. Usually you can bump it up about 2 points when loaded until you can figure out what works best for you. Another thing you need to watch out for:::: I bought a new 20ft aluminum car hauler trailer in 2014. No brakes. I had to "burn in" the brakes to get them to work. That required me to use max gain and drive around with a load on it while applying the brakes manually often for about a half hour.

Dave
 

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Looking at the original post, I believe that you already know how to set a brake controller.

Your question is that since there is no safe spot to perform the setting when you pick up the new trailer, you want advice on whether to leave the controller at zero, or to dial in some specific setting before driving off the lot into heavy traffic to pull your new trailer home.

And my advice is to leave it at zero.

If you dial in some arbitrary number, it may be too high, and you run the risk of locking up your trailer brakes the first time you stop in heavy traffic, and that may lead to being rear ended or causing an accident. I'd prefer that not happen, if I were in your place.

Enjoy the new trailer!:thumbup1gif:
 

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My truck came equipped with a trailer brake controller and I'm about to buy an 18 foot car hauler type trailer. When I pick up the trailer for the first time should I put in some gain ahead of time? Like a 1 or 2 setting or leave it on 0 while empty and towing it home? I've read how and watched videos on how to set it and you need to be driving with the trailer to do it. The trailer dealer is on a very busy highway and I doubt I can do the setup until I get near my house. When normally towing I'll have about a 3,000 lb tractor on it.
Since you are bringing it home empty and I am going to guess you have a truck that can handle the size of trailer you can put minimal gain in it and then adjust it on the way home. What does the trailer weigh empty? For that size, I am going to guess around 2 to 2.5k depending on what it is made of. Your truck brakes should handle that but you will have increased braking distances. I have adjusted many a trailer gain on the fly, really no big deal.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Thanks for the input so far guys. I have a 2013 Chevy Avalanche with the factory towing package. This will be my first trailer owned other than boat trailers I've had in the past. At least the first trailer with brakes anyway. I've towed U-hauls before but they don't count since they have their own built in brake systems.

The trailer I'm getting is a "Down to Earth" (brand name here) 18 ft car hauler. Has two 3500 lb axles with brakes on both. The bed is PT wood. The website doesn't give a weight of the trailer so I'm guessing around 2k lbs.
 

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With my 2016 f250 and 20’ empty car trailer, I have to have the brake controller set at 0 or the trailer wheels will lock . With a light load I set it at 1 or 2.
 

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My truck came equipped with a trailer brake controller and I'm about to buy an 18 foot car hauler type trailer. When I pick up the trailer for the first time should I put in some gain ahead of time? Like a 1 or 2 setting or leave it on 0 while empty and towing it home? I've read how and watched videos on how to set it and you need to be driving with the trailer to do it. The trailer dealer is on a very busy highway and I doubt I can do the setup until I get near my house. When normally towing I'll have about a 3,000 lb tractor on it.
JeffB's method is pretty spot on (IMHO) if you're able to find a short piece of roadway. While the best thing to do is run the trailer a little and hit the brake a few times (to warm them and be sure they're operating smoothly), you can do it "cold" too. Once the trailer is connected up, let go of the foot brake and squeeze the manual brake control. That will give you an idea right there if you have any braking power or not. Since it's a trailer dealer, the lot should have some space where you can back up 50', roll forward and adjust, and repeat if needed be.

Typically, once the brakes are in operation, you end up needing another click or two of gain (when they're cold, they will lock the wheels more easily in my experience). While you could likely drag it home without any gain and be fine, I would give it a shot. Even if you have to give a quick test on the on-ramp...

Too little gain is better than too much, especially with an empty trailer. You'll need to set the gain each time you connect and each time the cargo changes. But, you'll get an idea of the right area to be in with some practice.
 

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Empty trailer = 0 to .5 setting. No need to drag the trailer down the road with no load and tires squealing. Loaded with tractor you will have to test it out as most have said, each controller is different. Your truck as plenty of braking power to stop your unloaded trailer.
 

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Empty trailer = 0 to .5 setting. No need to drag the trailer down the road with no load and tires squealing. Loaded with tractor you will have to test it out as most have said, each controller is different. Your truck as plenty of braking power to stop your unloaded trailer.
As is each truck and each trailer. There is no "one size fits all" for gain settings.

On my controller (GM integrated), I use a gain of 3 when my equipment trailer is empty. Less than that and my truck is responsible for stopping itself AND the 2500 lbs of the trailer. Talk about premature break wear on the tow vehicle!
 

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As is each truck and each trailer. There is no "one size fits all" for gain settings.

On my controller (GM integrated), I use a gain of 3 when my equipment trailer is empty. Less than that and my truck is responsible for stopping itself AND the 2500 lbs of the trailer. Talk about premature break wear on the tow vehicle!
Yep agreed. I forgot to mention I was using the similar trailer the OP is using. Obviously larger trailers require more gain empty or loaded.
 

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After owning many trailers with electric brakes for many years...... Here is what I do..... When setting the gain, you should attach the empty trailer to your rig, put the truck in drive (if it is an automatic) and manually apply the brakes with the brake controller and adjust it "up" until the controller alone will stop the truck from rolling forward in drive at idle on level flat ground. Then you can adjust it "up" from there if you feel the need to based on your load...... the more load, the more braking you should have....

Sincerely
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Well I went and bought the trailer today. Wow was that trailer lot crowded. There was barely enough room to park my truck, let alone test the trailer brakes. :laugh: The trailer I wanted was still stacked up without wheels as it had just arrived. Seriously don't know where they would have parked it anyway, the place was that packed. Finally got it hook up and drove down the road until I found a big deserted parking lot and tried out the brakes. Didn't feel a thing. I sqeezed the manual brake lever as far as it would go and still nothing I could tell. I turned around and went back to the dealer. He checked the brakes with a test box and even jacked up a wheel and showed me it would stop. Thinking my controller did not work, I took it home anyway. When I got home I played around with it some more. I cranked the bias all the way to 10 which is the highest setting. I could then feel the brakes work when I tested it in manual. I guess I'm a big dummy because I thought it was supposed to lock the wheels at any bias setting when you sqeeze the manual control all the way. It was on .5 on the way home which I assume is why I thought it did not work. I went to get a tag for it and the office was closed. I'll play with it some more next week, but I think the problem is between the ears and not the controller.
 

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Well I went and bought the trailer today. Wow was that trailer lot crowded. There was barely enough room to park my truck, let alone test the trailer brakes. :laugh: The trailer I wanted was still stacked up without wheels as it had just arrived. Seriously don't know where they would have parked it anyway, the place was that packed. Finally got it hook up and drove down the road until I found a big deserted parking lot and tried out the brakes. Didn't feel a thing. I sqeezed the manual brake lever as far as it would go and still nothing I could tell. I turned around and went back to the dealer. He checked the brakes with a test box and even jacked up a wheel and showed me it would stop. Thinking my controller did not work, I took it home anyway. When I got home I played around with it some more. I cranked the bias all the way to 10 which is the highest setting. I could then feel the brakes work when I tested it in manual. I guess I'm a big dummy because I thought it was supposed to lock the wheels at any bias setting when you sqeeze the manual control all the way. It was on .5 on the way home which I assume is why I thought it did not work. I went to get a tag for it and the office was closed. I'll play with it some more next week, but I think the problem is between the ears and not the controller.

Another thing you need to be aware of is that some trailers will require the brakes to "break-in". I had this happen to a 20ft aluminum car trailer. Max gain still would not apply enough stopping power to the trailer brakes. I called the dealer and he said to drive around for a while applying the brakes manually. That worked. I had no further problems with the brakes on that trailer. I think that is probably not a usual thing as I have never had it happen on any other trailer.

Dave
 

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Another thing you need to be aware of is that some trailers will require the brakes to "break-in". I had this happen to a 20ft aluminum car trailer. Max gain still would not apply enough stopping power to the trailer brakes. I called the dealer and he said to drive around for a while applying the brakes manually. That worked. I had no further problems with the brakes on that trailer. I think that is probably not a usual thing as I have never had it happen on any other trailer.

Dave
This can happen any time you are dealing with new brake parts. Same thing can happen to disc or drums. It is called burnishing in the brakes.
 

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Well I went and bought the trailer today. Wow was that trailer lot crowded. There was barely enough room to park my truck, let alone test the trailer brakes. :laugh: The trailer I wanted was still stacked up without wheels as it had just arrived. Seriously don't know where they would have parked it anyway, the place was that packed. Finally got it hook up and drove down the road until I found a big deserted parking lot and tried out the brakes. Didn't feel a thing. I sqeezed the manual brake lever as far as it would go and still nothing I could tell. I turned around and went back to the dealer. He checked the brakes with a test box and even jacked up a wheel and showed me it would stop. Thinking my controller did not work, I took it home anyway. When I got home I played around with it some more. I cranked the bias all the way to 10 which is the highest setting. I could then feel the brakes work when I tested it in manual. I guess I'm a big dummy because I thought it was supposed to lock the wheels at any bias setting when you sqeeze the manual control all the way. It was on .5 on the way home which I assume is why I thought it did not work. I went to get a tag for it and the office was closed. I'll play with it some more next week, but I think the problem is between the ears and not the controller.
Think of it like this:

- Your truck outputs a baseline level for the brakes. Call it "X".
- The gain control is how much ADDITIONAL braking power you need. Total braking output is "X + Gain". With an unloaded, lighter trailer, you need much less gain than with a heavy, loaded trailer.
- The manual control will cause the controller to output full braking force ("X + Gain") -WITHOUT- applying the vehicle brakes.

As stated in a couple of other posts, the brakes will likely settle in a bit as you break them in and the amount of gain you need will change. When I bought my current trailer, I dragged it home about 200 miles. I checked/adjusted the gain about a dozen times in the first 50-75 miles. Once it seemed to be pretty stable, I stopped re-adjusting and now set the gain when I first hook up or change the cargo weight.
 
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