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Newbie, and a brake control unit question? (long)

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  • Scott Williams
    Hi, New to this RV thing, in fact, I haven t even got my fifth wheel (my 5er , I guess?) yet. I ve been offered a 1987 Coachmen 34 fifth wheel, in good
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 31, 2006
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      Hi,

      New to this RV thing, in fact, I haven't even got my fifth wheel (my
      "5er", I guess?) yet. I've been offered a 1987 Coachmen 34' fifth
      wheel, in "good condition" (haven't seen it in person yet.) I have to
      tow it home from an RV park 60 miles away at the end of September, as
      the present owner doesn't want to continue paying the $1500/yr lot fee.
      I want to learn as much as I can about the ins and outs of RV
      ownership, usage, and maintenance before I get this thing, so I've been
      looking around all over the net. Seems like a lot of forums have plenty
      of great information and advice, but the vast majority of the
      contributors have REALLY sweet new rigs. They talk about 1999s as if
      they're ancient. Which brings me here. I like the "can do" attitude of
      the locals here, and I definitely think that my severe budgetary
      constraints will be better understood here, as well.

      So, the story goes, I was working on a deal for a water-damaged
      fixer-upper 1977 Terry 22ft travel trailer, and I asked on a local
      "want-ads" email list to see if anybody knew about any sources for
      used/inexpensive RV parts (refrigerators, toilets, cabinets, whatever).
      So I get an offer - "You can have my 34' fifth wheel for parts, you
      just have to tow it away at the end of September." I replied, asking if
      it was water-damaged or rotted, or if it was destroyed by critters or
      something (hoping, of course, that it was like new, but fearing the
      worst.) She answered that they stay in it every weekend, but her kids
      are tired of camping, I got the feeling the kids want to be with their
      friends on weekends, sports leaves no time for camp, etc., so she had
      been planning to scrap it (I imagine that's a "service" the park offers
      when you close your contract.) She seemed pleased that it could go to
      good use. However, her busy schedule with kids' sports the last couple
      weekends has prevented me from being able to see it in person.
      Hopefully this weekend will work out.

      So, continuing our story, I discontinued the 1977 Terry negotiations,
      but I've got a new problem. I have a Ford E-350 Clubwagon (1-ton) that
      I could pull a 22ft trailer with, but now I need a truck. So I found a
      1989 Ford F-250 Club Cab 4x4 pickup truck with a 7.3L IDI Diesel engine
      (Normally Aspirated - not turbo) and a 5-speed manual transmission,
      running condition, but ugly and very rough around the edges. $660.

      I have a question about brake control units, as I've never had one
      before, but I believe I'll need one to pull a fifth wheel, right? My
      E350 van doesn't have one, but it does have the RV plug on the hitch.
      What does the brake control do, and when is it necessary, and when is it
      not needed? I assume the previous owners of my van pulled trailers, I
      just don't know how big (big Reese 2" receiver hitch, though.)

      Will an older brake control do the job? I mean, the trailer and truck
      are over 15 years old, so I'd assume a 15 year-old brake control unit
      (in good condition) would work.

      What's the difference between a cheap conrol unit and an expensive one?
      What would I notice differently about them?

      Thanks for all your help, this is a great resource!

      Scott in Penfield NY
    • Wesley Furr
      Welcome, Scott! I think you ve found the right place. I haven t been here a great long time myself, but have found there to be some very knowledgeable and
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 1, 2006
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        Welcome, Scott! I think you've found the right place. I haven't been here
        a great long time myself, but have found there to be some very knowledgeable
        and helpful folks here.

        Before you buy a trailer that is moderately to badly water-damaged, take a
        look at the work I had to put into repairing our trailer. Photos at
        http://www.megley.com/photos/camperrepair Sounds like maybe you've decided
        not to go that route though. :-)

        Before you agree to get that 5th wheel and buy a truck and get it set up to
        tow it, you might want to go take a look at it and make sure it's really
        what you want. Sounds like if you can get a truck that will at least move
        it locally where you want it for $660, you're probably not doing too badly
        (as long as you don't have to put it in the shop all the time).

        As for the brake controller, it might be worth taking a look to make sure it
        doesn't already have one. I would hope whoever bought a truck that big
        actually used it to tow something. :-) A brake controller is a unit that
        senses when you hit the brakes and sends 12v power to the electric brakes on
        the trailer to help you stop. If it's a relatively small trailer (guessing
        not since it's in a park) and you're not going but a few miles and do it
        very very carefully, you could probably get it home w/o one. I towed our
        1983 Prowler 18' travel trailer for several years with brakes that
        essentially weren't working, and it did just fine behind our Isuzu Trooper.
        BUT...it's about 2400lbs empty...not that big.

        There are 2 basic types of brake controllers these days. The old ones used
        to tie into the hydraulic lines to sense when you applied the brakes. The
        cheaper of the new types has a wire that hooks into the wire that tells your
        brake lights to turn on when you hit the brakes. It then sends out power to
        the trailer. It's simply a timer-based system that gradually applies the
        brakes. There's a setting for how quickly to ramp up power output, and
        another to set the max output. That's what I've got and it does pretty
        well...but keep in mind my disclaimer about weight size and having towed it
        w/o. I've heard many say they are very dangerous and recommend the more
        sophisticated pendulum-based units. They sense how much you are braking and
        apply the trailer brakes accordingly.

        Hope this helps!

        Wesley


        -----Original Message-----
        From: classicrv@yahoogroups.com [mailto:classicrv@yahoogroups.com]On
        Behalf Of Scott Williams
        Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2006 7:38 PM
        To: ClassicRV
        Subject: [classicrv] Newbie, and a brake control unit question? (long)


        Hi,

        New to this RV thing, in fact, I haven't even got my fifth wheel (my
        "5er", I guess?) yet. I've been offered a 1987 Coachmen 34' fifth
        wheel, in "good condition" (haven't seen it in person yet.) I have to
        tow it home from an RV park 60 miles away at the end of September, as
        the present owner doesn't want to continue paying the $1500/yr lot fee.
        I want to learn as much as I can about the ins and outs of RV
        ownership, usage, and maintenance before I get this thing, so I've been
        looking around all over the net. Seems like a lot of forums have plenty
        of great information and advice, but the vast majority of the
        contributors have REALLY sweet new rigs. They talk about 1999s as if
        they're ancient. Which brings me here. I like the "can do" attitude of
        the locals here, and I definitely think that my severe budgetary
        constraints will be better understood here, as well.

        So, the story goes, I was working on a deal for a water-damaged
        fixer-upper 1977 Terry 22ft travel trailer, and I asked on a local
        "want-ads" email list to see if anybody knew about any sources for
        used/inexpensive RV parts (refrigerators, toilets, cabinets, whatever).
        So I get an offer - "You can have my 34' fifth wheel for parts, you
        just have to tow it away at the end of September." I replied, asking if
        it was water-damaged or rotted, or if it was destroyed by critters or
        something (hoping, of course, that it was like new, but fearing the
        worst.) She answered that they stay in it every weekend, but her kids
        are tired of camping, I got the feeling the kids want to be with their
        friends on weekends, sports leaves no time for camp, etc., so she had
        been planning to scrap it (I imagine that's a "service" the park offers
        when you close your contract.) She seemed pleased that it could go to
        good use. However, her busy schedule with kids' sports the last couple
        weekends has prevented me from being able to see it in person.
        Hopefully this weekend will work out.

        So, continuing our story, I discontinued the 1977 Terry negotiations,
        but I've got a new problem. I have a Ford E-350 Clubwagon (1-ton) that
        I could pull a 22ft trailer with, but now I need a truck. So I found a
        1989 Ford F-250 Club Cab 4x4 pickup truck with a 7.3L IDI Diesel engine
        (Normally Aspirated - not turbo) and a 5-speed manual transmission,
        running condition, but ugly and very rough around the edges. $660.

        I have a question about brake control units, as I've never had one
        before, but I believe I'll need one to pull a fifth wheel, right? My
        E350 van doesn't have one, but it does have the RV plug on the hitch.
        What does the brake control do, and when is it necessary, and when is it
        not needed? I assume the previous owners of my van pulled trailers, I
        just don't know how big (big Reese 2" receiver hitch, though.)

        Will an older brake control do the job? I mean, the trailer and truck
        are over 15 years old, so I'd assume a 15 year-old brake control unit
        (in good condition) would work.

        What's the difference between a cheap conrol unit and an expensive one?
        What would I notice differently about them?

        Thanks for all your help, this is a great resource!

        Scott in Penfield NY
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