One of our FAQs from our customers is:
“How do I know what caravan brake controller settings to use?”
Read on for our quick guide to caravan brake controllers.
Your brake controller may look small and be hiding under the dash of your car but it has a big job to do and is not something you should simply “set and forget”. If your caravan brake contoller settings are not set right you could end up in a collision with another vehicle or if your brakes lock-up then you might end up jack-knifing. We recommend checking and adjusting the brake controller every time you take off with your caravan.
Before you go:
- Read the manual! Understand the settings on your controller. Commonly there are two settings – gain and boost. Boost is how quickly the brakes “attack”. Gain is the maximum power they use. Some controllers like the Redarc don’t have a boost adjustment.
- Check the caravan brakes as part of your light check. Use the brake controller manually to apply the caravan brakes and roll forward ensuring you feel the caravan brakes resisting the movement.
- Have your brakes checked by a professional every 10,000kms or annually. We often see vans that have one or more brake that is NOT working. This means the other brakes are doing a LOT more work, and resulting in much higher wear.
On the road:
Different driving conditions require different settings eg. Highway driving vs driving in town. On the highway, you may want to increase the “gain” setting (which is the overall power going to the caravan brakes). This is so the rig brakes harder, to wash off speed quicker when travelling at high speed. If you leave this setting on around town, you may find that the van brakes are too aggressive and cause the van to jerk considerably. Around town you may want to reduce the gain setting. After lots of testing, we set our unit to just over 6 on the highway, and just under 5 around town. (Please note that all rigs are different and this is NOT a recommended setting for your rig).
To test your brake controller and set your controller correctly:
- From a stopped position, manually operate the brake controller to full. While holding the controller on, try to drive off by accelerating the vehicle. You should feel a good amount of braking force. You will get used to how many revs you’ve got to give your vehicle to start rolling. This tells you that the brakes on your van ARE working.
- You can work out your optimal brake controller settings through careful, safe, trial and error. On a wide stretch of road with no traffic bring your car and van up to 50km/h and apply the foot brake in car – check performance. Increase the gain setting, do the same test. Keep doing the same until the brakes lock up, then reduce the setting to the previous one. Note the setting on the brake controller. Do some other driving between 0-60km/h, see how it feels, make slight adjustments up/down as necessary. Some brake controllers have two settings – a gain, and a boost/attack setting. You can adjust both to get a good balance. Perform the same tests at higher speeds of 100km/h. You might find that the same setting is fine or you may find that are you more comfortable with a higher setting for highway driving.
Regular testing of your caravan brakes and correct brake controller settings will ensure the caravan brakes will pull you up with the right amount of braking force when you need them.
Do you feel as though your brakes are too aggressive? Are you not confident that your brakes will work in every situation? It might be time to consider upgrading to the latest technology in brake controllers. For professional testing of your caravan brakes or to get a quote to upgrade your caravan brake controller click here.