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I'm Buster Brown, I live in a shoe. This is my dog Tige, he lives there too.

Brake Controller

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Tige Over
 
Last Changed 5/8/2011
We originally purchased a Prodigy brake controller as it had a very good rating.  A friend who has a Volvo 610 to pull his trailer was using a Prodigy controller.  He did not feel he was getting good braking action from the Prodigy.  He then tried a Genesis controller feeling that perhaps it would work better with his Electric over Hydraulic brakes.  Again, he feel he was not getting good braking action.

A lot of analysis decided that the mass of the Volvo in a braking situation did not generate enough deceleration movement to cause the Prodigy or the Genesis controller to function as expected.

My friend tried a Hayes Air Brake Controller that has a servo that moves with the application of braking applying trailer braking in proportion to the pressure of the truck brakes rather than the deceleration of the truck.  My friend now felt he was getting adequate braking.

Acting on my friends experience, we originally  choose the BrakeSmart controller.  The BrakeSmart controller sensing braking air pressure electronically rather than using a mechanical servo and applies a proportional braking voltage to the trailer.  I felt the extra cost of the BrakeSmart controller was justified by the more technical approach to trailer brake control.

The source for the BrakeSmart controller was Dr Performance.  It seems that the supply of BrakeSmart controllers is sketchy. The current site is pretty lean on information but I have seen a preview of the new site and it will be highly informative.  Another source for BrakeSmart controllers is Trans-West,  ask to speak with Joe or Todd in the parts department.

Note - TheBrakeSmart is no longer available.

MaxBrake Controller

MaxBrake MaxBrake is a new player in the brake controller marketplace.  The MaxBrake works a lot like the BrakeSmart unit sensing air or hydraulic pressure of brake application to send braking voltage to the trailer brakes.

We had the occasion to buy a MaxBrake controller also.  The installation of the MaxBrake follows the BrakeSmart installation.

MaxBrake Controller Installation

MaxBrake We mounted the MaxBrake sensor using the same tee we had placed in the Volvo brake light switch air line.  In the Volvo, the is a 1/4" OD air line.

We ordered a 1/4" OD x 1/4" OD x 1/4" ID Branch Tee with push-in connectors for the 1/4" OD brake hose line.
click on images to enlarge
MaxBrake I used a bracket that had held the VORAD head unit as a mount for the MaxBrake controller on the top edge of the dash.  Since the MaxBrake brake is designed for installation under a dash, I had to add a piece of 3/4" square tubing as a spacer so he Manual Override Knob was accessible under the controller.
MaxBrake It is close enough to operate the brakes manually and the view of the controller is good.
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MaxBrake Another view of the controller placement.
MaxBrake The setup of the MaxBrake is a lot simpler than the BrakeSmart.

The only concern we have with the MaxBrake is the brightness of the display.  It is almost impossible to see in the daylight when located on top the dash..  The photo above showing the display was with a blackout panel blocking the sunlight,  This doesn't affect how the MaxBrake works, it is just would be an advantage to have the visual indication of the brake controller is operational.
click on images to enlarge
MaxBrake We decided to place a cover over the MaxBrake controller for two reasons.

One was to cut the glare from the aluminum colored case on the LCD monitor behind the controller.
MaxBrake The other reason for the cover over the MaxBrake was to cut glare on the LCD display.

The cover is tilted upwards to cut the glare that comes from the driver's shirt and arms.
click on images to enlarge

BrakeSmart Controller Installation

BrakeSmart Behind the instrument cluster on a Volvo you will find two air lines with switches on the end.  The orange house senses the parking brake.  The black hose is the stop light sensor.

The advantage of using this hose for the BrakeSmart sensor is that it is inside the firewall so the harness does not need to be fed through the firewall.
BrakeSmart I ordered a 1/4" OD x 1/4" OD x 1/4" ID Branch Tee with push-in connectors for the 1/4" OD brake hose line.  I originally intended to just replace the 1/4" OD x 1/4" OD Connector that is on the end of the black hose with the Brake Light Switch plugged into the other end.

The brake light switch did not seat well in the Branch Tee so I inserted the Branch Tee in the line before the Brake Light Switch.
click on images to enlarge
BrakeSmart I used a bracket that had held the VORAD head unit as a mount for the BrakeSmart controller on the top edge of the dash.
BrakeSmart It is close enough to operate the brakes manually and the view of the controller is good.
click on images to enlarge
BrakeSmart This is the BrakeSmart controller in normal idle mode.
BrakeSmart Here I applied the brakes to show how the BrakeSmart indicates the amount of braking pressure it is sensing to apply the trailer brakes voltage.
click on images to enlarge

Disclaimer: The information in this site is a collection of data we derived from the vendors and from our personal experiences.  This information is meant as a learning guide for you to  make your own decisions  Best practices and code should always be followed.  The recommendations we make are from our personal experiences and we do not receive any compensation for those recommendations.