On the other hand, your Toyota Armada has powerful vented front disks and solid disk rears...and a sophisticated Anti-Lock brake system designed to stop you and your trailer in a hurry...and fully capable of stopping you in a panic situation if need be.
If (God FORBID!) you get into an accident because of your bad braking habits, the accident investigator will really freak out if you only left skid marks from the trailer tires!
Then he will analize your on board event computer to extract what you were doing when the accident occured.
I was an Certified Police Accident Investigator trained at the California Highway Patrol Accident Investigation Unit (with the MAIT), and testified as a Expert witness at many vehicle related Criminal trials...so trust me when I say STOP DOING THIS NOW
I agree with not doing what the OP mentioned but....
I have always wondered when everyone will catch on to anti-lock brakes and learn that you don't look for skid marks anymore since there will basically be none. Anti-skid disables when the vehicle gets to some preset speed, typically under 10mph where maybe a short mark could result but not very noticeable on the typical worn and paved surface. Anti-skid has been around for a very long time on many vehicles. No skid marks does not equal driver error in a proper accident investigation.
Bruce and Donna
2007 Forest River Wildwood 27RLSS
2003 GMC Sierra 1500 Z71 towing package
Putnam XDR hitch
Equalizer WD with 1k bars
Tekonsha Prodigy brake control
I do this too... But only to check that the trailer brakes are indeed functioning... It's the first thing I do as I'm pulling out for the first time after hooking up.. From then on.. I use the truck/trailer brakes from then on..
*Anything I post is for entertainment purposes only and what usually works for me.. Your Mileage May Vary..
I may be wrong but I don't think the electric brake control will actuate the brake lights. The switch for the brake lights is on the brake pedal, no brake pedal, no brake lights. If you get rear-ended you would be at fault. But to be honest, I have never considered pressing the controller lever and check if the brake lights go on. Anyone???????
Activating my brake controller does activate the brake lights. As for the getting rear ended part being your fault I'm pretty sure that that is not correct. If you get rear ended, it indicates that the fellow behind you was following too close. I can only find a couple of cases where the courts ruled otherwise.
To the OP though, I'm glad you're rethinking what you've been doing.
I have done it on several occasions coming down steep grades in a snow storm.
I believed it saved us from jacknifing coming down a 9000 foot mountain. There were tractor trailers and travel trailer jacknifed ever few miles. I tried to keep my speed at a crawl, and every time it started to pick up I would ease the manual controller on, and never touched the truck brakes. It was hairy, but I never once skidded.
I naturally won't do it on dry roads, except for a test when I start up, but I recommend it if you are ever caught in a similar situation.
I can't speak for other RV trailer brake arrangments but the Prodigy unit I have has three settings for something called "boost".
The settings are zero, one, and two.
Zero allows the truck brakes to engage just before the trailer brakes, One is where they both enage simultaneously, and the number Two setting has the trailer brakes engage slightly before the truck brakes.
I have left my unit on the #1 setting since new and had no problems. But a boost setting of two would seem advisable going down a 9000 foot mountain.
The boost setting is separate setting in addition to the normal trailer brake pressure that one checks using the slide bar.
I also take comfort in having a diesel brake. Often times I don't need to touch the brake pedal for miles and miles.
Poor truckers back under a strange trailer, hook up the air brakes and have little idea how the trailer is going to behave on a snowy mountain until it comes time to stop.
Some brands of brake controllers do light the trailer brake lights when manual override is applied. Other brands do not.
With a properly adjusted proportional brake controller, you will enjoy a much more pleasant and safer (shorter stopping distance when you need to) braking experience. Many people like to adjust theirs such that the trailer braking is a little stronger, or leads the braking power.
A & A parents of DD 2005, DS1 2007, DS2 2009 2011 Suburban 2500 6.0L 3.73 pulling 2011 Heartland North Trail 28BRS 2012 VW Passat TDI
The only time I have ever applied only my trailer brakes without using the TV brakes was to correct a sliding trailer in snowy conditions. On level ground on a bridge, looking in the mirror I notice my trailer was trying to make a pass for the lead and I quickly reached down and applied the trailer brakes while gently picking the throttle back up on the TV. Straightened right back out and then I lifted and continued to apply the trailer brake to reduce speed.
Otherwise, I use the system as designed but in this instance, I was glad to have that capability. It likely saved me from an accident.
2011 Silverado Crewcab 4x4
2012 Passport 238ML
Hope your travels are safe and the friendships made camping are lasting.
Again, I thank everyone for their helpful, and experienced, responses. It also made me go do some research on this (ain't the internet great?). A very informative article was by the National Highway Admin for one. For those interested, the link is:
In their article, it did mention that IF you felt trailer sway while stopping or slowing, do not use the TV brakes. Apply the trailer brakes only to reduce sway and a potential jacknife. Obviously it appears my campfire "experts" had taken this to the extreme. So for me, yes, from now on, both vehicles get a brake applied.
In my research, I also can answer some other questions/concerns brought up:
1. The Armada brake lights do light when applying just the controller. It is equipped with the tow package and is wired for this. Other make vehicles do as well.
2. It is not criminal. For something to be criminal, it has to break a law. There is no law that specifies how to apply trailer brakes. In fact, I could find no states that require anything more than a regular driver's license to tow a trailer. Of course I didn't investigate all 50 states. However, if proven I was doing something inappropriate, I could open myself up to a civil action. But that's why I have insurance.
3. To the person who mentioned skid marks. 100% correct. No skid marks with anti-lock brakes in most instances.
4. No brake lights at all do not give you 100% liability. In most states, following too closely prevails. And it is to hard to vprove there were no brake lights. If the investigator steps on the pedal and they light, end of discussion.
5. In snowy/icy conditions, or down steep, windy roads, applying just the TT brakes first, and then slowly applying the TV brakes is a good practice being mindful of overheating of TT brakes.
6. In a panic stop, the TT has a tendency to lift weight off the rear wheels of the TV. This allows for an easier jacknife condition. Especially when the TV has anti-lock brakes. It stops faster. If you have the wherewithall at the time, manually apply the TT brakes full force as well. And this may only help.
7. The Armada is no Toyota. My answer - That's a good thing. (Kidding. Any vehicle that gets you to and from camping is a good vehicle.)
Very Nice!!! You originally posted a question and came back with more accurate and detailed answers than the replies posted. Thank you for sharing!!!
Not that it matters now, but are you sure about the brake lights coming on with the controller?? It's been awhile but I could swear they didn't light up with the controller only. I think it's controlled in the BCM. It'll be a couple months before I can test it again.
2005 6" Lifted Nissan Armada LE (Offroad Beast)
2011 Rockwood 2702SS