Towing a caravan, horse float, camper or any heavy trailer is fraught with the danger of stopping suddenly and becoming the meat in a heavy metal sandwich… squashed by your trailer or by the vehicle you’ve just run into.
Words & images Mark Allen
As caravanners, we have the responsibility to ensure our rigs are in tip-top condition and utilising the best products to do the job. In the case of stopping both your van and tow vehicle, having an electronic brake controller is paramount, unquestionable and a ‘must have’ piece of kit. If your van is over 750kg (which is pretty-much all of them), then it’s a legal requirement to have caravan brakes.
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Having purchased a 3500kg tow-rated Land Cruiser Troop Carrier just over 12 months ago,
I figured the Troopy needed as much help as possible to pull up without over-stressing the brakes – so one of the first mods I had fitted was a Redarc Tow Pro Elite. Not only do I own a 2.5-tonne caravan and camper-trailer, I also tow a tractor on a tandem trailer and lug all manner of caravans around the countryside for these hallowed (electronic) pages.
Regardless of how good the unit works, I must admit to choosing it partially for the remote fitting of the main body under the dash where it’s out of the way of my knees and not taking up any real estate on the fast-filling dashboard. The only ‘tell-tale’ sign of this Redarc system being fitted is the small rotary dial fitting in the dashboard.
The system allows for automatic (inertia-sensing) or user-controlled braking modes. This takes care of all vehicles, all drivers and all driving situations – both on-road and off-road.
The Tow Pro Elite has a three-axis accelerometer to measure acceleration in any direction, allowing the main control unit to be mounted in any orientation and still deliver the correct amounting of braking bias at all times (regardless of speed or terrain).
The automatic mode calibrates the unit as you drive in order to deliver a smooth proportional response to your vehicle and van’s braking and it’s best suited to on-road use; while the manual user-controlled mode allows the driver to exactly control the van’s braking levels via the small rotary dial (which in my case is mounted in a dash pop-out panel, so no drilling into the dashboard was required). In this manual mode, you have access to 10 levels of braking and it’s best suited to off-road use.
In my experience of towing my own van and trailers plus a few other caravans, the Tow Pro Elite electronic brake controller has returned smooth decelerations at almost all times. The few lapses have been due to me having the manual mode set too high (having the bias turned up too far) and having a few dirt-road lockups. A quick and easy re-set returns braking to a safe level by dialling down a couple of numbers. For most on-road driving, there is very little need to use the manual mode; leaving the unit in the auto mode means it’s pretty-much ‘set and forget’.
Another important note to consider is that the Tow Pro Elite is suitable for use with both AL-KO ESC and Dexter Sway Control caravan braking systems. It can be used with 12-volt and 24-volt systems; and electric or electric/hydraulic brakes. RRP: $360.50