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Old 07-18-2009, 05:10 PM   #1
David and Jo-Anna
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Ford brake controller--"Trailer Fault" --THE FIX??

As I was braking heavily while we were coming down a steep hill towing our Big Sky yesterday, I heard a loud beep from the area of the instrument cluster--similar to the beep I hear when I get a low fuel alert. I looked at the instrument cluster message center on our 2007 F-350, but there was no message there. A few minutes later, while braking again (but not as heavily), I got another beep. This time, I saw the message "trailer fault" on the instrument cluster message center. That message stayed there only a moment or two before disappearing. During the remaining 10-15 minutes of our trip, before arriving at the campground, I applied the brakes on several occasions, but didn't get any beep and didn't see any further messages in the message center window.

The owners manual says that the "trailer fault" message can appear either when there is a "trailer brake overload" (trailer brakes drawing too much current) or a "short circuit on the electric brake output wire." Anyone had this error message on their Ford system before? Should I wait to see if the error message recurs, or is there something that I need to be doing right now?
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Old 07-18-2009, 05:50 PM   #2
Carl n Susan
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I occasionally get the same message, usually when it is wet out, with or without the trailer attached. It even happens without applying the brakes. I suspect it is a loose wire in the plug or a short due to water intrusion. There was a recent post on one of the Ford forums about the "Trailer Fault" message. Supposedly there is a Ford TSB relating to the plug allowing water to enter. The poster also said Ford's diagnostics can pin-point the specific cause of the message. Of course if it is the trailer, it won't be covered under warranty (assuming you still have one).

I am planning to have it checked at the next service interval. Since it doesn't fail all the time, I doubt the techs will be able easily find the problem, but hopefully the diagnostics will give them a hint.
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Old 07-19-2009, 05:22 AM   #3
greener
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We had that happen on a previuos truck and it was eliminated by making sure the contacts were clean. Used an electric contact cleaner and lube spray and it cured the fault reading.
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Old 07-19-2009, 05:34 AM   #4
steves
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I had the msg when towing my 05 Montana. The problem was bad/broken connections on the trailer brake wires. I had to replace the wire connection at the point they split to run to the other side of the trailers axle and wheels.
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Old 07-19-2009, 06:05 AM   #5
richfaa
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We had the issue Steve's had. Check all the wires into the brakes. They are just hanging out there. The plug being not firmly inserted can also give an alarm. That wiring bundle goes into that junction box under the hitch and it is a rats nest in there. I would wait and see...
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Old 07-19-2009, 06:34 AM   #6
Crossthread
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I also have had the intermitent fault. While repacking the wheel bearings, found the right rear magnet wires cut,or completely severed by the brake actuation arm lever . Bill
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Old 07-19-2009, 07:15 AM   #7
Waynem
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All the above. It is not easy to trouble shoot the wiring system for intermittent shorts. In my 2005 F350 if the plug was not connected I would get a message "Trailer Disconnected." So I'm thinking your message would be something else. You can check the message when disconnected by squeezing the paddles.

Good luck! Trace every wire carefully.
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Old 07-19-2009, 09:51 AM   #8
daneboy
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All of the above again. The controlers are very sensitive to a loose wire or plug. I have had the same problem several times. Once it was a frayed wire on the female plug. Another time it was a loose connection under the trailer. The last time I couldn't find the problem, even after pulling the wheels to check the wires. I took the Monty into our local dealer and they replaced two magnets for a cure.
Jerry
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Old 07-19-2009, 11:56 AM   #9
stiles watson
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We had that message occurring with increasing frequency. I checked the pig tail from the trailer to the truck. All indications were that it was ok. Finally took it to the Ford service center and discovered a bad wiring harness under the truck. Under warranty, they put a new wiring harness and sealed it up to keep water from getting into it. Road spray had gotten into it and corrosion had degraded the connections in the harness. No problems in the last 5,000 miles since the fix.
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Old 07-19-2009, 02:52 PM   #10
Phyllen
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Had same issue when towing horse trailer. It was bad break wire on the trailer. Had to rewire trailer brakes.

Leonard
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Old 07-20-2009, 03:41 PM   #11
David and Jo-Anna
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Today was the first day of towing since the "trailer fault" message first appeared late last week. The fault popped up twice today during four hours of towing--both times when I was braking. Of course, it didn't appear the hundreds of other times when I was depressing the brake pedal during the four hours of towing thru one small town after another. And it didn't appear over the weekend when we were driving the truck without the RV. There hasn't been any rain for the last few days, so wetness wouldn't have played a role in the two alerts I got today. We'll see what happens when we resume towing tomorow. I'll try to do a thorough check of the wiring in the next few days. If nothing materializes and the problem continues on an intermittent basis, I'll work on it some more when we get to the Great Lakes rally next week.

The investigation and data collection continue. LOL!!!
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Old 07-20-2009, 04:08 PM   #12
Art-n-Marge
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David and Jo-Anna. I got the same error on my newer 2006 Ford F-250 TBC when I towed my Sprinter TT on its last trip before we picked up our new Monty. I had not seen this error on my 2004 Ford F-250 with a Prodigy Brake Controller (I don't recall the model).

When I saw the error I would slow down and use the trailer brake slide switch and the brakes seemed to work. Since our trip was 90% interstate or highway driving and the slide on the brake controller worked, we completed the trip and returned home. Later that month I took the TT in to the Monty dealer as a trade-in (the problem occurred a couple of times) and mentioned the problem to them. They promised me they would check out the trailer and after I picked up the new Monty and have never seen the error again, I didn't concern myself any longer.

All this just means that since you are on a much longer trip you might want to stop somewhere and check this out, because like others have said it could be the trailer (brake wires or electric brake problem), the harness at the TV or RV, or the TV's brake controller. If it's raining then you could have moisture problems, too. In my situation, all was dry.

It appears in my case that the problem may have been the older TT since I have not seen the problem again, even towing other trailers, but I have not been in contact with the dealer to find out. It would have been nice to know just for history sake.
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Old 07-21-2009, 03:00 AM   #13
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I started having the same message on my 2008 F250 about 5 months ago after Ford had to take my bed off to repair damage in a wreck. It would occur with no trailer attached and normally when it was raining and I would apply the brakes. I took my truck back to Northgate RV where I had purchased my Monty. The service man there said he knew exactly what the problem was. It was a bad ground where Ford had reinstalled my bed and trailer plug receptacle. They tightened the ground wire and I have not had the problem since.
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Old 07-21-2009, 07:14 AM   #14
sreigle
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David, I've also heard of quite a few controller fault messages (not just the Ford controller) occuring because of a short in wiring inside the brake drum where sometimes the wires are touching something that moves. If none of the other suggestions solve your problem, maybe you could have this checked. We've had members whose dealers have told them no way is that the problem but after several failed attempts to find the problem they pulled the drum and, sure enough, they found a wire with the insulation rubbed off.

Good luck with it.
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Old 07-21-2009, 03:42 PM   #15
David and Jo-Anna
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Thanks for all the helpful suggestions. I collected some additional data today that may answer some questions.
We spent three hours this morning towing in dry conditions. Started off getting some infrequent "trailer fault" signals when braking, but as the morning progressed, the "trailer fault" signals occurred more and more frequently, always when I was braking. I followed Art's suggestion and several times just used the slide switch on the brake controller without touching the break pedal. When I did this, I got intermittent "trailer fault" signals. More importantly, at first when I used just the slide switch, I'd get some "bucking"--as if the brakes started to grab, and then released, then grabbed again, released, in quick succession. By the end of the morning's trip, however, the "bucking" had pretty much stopped--instead, it felt like I was getting almost no braking whatsoever from the trailer brakes.
By contrast, when we were driving around this afternoon in the truck after we left the rig at the new campground, I never got a single "trailer fault" alert. I did a quick visual check of the wires leading to the receptacle in the truck, as well as what I could see of the brake wires where they come out of the trailer axles and go into the trailer wheels. All seemed OK as best I could tell. I used my multimeter to check the power to the receptacle in the truck bed. On my setup, when the brake pedal is activated, I get steady power to the two pins that otherwise provide pulsing power to the left and right turn signals when the turn signals are engaged. If that's how the brake pedal power is supposed to work, then I seem to have good power at the truck receptacle, which would lead me to believe that the problem is with the trailer brake system.
Is what I am experiencing consistent with the problem of the insulation getting rubbed off the brake wire inside the trailer wheel, as Steve mentions? Any other problem that would be consistent with the symptoms that I am experiencing? Any other testing that people would suggest I try? FYI, my plan is to try to get the rig into an RV dealer for service Thursday morning when we leave this campground--I'd like to tell him where to start looking for the problem so that he doesn't spend four hours checking things that are not the cause of the problem.
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Old 07-21-2009, 03:58 PM   #16
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David and Joanna... your problem is definitely worse than mine. When I used the slide control when I was having my message problem, I still got the error but the brakes did feel like they worked and not in a pulsating action. I figured it was some other minor trailer wiring problem since I have never not seen the problem again.

As some have suggested, you might have a loose or faulty wire somewhere in the brake system that is causing intermittent operation. It definitely deserves a look at the trailer brake wiring to see it there could be a problem that might surface again. Unfortunately, you'll probably need to examine all the brake assemblies.
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Old 07-21-2009, 04:06 PM   #17
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Dave it does sound like it could be wire insulation. I had this issue which cause my Sentinel controller to flash its LEDs (indicating short in brake wiring). I have fixed this problem for good by replacing all magnets and just to have a better controller updated to Prodigy. I kept the Sentinel as my tester for yearly bearing repack and brake adjust.

Below is what I found...improper wire routing.
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Old 07-24-2009, 11:06 AM   #18
David and Jo-Anna
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We took our Big Sky into a local dealer here in Door County yesterday morning and had them look into the problem with our brakes. They pulled and inspected all four wheels. The wires to the magnet on the right rear wheel had started to fray, but didn't seem to be worn down to bare metal yet. Nonetheless, the tech wrapped the frayed area and then tied the wire back so that it wouldn't fray again. None of the other three wheels showed any problem with fraying wires. The wiring to the receptacles in the truck all seemed to check out. After they put the wheels back on, I took the rig for a test drive, and the brakes seemed to be working fine--and there were no further "trailer fault" signals from the integrated brake controller. So we crossed our fingers and headed down the road. After three hours of towing yesterday and four more hours again today, the brakes continued to work fine, and we had no further "trailer fault" alerts.

I have a hard time believing that the small amount of fraying we found on the right rear wheel was all there was to this problem--I'm worried that there is still a problem lurking somewhere that may be hidden for the moment because some wire with worn insulation got moved a bit during the course of this work and is not now in contact with ground--but that it may short out again in the future when some bounce in the road moves it back into contact with a ground. We've got our fingers crossed and hope that doesn't happen.

Regardless of what happens, we wanted to thank everyone who stepped forward with helpful suggestions. WOW, but this is a great forum!!!!
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Old 07-24-2009, 11:39 AM   #19
stiles watson
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Like you, I sometimes say to myself, "How can this be all the problem?" Wiring and electrical issues are, at the least, illusive. The earlier posting was the second "fix" on mine. The first was a poor factory connection near the right front wheel of the truck. Their was a circuit board up above the plastic fender well cowling. The poor factory wiring connection then burned out the circuit board. It was replaced and stopped the problem until the degraded wiring harness episode.

Their were so many changes between the 2007 and 2008 models that this info may not apply, but just in case, it might be another area to investigate if future problems occur.
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Old 07-24-2009, 03:29 PM   #20
sreigle
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David, in that small amount of fraying was there any bare metal at all? It only takes a tiny spot to cause a short if that's the spot that touches metal. If no bare metal, then I agree with you the lack of fault messages since that check may be just coincidental. I always feel better about a problem fix when the cause is abundantly clear. I would also have doubts in the situation you described. Good luck and let's hope it really is fixed.
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