We sat down with an AL-KO expert, Craig Greenaway, Plant Manager of AL-KO International’s Melbourne facility to discuss the features and benefits of the latest addition to the AL-KO Electronic Stability Control range.
What is AL-KO ESC?
AL-KO ESC is a sophisticated electronic safety device located under the floor of a caravan above or between the axle(s). ESC works in a similar fashion to modern automotive sway control systems found in cars. Where ESC differs from the manual application of the override on your electric brake controller is that ESC works significantly faster than you can react in an emergency situation.
As the caravan travels along the road the ESC unit constantly monitors for either a build-up of sway that could cause the caravan to become unstable or one large lateral movement which would indicate that the caravan has experienced a sudden sway situation or emergency avoidance manoeuvre. When triggered, the ESC module applies the brakes on all wheels of the caravan simultaneously, holding them on until the sway or swerve event has reduced to a safe level.
Application of the caravan brakes at such a critical time stabilises the full combination, reduces speed and allows the driver to regain control. This maintains the line and stability of the car and caravan allowing you to perform an emergency avoidance manoeuvre keeping car and caravan operating as one or recover from a buildup of sway that could result in loss of control.
What brake systems can AL-KO ESC now be used with?
AL-KO’s ESC was previously exclusive to AL-KO and electric drum brakes. However AL-KO recently completed the redesign of a new ESC solution for Hydraulic Disc Brake systems. As outlined above the electrical nature of ESC works seamlessly with electric brake systems. To turn this electrical pulse into hydraulic braking pressure AL-KO drew on its innovative product bank, identifying that the IQ7 Outback was going to be the best product for the job.
Due to its fast and reliable performance, IQ7 is the only hydraulic actuator approved for AL-KO ESC and trusted to deliver the measured and rapid brake force required. IQ7 can be used with the following in car controllers: Hayes Energiser III, Tekonsha Primus IQ, Tekonsha Prodigy P2, Tekonsha P3, Compact IQ.
How does the function of AL-KO ESC differ for disc brakes?
Essentially the function of AL-KO’s ESC does not change, remembering that every ESC is programed specifically to suit the caravan it is fitted to. Monitoring lateral movement, detecting the need to intervene and dispatching a signal all functions exactly as done with an electric brake system. It’s how the braking technologies combine from that signal that change.
To convert the electronic signal into hydraulic pressure AL-KO’s IQ7 receives the signal from the ESC module nearly instantaneously converting it into hydraulic pressure and activating the disc calipers. During normal driving situations the disc brakes operate as per normal via the fully adjustable brake controllers listed above.
What are the benefits of ESC for Disc Brakes over Electric Drum Brakes?
In recent times, we have seen an increase in demand for hydraulic disc brakes in the off-road caravan market as a result of their superior heat dissipation, simple operation and reduced maintenance requirements. As we know, caravans spend much of their time in transit from destination to destination and the reality is that up until recently, ESC was not an option available to these caravaners.
When it comes to disc vs drum – “Which system is best?”, many a debate has been had around a blazing camp fire. The truth is that they do the same job only in a different way. It’s more your driving style or requirements that will lean you towards having a preference between the two. When it comes to ESC for electric or hydraulic brakes, there are no advantages or disadvantages to either system. Ultimately, the ability for AL-KO ESC to be fitted to every caravan on the market whether fitted with hydraulic disc brakes or electric drum brakes represents a significant leap in road safety.
Are there any maintenance considerations?
There are extra service requirements as a result of adding the IQ7 to the mix however this is not very time consuming. Generally disc brakes tend to require less maintenance and have fewer parts than electric drum brakes. When all is said and done the small incursion you suffer be it a higher service bill or time spent servicing, it should not affect the decision of what you believe to be the best system for you and your fellow road users.
After completing a Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering from Monash University Craig started with AL-KO as Motorhome Chassis Production Engineer in 2011. He was responsible for setting up the AMC Motorhome chassis assembly and since then has had roles in major product development such as ESC, iQ7 and Enduro suspension. Recently Craig was promoted to the role of Plant Manager, assuming responsibility for all aspects of manufacturing across the AL-KO Dandenong plant. Outside of AL-KO Craig enjoys anything outdoors, basketball, sailing, four wheel driving and camping.
Some may also recall Craig taking out the Industry converted “Caravan Industry Association of Victoria (CTIAV) Young Achiever Award” award earlier this year.