Are you the type of person who uses a tow or trailer much with your truck or car? It can be a bit tough on the brake system which will result in some unsafe stopping conditions. Most of the strain and stress on your truck or car when you are doing the towing comes when you are braking.
When the load you are towing is heavier, then it tends to impact more on your vehicle during braking. Nowadays, many trailers come equipped with their own brakes but they don’t always actuate in a way that is helpful when you need to stop. That is when having the best trailer brake controller comes in handy.
In this article, you will be able to learn about what to consider before purchasing the best trailer brakes for your vehicle. You will be able to read some of the best trailer brake controller reviews to make you understand the pros and cons of some of the best in the market and choose what will work best for you. There will also be a lot of information which will be useful to you when you are shopping for a new brake controller.
- 1 Comparison Of Trailer Brake Controller
- 1.1 1. Tekonsha Electronic Brake Controller 90195 P3
- 1.2 2. REESE Towpower Brakeman IV 8507111 Digital Brake Control
- 1.3 3. CURT TriFlex 51140 Electric Trailer Brake Controller
- 1.4 4. Draw-Tite Electronic Brake Control 20191
- 1.5 5. Tekonsha Primus IQ 90160 Electronic Brake Control
- 1.6 6. Hopkins Brake Control 47284
- 1.7 7. REESE Towpower Compact Brake Control 74642
- 1.8 8. Tekonsha Electronic Brake Control 90885
- 2 Trailer Brake Controller Reviews
- 2.1 1. Tekonsha Electronic Brake Controller 90195 P3
- 2.2 2. REESE Towpower Brakeman IV 8507111 Digital Brake Control
- 2.3 3. CURT TriFlex 51140 Electric Trailer Brake Controller
- 2.4 4. Draw-Tite Electronic Brake Control 20191
- 2.5 5. Tekonsha Primus IQ 90160 Electronic Brake Control
- 2.6 6. Hopkins Brake Control 47284
- 2.7 7. REESE Towpower Compact Brake Control 74642
- 2.8 8. Tekonsha Electronic Brake Control 90885
- 3 How The Trailer Brake Controller Work?
- 4 Why You Should Use Brake Controller?
- 5 Types Of Trailer Brake Controller
- 6 What To Look For In An Electric Trailer Brake Controller?
- 7 DIY Install An Electric Brake Controller – Step By Step
- 8 FAQs
- 9 Conclusion
Comparison Of Trailer Brake Controller
Trailer Brake Controller Reviews
1. Tekonsha Electronic Brake Controller 90195 P3
This particular brake controller has a user interface which tends to be easy to use. It is designed to ensure that it provides you with all the information that is important in a manner that is comprehensive. You will be able to enjoy a comfortable ride without any worries about bad scenarios.
Its installation is very easy and with clear instructions which are provided, you will surely do a DIY in the right way. After you are done with the setup, you will know how to run it after just a few uses. You have the option of changing the colors on the screen which gives you the possibility of adjusting the display as per your preferred color. This is a feature which makes reading easier and to react to the screen information.
It comes with a boost feature which allows you to be able to customize the braking system on different levels. It is optimized for various situations and makes sure that the device is secure and functional. Although these options for customizations might be hard to set up, the interface which is intuitive makes it easier for you.
It is constructed in such a way that, it features a quality which is highly productive which prolongs its lifespan. You should not worry if the product stops working as its quality is high making it reliable and durable while on the road.
- It has a long lifespan
- You can customize the brake programs and system
- Comprehensive user interface
- Easy to install
- Easy to use
- It is expensive though worth the price
2. REESE Towpower Brakeman IV 8507111 Digital Brake Control
Even if you are not a professional driver, you would want to have a digital display which is great when it comes to your brake controller. And that is exactly what this particular one will provide to you if you decide to purchase it.
It comes with a large and clear digital display which is likely going to meet your needs. Tracking the power and voltage which you apply to the brakes of your vehicle will help you to ensure that you adjust accurately while on the road. It also comes with push buttons which adjust the controls making it easier to drive with security and safety.
It features a compact and small design which makes mounting to be easier. The design which is small will make it easier for you to carry it when the need arises. Its dimension is about 6.5 inches by 4 inches by 2 inches with a weight of about 5.6 ounces.
It is a brake controller which comes with a lifetime warranty and thus, no need to feel insecure to purchase it.
- Lifetime warranty
- Easy adjustment with the two pushbuttons
- Can be mounted in any direction
- A design which is compact
- Has a digital display
- Circuit protection which is advanced
3. CURT TriFlex 51140 Electric Trailer Brake Controller
Though simple, it is a versatile trailer brake controller which is easy to install with a port which is plug and play. If you are a newbie, it is a model which comes with a detailed manual to ensure that, you understand how it operates and how you will be able to do a DIY installation.
It is a unit which can control up to 4 axles and has an accelerometer inbuilt which will be able to continually calculate the speed at which your trailer is moving and ensure that adjustment which is proportional to the braking system is applied.
There is a digital display on this particular trailer brake controller which is easy to read whether during the day or at night. If you want to switch between various settings, there is a handy knob at the top which you will utilize.
This brake controller has several mounting clips which will allow you to easily and quickly install it on your vehicle dashboard. Capable of braking up to 8 wheels, and activating the brake lights of the trailer, this compact unit might be the perfect option for normal use, for those who require something with easy installation and easy to use.
- The large knob located at the top to make easy adjustments
- Easy to install and use for newbies
- A built-in accelerometer that makes continuous proportional adjustments
- The display is easy to read both at night and during the day
- Self-leveling with automatic calibration
- Limited lifetime warranty
4. Draw-Tite Electronic Brake Control 20191
With a price which is reasonable, this particular brake controller comes with various advanced options which will improve your safety and performance of the vehicle. It seems to me to be a reliable device which has a quality that will ensure you that it will not fail suddenly when you require its performance. I think it is going to provide you with all the advantages that you are looking for in an electronic brake control for your vehicle.
When it comes to installation, it is very easy. With a snap-in mounting clip, you will be able to remove and store the controller when you are done using it. This is a feature which will help you out with basic set up tasks thereby saving you time as everything will be ready for use within the shortest time possible.
It has a plug and play port for two plug adapters making it easy to find its spare parts. It is the sort of adapter which is easy to find and thus, you will not have problems when it comes to replacing it in case the need arises.
There is a boost option which will enable you to increase the electronic discharge into the axles of the trailer and stop the car faster than the usual speed. It is a feature which improves the braking performance and increases the overall safety on the road. It comes in handy especially when you are faced with an unexpected situation which can be dangerous in seconds.
You will find on this brake controller a LED readout on display just in case of an emergency, to enable you to monitor and fix the situation with much ease. It is designed to give you service for a very long time due to the fact that, it features parts that will ensure a long lifespan.
- Works proportionally in reverse
- Suitable for 3 axle
- Comes with preassembled wiring harness
- Adjustable dial
- Very reliable and effective
- Snap-in clip makes the installation to be easy.
5. Tekonsha Primus IQ 90160 Electronic Brake Control
Though a cheaper model, the manufacturer is one of the leading when it comes to electronic brake controllers. It will provide you with an impressive performance on the road at a price which is affordable. It is a device which I think is worth investing in due to the fact that, it has features which makes it easy to be controlled and improve the brake system of your vehicle.
If you are on a tight budget yet you are in need of a brake controller, then this might be a good option for you. It meets the basic production requirement in terms of quality which ensures that it is reliable to use.
The difference in price with the expensive devices might be in the display system which tends to be smaller and doesn’t show as much information as the one displayed on those other models. But the most important information will be displayed. Apart from the small display, the rest of the functions are perfect and on the same level.
It features a proportional reverse functionality which means that safety is guaranteed no matter which direction you are moving to. This particular feature increases the brake controller’s overall security level.
You will find this device to be durable, featuring high-end production quality which will ensure that you get great performance.
- Easy to use
- Boost features can be engaged with the push button
- Plug and play port easy to install at the back
- Great built construction which is durable and long-lasting
- Small and compact thus doesn’t talk a lot of space on the dashboard
6. Hopkins Brake Control 47284
If you are searching for a time-based brake control, then this one could work for you. It has easy to use controls and features which will allow for adjusting of the brake system as you concentrate on your driving. It is a great installation if you have a small vehicle with trailer units. It has the capacity to work up to four braking systems.
There will be no losing concentration with the control system of this particular brake control. It is very reliable and improves the towing experience, making it simpler. It has a vertical manual slide that corresponds to the way you reach for the control. It works with 12V negative ground system and you can be able to mount it any angle.
Its connection of plugin allows you to be able to quickly install or remove it without cutting or splicing. It is protected from short-circuiting. It has LED digital display settings which will show the percentage of braking power.
- It is compact and no need for leveling
- It is easy to mount and install
- Its indicator shows when there is a problem
- Able to control up to 4 axles
- Uses 12V to power the controller
7. REESE Towpower Compact Brake Control 74642
Looking for a time-based brake controller, then this might be an option that you can purchase. It is extremely affordable and will be able to offer you with that extra security that you are looking for.
You will have to use the slider to adjust the sync on this particular brake control. It is designed to be able to be used on 1-2 axles and comes with all the necessary mounting brackets and hardware. Due to the fact that it features no moving features the way the proportional controller would, it is so compact.
Though it will not provide you with the linear braking feel and performance of outright braking like a proportional controller, it is still a great time brake controller to consider if that is your taste.
- Anti-lock compatible
- Slide adjustment
- Time-based design
8. Tekonsha Electronic Brake Control 90885
Regardless of the terrain, you are driving on, this particular brake control will give you instant braking. It is a system which is designed to work perfectly with the hydraulic and electronic brake system. this means that, you are assured that you will not experience brake failure even when faced with the most challenging situations.
It is a system which automatically adjusts itself to make sure that, you are saved the hustles of the manual level adjustments. When you are towing heavier trailers, the system will allow you to enjoy more braking power due to the fact that it produces stops in relation to a deceleration rate of your car.
When it comes to installation, it is very straightforward and thus, you will use the shortest time to ensure that you have DIY installation. It comes with all the hardware you will require during the installation process.
- It is designed to work with both hydraulic and electronic brake systems
- It can control up to 4 braking axles
- It is equipped with Boost technology
- Self-leveling design senses
- Has reverse battery protection
- It is expensive
How The Trailer Brake Controller Work?
If you have A proportional brake control brake controller is one which is self-sufficient when it comes to braking once you get it installed in your vehicle. It is more of a sensor than a controller. As you apply more pressure to the brakes of the tow vehicle, it will provide the same amount to the brakes of the trailer which you are trying to tow. You have an option of boosting this by hitting an override or switch but nothing else. Think of the tow vehicle’s braking with the sensing device which is within them as a kind of pendulum; when it swings far from the center, there will be more pressure which will be applied to your trailer brakes.
For the brake controllers which are time activated, they work differently. You will be the one who has to make the necessary adjustment on them. You will set a pre-determined amount of pressure which will go to the trailer brakes whenever the brakes which tow the vehicle are applied. With time activated brake controllers, braking is normally not a smooth thing. There is normally a very slight time hesitation from when the tow vehicle brakes are applied to when the brakes of the trailer are applied.
Operating The Trailer Brake Controller
No matter which style of the brake controller you are using, they tend to operate in the same way and have the same objective. They are supposed to brake for a trailer and tow vehicle with the same amount of braking pressure. When it comes to proportional brake controllers, they do this in an automatic way. But for the time activated brake controllers, it is up to the driver to do this.
Similar braking pressure which is applied on the trailer and the tow vehicle helps in creating smooth braking. That is the key as far as effective, safe braking does not lock up the trailer wheels. When a wheel lock-up when you are braking, it will definitely make the trailer to go out of control to various degrees. That is something that you would not want to experience or even deal with when you are towing.
Why You Should Use Brake Controller?
1. Improve Safety
When it comes to towing a trailer, it is not an easy thing as it may look and there are various safety devices you will need to adhere to. That is why improving the safety of you and your truck has to be the number one benefit of this particular device.
When you are hauling a trailer, it dramatically affects the braking characteristic of your truck. When brake force is applied, a brake controller is able to add braking power through activating the brakes of the trailer. In the process, it adds braking power to the wheels you are trying to control both for the trailer and vehicle making braking easier and faster.
2. Monitor Your System
It makes it more convenient and comfortable to control and monitor the towing system when you are on the road. Most manufacturers include diagnostic and customizable LCD feature that allows you to keep a close eye on the trailer you are towing, the braking system and the cargo.
3. Extend The Life Of Your Brake Pads
Without having a brake controller, all the stopping power when you tow is done by the brakes on your truck. Apart from this being dangerous especially with heavy towed weight, it tends to place a huge strain on the brake system of your vehicle. Therefore, even if you are towing trailers which are lighter, it will be best to hook up a trailer brake controller to extend the life of your brake pads. This will be able to spread the braking power around the trailer and the car, putting less pressure on the braking system of your car.
4. Pay Very Little
It comes with a leveling system which is automatic thus, no need for you to pay much attention as the system makes sure that, all the elements are fully functional and stable. The design is normally sturdy and straightforward and thus, easy and affordable when it comes to maintenance.
Types Of Trailer Brake Controller
There are various modes of brake controllers for trailers which you will find in the market. There tend to be two brake controller types; time-delayed and proportional.
1. Time-Delayed Brake Controllers
They are normally engaged by the trailer brakes through using power output which is pre-set and rate or sync application. The settings are normally determined by you depending on the combined weight of the cargo and the trailer that is expected. There is normally a sync switch which determines the braking force of this system.
If the sync happens to be too low, then it means that most of the towing will be performed by the towing vehicle. But if it is set too high, it will then have to carry most of the burden of braking. With this type of brake controller, there is always a delay between the time when the driver steps on the brake and when the controllers start to work on the trailer brakes.
2. Proportional Brake Controllers
Of the two types of brake controllers, the proportional brake controllers are the most expensive ones. They normally unleash the brakes’ pressure at a ratio which is similar to that of the towing vehicle. It performs great in the way it senses how and when the towing vehicle is stopping and slowing and how it makes sure the trailer brakes are engaged with the same intensity.
So in case you slam the brakes hard, the trailer brakes will be slammed by the controller in a hard style to make the stopping uniform and in the process, avoiding accidents. It is great since you will be able to adjust the features of the controller, based on the braking and weight preferences of the vehicle which is being towed.
While the installation and wiring of the system are similar for both, the functionality is what separates them. The proportional brake controllers can also be operated manually depending on the amount of load and the braking force.
What To Look For In An Electric Trailer Brake Controller?
The following are some of the features and characteristics which you need to consider before you purchase a brake controller for your trailer.
1. Proportional Or Time Based
Time based systems are based on various systems which sense when your car decelerates. They normally use the power in a proportional way to the electrical braking system. On the other hand, the proportional controllers use capability sets to the braking system of the trailer whenever they are required.
2. Brake Boost
The type of braking system which your trailer uses will be a determining factor whether the controller will be able to work or not. You have to remember that, not all hydraulic systems are compatible with the brake controllers.
If your trailer hydraulic surge cannot utilize the unique coupler then it will not use the brake controller efficiently. If you have a vehicle that uses both hydraulic and electric system, you can rest assured that, the brake controller will work perfectly well. You have to also consider the ratio of the car which is being towed versus that of the towing vehicle. You should try and not go for those brake controllers which are low end when the vehicle and the trailer have the same mass or the trailer tends to be more substantial as compared to the towing vehicle.
3. Number Of Axles
You have to always remember that, different controllers have axles which they can match with. Ensure that you get those particular brands to get the full range. You need to know the brands which will be in a position to fit the needs of your trailer.
You have to check out the system of the display which is being used by the controller you are about to purchase. The LED monitors tend to be the best due to the fact that, they rely on the information and other types of diagnostics of the trailer and the way they are controlled. You have to ensure that, you get the best brands which are offered with the LED feature.
For a piece of equipment which is valuable and expensive, you need to find one with a good warranty. As a general rule, get one that has a warranty that covers the unit completely for the longest period of time.
This is one of the most important factors which you will have to consider when you are shopping out for a brake controller. The volts are either 12V or 24V so you have to ensure that it is matching well with your trailer power source. If they happen not to be paired well, chances are that they might end up not working and thus, lead to unnecessary accidents.
7. Setting Options
The brake control system has to be one that has setting options that will enable you to do an easy installation. It should come with all the necessary hardware for mounting. If it comes with more than one bracket so that it can be used in other vehicles, that is a plus too. A brake controller which mounts to allow for a swivel is great too. When it comes to installing any brake controller, wiring can be a headache. If it doesn’t come with your vehicle specific wiring harness, it should have at least wiring leads which can be spliced to ensure that it works.
DIY Install An Electric Brake Controller – Step By Step
Installing the trailer brake controller might not be as easy as it seems. But if you can follow the below instructions, you will be able to do it safely and in the right way.
You will have to check first if your vehicle is pre-wired for the device. Check this under the dashboard and see if there is any plug which is labeled electric brake controller. It might be under the steering wheel but at times, you will need to search it.
Here is the step by step guide on how to go about the installation.
1. Selecting The Right Harness
There is a need for a wiring harness for the brake controller which it will splice into. But if your car is wired for the brake controller, then it will definitely come with a harness making your work much easier.
Ensure that the controller is assembled correctly. When you do so, it will make the installation to be done quickly and correctly.
Before you start the vehicle, ensure that all the components are mounted. It has to be fastened securely using the mounting screws. You have to do everything perfectly and double-check the entire thing without dodging any cables. If you don’t fix the device correctly, it will result in the brake failing when you require it. The system needs to calibrate itself to ensure that it is in a location which is safe.
4. Dash Controls
Dash-mount controls have to be installed. Ensure that it is in a place which is visible. There should be enough space for the mounts to sit securely. While the dash controls are small, they normally come with an electric plug which is bulky. Ensure that the material of the dash is not too thick so that it doesn’t affect the brake activation button’s operation.
5. Output And Input Wires
There are two wires which you will need to connect before you power the system. One comes from the brake lights. There are some brake lights switches which are normally connected on top of the pedal of the brake. It is the one which tells the central unit when the trailer brakes should be activated. The other cable which should be connected is the output one which is normally found between the trailer brakes and the central control.
6. Connect The Dots
Run the negative and positive electrical cables from the main unit to the battery through the circuit breaker. They need to be mounted as close to the battery as possible. The twin-core wiring will be the easiest to work with.
Pass the electrical cable via your vehicle’s firewall so that, the hole which is already there will have structural integrity being maintained. You can decide to leave it disconnected at the battery until you are done with the entire process.
7. It Has To Work Before You Hook The Trailer Back
You have to test the brake controller to ensure that it is working before you hook back the trailer. You will find on the electrical tow plug brake pin to probe the auxiliary which you will use to ensure that the brake controller is activated.
If the test light is able to illuminate, then the controller has been installed correctly. The more the voltage is increased, the more the light will be intensified
1. Do I Need A Brake Controller?
Even if you are a careful and good driver, as long as your trailer is over 1000lbs when empty, you need a brake controller. It doesn’t matter how slow or careful you drive it. There is no way you are going to stop the trailer quickly enough if a child runs from nowhere in front of you when you don’t have a brake controller installed.
2. Do Trailer Brakes Work Without A Controller?
If you have electric trailer brakes, they will not work on their own due to the fact that they require a brake controller in order to be activated
3. How Do You Test A Brake Bontroller Without A Trailer?
- Press the brake pedal down while you watch the brake controller. The display on the controller needs to light up and hold a reading which is relatively steady which shouldn’t vary more than 1/10 of the up and down volt. For this step, it might be necessary to turn the ignition key to the on position.
- Check the controller fuse if there is no lighting up on the display. Replace it if it burned and repeat the above process. If the fuse burns again, it means there is a short circuit which you will need to locate and repair before you can test the controller again.
- Go to the back of your tow vehicle with your multimeter to test the trailer connector. Someone has to hold the brake pedal while you check the terminal which is connected to the blue wire on the connector. This wire is normally the brake control wire in a properly wired connector.
When the tow brake is applied, the wire needs to have a voltage present. The voltage amount present will vary as the adjustment control on the brake controller is moved. If there is no voltage or it doesn’t vary, then there is a fault or a problem with the blue wire.
- Test the blue wire problem by checking the voltage present in the blue wire at the back of the controller. If there is no voltage or one that cannot be modulated, then it means that the controller has failed.
4. What Weight Do Trailers Need Brakes?
All semitrailers and trailers with a gross weight of load together with the vehicle of more than 4000 lbs, they must have brake controllers which are properly functioning and can be controlled by the driver. If a trailer has a registered weight of over 3000 lbs, then it must have breakaway brakes.
To choose the best trailer brake controller will all depend on how often you are going to use your vehicle to tow a trailer and on the load you will be carrying. The more you tow, the better the quality of the brake controller that you should use. If you are not an expert when it comes to DIY, then it is best you involve a professional to install a brake controller on your vehicle so that you have the best durability and functionality.
Using a trailer brake is all about driving accordingly after setting it right. For what it is worth, I think spending money on investing in a quality brake controller after reading the best trailer brake controller reviews above could be the best thing to do. Get one that is easier to use and drive with. Make your life easier by choosing the best out of the many I have reviewed above.
My best pick is the Tekonsha Electronic Brake Controller 90195 P3 since though expensive, it has a long lifespan, you can customize the brake programs and system, it has a comprehensive user interface, it is easy to install and use.