Find the Best trailer electronic brake controller on the market. If you use a trailer or are planning on getting one, you may have come across the term ‘brake controller.
Put simply, a brake controller is a device that provides electronic brake control to the trailer vehicle.
For lighter loads and trailers, a brake controller isn’t really needed, but for heavier trailers weighing more than 500 Kg’s, it is a necessity.
One thing that anyone who has done a bit of towing would understand is the tedious process of getting everything set up.
Individuals who are towing for work, getting a car to the garage, or are just taking the occasional boat for a little dip would classify the towing journey as the hardest part.
With enough skill and towing experience, the task becomes simplified.
Safety, however, is a whole different story, and the function of a brake controller is to provide exactly that.
This guide will cover the basics in the first part and the best trailer brake controller in the second part.
Why do I need electronic brake control?
Towing heavy loads or anything over half a ton carries a significant amount of risk.
The risk is mitigated if the towing is to be done over short distances and low speeds, but when it comes to those long hauls over multiple stretches of highways, the risk still holds.
In case the towing truck or vehicle needs to make a sudden stop, or swerve to avoid an obstacle, the load would become nothing less than a tethered projectile.
The rapid deceleration of the towing vehicle would violently whip the trailer, often causing the towing vehicle to lose traction and skid aggressively from side to side.
Anyone who has had to experience this would define it as nothing less than traumatic.
The absence of a brake controller also adds a considerable amount of strain to the towing vehicle’s drivetrain.
Towing a heavy trailer not only significantly deteriorates handling and engine performance but also causes accelerated wear and tear on the drivetrain components, especially the brakes.
The uncontrolled momentum of a moving trailer coming to a stop may also have an effect on the towing vehicle’s chassis.
The benefits of electronic brake control are not only from a safety perspective but also from durability and longevity.
What is the best brake controller on the market right now?
We have compiled a list of different brake controllers that we think offer the most performance for the money.
These products are placed at various price points, so you can get the one which suits your needs, as well as your budget.
Reese Towpower Brakeman IV:
This controller could control up to eight brakes at the same time, surprising due to its size and price.
The unit comes with built-in circuit protection and runs on 12 volts.
The unit conveniently comes with its own mounting hardware, but installation may be a hassle without the proprietary wiring harness.
The settings are easily adjustable with the buttons, which offer fine control of the gain, sync, and delay.
The Brakeman IV is the best time delayed brake controller you can buy for the price.
- INSTALLS QUICKLY: This 100% solid-state electronic with a small compact design mounts in any direction, no leveling required. Pre-wired plug-and-play feature allows for quick and easy connection to 2-, 4-, 6- and 8- brake systems.
- ADJUSTS EASILY: Two separate easy push-button adjustment controls (output and sync) allow for not only different trailer weights (output) but also the speed of activation (sync) depending on your driving style.
Tekonsha 90195 P3:
Judging by its features, durability, and price, it is without a doubt the best brake controller out there.
The unit has a small LCD screen which supports different languages and color customization.
The unit is a proportional brake controller and features both electric and hydraulic control options.
It has braking support for a maximum of four axles and perfectly assists in emergency braking.
The P3 also has its own troubleshooting mode, which flashes a red LED light in case of any malfunctions.
It also conveniently displays the relevant problem on the screen for ease in diagnosis.
Other features consist of a G-sensor, brake gain level adjustment, reverse mode to name a few.
There is no better proportional brake controller on the market than the Tekonsha P3.
- A distinct, easy-to-read LCD display with multiple screen color options, displays in English, French or Spanish
- Diagnostics show output current, battery, brake, and output voltage and warning system alerts to No Trailer Brake situations
- Boost feature allows for different levels of customized braking, select Electric over Hydraulic or Electric trailer brake mode
- Integrated Plug-N-Play port for 2-plug adapters and Snap-in mounting clip allows user to remove and store the control when not in use
CURT 51140 TriFlex:
This unit is nearly twice as cheap as the aforementioned Tekonsha P3.
This brake controller comes with a little trick up its sleeve, in the form of a three-axis motion sensor.
The sensor is used to determine the optimal braking power and timing, resulting in a smooth braking experience.
It offers easy calibration and featured nine stages of sensitivity.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this unit is the easiest to install, coming with its convenient plug adapter.
Don’t let this unit’s looks fool you. It may look weak but is actually pretty solid.
- Triple-axis, motion-sensing accelerometer for highly responsive, smooth stops
- Third axis provides dynamic power adjustments when going up or down a hill
- Nine levels of sensitivity adjustment for varying loads or driving conditions
- User-selectable power output and trailer brake light activation
- Automatic leveling and calibration eliminate setup requirements
Draw Tite 20191 I-Stop IQ:
The latest version is the one recommended, due to its Brake Boost feature.
The boost could help in slowing down bulkier, heavier trailers.
It is a balanced unit with its small size being the only peeve.
It comes with its own mounting brackets and hardware, and conveniently plugs into the brake control port.
5 used from $49.10
- I-STOP IQ Proportional Electronic Brake Control; for 1 to 3 Axle Trailers
- Self-diagnostics features will illuminate LED readout when issues occur
- Includes a "Boost" feature and works proportionally in reverse
- Utilizes "Plug-N-Play" port for 2-plug adapters
- Includes snap-in mounting clip allows user to remove and store the control when not in use
Hayes 81760 Engage:
The unit is manufactured in the USA and is a good affordable option which provides electronic brake control to single, tandem (2-axle) and triple-axle trailers specifically.
The unit can easily provide braking to three axles, and features an override lever for emergency braking situations.
The Hayes Engage is time-based, and can sense how long the brake pedal in the towing vehicle is pressed and provides current to the trailer electronic brakes.
The current could be calibrated to your liking, so you can fine-tune the strength to your liking.
Given the features, it is a good substitute to the Reese brake controller above.
- No level adjustment required
- Automatic and manual braking
- Quik connect installation-save time
- Made in USA - lead free
- Lifetime warranty
What are the different types of brake controllers?
Deciding on an appropriate type of brake controller is rather easy, as there is no questioning the effectiveness of electronic brake control.
The two types of brake controllers are proportional brake controllers and time-delayed brake controllers.
A proportional brake controller has the ability to sense the towing truck slowing down using a built-in motion sensor and applies the brakes as needed.
One thing to note is that the braking force provided will always be the same, irrespective of the braking force applied by the driver.
The main pros of a proportional brake controller are the ease of use and less wear on the brakes during hard emergency braking.
The cons to this brake controller type are the high price tag and difficulty in installation.
On the other hand, Time delayed brake controllers work by activating the brakes at a preset (depending on trailer weight) pressure after a certainly specified time delay.
The time delay enables the driver to make any fine adjustments before braking and gives them a little headroom.
Ideally, this kind of brake controller should be used by experienced drivers, who can react appropriately when required.
What kind of brake controller should I get?
Before you go out and buy a brake controller, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
It wouldn’t exactly be ideal to go and buy the most affordable brake controller you find as there can be a few major differences.
Namely, they are the screen, precision, ease of installation and brake control type.
Most brake controllers on the market may not have a screen and may use LED’s to display the brake power or delay time.
If you are familiar with using these types of brake controllers, then you may go ahead with the purchase.
Otherwise, it would be a good idea to get a brake controller which has a screen, so that it’s easier to read the settings, as well as read the error codes.
The brake controller you’re going to be installed needs to be precise too.
Electronic brake control relies on the driver pressing the brake pedal for it to engage.
If there is a delay in the reading, or if the reading is sensed incorrectly, it could result in the braking being harsh and or abrupt.
The trailer brakes should always be in sync with the towing vehicle and be as smooth as possible.
How do I install a brake controller?
The first step when installing a brake controller is finding out whether your truck has the required wiring to support it. Most truck models that have a towing package will have harnesses for the wiring, but your mileage may vary.
In case your truck is missing the harness, you may have to do the wiring yourself.
Alternatively, you could take the truck to an authorized mechanic and have them install it for you.
If you are more of a DIY person, here are the steps to install the brake controller yourself:
- Confirm whether the truck has built-in wiring. Try to get under the driver side dashboard and look around for any wiring points. The point will be labeled as ‘electric brake controller’. You may have to take off a few panels to get to it.
- Attach the wiring or splice a new connection. If your truck already has a wiring point, then you can go ahead and connect it. On the other hand, if your truck doesn’t, then get ready to splice it up.
- Install controller to the dashboard. If the controller is an aftermarket unit, it would come with its own bracket and screws. After the wiring is done, just install the bracket with the controller in a reachable location. If you’re using an OEM brake controller, look for its designated place under the dashboard.
- Fine tune the settings. After installation, you can adjust the setting to your requirements. It is a good idea to consult the relevant documentation that came with the trailer to get the exact weight and other details. You would also need to adjust the settings according to the driving and terrain conditions as well.
The products listed above are some of the best brake controller available.
While this list may help you make the right purchase, it is also important to research on the best product for you.
If you have never used a brake controller in the past and are just starting out, then we recommend leaving a little room for experimentation.
Always remember to follow the appropriate safety precautions when towing, and pay attention to local regulations where they apply.
The use of a brake controller not only assists in braking, but also increases the safety of both the driver and everyone else on the road.
Therefore, a brake controller is a really important piece of hardware and is definitely worth a purchase.