If you drive a car or a truck with a trailer attached, a good brake controller is essential to tow your trailer smoothly and safely. When the road is rough and even, it is much more complicated for a driver to control the trailer and tow it carefully. The brake controller helps create more braking power that makes the trailer stop at the right moment.
Below, you can discover 7 most sought-after brake controllers manufactured by globally renowned brands and find out what is the best trailer brake controller.
Trailer Brake Controllers Reviews
The first product on our list comes from Tekonsha which is famous for the most advanced and handy equipment. The Tekonsha 90195 P3 has every chance to become the best brake controller on the market because of an incredible level of customization and multi-functionality.
The device has a simple but modern design. The LCD screen allows keeping track of charge, output voltage, and output current. The screen has various color options and supports three languages. The P3 is programmed to warn the user in case the trailer brakes fail to operate correctly. This characteristic plays a crucial role in preventing road accidents and collisions.
The electronic brake controller is compatible with electric and electric-over-hydraulic trailers. The P3 is expected to handle up to 4 trailer axles at a time. This is of great value for those drivers who own or have to deal regularly with different trailer configurations. Despite the advanced and user-friendly design, the Tekonsha 90195 P3 still can be controlled manually if necessary. You can adjust level brakes to reach the optimal performance. The device is portable and compact, but the small size does not impair the power of brake control.
Along with the Tekonsha, the user gets some helpful accessories, such as plug adapters and mounting clips to attach and detach the device.
- Set-up is easy.
- You can set the brightness and background color of the display.
- You can activate the self-diagnostic system each time you have worries about brakes condition.
- The price point is a bit higher in comparison with other alternatives on the market.
If you look for the best electric brake controller, think about the I-Stop IQ that provides the driver with increased safety and precision when towing a trailer.
This Draw-Tite model is small and easy to use because of smart technologies integrated into the design. The I-Stop IQ is set to diagnose the trailer brakes based on which the driver finds out the most advantageous braking power. The device has the built-in LED display showing essential diagnostic data indicating whether your trailer is securely connected as well as the level of voltage supplied. The Boost button lets the user control a braking level by applying more or less power depending on a trailer weight, but the system is able to level itself without a user’s efforts.
The product comes with a number of accessories that are needed to disconnect and store it. The device features Plug-N-Play port that can easily attach two plug adapters hooked up with your van.
- The price is budget-friendly.
- Installation is thoroughly explained in instructions and so manageable even by green users.
- It lacks the ability to work with various trailer profiles (heavy, multi-axle, etc.).
- Braking does not work smoothly on gravel roads.
Tekonsha brand offers one more option that can be fairly ranked among the best trailer brake controllers in the world.
The design is a lot similar to that of the Tekonsha 90195 P3. The core technology is basically the same. The device is programmed to run automatically using a self-diagnosis. The LED display allows monitoring the braking condition and informs of any malfunctions immediately. The readout on the screen normally provides information on output voltage, output current, and reliability of the electrical connection. The Boost feature helps enhance the initial braking power, but the driver cannot level braking during the performance. This model is expected to work with up to 3 axles and adjust to any road surface, including slopes and rough roads.
The device is compact and user-friendly. The Plug-N-Play port enables secure and solid connection with a heavy van, whereas mounting clips make the removal smooth and quick. Primus IQ comes with a number of mounting clips for easier and firmer installation.
This proportional controller does not have all of the advanced features that you can see in pricier models. If your goal is to find a simple device that will do a good job in towing a trailer, the Tekonsha 90195 P3 will fully live up to your expectations.
- The price is suited to buyers on a low budget.
- Installation is pretty simple.
- Primus IQ does not involve different performance modes to match trailer profiles better.
Out of all the trailer brake controller reviews on this list, this model is the only one that is aimed to deal with single and tandem axle trailers. Though it does not feature a brightly lit LED display, the driver can enjoy other tech advantages such as enhanced durability and powerful braking abilities.
The Reese Towpower is small and can be mounted in any orientation. The box is made of high-quality solid materials that make the 74642 model durable and promise a prolonged lifespan. The device needs no leveling but can be slightly manually controlled in some instances. Unlike other brake controllers, this one is not proportional but time-based, which means the user is able to apply braking power only at a fixed rate.
The design is fully compatible with the latest safety standards. So if you are bothered about braking performance, this model offers fail-safe performance with the minimal of malfunction and won’t let you down at the right moment. The Reese Towpower is accompanied by a set of essential hardware for easy and obstacle-free installation.
- The design allows sync adjustment to various trailer configurations.
- The user’s manual is straightforward and concise.
- The price is the lowest one among all the options here.
- The unit lacks an adaptor to connect a trailer. You will have to buy it individually.
If you agree to buy only a high-class digital brake controller that includes all the newest characteristics of intelligent braking, the TriFlex is the first decent model to consider.
CURT created a special circuit-based design that involves the analysis of a trailer movement and a road surface based on which the system defines and sets the most optimal level of braking power. The braking system has 9 braking levels to match different trailer configurations. The driver can manually activate the necessary level and set the output power. The CURT 51140 system is compatible with other essential vehicle control systems such as anti-lock brakes and low-voltage systems.
The TriFlex is versatile in terms of application. You can use it for a large variety of vehicles of different weight. In spite of a small size, this proportional model delivers excellent performance and can tow a trailer with up to 4 axles.
The housing has a smart design and features a small digital display showing the adjustment degree. The CURT 51140 comes with the necessary hardware to install the device correctly and quickly. The device can be mounted at any angle, but the most optimal arrangement is below the steering wheel.
- Set-up is fast and takes less than a minute even for newbies.
- The system envisages automatic leveling and calibration if necessary.
- The price point is budget-friendly.
- There is no adapter cable in the kit.
If you are considering only time-based brake controllers, the Activator IV is worth giving a try.
This RV electric brake controller has a smart and simple design which provides the driver with all the essential functions to conduct towing successfully in any conditions. An LED-illuminated display on the front side of the device indicates the output power, and there are also some push buttons to change the braking level and achieve better synchronization in performance.
The controller is designed to tow trailers with up to 4 axles. The device has the built-in Plug and Play port that enables firm and secure connection with a van.
The Draw-Tite 5504 features an enhanced level of usability as it can be installed in any orientation. The product comes with a number of mounting hardware that ensures simple and quick set-up. If you are in search of a high-power and no-frills controller, this model has every chance to become the best trailer brake controller for you.
- Affordable price.
- Installation and operation manual is straightforward.
- Because of the push buttons mounted on the top, you cannot mount the Draw-Tite 5504 under the dashboard and have the buttons accessible.
This is the last electric brake controller review that evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the Tekonsha 90885.
The Prodigy P2 is most suited to drivers that have trailers with the electric-over-hydraulic system. This proportional device is able to handle only this type of configuration. The design is subtle and user-friendly. The LED display indicates the voltage level, while the Boost button allows increasing the initial braking power. The technology underpinning the Tekonsha 90885 design involves self-diagnostics that monitors risks related to connection, such as reverse polarity or short-circuit hazards. The system shuts down automatically in case of malfunctions.
The Prodigy P2 is just as good as any other option on this list. It can tow up to 4 axles and adjusts to any road surface automatically. The box is small and compact. The device can be mount at any angle and so is fit to any terrain vehicle. With the disconnection feature, the driver can attach and detach the brake controller from a van without too much difficulty.
- The unit comes with a mounting kit and trailer wire harness that is needed for connection.
- The price is a lot higher in comparison to other models on the market.
What is a Trailer Brake Controller?
A trailer brake controller is a device that is mounted in a tow vehicle and applied to a trailer’s brakes to halt the trailer when needed. There are two types of brake controllers: proportional and time-delayed.
A proportional brake controller relies on an inertia-based sensor or so-called accelerometer. Once you start slowing down and hit the brakes, it stops the trailer’s brakes too. The advantages of this type of device are the ability to adjust braking power and simultaneous operation with a vehicle’s brakes.
A time-delayed brake controller requires the driver to set the brake power and the sync (how hard you are hitting the brakes). The brake power won’t reach the trailer’s brakes immediately after you applied the brakes. Normally, there is a delay between the moment you press on the brakes and the moment your trailer actually stops. They are considerably cheaper in comparison to proportional ones, but they offer less efficiency and safety when towing a trailer.
How does a Trailer Brake Controller Work?
Basically, a brake controller helps the driver find out a vehicle’s speed and how much braking power is needed to bring a trailer to a halt. The built-in display monitors the connection and the voltage level. More advanced brake controllers have a self-diagnostic system that gives even more information about the trailer brakes. Based on that, the driver can estimate how fast the trailer is going and how hard they should hit the pedal.
Most states require having a trailer brake controller in a vehicle because the risk of collision is usually high when drivers try towing trailers without proper equipment. When choosing such a device, you should take into account the weight of your trailer. The heavier a trailer you drive, the more powerful a device must be to handle towing safely.
How to Install Trailer Brake Controller?
Electric brake controller installation is easy even for green drivers. However, you should know the right place to mount it. The most advantageous arrangement is generally under a driver’s dashboard to keep the display in sight. However, not every model can be installed in any orientation. Proportional controllers are sensitive to driving and cannot be located upside down and must be placed only at specific angles.
If you know where to install the brake controller in your vehicle, you might be confused about numerous wires. This problem is typical for drivers who are only learning how to tow a trailer. Manufacturing companies typically care about their customers and try to provide users with the most detailed information on operation and maintenance. Your brake controller also has an instruction manual that you should read it attentively before getting down to set-up. Pay attention to the part which indicates where you should plug in each wire.
Follow these steps to perform the installation successfully.
- First, you should check that the wires in the rear of your vehicle are connected.
- Mount the brake controller under the dashboard connecting each wire in the right place.
- Turn on the ignition and see to it that the display indicates the maximum gain. You can adjust it with the buttons if necessary.
- At last, you should mount a plug connector in the vehicle. Make sure it is solid and reliable.
Trailer brake controller wiring is a complicated task, especially for a beginner. The controllers usually have a 4-wire configuration with the following connectors:
- Trailer feed — sends the power of the brake to the trailer connector;
- Ground — links the brake controller to the grounded source (negative);
- Brake switch — turns on power after the brake pedal is pushed;
- Battery power — enables the brake controller with a power.
Take a note that trailer brake wiring can be different for each model. In order to not get confused by the number of the wires, always refer to a special diagram that corresponds to a specific model.
How to Use Trailer Brake Controller?
After you’ve installed a controller successfully, you should set it up based on your trailer configuration. Whether you own the best electric trailer brake controller or a simple one, there are a number of easy steps to follow:
- Check the connection each time you are going to drive even when you are positive the brake controller is in good condition. Your vehicle with a trailer should be on a level surface with no other vehicles nearby.
- Now, you should calibrate the brake controller if it is not able to calibrate itself.
- If you own an intelligent model, it allows choosing individual settings that help customize the device or adjust it to a vehicle. At this point, you should customize your brake controller if possible.
- After starting the ignition, it generates the maximum braking output. Here, you should tune it depending on your vehicle’s load size. In order to change it, you should hit and hold the brakes, then set the initial output.
- Now, you should drive a vehicle at a speed of about 25 mph to ensure the brake controller is tuned correctly. If you see the trailer cannot stop properly, enhanced the initial braking power.
- On the contrary, if your trailer stops moving too harshly, lessen the initial output level a bit more.
- Finally, most models have an ‘ON’ switch that lets the driver turn on the controller only when there is a need of it. This manual control is particularly useful when the road surface changes and you have to drive down a rough road. You should take a gravel road, for example, and test how you manage to stop your trailer in this case. Normally, the brake controller allows you to immediately adjust your brakes to a different type of terrain. This substantially reduces the risk of collision and damage caused by bad towing.
Last update on 2020-01-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API