A trailer brake controller controls the electric brakes on a trailer. It is an essential piece of safety equipment. To tow a trailer, the brakes of the towing vehicle must stop both the vehicle and trailer’s weight and momentum. This can lead to longer stopping distances and brake damage at best, and to collisions at worst.
There are a variety of trailer brake controllers available that not only activate the trailer’s brakes smoothly when the driver steps on the brake pedal up front, but they also keep the wheels rolling smoothly when it’s time to back the trailer into a campsite or parking space. Several of these devices are also capable of alerting the driver to any failures in the electronic chain that links the trailer to the towing vehicle or the brakes themselves on the trailer.
There are a lot of options to consider when you are shopping for a trailer brake controller. There is no denying the value of easy installation, clear readouts and intuitive control of a trailer brake controller just as much as the range of brake gains available to the user. Here are the five top-rated controllers that will keep you safe when towing.
Tow vehicles’ deceleration under braking is controlled using a proportional controller. To ensure the tow vehicle and trailer decelerate at the same rate, it calculates the amount of force to apply to the trailer brakes. When braking is heavy, a proportional controller offers a more progressive, gradual feel and makes the trailer more reliable.
Time-delayed controllers are much simpler. Your trailer is signaled to apply the brakes when these controllers detect that the brakes on your tow vehicle have been engaged. A number of factors can be considered by the user when setting braking force and time delay.
Tekonsha P3 Trailer Brake Controller is the closest thing available on the aftermarket to the appearance of a factory trailer brake controller. A large LED screen is displayed to indicate the battery voltage, the brake voltage, the output voltage, and the current amperage. Moreover, the warning light can also flash if there is a malfunction in the braking system.
You can customize the brightness, contrast, and even the language (English, Spanish, and French). There is a boost feature which allows you to change the braking power modulated by the P3 system. Two large buttons are used to control the braking system, making it very easy for someone who is in the driver’s seat to use. Its only real downfall is its price, which is quite high. In order to be able to offer this type of feature content and capability, you have to pay for it.
At a relatively low cost, Reese Tow power has all the basics covered. Up to four axles can be controlled by the system, and the brake boost can be adjusted to meet the drivers’ needs. On one side, there is a small LED display that shows voltage, another with a diagnostic output for troubleshooting, another with a boost feature for emergency braking, and a fourth with four buttons that are easy to distinguish while driving.
In my opinion, the only potential drawback to using this unit is that the buttons are located at the top, which may limit the installation options. The Tow power includes a connector that the instructions claim is universal, however some buyers have reported that they had to purchase a separate harness to install it on their particular vehicle.
The Curt Echo Trailer Brake Controller is thought to be the beginning of a revolution in trailer brake controllers for tech-savvy drivers. Unlike other vehicles, there’s only one piece of it – and it’s outside the vehicle. An Android app that can be installed on a smartphone linked to a trailer uses a seven-pin connector to communicate with the device and provide information and input via Bluetooth.
A vehicle can easily be shifted from one to another thanks to its ability to move. However, there are also some disadvantages to its strengths. It is very important to have a smartphone with a large screen, a secure phone mount, to remember to keep the phone charged and to have a flawless Bluetooth connection.
Lose any one of those elements and there’s trouble on the horizon. There is also a steep price difference between this controller and others available on the market.
CURT’s Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller is designed to offer safe and dependable operation. Featuring a nice, visible LED display that allows you to monitor brake operation, this brake controller is easy to use. Due to the lack of moving parts inside, no leveling is necessary.
Among the features on this brake controller are a manual brake slider button, an adjustable power toggle, and an adjustable ramp time. CURT charges just $20 for its electric trailer brake controller and claims you can use it on virtually any trailer with one to three axles (2 to six brakes). The unit is compatible with cruise control, anti-lock brakes, low voltage systems, and PWM systems.
The install is a snap with a CURT vehicle-specific quick connector harness, available separately. You can adjust the mounting bracket on this brake controller to maximize visibility.
Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ trailer brake controllers come with a variety of features including LED readouts, self-diagnostics, a boost function for emergency braking, and mounting clips for installing to the bottom of your vehicle’s dash.
The price is reasonable for this product. Consequently, it is a good middle ground between expensive controllers and entry-level controllers. Other than that, you will need to purchase a wiring harness for your vehicle separately. Otherwise, installation is simple.
You have to unplug it from the adapter to turn it off, since there is no off switch on this product. Electronic brake controllers are known to make this noise, but some users may find it bothersome. Users have also complained that the brake controller applies inconsistent braking forces.