For anyone that tows a heavy trailer or RV regularly, having a trailer brake controller should be on top of your bucket list. There is no question that this is one of the most important and useful accessories to towing a trailer.
First, it helps ensure safety – which if you ask me is the most important thing. Towing definitely takes a toll on your vehicle; most times, it can be tough on your vehicle’s brake and this can lead to some awkward and unsafe stopping condition. There is a lot of stress and strain associated with towing a trailer.
Due to the increased weight and pressure coming from the trailer being towed to the towing vehicle, the vehicle brakes would need to press harder than normal. With the help a trailer brake controller, the braking response gets smoother. You can easily make a stop by just controlling the brakes.
Modern trailers come with their own brakes but they are not always the accessory you can rely on. This is why having your own trailer brake controller is crucial to your work. By the end of this review, you will know the best trailer brake controller in the market as well as what to look out for in one.
Best Trailer Brake Controller Review
Here we have selected the top 7 trailer brake controller and reviewed. Have a look, please.
1. Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control
The first product on our review is from the popular Tekonsha brand. Known for its quality brake controller, this is one model that further cements the reputation of the brand. Many users of this product have rated this particular product one of the best electric brake controllers, if not the best. Let’s see why
The LCD screen of the product is very easy to read, allowing you to be aware of all diagnostic reading that will ensure a smooth response. It is also bright; meaning you can easily see it at any time of the day. Drivers can also easily notice any error, locate the source and correct it.
One more thing that you would love about this product is that fact that you can save the brake settings and use it for other trailers – in fact, you can use for up to 5 different trailers. This makes your work easier and also save the crucial time that would have been wasted programming new settings for each trailer.
One of the major drawbacks of using this product is that it can get complex to use. This product will not be recommended to a first-time driver or user. Also, it not the most budget-friendly of product to purchase – so you might need to save up a little more to get this product.
2. Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT Plug-in Simple Brake Control
This mini brake controller is one handy product to add to your collection of accessories. What this product does basically is to copy the towing vehicle’s brakes and proportionally and automatically apply it to the trailer brakes – ensuring safety, ease and less difficulty.
This three-part product has a tiny screen where you can read anything from current-voltage to problems and errors with the system. This will allow you to easily make the proper corrections and ensure safety.
Any driver of a towing vehicle would love to be able to adjust the intensity of the brake application – and this another thing that Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT offers. This will let you determine how sharp or otherwise the braking of the trailer would be. It is very easy to make a stop with this brake controller.
This product can be safely recommended to even an absolute beginner or first-time user. It is easy to use and install.
One downside to using this product is the fact that it takes a considerable amount of time to wire and install the various parts together. Also, the display dashboard is small, which might be a problem for some users.
3. Reese Towpower 8508211 Control Proportional Brake-EVN
This is one brake controller that can be easily used by both light and heavy trailers. It is made by one of the most popular brands who have been known for producing some of the best trailer brake controllers in the market.
Users of the product will appreciate the minimalistic design of the product that makes very easy and simple to use. Both beginners and experienced users can easily settings into the brake controller.
The product offers an affordable option for prospective users who are on a tight budget. If you are interested in getting a cheap trailer brake controller without having to get a low-quality option, this is the brake controller to go for.
When you are fully loaded or you have to tow a heavy trailer, the boost option of the product becomes really useful. You will be able to get the braking from the get-go. The transparent screen also clearly displays the diagnostic readings of the trailer brake and lets you easily notice errors.
One major drawback to using the product is that you would not be able to adjust the intensity of the brake. Some users also find it difficult to mount the product due to the buttons that are located on top of the brake controller.
4. CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller
This is a time-delayed brake controller that has a rather adult-like and unique design. The product has 5 green lights that become visible and increases as you press on the brake. A user can have a visual indication of the amount of power that has been applied to the brakes using the green light.
This is another trailer brake controller that is considered budget-friendly. For users who are on a tight budget and would still love to get a brake controller, this would be a good option for purchase. It offers a great value for money.
You will also have everything you need for easy installation and smooth response when in use. It comes with all the essential accessories that will ensure that the brake controller is easily installed from the box.
One major downside of using this brake controller, especially with users keen on a digital display, is the screen. The LED display of the product is considered basic by some. Also, the product lacks the sophistication and features that come with a typical proportional brake controller.
5. Draw-Tite 20191 I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control
Draw-Tite designed this proportional brake controller to offer an installation that can only be described as nice and simple. In a matter of minutes and even without deep knowledge, the product can be installed and ready for use.
When compared to most proportional brake controller, it offers good value for money. The fact that it is an upgrade on most time-delayed models of brake controller and also cheaper than similar proportional models make it a popular choice. The downside to this is that it has lesser features to offer than other proportional models.
For vehicles that often used for towing a heavy trailer, this would be a perfect choice. This is because of the boost option that is present in the product. The accompanying display of the product is also bright and easy to read.
Other than lesser features, another drawback with the product is that diagnostic readings on the display can be difficult to interpret. This can prove a challenge for most drivers especially beginners.
The product has also be noticed to struggle on surfaces with gravel or any other loose surface. For people who work on surfaces like this, Draw-Tite 20191 is not recommendable.
6. Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control
The Tekonsha is more or less a basic version of the Tekonsha 90885. Nevertheless, it is still regarded as one of the best trailer brake controllers in the market at the moment. It has the design quality and the unique build of a typical Tekonsha brake control.
What many users have come to love about this product is that it is very easy to set up and install. The use of the product is also not complex/complicated – making it recommendable to beginners. In fact, it is preferable for an inexperienced tower to use this product or people who only tow trailers occasionally.
The accompanying simple LED screen and the dial typify the ease of use and installation of this product. The power of the brake controller is just as strong as any other from the brand – users should not be worried about the loss in quality in that aspect.
One drawback to using this product is that you would not be able to adjust the intensity of braking makes any adjustment whatsoever to the settings of the brake controller. Like earlier pointed out, users who tow heavy trailer or tow frequently should not make use of this brake controller. This is as a result of its lack of some essential features.
7. Hayes 81760 Engage Digital Time Based Brake Controller
This time-based brake controller model is an interesting product as it is the flag bearer product of the Hayes brand into a particular section of vehicle tools market. Its place on the review is well-deserved as it offers more than what you would expect from a basic time-based model.
The product is easy to install and this has easily endeared it to the hearts of trailer towers. The fact that you don’t need to be pre-leveling is an added bonus that further shows how easy it is to use and install the product.
The product is also considered a cheaper and more budget-friendly option for users working with a tight budget.
However, questions have been raised on whether it truly offers value for money. That has proven to be the major drawback of the product. The product has a connector that can be simply described as terrible. The design of the connector makes it incompatible with some vehicles – meaning if you are one of those, you will need to buy an additional connector.
When you add this extra to the original price of the product, it costs more than an average proportional model.
Buying Guide for Trailer Brake
In order to have a product that is worthy of been called the best trailer brake controller, there are some key features to look out for. These features make up the buying guide to a quality trailer brake. Here are some of the things to look out for in a brake controller.
Brake boost is a feature that is prominent in the design of proportional models of trailer brake controllers. The device is designed to sense the occurrence of heavy braking usually in the cases of emergency stops. The brake boost then kicks in this scenario and applies a boost to the braking power – usually 5% to 105%. That boost you may consider little is significant in stopping a heavy load quickly and most especially, safely. This is definitely one feature to look out for especially with people who tow regularly or tow heavy trailers.
Imagine your laptop without a screen – yes that right there is exactly what an electric trailer brake controller without a built-in screen would look like. The built-in screen comes in a different form; large LED screen to little LCD display.
There are fine brake controllers without a screen but this is not something we love or would recommend. But what a built-in screen offers is an easier setup and a clear display of diagnostic readings in the braking system.
That way, you can notice errors, pinpoint the source and provide the necessary corrections to it.
Number of Axles
It is preferable to choose trailer brake controllers with the ability to handle multiple axles. Heavy trailers sometimes come with extra wheels. It is common to see many brake controllers with two or three axles – this is fine and would easily meet your needs.
Those trailer brake controllers with the ability to handle up to four axles are the one to look out for here. If your trailer comes with an extra set of wheels, this would be the best device for the job. Check FAQs on how to determine the number of axles your controller needs to control the trailer brakes.
Type of Electric Trailer Brake Controller
There are two types of trailer brake controller to choose from; proportional and time-based/time delayed models. Either one would work fine for what you need but what they offer you differ. Choosing between them is likely the biggest decision that you will have to make when it comes to buying a trailer brake controller.
- Time-Based/Time Delayed: this type of brake controller is considered as the simpler type. This is because it comes with lesser feature than the proportional types. They are also usually easier to set up and install. They are easier to use too.
Time-based/time delayed models can be mounted at any angle (one of the reasons why they are considered easier to set up than proportional models). So how do they work?
They work by letting you the set a percentage of braking power that is to be applied to the trailer brakes when the brakes of the towing vehicle are pressed by you. The controller will then ramp up the brakes in a progressive manner, applying more brake power as the vehicles slow down.
The device tries to mimic the normal progressive action that is used by many drivers. It is the reason why stopping usually feels a tiny bit jerky.
- Proportional: this type is a more complex and usually more expensive brake controller. It was described by many as the superior of the two, especially by users who tow heavy trailers or tow regularly.
The device is designed to monitor the speed of the towing vehicle, checking for any acceleration or deceleration. Whenever it senses a deceleration rate, it matches the rate to the trailer – hence the name proportional.
This automatic and proportionate application to the trailer is what leads to the smooth slowing down process whenever a proportional brake controller is being used.
Due to its complex design and more features, the installation process can be a little harder than that of time delayed models. Also, when installing and mounting a type like this, it is necessary to do so at a certain angle. This is the only way it would work properly and correctly.
Our recommendation is this;
For people with smaller trailers or people who don’t tow often, the time-based/time delayed type would meet your needs. You also get to save a few bucks that can be used to buy other accessories you need for your vehicle.
if you tow often or you usually have to tow heavy trailers, it is preferable that you choose a proportional brake controller. It has everything you would need for a smooth ride and it is the better option in cases of emergency braking.
It might a few extra bucks more, but it is more than worth it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about the best trailer brake controller:
Q: What is a trailer brake controller?
Ans: It can be easily deduced from the name, it does basically what it says on the label. The brake controller will control your trailer attached to the towing vehicle and it would help you control the braking of both the vehicle and the trailer when you are towing the load. That, simply is what a trailer brake controller is.
Q: How does the trailer brake controller work?
Ans: Of course, it is important to know exactly how something like this work, especially when it has to do with safety on the road. The trailer brake controller is connected to the trailer braking system through the electrical system of the vehicle. Then the brake in the trailer work in tandem with the application of the brakes in the vehicle itself.
The moment you press your foot against the brake pedal, the trailer brake automatically controls the trailer to brake too.
Q: Should I get a timed or proportional brake controller?
Ans: We have mentioned and give in details the difference between proportional and timed brake controller. Also, as mentioned earlier in the buying guide, the former is typically superior to the latter.
If you are towing smaller trailers or you do not tow often, it is more advisable for you to get a timed brake controller. One, it is usually cheaper and it would perform all the basic functions you would need. If you usually tow heavy trailers or you tow often, the proportional model is the advisable and preferable option for you.
The proportional controller will offer more linear braking performance and would be a better option in the case of emergency braking events.
Q: How Do I Mount, Set and Install My Trailer Brake Controller?
Ans: The norm is for your trailer brake controller to come with a mounting bracket and hardware in the box. Typically, the bracket is to be screwed into the bottom of your vehicle dash, and the brake controller itself expected to either screwing or sliding into the bracket.
Also, you will need a wiring harness, which usually your brake controller won’t come with. This accessory you will have to purchase separately and it is important you buy the correct one intended for your vehicle.
It is the wire harness that will plug into the trailer controller and a port that you will find underneath the dashboard (your owner’s manual should help you to locate this, or sometimes online research).
The common design among tow vehicles is that a trailer brake controller will be a simple plug and play installation into the port. One thing you need to take note of when you are mounting proportional controllers is the way you are mounting so as not to throw off the accelerometer if they aren’t mounted level or mounted upside down.
Q: What do I do if my vehicle is not equipped for towing?
Ans: for vehicles that are not equipped for towing, you will need to run the wires linking trailer brakes, vehicle brakes, and ground and battery power. You should seek help from online forums on wiring guides to get you up and running on this. The most advisable option would be to have a professional carry out the wiring.
Q: How do I calibrate my trailer brake controller?
Ans: For most proportional trailer brake controllers, they would calibrate themselves – so all you have to do is plug it in!
Most time-based controllers are different. They usually come with a manual telling you the proper way to calibrate the controller. You can also check for calibration instructions online – but make sure you type the label and model correctly.
Q: How do I know the number of axles that my controller can handle to control the trailer brakes?
Ans: All you have to do is count the number of wheels on your trailer and divide it by two. That is the number of axles your controller needs to control the trailer. Simple math, right?
Think of this as our final verdict. There is a chance that you are still conflicted on which product to choose. Here are top three picks from the list, each one having something unique that puts it ahead of the rest.
Each of the product in this review is worthy of being called one of the best trailer brake controllers. But there is only one to rule them all and Hopkins 47297 INSIGHT is our top choice. It can be used by anyone and it is also a proportional model that allows for adjustment of brake intensity.
Best Option for Serious Towers
If you are one that has done a lot of towing or you have to tow heavy trailers, TEKONSHA 90195 P3 is the best choice for you. It offers some of the best features typical of Tekonsha product but it has that extra that sets it apart from the rest.
Most Budget-Friendly Option
Draw-Tite 20191 is the best option for people on a tight budget. With this, you get to save some money and still get more than a basic time-delayed type. That boost option present in the device is what makes it the most budget-friendly option. You get good value for money with this.