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To make towing a little easier and more secure, you must equip yourself with a quality trailer-brake controller. Designed to apply your trailer’s brakes to increase your safety as you navigate the road, installing a trailer-brake controller can make your journeys a lot less stressful. You’ll easily be able to keep trailers small and large under control and at just the right speed, and your entire towing process can become more manageable right from the driver’s seat. These devices are simple to install and come with plenty of features. I’ve rounded up some of the best trailer brake controllers you can buy online right here.
Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control
- Easy to install and adjust
- One-button switch adds boost in seconds
- Clear display alerts you to potential problems
- Buttons can stick
- No on/off switch
Draw-Tite Activator IV Electronic Brake Control
- Mounting possible at any angle
- Easy to program with simple, straightforward controls
- Reliable performance
- Instructions aren’t the clearest or best
Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V2 Electric Brake Controller
- Offers two types of braking for better versatility
- User-controlled settings can add more braking power
- Doesn't over- or underpower the brakes
- Best for smaller trailers
- Installation can be a bit involved
In order to narrow down our list of the best trailer brake controllers, I sought out products from reputable brands that offer reliable performance and ensure you can tow your trailer safely without worrying about the brakes. We considered and compared each brake controller’s feature set, ease of use and installation, any available real-life experiences, and price. From there, we assessed how helpful each could be to those towing trailers small and large.
Best Trailer Brake Controller Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control
Best Value: Draw-Tite Activator IV Electronic Brake Control
Most Versatile: Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V3 Electric Brake Controller
Best for Large Trailers: Reese Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control
Best Digital: Hopkins Insight Brake Control
Best for Power: Curt Venturer Electric Trailer Brake Controller
The Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control is the best pick for a reliable trailer-brake controller. This device can control up to four axles and includes a handy boost feature, plus simple plug-and-play setup. The Draw-Tite Activator IV Electronic Brake Control is another great pick, especially if you’re looking for a good value. With an affordable price and simple installation and mounting, it’s a brake controller you can see from any angle and easily snap right into place.
What to Consider When Buying a Trailer Brake Controller
Picking out the perfect trailer-brake controller for your towing needs can be a bit complicated. You need to think about the features of your trailer as well as what kinds of features are must-haves in your brake controller. But we’re here to help, and we’ve got all of the advice you need to find just the right device.
Types of Trailer Brake Controllers
A proportional trailer-brake controller uses internal, inertia-based sensors to determine when and how your vehicle brakes. When your tow vehicle decelerates, the sensor reacts and commands the controller to send power to the brakes. The best proportional trailer brake controller provides uniform, smooth braking without any push-pull movements.
With a time-delay trailer-brake controller, you’ll have a bit of a delay when you first apply the brakes. A signal is sent to the brake controller, which sends voltage to the trailer brakes. The delay can be adjusted; you can change it in the sync setting, along with additional settings like the braking power and rate of application. A time-delayed controller can be mounted at any angle because it doesn't have internal parts that sense the tow vehicle's braking motions. These controllers are simpler to install and cheaper but not recommended for larger trailers.
Trailer Brake Controller Key Features
Voltage is one of the top factors when it comes to finding the best-rated brake controller. A tow brake controller consists of either 12 or 24 volts. The vehicle's power source must be compatible with the trailer's brakes. If the two units don't match, the braking controller may malfunction, increasing the risk of an accident.
Trailers with electric brakes are governed by a brake controller, while hydraulic brakes require a special coupler. A towing vehicle does not control this braking element. Certain trailers have both electric and hydraulic components. The best aftermarket trailer brake controller should have the ability to operate both types.
Most trailer-brake controllers are priced below $250. Many of the top products even fall below $100 total. If you’re shopping on a budget, you can find simple and straightforward trailer-brake controllers for $25 to $50, though these products picks tend to have limited extras and are pretty streamlined in their features. Spend $55 to $125, and you’ll be able to shop a wide selection of controllers that include extras like informative LED displays and perks like boost features. And the most premium options may run you $125 and up, including high-tech picks for trailers with over four axles.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: What’s better: a timed or proportional brake controller?
A: In most cases, a proportional trailer brake controller is the better pick, especially if you tow regularly or tow heavy trailers. Proportional braking is superior during emergency braking scenarios. A timed brake controller is fine if you only occasionally tow smaller trailers.
Q: Can I tow a trailer with electric brakes without a brake controller?
A: No, you’ll absolutely need a trailer brake controller. Trailers with electric brakes must have one of these devices, otherwise the trailer’s brakes won’t work.
Q: Are all trailer-brake controllers the same?
A: There are two types of trailer brake controllers: proportional or time delay. While both activate a trailer’s brakes and apply pressure to slow you down, one comes with a delay and one is typically better for larger trailers.
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