It’s no secret that driving with a trailer in tow requires a separate license. Towing a trailer requires a very particular skill set for the safety of the driver and all those on the road. Perhaps the most important piece of safety equipment when it comes to driving with a trailer in tow is the brake controller. But what exactly is a brake controller?
Table of Contents
- 1 CURT TriFlex Electric Brake Controller
- 2 Tekonsha Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control
- 3 Tekonsha Voyager Electronic Brake Control
- 4 CURT Spectrum Original Equipment Style Brake Controller
- 5 REESE Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control
- 6 Proportional Controller vs. Time-Delayed Controller
- 7 Proportional Controllers
- 8 Time-Delayed Controllers
- 9 CURT TriFlex Electric Brake Controller
- 10 Tekonsha Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control
- 11 Tekonsha Voyager Electronic Brake Control
- 12 CURT Spectrum Original Equipment Style Brake Controller
- 13 REESE Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control
- 14 Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control
- 15 Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control
- 16 CURT Echo Mobile Electronic Trailer Brake Controller
- 17 Hopkins INSIGHT Plug-In Simple Brake Control
- 18 REESE Control Proportional Brake-EVN
- 19 REESE Towpower Brakeman Timed Compact Brake Control
- 20 Mounting and Installing Your Brake Controller
- 21 Conclusion
A brake controller is a device that attaches to your vehicle that controls the braking system in your trailer. This brake controller system then allows whatever is being towed to slow down at the same rate as the vehicle will be slowing down. This prevents the heavy, fast-moving trailer from crashing into the back of a vehicle that is braking. Basically, the brake controller lets the trailer’s brake system know how much power is needed to stop the trailer.
Tekonsha Voyager Electronic Brake Control
CURT Spectrum Original Equipment Style Brake Controller
REESE Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control
Understandably, brake controllers are required for any vehicle that will be towing another. For safety reasons, it is necessary to have a separate braking system to keep the trailer in control. These braking systems are typically suitable for trailers with anywhere from one to four axles, and are controlled by a unit that is installed on your dashboard near your steering column.
Proportional Controller vs. Time-Delayed Controller
As you could expect, there are many different kinds of brake controllers on the market. In general, all brake controllers can be split into two distinct groups: proportional controllers and time-delayed controllers. Each type of controller has its own positives and negatives, and there are people who tend to prefer one or the other.
Proportional brake controllers are also called pendulum brake controllers. This is because the device used for motion-sensing uses the position of a pendulum to collect its data. The controller uses the motion-sensing device to detect how fast the vehicle that you are towing is stopping. When the driver of the vehicle applies their brakes, the installed brake controller applies the same amount of braking power to the brakes of the trailer. This system allows the vehicle and trailer to stop at the same time, no matter how fast or slow they are moving, or how quickly you need to brake. A proportional brake controller is considered to provide the smoothest braking for a trailer in tow because both braking systems are using the same amount of force. This type of controller also reduces the amount of wear on the braking systems of both the vehicle and the trailer.
Time-delayed controllers apply a pre-determined amount of force to the trailer’s brakes when your vehicle stops. Before the trip, the driver of the vehicle will set the time-delayed controller to the correct amount of power depending on the weight of the trailer that is being towed. This is called a time-delayed controller because a delay always occurs between when the driver steps on their brakes and when the brakes engage in the trailer. This type of braking system, while it puts more wear on the brakes of both the vehicle and the trailer, is less expensive and easier to install.
Below is a list that compiles the most popular brake controllers on the market today. The list is a combination of time-delayed and proportional brake controllers. Before making your purchase, take into consideration the type of vehicle and trailer that you will be towing, and which type of braking system makes sense for you.
CURT TriFlex Electric Brake Controller
The first on our list is the CURT TriFlex Electric Brake Controller. This is a compact, proportional brake controller that is equipped with a digital display. The CURT TriFlex boasts a unique triple-axis motion-sensing accelerometer. This important feature allows the brake controller to precisely detect every motion of both your vehicle and trailer and apply the exact amount of necessary braking power in any and every situation. It also allows this brake controller to manage up to eight brakes at a time.
Another important feature that the CURT TriFlex has is automatic brake adjustments for going up or down hills. It is also compatible with anti-lock brakes and cruise control. To mount, use the included mounting bracket and hardware to install on the dashboard of your vehicle, preferably to the left of right of the steering column so as not to obstruct vision. This specific controller is designed to work with quick plugs, so that it can be quickly and easily plugged into your vehicle’s equipment socket.
Tekonsha Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control
The Tekonsha Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control is a proportional brake controller that works with the heaviest of trailers. It has an easy-to-read LED display that shows all the necessary diagnostic features. The Primus IQ is a self-leveling brake system, so the driver does not have to adjust the level on their own. A unique feature to this brake controller is that it has a boost feature. This feature allows the driver to apply more brake power when towing a trailer that is heavier.
The Tekonsha Primus IQ also works proportionally in reverse for when it is necessary to back into a parking spot with your trailer in tow. Your purchase of this brake controller includes a snap-in dash mount, as well as a removable electrical connector. This connector allows the controller to be stored quickly and easily when not in use. The Primus IQ works for up to three axles.
Tekonsha Voyager Electronic Brake Control
Another brake controller from Tekonsha is the Voyager Electronic Brake Control. This controller works for up to four braking axles. It has a broad range of control, so it is easy and simple to set the brake to exactly where it needs to be. This braking system features a color-changing LED indicator light. This light changes color from green to red to indicate the amount of braking power that is being applied to the trailer.
Advanced electronics allow for a smooth ride while using the Voyager Electronic Brake Controller. The plug-n-play system allows for quick and easy connection so that you can install and go. The best part about this system is that it is extremely affordable. Users mention that this is a great and affordable controller for those who don’t consistently have a trailer in tow.
CURT Spectrum Original Equipment Style Brake Controller
Another brake controller option from CURT is the Spectrum Original Equipment Style Brake Controller. While this is one of the more expensive options on our list, it has its reasons for being so. This controller mounts seamlessly onto the dash of your vehicle so that it looks like a factory brake controller. It fits right in to the other controls in your car. This braking system has automatic leveling and calibration, and can be used with trailers from 1 to 4 axles. To operate, all you have to do is use the simple system of a push-button rotary knob. The main computer module of this brake controller is mounted separately, and can be placed out of sight so that it does not interfere with the aesthetics of your dashboard.
The CURT Spectrum Original Equipment Style Brake Controller has an intelligent braking system called a triple-axis accelerometer. This feature detects motion on three different planes so that it is always providing the perfect amount of braking power, no matter your speed or the grade of the hill. It is easy to adjust depending on the vehicle, trailer, and load that you are carrying. You can even manually override the system in case of emergency. The CURT Spectrum Brake Controller requires a vehicle-specific quick plug harness which is not included with your purchase.
REESE Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control
The REESE Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control is Amazon’s choice for brake controllers. This brake controller has an easy-to-read digital display with bright numbers that clearly show status updates of output setting, sync setting, brake overload, and short connection. The Towpower Brakeman IV can be mounted in any direction without any leveling. The plug-and-play attachment is pre-wired for quick and easy connection to any 1 to 4 axle system. There are two separate push button adjustment controls to choose from, depending on your driving style. One allows for different trailer weights while the other focuses on speed of activation.
The REESE Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control is made to be used on 12-volt negative ground systems only. An advanced internal circuit protection prevents damage to the brake controller or your vehicle. Your purchase also includes a limited lifetime warranty for any manufacture defects.
Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control
Yet another product from Tekonsha, the P3 Electronic Brake Control is one of the most popular on the market with over 2,500 Amazon reviews. This classic brake controller has an easy-to-read LCD screen with multiple color and language options. The LCD display shows diagnostics such as output current, battery life, brake, and output voltage. It also alerts the driver of warnings, like “no trailer brake” situations. The P3 also has a boost feature to allow for different levels of customized braking. It is a suitable brake control for up to four braking axles.
This braking system comes integrated with a plug-n-play port that is suitable for 2-plug adapters. It also comes equipped with a snap-in mounting clip that allows the driver to quickly and easily install and remove the control when necessary. Once mounted, the sleek design hugs your dash so it does not stick out and get in your way. Users rave about how smooth the braking from the P3 is, as everything works in perfect unison.
Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control
The Draw-Titie I-stop IQ Electronic Brake Control is made for one to three axle trailers. It is a proportional brake control with a standard motion-sensing device that accurately tracks the motion of your vehicle and trailer constantly. The LED screen illuminates the self-diagnostic features when issues occur, so you don’t miss a thing and stay safe and sound, no matter the issue. As with many other electronic brake controllers, this comes with a plug-n-play port for 2-plug adapters.
To mount the Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ Electronic Brake Control, use the snap-in mounting clip that comes with your controller. This clip allows the driver to remove and store the control when not in use. An additional boost feature allows the driver to deliver additional braking power when needed. This brake also works proportionally in reverse, which comes in handy when backing up into tough spots.
CURT Echo Mobile Electronic Trailer Brake Controller
Another one of the more expensive brake controllers on our list is the CURT Echo Mobile Electronic Trailer Brake Controller. This controller plugs into any 7-way connector for a non-invasive installation that allows the user to quickly and easily transfer this controller from one vehicle to another when necessary. No separate tools, wires, or hardware are required for installation. The most unique feature of this controller is that it connects wirelessly to your smartphone. Powered by Bluetooth technology, this brake controller is compatible with Apple or Android smartphones. Simply download the app to interface with the controller on your phone. The app continues to work seamlessly through phone calls, text messages, or any notification, and will continue to work even if Bluetooth connection is momentarily lost.
This versatile brake controller works with any trailer with one or two axles, and is fully compatible with cruise control, anti-lock brakes, low-voltage systems and PWM system. The Echo Mobile Electronic Trailer Brake Controller uses a triple-axis accelerometer that monitors motion on three planes to provide smooth, safe braking, no matter the size of the hill. The compact design of this controller allows for easy glovebox storage when not in use.
Hopkins INSIGHT Plug-In Simple Brake Control
Hopkins INSIGHT Plug-In Simple Brake Control is advanced brake technology that is designed specifically to mirror the braking of the tow vehicle. This allows for safe and smooth stops every single time. Whether the brakes on your trailer are electric or hydraulic, this controller will work seamlessly to keep you safe. Seven sensitivity settings are available to fit your every need, in addition to an intuitive vertical manual slide.
The easy install requires no tools or drilling at all. Simply mount and plug-in and you’re ready to go. The Hopkins INSIGHT is suitable for up to 8 trailer brakes, or four axles. It is confidently backed by a lifetime warranty, should any issues arise.
REESE Control Proportional Brake-EVN
The REESE Control Proportional Brake-EVN is a one to four axle capacity brake controller. It is equipped with advanced proportional braking that applies brake pressure that is equal to deceleration rate of the tow vehicle. As with many other brake systems, this controller has a boost feature that gives the driver the ability to apply more braking for the occasional heavier load. When used properly, this braking system can even extend the life of your vehicle’s brakes.
The large LED display of the REESE Control Proportional Brake-EVN is easy to read and shows all important information in bright, colored lights. A simple plug-in installation allows you to use the same brake controller for multiple vehicles, as you can move it easily on command. A factory harness that fits your specific vehicle is required for this controller and is not included in your purchase.
REESE Towpower Brakeman Timed Compact Brake Control
The last product on our list is another controller from REESE. The Towpower Brakeman Timed Compact Brake Control was designed for both single and tandem axle trailers. Unlike the proportional brake controllers, this controller has no moving parts, motion sensors, or hydraulic connections, and no leveling is required. The adjustment for this brake controller features a sync system that allows for towing trailers of different weights and sizes. Time-based controls generate a continuous output signal that increases over time, applying braking power that is at a fixed rate and not proportional to the pressure applied in the vehicle.
Installation for the Towpower Brakeman is simple and effective. A mounting bracket, appropriate hardware, and detailed instructions are all included with your controller to help you install successfully. This brake controller is only for use with a 12-volt negative ground system, and it complies with all NHTSA/DOT safety regulations.
Mounting and Installing Your Brake Controller
For each type of brake controller that you read about above, you will notice that they all have a different way of mounting or installing. Depending on what you plan to use your brake controller for, you may want to research ahead of time to see what type of mounting system your vehicle is able to adapt to. For example, those who plan to switch around and use one brake controller for multiple vehicles should opt for a controller whose mounting system has a snap-on/snap-off mount. This type of mount allows the user, or driver, to quickly and easily snap the brake controller on and off of the mount for easy storage and quick transference.
If you are someone who has one vehicle and one trailer that you use consistently and never change, then you will be looking for a brake controller with a mounting system that is more permanent. These types of mounting systems come with hardware and require tools to install. They may take a little more time to install, but they stay put and are much sturdier than the snap-in mounts.
Whichever type of controller and mount that you decide to choose, they should all go in the same general area. In general, the brake controller should be located on your dash, somewhere below your steering column. Most drivers prefer to install their controller to the right of their steering wheel. This gives the driver quick and easy access to the controller when it is needed.
In the end, the right brake controller for you will be one that has features that you are comfortable with as a driver. If having a controller that syncs with your iPhone seems scary to you, or if you think it will distract you, go with another model. There are plenty of high-quality brake controllers to choose from, so you will be able to find the one that best suits your needs.