Best Trailer Brake Controller Review Guide For 2023-2024
Best Trailer Brake Controller Review Guide For 2023-2024 – A crucial device for towing trailers safely. There’s an abundance of accessories one needs to buy before they can safely tow a heavy trailer with their pickup truck or SUV. You need a trailer hitch ball mount and trailer hitch receiver or a weight distributing hitch, along with a hitch lock and towing mirrors, among more. Another important towing product is a trailer brake controller, which automatically applies the brakes on your trailer when you step on the brakes in your vehicle.
Trailer brake controllers can be split into two main categories: proportional controllers and time-delayed controllers.
A proportional controller uses a sensor to determine the intensity of the tow vehicle’s deceleration under braking. It then calculates the right amount of force to apply to the trailer brakes, enabling the tow vehicle and the trailer to decelerate at the same rate. A proportional controller provides more progressive, gradual braking feel from the trailer and performs better under heavy braking events.
A time-delayed controller is much more simple. These controllers detect when the brake in your tow vehicle is engaged and then send a signal to your trailer to apply the brakes. They allow the user to set a braking force value and a time delay value based on the trailer weight, the road conditions and a number of other factors.
Generally speaking, proportional controllers are superior to time-delayed controllers. The braking value and time delay value automatically vary, they perform better in hard emergency braking events and they will ensure even wear between your trailer brakes and tow vehicle brakes. If you find yourself towing often, you’ll want to opt for a proportional controller. If you only tow every now and then, a time-delayed brake controller should be appropriate.
In this Best Trailer Brake Controller Review Guide For 2023-2024, we’re going to show you some of our favorite trailer brake controllers on sale today (both of the proportional and time-delayed type) and explain what makes them different. We’ll also answer common questions consumers have when shopping for a trailer brake controller so you know what to look for, what to avoid and how to install such a product.
Best Trailer Brake Controller Buyers Guide For 2023-2024
Should I Get a Timed or Proportional Controller:
Like we said above, a proportional trailer brake controller is typically superior to a timed brake controller.
A timed brake controller allows you to set a ‘sync’ value, which adjusts the length of the delay between when you first press the brakes and when the controller applies the brakes on your trailer. The controller will then ‘ramp’ the brakes, progressively applying more and more brake pressure as the vehicle slows to a stop, attempting to mimic the progressive braking action most drivers use.
A proportional brake controller features a sensor or accelerometer that detects the rate at which your vehicle is braking and accurately mimics the deceleration rate when applying the trailer brakes. This allows the trailer and tow vehicle to slow down at the exact same rate, stop after stop.
If you tow often, or tow very heavy trailers, you should definitely opt for a proportional brake controller. They provide better, more linear braking performance and also perform better in heavy emergency braking events. If you are only towing smaller trailers and don’t find yourself towing very often, a timed brake controller should do the trick and will save you some cash.
How Do I Mount and Install a Trailer Brake Controller:
Most trailer brake controls will come with a mounting bracket and hardware. This bracket is typically intended to be screwed into the bottom of your dash, with the brake controller itself either screwing or sliding into the bracket.
What a trailer brake won’t come with is a wiring harness. You will have to purchase the correct wiring harness for your vehicle separately. The wiring harness will plug into the trailer controller and a port underneath the dashboard, which you’ll have to locate using the owner’s manual or through online research (forums are a good place for such research), as the port’s location can vary depending on the vehicle type.
In many common tow vehicles, like trucks and bigger SUVs, a trailer brake controller will be a simple plug and play installation into the port. You have to be mindful of which way you are mounting proportional trailer brake controllers, though, as you can throw off the accelerometer if they aren’t mounted level or are mounted upside down.
If your vehicle is not equipped for towing, you’ll have to run wires linking the trailer brakes, ground, vehicle brakes and battery power. This can be a much more complicated process, but there are plenty of wiring guides online to get you started. You may want to have professional do this wiring job as well if it’s needed.
How do I Calibrate my Trailer Brake Controller:
Good question! Many time-based brake controllers will come with an instruction manual telling you how to properly calibrate the controller. You can also look this up online. We don’t want to mislead you in regards to the proper calibration of your device, so you should definitely follow the manufacturer’s suggestions when calibrating the device.
Most proportional trailers will calibrate themselves as you go – just plug it in and you’ll be on your way!
The Hopkins Insight trailer brake controller is a three-piece product consisting of the controller itself, a tiny LED screen for displaying current voltage and warning the driver of any system problems and a slider for adjusting the intensity of the brake application.
This trailer brake controller is easy to install and use and provides a linear braking feel. A downside to the three-piece system is that together, the parts and their various wires can actually take up quite a bit of room and take a while to install. For this reason, we’d say this trailer brake controller is a bit less convenient than others on this list.
- Advanced brake technology that mirrors the braking of the tow vehicle for safe, smooth stops
- Works on trailers with electric or hydraulic brakes
- Digital power and 7 sensitivity settings with intuitive vertical manual slide
- Short proof protection for up to 8 trailer brakes
- Simple installation with separate components that mount wherever you want them and no tools or drilling required
- Slider makes it easy to adjust brakes on the fly
- linear brake feel
- Three-piece system requires lots of wiring and can take up a lot of space
This brake controller allows you to change the brake setting on the fly, but it takes up a lot of room
Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ
The Draw-Tite I-Stop IQ trailer brake controller has everything you could possibly want in a proportional trailer brake controller including an LED readout, self-diagnostics, a “boost function” for emergency braking, and a mounting clip for installing it to the bottom of your vehicle’s dash.
This product is well-priced. This makes it a good middle ground between expensive brake controllers and entry-level time-based brake controllers. Like other products of this type, you’ll have to buy the correct wiring harness for your vehicle separately – it’s extremely easy to install otherwise, though.
One downside to this product is that there is no off switch – if you want to turn it off, you’ll have to unplug it from the adapter. This is common for electronic brake controllers but can still be bothersome for some users. Some users also say this brake controller can be inconsistent with the braking forces it applies.
- I-STOP IQ Proportional Electronic Brake Control; for 1 to 3 Axle Trailers
- Self-diagnostics features will illuminate LED readout when issues occur
- Includes a “Boost” feature and works proportionally in reverse
- Utilizes “Plug-N-Play” port for 2-plug adapters
- Includes snap-in mounting clip allows user to remove and store the control when not in use
- Well priced,
- easy to use and install
- No off switch
- no adjustable settings
A solid, well priced electronic brake controller that we’d comfortably recommend.
Tekonsha Primus IQ
The Tekonsha Primus is another inexpensive proportional brake controller.
This product has many of the same features as the other, more expensive brake controllers from Primus including a boost function, an LED readout and an automatically leveling accelerometer. But while more expensive products will support eight brakes across four axles, this controller only supports six across three.
Apart from that difference, this electronic brake controller is just as strong as other products from Tekonsha, most of which we’d highly recommend. We’d say this product is good for inexperienced towers, but probably not suited for those who tow very often or have very heavy trailers.
- Utilizes Plug-N-Play port for 2-plug adapters
- Self-diagnostics features will illuminate LED readout when issues occur
- Works proportionally in reverse
- Includes a Boost feature
- Snap-in dash mounting clip and hardware included
- Easy to use
- Supports three axles only
- Less features than some other controllers
A solid, inexpensive trailer brake controller – but it only supports three axles
Curt TriFlex Brake Controller
The Curt TriFlex brake controller is one of the best trailer brake controllers you can buy.
This proportional brake controller features a triple-axis accelerometer, nine levels of braking sensitivity adjustment and provides braking for up to four axles. It also has a user-selectable power output and trailer brake light activation, but automatically levels and calibrates itself so you don’t have to do any tedious setup work.
You will have to buy an adapter cable to install this product, but it should install quite easily once you have. It’s easy to use once it’s installed as well with a straightforward operation and will provide a confidence-inspiring, gradual braking feel.
This is a good trailer brake controller for the price, undercutting many rival products while performing much better. Some users dislike the fact that it requires an adapter cable, however, and experienced a parasitic power loss that killed their battery.
- INTELLIGENT BRAKING. This trailer brake controller operates with an integrated circuit called a triple-axis accelerometer. This circuit detects motion on three planes and provides braking power accordingly, up or down a hill
- EASY ADJUSTMENT. The TriFlex brake controller is highly adjustable to accommodate different vehicles, trailers and loads. It provides 9 levels of sensitivity adjustment and features driver-selectable power output and manual activation
- COMPACT DESIGN. This electric brake controller has a sleek, subtle design to avoid dominating the dash of your vehicle. It measures only 3-1/4 inches x 4 inches x 7/8 inches. The TriFlex perfectly balances a compact design with powerful operation
- VERSATILE. You can use this electric trailer brake controller on virtually any trailer with 1 to 4 axles (2 to 8 brakes). It is also fully compatible with cruise control, anti-lock brakes, low-voltage systems and PWM systems
- SIMPLE SETUP. Installing and setting up the TriFlex trailer brake controller is fast and easy. It can be plugged into your vehicle in minutes using a vehicle-specific quick plug harness (sold separately). It also has automatic leveling and calibration
- Gradual braking feel
- easy to use and install
- great price
- No off switch which can cause battery drain
- adapter cable required
A well-priced, well designed trailer brake controller that won’t steer you wrong.
Best for Serious Towers: Tekonsha P3
The Tekonsha P3 features a large LED readout screen with configurable colors.
The screen will show the current of the system along with battery, brake and output voltages. The P3, which is a proportional brake controller, easily plugs into your vehicle using an adapter (which you have to buy separately) and mounts to the bottom of your dash with a clip. It requires no calibrating just plug it in, hook your trailer up and you’ll be on your way.
This device provides braking power for up to four axles and like the related P2, has a ‘boost’ function that will send full power to the trailer brakes in emergency braking situations.
This trailer brake controller may have too many different settings and functions for your average consumer towing a camping trailer, for example. If you tow often, or tow as part of your profession, this high-end trailer brake controller is ideal for you. Hobbyists won’t have to spend as much money to get a good trailer brake controller.
- A distinct, easy-to-read LCD display with multiple screen color options, displays in English, French or Spanish
- Diagnostics show output current, battery, brake, and output voltage and warning system alerts to No Trailer Brake situations
- Boost feature allows for different levels of customized braking, select Electric over Hydraulic or Electric trailer brake mode
- Integrated Plug-N-Play port for 2-plug adapters and Snap-in mounting clip allows user to remove and store the control when not in use
- Compact, dash-hugging design. Electric trailer brake control for up to 4 braking axles.
- Lots of different settings and features
- large LED screen
- great functionality
- None At This Time
While most consumers won’t need such a high-end trailer brake controller, this excellent product is extremely well engineered. We highly recommend this one.
We hope our Best Trailer Brake Controller Review Guide For 2023-2024 has been a help to you.