Consumers who regularly need to transport cargo on a trailer are going to want to purchase the best trailer brake controller they can afford. The reason why they should is that these devices make hauling a load a lot safer. If the consumer has a trailer surge braking system, then they don’t need this device but for everyone else who doesn’t, it’s an important piece of gear. This piece of equipment engages the trailer’s electrical braking system either in proportion to the towing vehicle’s brake engagement or according to a time delay. The result is the driver has more control over their trailer and the brake pads on the vehicle don’t have to endure the burden of all of the braking.

Quick Summary of Trailer Brake Controllers

 Best Overall 

Tekonsha P3 90195 Brake Control  (review)

 Best Electronic Control 

Tekonsha Primus IQ 90160 Electronic Control  (review)

 Best Timer Actuated Control 

Draw-Tite Activator IV 5504 Brake Control  (review)

 Best Basic Model 

Curt Discover 51120 Time-Delay Electric Controller  (review)

Reviews

Tekonsha P3 90195 Brake Control

 Best Overall 

Anyone searching for a model that’s easy to install and easy to use is probably going to want to take a look at this model. This product is designed to control up to four axles and is equipped with a customized braking feature. This feature is called the Boost Feature and it’s designed to allow the driver to select electric or hydraulic brake mode. It also has a design that is compact and allows the unit to hug the towing vehicle’s dash. We found this product to also be quite easy to install, but there is one thing that the consumer needs to keep in mind. If they’re purchasing the bare model, then they’re going to need to purchase the appropriate wire harness kit to install it.

This product seems to work well, but there have been some complaints that the button might stick—although we didn’t have that particular problem. It also features an easy-to-read LCD that gives the consumer several screen color options and allows them to choose their preferred language in either English, French, or Spanish. This model also has a diagnostic feature that shows the driver’s current brake, output current, battery, and output voltage. It also warns the consumer of a no trailer brake situation that might arise.

It’s also worth mentioning that this product also features integrated plug-and-play support for two-plug adapters. And because it has a snap-in mounting clip, the consumer can remove and store the controller when they’re not using it. It’s all of these features that make this a quality product worth considering.

PROS:

  • This product applies the brakes nice and smoothly.
  • This product is easy to install.
  • Has an easy-to-read LCD display.
CONS:

  • This product costs more than some other models.

Tekonsha Primus IQ 90160 Electronic Control

 Best Electronic Control 

This electronic brake controller is designed for consumers who are looking for a simple to use controller that can be used for 2, 4, and 6-brake applications. This is a model that comes with a power knob, a boost button, a manual slide knob, a wiring harness connector, and a dash mounting clip. It also comes with a wiring harness, but we found that this particular harness isn’t very useful and might require the consumer to do a bit of “patching” to get it to work properly. And that’s why we ended up buying a separate wiring harness for the adapter we needed.

With that being said, we do think that this product was well worth the money, especially considering that it has a reduced price-tag over some other high-end models. It provided smooth braking and we found that it worked just as well as some of the models that cost twice its price. We also liked its boost feature and the product works well in reverse, too. It has an inertia-based electronic controller that is capable of working with up to three axles. Because it has a snap-in dash mounting clip, we found it easy to remove the controller for storage when it wasn’t in use. And it’s LED readout was bright, clear, and easy-to-read. It’s all of these features that make this a model that we believe many of our readers are going to appreciate using.

PROS:

  • This product works with up to three axles.
  • This product is easy to setup.
  • This is a reasonably priced product.
CONS:

  • The enclosed wiring harness might be difficult to install.

Draw-Tite Activator IV 5504 Brake Control

 Best Timer Actuated Control 

Another electronic brake controller that we liked was this one from Draw-Tite. This is a controller that can be used with a variety of different trailers and can be installed on one, two, three, or four-axle trailers. It has a boost feature that works very well and it’s LED readout illuminates when the unit experiences any problems. This model is also capable of working in reverse and it comes with a special plug-n-play port for two plug adapters. This product’s LED is located in the front of it and is not only illuminated but can be viewed from virtually any angle so the driver can always keep it in view. And because this model comes with mounting hardware, it’s extremely easy to install and use.

This timer actuated unit also had diagnostics for assessing overload and open ground and it is equipped with short circuit protection. It has front-located buttons for Output and Sync, and it can be mounted in any position without being leveled. All of this, along with its low-price, makes this a great solution for anyone searching for a great electronic brake controller. It’s one that we feel some of our readers are going to want to consider.

PROS:

  • It’s quick and easy to install.
  • It comes with mounting hardware.
  • LED-display can be viewed at almost any angle.
CONS:

  • This unit has to be disconnected after each use.

Curt Discover 51120 Time-Delay Electric Controller

 Best Basic Model 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during our time reviewing some of the best electronic brake controllers, it is the fact that not everyone is looking for an advanced model. Not everyone wants a model that comes with a lot of bells and whistles. Some people merely want a controller that’s inexpensive, easy to hookup and gets the job done. And this is such a controller. This model offers dependable operation and increases trailer brake pressure as the driver depresses the vehicle’s brake pedal. It features an easy-to-read digital display that allows the driver to monitor brake operation and it’s manufactured with a design that contains no moving parts. And this means that the consumer doesn’t have to worry about leveling it.

This product is also easy to setup. It can be quickly plugged into the vehicle using the CURT quick plug harness that the consumer can purchase separately. This model also comes with a mounting bracket that allows it to be mounted at just about any angle. All of these features make this electronic brake controller one that the consumer might want to think about when they’re choosing one for their truck and trailer. This is a quality, inexpensive product that’s ready to help the consumer keep their trailer’s braking under control.

PROS:

  • This product is easy to install.
  • It’s a simple model that works well.
CONS:

  • It lacks the features of more advanced models.

A Guide To Trailer Brake Controllers

It doesn’t matter what type of trailer you’re towing or what type of truck you’re towing it with—if you have a trailer, then you need a trailer brake controller. These devices are one of the most important things for the consumer to think about because they allow the driver to pull their trailer more efficiently and most importantly, more safely than if they didn’t have one of these controllers installed. 

Of course, not every person reading this guide today has the same needs when it comes to these types of controllers. Different people will benefit from different models and features, so we thought that we would take a few moments and discuss some of the things that consumers might want to consider when they’re purchasing a brand new electronic trailer brake controller. 

Choose The Type Of Trailer Brake Controller Needed

When it comes to trailer brake controllers, consumers have two different models of trailer brake controllers to choose from: Proportional Models or and what circumstances warrant a time-delayed model. 

Proportional Brake Controllers

When it comes to these brake controllers, proportional models are usually considered to be the gold standard. These models take in all available information and then apply the trailer brakes to match the brakes on the towing truck. These units monitor the vehicle’s speed and deceleration to determine the exact moment in which the trailer brakes should be applied. This allows for a smooth speed reduction without any jerking or hesitation. The problem with these models is not only that they’re more expensive than time-delayed models, but they’re also usually harder to install. For consumers who are hauling heavy loads on their trailers, we recommend they use a proportional brake controller. 

Time-Delayed Brake Controllers

The next type of brake controller, time-delayed controllers, is designed to be simple to use and inexpensive as well. These work by letting the driver set the percentage of braking power that’s applied to the trailer’s braking system when the driver puts on the brakes. This power is then held for a set amount of time-delayed. These models don’t provide the control of the same level of smooth braking that proportional models do and as a result, there can be a bit of jerking when the driver applies the brakes. For consumers who are hauling lighter trailers, time-delayed controllers are usually an inexpensive solution. 

Additional Features To Consider

Once a person has determined whether they need a proportional or time-delayed brake controller, it’s time for them to think about some of the other features that they might need their device to have. Below are some of the things that consumers are going to want to think about when choosing a brand new trailer brake controller. 

Brake Boost

Brake Boost is a feature that’s only found on Proportional Systems. What this feature does is that it applies extra power to the trailer brakes if it senses that the towing vehicle is stopping suddenly. This can allow these units to stop a heavy load more safely if they have to suddenly stop or have to use their brakes heavily going up and down hills. 

The Number Of Trailer Axles

Another thing that the consumer needs to think about before purchasing the best trailer brake controller is the number of axles it services. If the consumer only has two or three axles, then they’re not going to have any problem finding a controller that will operate their unit because most of the models fall in this range. However, if the consumer’s trailer has four axles, then it might be more difficult to find a suitable controller—although they are out there and ready to be used. In fact, we reviewed a couple of them. 

The Display Screen

Although it’s a personal choice whether the consumer needs their trailer brake controller to have a display screen, they do come in handy. A display screen can keep the driver aware of how the controller is set, and some advanced ones can even offer the consumer diagnostic codes that will allow them to track down a short circuit or another anomaly. 

The Models’ Ease Of Installation

It’s also important for the consumer to think about how easy the unit is to install. The most advanced models not only come with mounting hardware but also come with a wiring harness that allows them to be used for the vehicle. If the trailer brake controller that the consumer wants doesn’t come with a wiring harness, then they should make sure that they can buy one separately or that the wires that come with the controller are easy to splice into the truck trailer’s electrical system.