Best Trailer Brake Controller of 2020
As you may already know, towing a trailer without a brake controller is not only difficult but it is also illegal. In some cases, towing a trailer without proper equipment may even lead to tragic events, therefore while towing a trailer you must have a reliable controller. Choosing one may be even harder than it sounds, especially if you never bought a trailer brake before and you don’t know what you should actually look for.
As you may already know, you can find multiple types of trailer brake controllers, most common ones being proportional brake controller and time-delayed brake controllers.
Best Trailer Brake Controller of 2020
1. Tekonsha 90195 P3
Tekonsha 90195 P3 is one of the best picks among trailer brake controllers. The controller is able to control up to 4 braking axles and it allows the user to choose between multiple customized braking styles. It has multiple braking modes such as Hydraulic or Electric. Its LCD display makes it easy to read the diagnostics provided.
The controller supports three languages (English, French and Spanish) and it has an integrated Plug-N-Play port suitable for 2 plug adapters. Its mounting clips makes the removal process easy for the times when you are not using it. The controller has a compact design making it a good choice for people that are looking to save as much space as possible.
It also comes with explicit installation instruction that makes it easy to install even for customers that are using trailer brake controllers for the very first time. The controller does not have a turn off button, but it has a system that enables the power saving mode after a period of 15 minutes of no activity (brake pedal not used / controller is not used manually). Tekonsha P3 must be mounted properly in the direction of travel, as for the sides it should have a fairly equal level, it’s back and front can be mounted at any angle desired as it won’t affect its performance.
As the product is not compatible with all vehicles and compatibility research is recommended.
- Easy to install.
- Works with up to 4 axles.
- Easy to read LCD display.
- Multiple languages supported.
- Live diagnostics.
- Low battery drain when not in use (can last up to 4 months).
- Lifetime warranty
2. Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ
Tekonsha Primus IQ is a proportional electric trailer brake controller that utilizes a self-leveling system; therefore, it does not require any level adjustments. Its boost feature makes it suitable for heavy trailers. While reversing it also works proportionally, therefore you don’t need to worry about having a bad time while fitting the trailer in tough spots.
Its incorporated LED display provides easy to read self-diagnostics. It utilizes a Plug-N-Play port suitable for 2-plug adapters. The controller has snap-in mounting clips that make the fitting and removal easy and quick. Unfortunately, the product is not compatible with all types and models of vehicles, therefore you must do research before purchasing it.
- Easy to install/remove.
- Proportionally braking method while reversing.
- Self-levelling system.
- Lifetime warranty
3. CURT TriFlex
Curt TriFlex has a superior braking system that operates with an integrated circuit. The triple-axes accelerometer detects the motion and brake accordingly. It provides smooth braking up the hill and down the hill making the braking experience so natural that you will barely feel that you have a trailer attached. It is suitable for multiple types of trailers as it has nine different levels of sensibility.
The controller can support up to four axles and it is also compatible even with cruise control. The installation process is not complicated at all as it is plugged into the vehicle using a plug harness and it has an automatic levelling and calibration, therefore the set-up process can take just a couple of minutes. Its design is not lacking at all as it is quite compact.
Because Curt TriFLex is not compatible with all vehicles, it is required to properly research if it can be used with your vehicle.
- Quick installation process.
- Suitable for up to four axles.
- Compact design.
- Nine levels of braking sensibility.
- Suitable for cruise control.
4. Reese Towpower 8508211
Reese Towpower is a Plug-N-Play controller that won’t give you any headache while trying to install it. It is not only easy to install, but it is also designed to work on trailers with up to four axles. As it is a proportional braking controller, you will experience a smooth braking response as the trailer brakes will match the vehicle’s deceleration rate.
It also has a boost feature for increased safety in case of emergency braking. The controller has a built-in LCD display that makes it easy to read the diagnostics in real-time. Besides the easy installation process, Reese Towpower does not require any levelling adjustment, this feature even making it easier to use.
Anyway, before purchasing it, it is recommended to check if it is compatible with your vehicle.
- Easy installation process.
- Works with up to four axles.
- Does not require levelling adjustment.
- Easy to read diagnostics.
- Proportional controller.
5. Hopkins 47297 Insight
Hopkins Insight is a controller suitable trailers with both hydraulic and electric brakes. It has a compact design that won’t bother the driver at all as its dimensions are 6.3 x 5.7 x 3.1 inches. It is designed to bring the display within the driver’s line of sight, therefore it is way easier to get information compared to other controllers that may require more installation space and may not be possible to be placed on the line of sight.
As it is a proportional controller, it is guaranteed that you will experience smooth stops. It is able to work on trailers with up to 4 axles and it has 7 sensitivity settings with intuitive vertical manual slide. The controller has an LCD display that will provide live diagnostics and warnings, making it easy to avoid unpleasant situations.
The installation process is really easy, it does not require any tools or drilling. Before purchasing this product, it is recommended to check if it is compatible with your vehicle because Hopkins Insight is not compatible with ALL types and models of cars.
- Quick and easy setup process.
- Compact design.
- LCD display that provides easy to read real-time diagnostics
- Works with trailers with up to four axles.
6. Reese Towpower Brakeman
Reese Towpower Brakeman is a controller compatible with anti-lock braking systems and it can control trailers with up to four axles. The controller benefits of advanced internal circuit protection that extends its lifetime considerably. It has no levelling adjustment required. It is made of durable materials that provide a solid-state construction without moving parts and pendulums.
It is suitable for multiple types of trailers as it has a unique adjustment system. As it is a time-based controller, the braking power applied to the trailer is fixed. Unfortunately, Reese Towpower Brakeman controller doesn’t have a built-in display; therefore, it won’t be able to provide diagnostics. However, this controller is a perfect choice for a budget-friendly controller.
However, this product is not suitable for all types of towing vehicles, therefore, you should check carefully if the controller is suitable with the vehicle you use.
- Multiple axles control
- Solid construction
- Easy to install
Best Trailer Brake Controller Buying Guide
Time-delayed vs Proportional controllers
Time-delayed controllers work in a quite simple manner. As it does not rely on any part to sense the braking, the installation process is easier than the process for a proportional controller. For a time-delayed brake controller, the braking power applied to the trailer is fixed so depending on the situation you may notice that the stopping process won’t go that smooth.
As for proportional controllers, the stopping process is way smoother as the braking power is applied at a rate to match the towing vehicle deceleration speed. But the installation process may be a bit tricky as it may require a certain installation angle.
However, some people tend to pick time-delayed controllers over proportional ones because the time-delayed ones are cheaper. If you are going to use the controller just a couple of times a year it would be better to consider time delayed ones not only because these controllers are budget-friendly but the installation and removal process is much easier.
As you already know, you have to choose the product carefully as in the worst-case scenario, a wrong choice may cause harm. Looking for the right product is quite hard these days with that many types of controllers available on the market. However, I prepared for you the most important things you have to take into account before purchasing the trailer brake controller.
Brake boost can be quite a helpful feature in unexpected situations. Emergency stops can be quite difficult while towing heavy trailers, but in these cases, the device will detect the heavy breaking and it will apply a boost (about 5 – 10 %) to the braking power making the trailer stop faster and in a safer manner. It is recommended to use brake controllers that provide brake boost while towing heavy trailers.
However, not all controllers provide this function, braking boost being more common on proportional controllers.
Number of axles needed to be controlled
Unfortunately, not all controllers are able to handle more than three axles. However, if your trailer has two or three axles you are lucky, you won’t need to spend your time finding a controller that can handle that number of axles (because all of them can). But if you are on the other side and your trailer has four axles you need to be careful when picking a controller, you should not try to use a controller with fewer axles control as it may be dangerous.
You can divide the controller types into two big categories, Proportional and Time-Delayed. It is wise to choose the type of the controller based on your trailer’s size and weight. Proportional controllers are more suitable for big-sized and heavy trailers (works on smaller trailers as well). Their superior system ensures a smooth and nice towing experience as the controller can detect deceleration and enables the brakes on trailer to match the car’s speed.
However, this type of controller is more expensive, and it has a difficult installation process. On the other side, time-delayed ones are cheaper, and their system is quite simple.
You set a percentage of braking power and that percentage is applied on the trailer when you are breaking. By using Time-Delayed controllers, stopping will be less nice and less smooth compared to stopping experienced with Proportional controllers. However, its installation is rather simple.
Consider a built-in screen
The screen won’t affect the breaking at all, but it can be quite useful because you can get live diagnostics. Controllers with built-in screens won’t be a challenge for non-tech persons as these are really easy to use.
You should look for a controller that is made of durable materials as wear-off damages can’t be avoided, especially if you are going to use the controller on different tow trucks. It is preferred to look for controllers made of resistant materials such as corrosion-free metals and polymer plastics.
The controller should be relatively easy to install, especially if you are looking for a controller that will be used on different tow trucks. If you never installed a controller before, getting one with a more complex installation method will be quite a trouble for you and you may not even be able to install it or you can even break it.
However, if you are looking for a controller that won’t be used on multiple trucks, then you shouldn’t care that much about the installation process as you won’t need to move it from a truck to other that often.
It is very important to choose carefully your brake controller as towing a trailer can be quite dangerous without proper equipment. The controller must be reliable as any malfunction can lead to unpleasant situations that can cause even harm. Also, the controller has to be suitable for your trailer, therefore choose one that can support the number of axles of your trailer (you can count the axles by counting the wheels on just one side of the trailer, the axle number will match that number).
Before starting on your trip, you should test if the controller is working properly on an empty road (if possible) and try to adjust it if you notice any strange comportment.