Brake controllers are an excellent way to better manage your RV. A brake controller consists of a small device, installed in the cab of your towing vehicle, that controls the electric brakes in your RV. This means that when you apply the brakes in your towing vehicle, you will also be applying the brakes in your RV (after a suitable delay), and you can therefore manage both vehicles more effectively.
Those new to RVs, or those unaware of brake controllers, may be a little overwhelmed by the huge variety of options on offer. In the interest of helping you narrow down your choices, and assisting you in choosing the controllers best suited to your RV, we have carefully curated a comprehensive guide. Each of the products below are viable, affordable options for you to consider. Alternatively, you can follow our advice, and source a product that meets your specifications exactly.
Trailer Brake Controller Buying Guide: What To Look For
When buying a brake controller, you need to ensure that the product is both high quality and suited to your needs. Therefore, we have created a list of requirements that you should meet before committing to a product, and that you should consult when shopping for your console.
Type of controller: There are two main types of brake controllers; and as a consumer you can choose between either a ‘proportional’ brake controller or a ‘time delayed’ brake controller. Understanding the difference between these two options is key to buying the right controller for you and your RV.
Proportional brake controllers operate using a motion sensor, that detects the amount of pressure applied to the brakes of the towing vehicle. They are a popular option, and are relatively easy to find both in-store and online.
Because proportional controllers detect the motion of your brakes, they work especially well in situations that require heavy or unexpected braking, for example when towing in poor conditions.
Time delayed brake controllers are, on the other hand,a typically more affordable option. Instead of detecting and mimicking the motion of the towing vehicle brakes; time delayed brake controllers act on details inputted by the driver. The driver is responsible for inputting the weight of the trailer and their preferred time delay. Therefore, when the brakes of the towing vehicle are applied, the RV will brake after a designated delay.
Features: As with most products, controllers vary both in terms of quality and in terms of the features offered. Therefore, when shopping for your brake controller system, you need to determine the features that you would like or need. In general, we recommend looking for controllers that offer warnings to drivers, and that feature a fully customizable LCD screen- in the interest of enhancing your safety and wellbeing.
In Review: Our Top 3 Trailer Brake Controllers
In the interest of helping you choose the highest quality brake controllers, we have objectively included three of our favorite models in this guide. You can use these products as a template with which to compare other products; or alternatively you may choose to actually purchase one of the controllers listed below.
Regardless, each of these options represents both the best brake controller for money and excellent functionality, making them viable products for you to consider.
Trailer Brake controller Review #1: Tekonsha
Tekonsha is a brand that specializes in providing braking equipment for trailers and RVs. Their brake controller system features a high quality LCD screen; a diagnostics function that keeps users consistently up to date and a removable mounting clip.
What We Love:
- This is a high quality brake controller, recommended by many experienced RV haulers. By purchasing this product, you are given peace of mind, knowing that you’re trailing your vehicle with a reliable and efficient system in place.
- The Tekonsha controller features a customizable LCD screen, with varying language options, making it a highly versatile product.
- It has a manual override function, meaning that you can manually control the amount of braking in a situation that merits human control.
What We Don’t Love:
- A few users have reported that the screen is particularly prone to scratching and, occasionally, cracking
- It’s a little more expensive that competing products, although most customers justify the price on the basis of quality.
Trailer RV Brake controller Review #2: Curt Manufacturing
This time delayed brake controller, by Curt Manufacturing, is an excellent option for new or inexperienced RV haulers. It features an easy-to-mount design; a very basic but user friendly system and a sturdy exterior.
What We Love:
- Most users report how extremely easy it is to install the Curt Manufacturing brake controller, making it an excellent option for RV novices.
- This model controls most trailers with 2 to 6 brakes, meaning that it’s highly likely to match the make of your trailer.
- By using the manual control, you can activate the brake lights on your trailer and vehicle.
What We Don’t Love:
- It has no LCD screen, and is very basic by design, which means that it has fewer options available to users.
- A few users reported a minor fault which causes a burning smell, meaning that (if unlucky) you may have to exchange this product.
Trailer Brake Controller Review #3: Hopkins Towing Solutions
This time delayed brake controller, with a manual control option, is a great choice for experienced and inexperienced trailer drivers alike. If you’re looking for a basic option to accommodate your braking needs, then this is certainly a viable possibility. It features an easy-to-install design; a small LCD display and a manual override option.
What We Love:
- The Hopkins Towing Solutions brake controller features a small, clear LCD screen that shows percentage braking power used. This is a convenient function that will help regulate your braking.
- It’s very easy to use, and you can adjust the force and time delay quickly using the screen functions.
- It can be mounted virtually anywhere in the cab of your towing vehicle, and is very easy to use.
What We Don’t Love:
- It has no gain setting, meaning that the controller may act somewhat abruptly without building up to the braking.
- This is a product mostly well reviewed by users, and one that we can’t fault in any obvious way. It has all the components needed for total functionality, and offers the impeccable quality of a very high end product- for the price of a very basic one.
RV Brake Controllers: How Do you Adjust Them?
Adjusting your trailer brake controller is key to using it effectively. After all, in the interest of braking safely, you need to apply the correct amount of force to the brakes on your RV- at the right time.
However, when it comes to adjusting your brake controller, you may struggle. Depending on the model, it may be difficult for you to assess the values you should input if you’ve never used it before. While some guides may provide general information, your trailer is unique, and the weight of your RV may vary depending on the circumstance or situation you find yourself in.
In the interest of accurately adjusting your RV brake controller, we recommend that you first test drive your RV with the controller set to the highest possible values. Before test driving, you should also warm the brakes in your vehicle, by running the engine and driving at a relatively high speed for a short period of time.
It’s important to remember that adjusting your brake controller is something that is necessary on a semi-regular basis. As the weather changes, and the load in your trailer changes, so should the values of your brake controller. In the interest of safety, you should not underestimate the importance of adjusting the system, and ensuring that it accurately corresponds to the condition of your trailer.
In Conclusion: RV Brake Controller
Choosing the appropriate RV brake controller for your needs is critical to ensuring that your safety, and the safety of those around you, remains your utmost priority. Therefore, when shopping for your brake controller, you should keep in mind all of the considerations listed above.
The product that you require will vary widely depending on the level of experience you possess; the type of trailer you own and the weight of the contents that will be placed inside your RV. It’s therefore important to remember that the above information is a guideline, but that your circumstances may demand a product that we haven’t listed, and you should rely on your intuition as much as the information itself if ever in doubt.
RV brake controllers are a revolutionary device, designed purely for your convenience and safety. While they can be difficult to understand, at least initially, they are increasingly becoming a basic necessity for those who haul trailers with virtually any weight or load.