Proportional vs time-delayed brake controllers

I just like many of you found myself searching for the right RV brake controller for my towing vehicle. There is many different kinds of brake controllers out there, so at first i was honestly lost. After many hours of researching and asking friends i had the knowledge i needed. Among the many types of brake controllers these two seem to stand out the most nowadays. Of course as the title indicates i am talking about proportional and time-delayed ones. Let’s take a better look in those.


Proportional brake controllers

Proportional brake controllers use a motion-sensors  to determine the decelaration of the tow vehicle. When the driver hits the brakes, the brake controller applies the same braking force to the trailer’s brakes. Therefore, if the vehicle is decelarating quickly, the trailer will follow and the same thing will happen in the opposite situation. For example if heavy braking is involved in a situation, a proportional brake controller will make  the trailer and the tow vehicle stop at the same time. This type of brake controller provides a very smooth braking, and because both systems are doing the same amount of braking, it reduces the wear on each vehicle’s braking system.

Proportional brake controllers are often called pendulum brake controllers because of the way they work. These devices use the position of a pendulum as a motion-sensing device, and most of the times drivers need to adjust them before use. When the vehicle is on a flat surface, the pendulum is pointing straight to the ground, so the brake controller doesn’t sense any motion and as a result it doesn’t send any signals to the brakes of the trailer or Rv. When the vehicle is moving the pendulum points toward the back end of the vehicle. When the driver is braking, the pendulum points forward. Depending on how far forward the pendulum is fluctuating, the brake controller sends the right amount of power to the trailer’s brakes.


Pros of Proportional Brake Controllers:

  1. Safety: When the driver suddenly brakes the proportional controller will match the braking power instantly instead of tilting.
  2. Decreased Brake Wear: When tow vehicle’s and trailer’s brakes work in harmony brake wear is even.
  3. Smooth Braking: As we mentioned above, when the towing vehicle’s and trailer’s brakes work at the same time besides less brake wear, the absence of any jerking is also achived.

No Adjustments: Because of the different modes that are already installed there is no need for the driver to adjust the brake controller every time he changes the towed weight.


Cons of Proportional Brake Controllers:

  1. Mounting: Because the majority of them must be leveled with vehicle direction, so, that makes finding the right space to install them difficult.
  2. Cost: After all you getting what you are paying for.


Time delayed brake controllers

Time delayed ones provide a standard amount of power to the trailer’s brakes when the towing vehicle is decelarating. The driver must determine the amount of power based on how much weight he is towing. The driver will always experience a delay every time he brakes. However, the driver can also adjust the time length of the delay too. Time delayed brake controllers cause a bigger amount of wear on braking systems, but they are far less expensive when compared to the proportional ones and also easier to install.

Pros of Time-Delay Brake Controllers:

  1. Cost: For people that don’t tow things frequenlty or they move smaller objects the initial cost is much lower.
  2. Installation: Mounting is the best part about time delayed brake controllers because they can be placed in any position of the towing vehicle.

Cons of Time-Delay Brake Controllers:

  1. Wear: When towing vehicle’s and trailer brakes are not in perfect balance it is only natural that you will get a bigger wear over time.
  2. Feel: If the driver does not make the proper adjustments possible jerking can occur.
  3. Brake Pulse: As soon as hazard lights are on, trailer brakes can ‘pulse’ on and off potentially damaging brake magnets over an extended period.


Best type of brake controllers for Towing

A frequent question is which type of brake controller is better for towing. As you can see above, proportional brake controllers cause much less wear to the brakes compared to the time-delayed ones. Also because they offer a smoother braking experience because of the match between tow vehicle’s and trailer brakes there is no jerking evolved. Therefore there is gonna be less damage dealt to your brakes and also a far smaller chance of an accident caused by imbalance between your vehicle and your trailer.


Best type of brake controllers for Rvs

The same things mentioned above also apply here. Because of the absence of delay the braking is much smoother and as a result of that there is far less pushing and pulling between your tow vehicle and the Rv. The only thing to actually make you think of buying a time-delayed brake controller is the price that is much lower.


Best type of brake controllers for off road

Because of the rough terrain and the obstacles that you will face in the situation of off road towing the precision in braking time is the most important thing. Let’s say that you are driving on dirt road and suddenly you came across a rock or any other obstacle. If there is a delay in braking between your tow vehicle and your trailer or Rv you will experience a push that depends on your speed and the weight you are towing. It might be insignificant or big enough to make you uncomfortable or in the worst case scenario have a minor crash. So in my opinion for the third time in row the best type for off road towing is the proportional brake controllers.

Summing this up proportional brake controllers seem to be better overall when it comes to safety. Their only disadvantages are mounting and of course the price. If you are:

  1. looking for a cheap solution
  2. not towing a lot of weight
  3. have the experience and time to adjust your brake controller’s settings

then you could go for a time-delayed brake controller. If the things above do not describe you then i recommend a proportional brake controller.