Types of Brake Controllers and How To Choose One for Your Trailer

There are more than 16,000 campgrounds available for America’s RVers to use, making it possible for a person to stay on the road for as little or as long as they would like. More than 11% of households aged 35 to 54 have an RV, while just over 9% of those over 55 own one. RVs are only one type of trailer someone might want to pull, and nearly any type of trailer can be made safer by a multi axle brake controller. Here’s what you need to know:

What Is a Multi Axle Brake Controller?

Brake controllers are installed on the dash of tow vehicles, where they assist in engaging the braking components so that the driver has more control over the trailer and the driving situation.

Why Use An Electronic Brake Controller?

A trailer in the wrong situation can become a giant, uncontrolled weight. A multi axle brake controller makes it a lot simpler for the driver to monitor and control a trailer’s braking system. Modern controllers can even be customized to let the driver keep an eye on the state of the brake components and monitor cargo on the trailer itself.

What Types of Controllers Are There?

Various models are available, but they can be categorized into two main types: the proportional controller and the time delay controller. The proportional controller automatically powers the trailer’s brakes by sensing what the tow vehicle is doing and matching the intensity. This type of multi axle brake controller can be adjusted as driver preferences or trailer weights change.

With a time delayed controller, the power output is pre-set and the rate of sync with the tow vehicle is set in advance. The syncing rate is based on the weight of the trailer and cargo, but if it is set too low the tow vehicle’s brakes will bear the bulk of the braking. Set the sync rate too high and the trailer’s brakes will be doing all the work. This type of braking system also causes a delay between the moment the driver deploys the brakes and the moment the controller applies the power at the trailer.

What Type is Best?

When towing anything, safety is certainly the primary consideration. Invest in the highest quality multi axle brake controller or single axle trailer brake control your budget will allow. Here are some of the pros and cons of proportional and time delay controllers to inform you as you make your decision:

  • Proportional brake controller benefits. Safety is the most important benefit here since the proportional brake controller is superior when it comes to emergency braking situations. This system is also easier on the brakes of both the trailer and the tow vehicle, needs no adjustments for road conditions or trailer sizes, and will feel very smooth in action.
  • Proportional brake controller downsides. The two main issues with this type of controller are cost and mounting difficulties. The upfront expense of the unit (especially if you have to hire help to get it installed) can be significant. Since the unit must be installed in line with the vehicle’s direction, it can only be installed within a narrow window of space in the tow vehicle, which can be inconvenient with some vehicles or for some drivers.
  • Time delay brake controller benefits. This type of multi axle brake controller is far less expensive than the proportional controller. If you’re towing smaller items, it might not be worth it to invest in a proportional controller. The time delay version is also very easy to mount and can be put anywhere and in any position.
  • Time delay brake controller downsides. Using this kind of controller can result in uneven wear on the brakes, brake pulsing (which can damage brake magnets over time), and will often feel very jerky due to the delay.

All brake controllers are better than nothing, so whatever you can afford, get something. Consider the size of what you tow, how often you tow it, and your budget: then get the best you can afford.

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