Review of Trailer Brake Controllers

A brake controller supplies power from a vehicle to a trailer’s electric brakes. There are two types of brake controllers; Time Delay Activated and Inertia Activated.

Even though each type of controller has a specific function and purpose, controllers all share the following properties:

They are wired the same way.

The driver can adjust how much braking power is applied.

Each type has a manual override switch that allows the driver to apply the brakes.

Time Delay Brake Controllers

Time Delay controllers are also known as solid state controllers. They are activated when the brake pedal in the tow vehicle is depressed. Once activated the controllers apply voltage to the trailer’s brakes using a Time Delay Circuit.

Solid state controllers are generally more inexpensive than Inertia Activated controllers. In addition, they can be mounted just about anywhere and do not take up a great deal of space. A fairly common issue with the time activated controller is pulsing brakes when controls are set too aggressively. Gain problems can be rectified with a pulse preventer to isolate the controller from the vehicle electrical system.

Inertia Activated Brake Controllers

Inertia Activated controllers are also called Pendulum Style controllers. A pendulum controller senses the slowing motion of the vehicle and applies increased voltage to the brakes as the vehicle slows. A pendulum style controller will slow the trailer at the same rate the vehicle slows down. When the Inertia activated control is properly adjusted, the trailer will decelerate at the same speed as the towing vehicle. A result of this is increased braking efficiency and reduced wear on the brakes.

The pendulum style controllers tend to be larger than solid state controllers and have to be mounted in a level position (although there are some exceptions). They are also usually more expensive.

Drivers often want to know how much brake power they are applying during a stop or whether the trailer brakes are even functioning at all. A quality brake controller will have some type of monitor built in, which should be easily viewable from the driver’s seat.

These monitors make use of a digital display screen to show the voltage delivery going from the brake controller to the trailer’s brakes. The monitor reflects the amount of pressure and power you are applying to the brakes. Brake controller monitors basically do what you would expect… they give you information about all of the aspects of the brake controller so that you can be sure everything will work as you expect when you need to stop.

Regardless of the controller you choose, be aware of the common features they share. By doing some homework you will ensure that you are buying a quality controller.