How To Use Trailer Brake Controller

2023 Ram 1500 Laramie towing a trailer

Electric Trailer Brake Controller Essential Specifics

  • Electric trailer brakes don’t operate with out a brake controller
  • There are two types of electrical trailer brake controllers
  • Government rules have to have electric brakes on loads of 4,000 kilos or more
  • Aftermarket trailer brake controllers are quickly readily available

Whilst most of us will hardly ever tow something, for these who do, an electric trailer brake controller is an a must have software for safe and sound, efficient towing. The heavier the towed load, the additional essential the trailer brake controller gets to be.

If you very own a newer complete-measurement pickup truck or more substantial SUV, it probably has a trailer brake controller (TBC) as regular equipment. It’s integrated someplace into the dashboard, and you could have wondered what it is and how trailer brake controllers work.

Although a lot of tow-able automobiles appear from the manufacturing facility with the function, aftermarket include-ons are abundant simply because they are important when towing and desire is substantial. But, much more about aftermarket trailer brake controllers later.

Contemplate this a primer on the electric trailer brake controller. We will explain what it is, how it is effective, and why you will in no way want to tow a significant load with out 1.

What Is an Electronic Trailer Brake Controller?

A TBC is a gadget overseeing the electrical brakes on a towed trailer. It is a system that functions transparently to interact the trailer brakes immediately when needed. Usually, it also features a handbook control making it possible for the driver to look at and alter the trailer brakes, and engage them manually if necessary.

In other phrases, with its manage module within the driver’s attain inside of the car or truck, the program performs seamlessly to coordinate the trailer’s brakes with the tow vehicle’s brakes.

Exactly where Is the Trailer Brake Controller?

In most more recent vans, manufacturing facility-set up TBCs are to the left or suitable of the steering column. It is created so that if the driver requires to use the guide controls with one hand, the other hand can remain on the steering wheel.

Associated Write-up: Towing Capacity Guideline: Anything You Need to Know

A Brief Electronic Trailer Brake Controller Glossary

As we perform our way by means of what TBCs do, how to established them up, and so on, we will utilize some conditions that may possibly be unfamiliar. Let us head off that problem by listing a handful of TBC phrases and their definitions.

  • Management toggles – Situated on the TBC manage module, the management toggles serve as the manual management for applying the trailer brakes. It can be a one button you interact to use brake stress or a pair of buttons you squeeze with each other.
  • Achieve – Also named trailer gain, it is the quantity of electric power a TBC applies to the trailer brakes. Extra power applied to the tow vehicle’s brakes ought to maximize the get for the trailer brakes.
  • Proportional brake controller – This TBC procedure utilizes an acceleration sensor (also named an accelerometer) to evaluate the gravity and deceleration of the tow auto. The TBC then applies the suitable amount of get to the trailer brakes.
  • Time-hold off TBC – These brake controllers don’t work as smoothly as proportional TBCs since making use of the tow-car or truck brakes initiates a timed reaction for applying the trailer brakes. That response consists of preset quantities of achieve shipped as a result of the braking method.
  • Wiring harness – These ordinarily come in several configurations, permitting the trailer’s electric powered technique to plug into and interface with the tow vehicle’s electric powered procedure. A wiring harness carries the taillight, brake light, and flip sign data to the trailer, and it also includes brake activation.

Related Posting: Maximum Towing Capacity For Every single Truck

A person adjusting trailer brake controller

How To Use a Trailer Brake Controller

Regardless of whether you use a proportional TBC or a time-delay TBC, activation of the trailer brakes is automatic. That is, when you implement the brakes in the tow car or truck, the trailer’s brakes also activate.

Proportional Trailer Brake Controllers

For fanatics who tow normally or tow a wide variety of loads, proportional controllers are probable the greater alternative. Normally self-calibrating, they provide smoother stops. Nevertheless, they should be set up in a place sensitive to the appropriate procedure of the accelerometer. The end result is the trailer brakes react much more quickly to match the level of tow-car brake pressure.


  • More rapidly reaction time
  • Fewer setup needed
  • Smoother braking and procedure


  • Added expense
  • A lot more sophisticated set up

Time-Delay Trailer Brake Controllers

Even though time-delay controllers are satisfactory in phrases of safety and efficiency, they are improved suited for motorists who tug lighter loads. They also accomplish extra successfully on flatter terrain. This is simply because a time-hold off controller operates to preset technical specs rather than matching the tow vehicle’s braking.

Additionally, for the duration of braking activities, the slowing is dependent on preset moments loaded into the TBC. Therefore, the trailer brakes may possibly not brake at the actual exact same fee as the tow vehicle’s brakes. The misfire can consequence in a pushing-and-pulling result, rising don on each the tow vehicle and the trailer.


  • Perform doesn’t count on the TBC mounting spot
  • Quick set up
  • A lot more very affordable


  • Slower to respond
  • Pushing-and-pulling outcome
  • Far more use and tear on the brakes

Relevant Posting: How to Know if You Require a Brake Career

How To Regulate an Digital Trailer Brake Controller

No make a difference which variety of TBC your tow motor vehicle has, you need to make some changes when trailer masses vary. In this article are seven methods to screening and changing a TBC.

  1. Park on a flat surface.
  2. Plug in the wiring harness.
  3. If required, permit the TBC to self-calibrate.
  4. Enter the trailer achieve environment. It will commonly display as a amount from -10 with raising increments of .5. (Some will clearly show settings of 10-100 with increments of 5.) The better the number, the bigger the braking electricity (attain). For a lighter load, start out with a 2 (or 20) placing. Start out the tow automobile, squeeze the guide command toggle(s) and launch the brake. If the tow vehicle starts off relocating, the get is as well low. Increase the placing to 4 (40) and repeat the process. When you arrive at the appropriate obtain for the load, the trailer brakes will maintain the tow motor vehicle in position with the manage toggles squeezed and the foot brake introduced.
  5. Check the brakes by accelerating to about 25 miles for each hour right before applying the brakes. If you do not come to feel a adequate braking power, raise the obtain and consider once again. If there is as well significantly attain, reduce it and test once again.
  6. Set the brake sensitivity. Relatively like the attain, sensitivity decides how aggressively the TBC applies the trailer brakes. It is a different manage from the get, but you exam it in the similar way. Accelerate to 25 mph and depress the brake pedal. If braking is also slow, alter the sensitivity to a higher setting. Conversely, change the sensitivity lessen if the braking is much too abrupt.
  7. Repeat this training each and every time you enhance or lower the towing load.

Aftermarket Digital Trailer Brake Controllers

The odds are good that if you have a huge tow automobile fewer than 5 many years old, it has a factory-put in TBC. Having said that, which is not usually the situation. What’s more, most motorists in no way pull anything thus, many purchasers wouldn’t shoulder the excess cost if the TBC was an extra-cost possibility. So, for the sake of argument, let us say your tow auto does not have a TBC.

The superior information is the aftermarket is loaded with possibilities. Ranging in price from $40 to $300, both time-hold off and proportional TBC models are quickly accessible. If your intent is critical towing in different terrain, we suggest a proportional TBC, pushing the selling price into the $150-additionally vary. It will also somewhat complicate the set up.

Even though we generally advise that pros do any set up involving a vehicle’s electric method, including a TBC to your truck or SUV is a comparatively simple put in. If you are a DIYer to any diploma, you can likely knock out the installation in a couple of hours.

Go through Similar Content: