Best Trailer Brake Controller

We looked carefully into more than 20 products to come up with a list of today’s best trailer brake controllers, analyzing them according to the type of braking system they use, how easily their power output can be set, the number of axles they support, their boost feature, and mounting accessories they come with.

The Tekonsha 90195 P3 Electronic Brake Control turned out to be the superior brake controller among all the products we studied for this buyer’s guide because it’s a proportional controller that can support up to 4 axles. You can use it with trailers that are equipped with either electric or hydraulic brake systems, plus the accessories it comes with make it easy to install on your towing vehicle. Keep reading to learn more about this impressive Tekonsha product and our four other highly recommended trailer brake controllers.

Top 5 Best Trailer Brake Controllers

 #1  Tekonsha P3 Electronic Trailer Brake Control 90195

Award: Top Pick

WHY WE LIKE IT: This Tekonsha trailer brake controller is a proportional brake controller that can work with up to 4 braking axles and can be used with either electric or electric over hydraulic trailer brakes. Professional haulers will love the Tekonsha P3’s boost feature, clear LCD readout screen, warning system, adapters, and mounting kit.

Pros
  • Supports up to 4 axles
  • Customized braking
  • Warning system
Cons
  • Not compatible with Dodge Ram 2013

You can use the Tekonsha P3 90195 whether your trailer has an electric or electric over hydraulic braking system. Electric over hydraulic brakes generate higher braking pressure—more than 1,000 pounds—compared to electric brakes, which produce pressures of 400 to 500 pounds on average. It features a boost button that you can activate during emergencies, particularly during icy road conditions. The brake controller also features a reverse mode so you can back up smoothly and safely with your trailer.

The LCD screen shows the following diagnostic information that can be displayed in English, Spanish, or French: brake, output currency, output voltage, and battery. You can store up to five settings on the controller. This Tekonsha unit also has a warning alarm that sets off during brake failure.The 1.435-pound controller is 4.5 inches long, 3.25 inches wide, and 10.5 inches high. It comes with two-plug adapters and a mounting platform and brackets. Don’t forget to carry the best car jack in the trailer.

 #2  Tekonsha 90160 Primus™ IQ Electronic Trailer Brake Control

Award: Honorable Mention

WHY WE LIKE IT: Another Tekonsha trailer brake controller, the 90160 uses Prodigy technology to automatically adjust the brake level of your trailer according to the terrain in which you travel. It comes with a boost feature, LED display, mounting hardware, and adapters that controllers from this company are known for.

Pros
  • Automatically adjusts braking to terrain
  • Cheaper than Tekonsha 90195
  • Very compact
Cons
  • Only supports 3 axles

The intelligent motion sensor technology of Tekonsha 90160, dubbed Prodigy, is patterned after what’s used in aircrafts. As a proportional brake controller, the product detects the rate of deceleration of the towing vehicle and replicates that pressure on the trailer. You also get additional braking power, especially when pulling heavier trailers, with this controller’s BoostSM feature. The Prodigy and BoostSM features also work efficiently in reverse mode.

Just like the Tekonsha 90195, the unit displays diagnostic information on its LED screen and comes with mounting gear, adapters, and a removable electrical connector. The one-pound Tekonsha 90160 is 4.5 inches long, 2.75 inches wide, and 8.5 inches high, slightly lighter and smaller than the 90195 model. When traveling with a trailer in tow, you should invest in the best truck floor mats in case of messy spills.

 #3  CURT 51110 Venturer Trailer Brake Controller

Award: Best Budget

WHY WE LIKE IT: The power output and ramp time controls of this Curt brake controller allow you to appropriately adjust the amount of braking power you need, whether you’re driving uphill or on level ground, no matter how light or heavy your cargo is. The budget-friendly product integrates with a variety of brake systems and mounts easily.

Pros
  • Space-saver
  • Mountable at any angle
  • Most affordable top pick
Cons
  • Slide adjustments can be sensitive

This Curt brake controller can operate with trailers with one to three axles. As a time-based device, the Curt 51110 activates your trailer brakes according to your pre-determined settings. A synch button allows you to predetermine how fast you want the brakes to take effect on the trailer once you step on your towing vehicle’s brake pedal. You can move the toggle on top of the device to lower or raise the amount of braking force, which will be indicated by the LED lights on the right side of the controller.

Unlike proportional brake controllers that must be pointed in the direction of travel (leveling), this 0.43-pound product, which comes with an adjustable mounting bracket, can be installed at any angle. It measures 4.5 inches long, 3.38 inches wide, and 0.0625 inches high. The Curt 51110 also works with electric over hydraulic systems and trailers with cruise control, pulse width modulation, and anti-lock braking systems. Another affordable option is the Reese Towpower Brakeman IV Digital Brake Control, which installs easily and has simple adjustment controls. This electric brake controller also utilizes a digital display that’s easy to use and clearly shows all your brake settings. And if you are hauling a trailer chances are you wore out your truck bed, so have a look at the best truck bed liner mats.

 #4  Tekonsha P3 Trailer Brake Controller with Wiring Harness

Award: Best Plug and Play

WHY WE LIKE IT: This Tekonsha trailer brake controller combo features our top pick and a Tekonsha wiring harness specially designed for Toyota Sequoia, Landcruiser, and 4Runner SUVs as well as Tacoma and Lexus trucks. The two-plug adapter of this 32-inch accessory allows for easy installation between your controller and the vehicle’s brake control port.

Pros
  • Best for Toyota
  • Harness compatible with other controllers
  • Hastens installation
Cons
  • Expensive set

The Tekonsha 3040-P brake control wiring adapter takes the guesswork out of getting the right wires to link your vehicle’s brake control with that of your trailer’s. You can use this product to connect your Tekonsha P3 with the following Toyota trucks: Lexus LX470 (2003-2007), Lexus GX470 (2003-2009), Lexus GX460 (2010-2015), Lexus LX570 (2008-2011, 2013-2015), Tacoma (2007-2015), and Tundra (2003-2014).

The harness and controller combo can also work with the following Toyota SUVs: Sequoia (2003-2020), Land Cruiser (2003-2011, 2013-2015), and 4Runner (2003-2013). The wiring harness can also work with other proportional brake controllers of Tekonsha like the Primus IQ or its time-delayed products such as the Tekonsha PowerTrac 39523. If you’re interested in specifically Tekonsha products, there’s the P2 Prodigy Brake Control and Wiring Harness package as well for certain Toyota and Lexus models. The Prodigy P2 is a proportional trailer brake controller that automatically syncs with the braking movement and deceleration of the tow vehicle. Along with the Prodigy P2’s convenient brake control Tekonsha also includes advanced safety features to prevent any vehicle or trailer damage and to give users peace of mind. The best transmission jack is another must have accessory for the road.

 #5  Tekonsha 90250 Prodigy RF Brake Controller

Award: Best Quality

WHY WE LIKE IT: This Tekonsha trailer brake controller is for you if you operate several trailers or towing vehicles. The Prodigy RF requires no under-dashboard wiring but instead uses a remote control to adjust your trailer brake’s output, offer diagnostic data, and notify you about any disconnection.

Pros
  • RF remote control
  • Multiple positions for power module
  • No leveling required
Cons
  • Heavy power module
  • Pricey

You can use this Tekonsha unit for pairing various towing vehicles with different kinds of trailers with up to 3 axles. It features a 5.9-pound trailer power module that you can mount on any unobstructed spot on your trailer frame, but preferably just behind the coupler, with the 8-foot cable going toward your towing vehicle. With this extra power, you might need the best trailer tires too.

Proper positioning allows your hand-held remote control to establish an electrical connection between your towing vehicle and trailer. This is also necessary for your Prodigy RF to effectively control your trailer’s brakes whether in forward or reverse mode. You can also use the handheld device to set the power output on your trailer brakes. It also serves as a manual brake override that’s required by US law. When installing, it might be a good time for the best car floor mats as well.

How We Decided

Don’t be surprised that four out of the five shortlisted products in this buyer’s guide are from Tekonsha—the company has been in the business of making reliable trailer brakes, brake controllers, and related wiring systems since 1964.

Tekonsha and the 27-year-old Curt Group are two of just a handful of long-trusted names in the industry.
Proportional brake controllers dominated our lineup because they allow your trailer brake to slow down and stop at almost the same time you do with your towing vehicle. This ensures that hard and emergency braking situations are manageable and safe.

But we also wanted to offer some variety, so we included a time-based option and a unique wiring-free, remote-controlled product.

Best Trailer Brake Controller Buying Guide

 

The Most Important Factors to Consider

  1. Type
    • Time-based/Time-delayed/Solid State
      A time-based brake controller lets you do two things: set the amount of pressure to apply on your trailer brakes when you step on the brakes of your towing vehicle as well as the length of time delay between your stepping on your vehicle’s brake and the activation of the trailer’s brakes.
      Once you step on your brakes, the controller gets a signal and sends voltage or power to your trailer brakes according to the intensity you set. You must consider the gross weight of your camper trailer, the condition of the roads you’ll pass through, and your driving style when predetermining the pressure and time delay of this type of brake controller. Unlike proportional brake controllers, time brake controllers don’t need internal sensors to work and can be installed in whatever angle in your dashboard. This controller is recommended for occasional, light to medium load, and short-distance towing.
    • Proportional/Inertia-Based
      As mentioned earlier, a proportional brake controller uses an accelerometer or sensor that reacts to when and how your towing vehicle brakes. When you decelerate, the sensor detects the slowing motion and commands the controller to activate your trailer’s brakes. As there’s no time delay, you won’t have to worry that your trailer will slam on your towing vehicle’s rear during emergency brakes. This also preserves the brake pads of your towing vehicle and trailer longer. However, this type of brake is usually more expensive than time-delayed products. It also requires more effort to install.
  2. Number of Axles
    The best trailer brake controller offers a multiple range of axles for you to use, although most trailers have either three or four axles. But make sure that it matches the number of axles of your trailer at the minimum.
  3. Boost
    A brake boost provides 5% or 10% additional pressure to your regular braking power. This helps keep you safe during emergency stops, especially when your trailer contains heavy cargo.
  4. Size
    Choose a brake controller that fits your dashboard, on the driver’s side. It should be positioned in a spot where you can easily adjust the controls.
  5. Display
    The best trailer brake controller features LED monitors where brake pad force, output current, and battery data can be easily read.
  6. Mounting Hardware
    Select products with mounting brackets and clips included for a more convenient trailer brake controller installation.
  7. Voltage
    A brake controller comes in either 12 or 24 volts. Check the voltage of your towing vehicle’s electrical system to determine the compatible controller.

Trailer Brake Controller FAQs

Will my trailer brakes work without a controller?

You'll need a brake controller if you have electric or electronic brakes installed on your trailer. You'll know whether or not you have an electric braking system if you see electrical wires leading to the brakes that are built into the trailer wheels. Meanwhile, you'll see a relay device, called an actuator, in hydraulic brakes. Time-delay and proportional brake controllers are electric brakes, with the proportional brake controller being the best trailer brake controller recommended by professionals. Your trailer brake controller is the device that will control the flow of electric current to make your electronic brakes work. It sends a signal from your towing vehicle's brakes through the wiring on your trailer hitch up to your trailer brakes. The brakes use electromagnetic drums to slow or stop your trailer wheels from spinning. On the other hand, hydraulic or surge brakes use the energy of the towed vehicle to compress brake fluid in a cylinder for the brakes to stop your trailer. This system involves a surge coupler on the tongue of the trailer that connects to a hydraulic master cylinder. It’s this cylinder that pushes the brake pads against the disc brake or brake drum and rotor when you press the brake pedal of your towing vehicle.

What type of trailer brake controller is best?

The best trailer brake controller for your electric trailer brakes would be a proportional brake controller. When properly adjusted, a proportional brake controller allows your towing vehicle and trailer to slow down and stop at the same speed. This means that your trailer brakes stop at the same time you slam your towing vehicle's brakes to avoid, say, a head-on collision. Doing so isn't possible with a time-based controller or hydraulic brakes, unless the latter is an electric over hydraulic system—where the actuator is electric—that's powered by a proportional brake controller.

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Geri Mileva

Based in Prague, CZ, Geri is a freelance writer with nine years of experience. Technology, marketing and finance are among her favorite topics to write about. She's also a strong advocate of plant-based and ethical living.

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