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How does a Trailer Brake Controller Work?

How does a trailer brake controller work

Don’t know “how does a trailer brake controller work?” then don’t worry, as, in this article, we will briefly discuss the working mechanism of varied types of trailer brake controllers. Hence, stay with us patiently as in the end, you will be the beneficial one.

A brake controller is an essential device for having a stress-free and safe journey, significantly when the trailer weighs over 3000 pounds after being fully loaded. With the help of a trailer brake controller, many dangerous situations in our life can be avoided.

But without knowing exactly how a trailer brake controller works, it would be impossible to have a safe ride. That’s why you must know the exact working mechanisms of your brake controller. Otherwise, you would be in trouble while driving, no matter how good your brake controller is.

Hopefully, this article will be useful for you. So without further delay, let us begin.

How does a trailer brake controller work

How does a Trailer Brake Controller Work?

Generally, a brake controller uses power from the vehicle for applying a particular amount of force to the trailer brakes.

In return, it then uses electric circuits and trailer adjustment settings to control the braking force amount.

Several controllers also have electrical circuits that react to the vehicle’s drive during pulling. While others apply force on a permanent rising balance and stop at the highest voltage output, depending on the value fixed by the user.

Nowadays, different types of trailer brake controllers are available in the market. However, 3 brake controllers are the most common ones that are widely sold and used, namely:

  • proportional trailer brake controllers,
  • time-delay brake controllers, and
  • factory trailer brake controllers.

All 3 of them have different working mechanisms based on their structure and design.

Therefore, the working mechanism of the 3 most common types of trailer brake controllers is written below for your convenience.

1. Proportional Trailer Brake Controllers

The activation of proportional brake controllers is inertia-based. This type of controller uses an electric circuit such as an inner pendulum or accelerometer to determine the braking pressure to be applied by sensing the momentum variation.

Generally, the proportional brake controller operates much better and smoother stop and effective braking than the time-delay brake controllers. When properly fixed, the users can brake as much as they would have even without a trailer set.

Mostly these brake controllers offer 3 adjustment fields: gain, least voltage output, and sensor sensitivity. The adjustment of the device sensitivity lets the brakes be applied depending on the vehicle’s braking capacity.

Furthermore, some give extra setting options for the particular type of trailer like axle number/ capacity, kind of the trailer brake system, and boost settings.

Although the proportional trailer controller’s cost has decreased drastically within the past few years, they are still more expensive than time-delay controllers.

In most cases, these controllers can be attached horizontally, adjacent-wise, or within a specific angle. However, some high-profile models give the facility to attach it to any location based on your convenience.

When these are used with vehicles having a rigid suspension, they can become jumpy. It can result in applying brakes with more power than required when striking a collision while braking.

In other words, while traveling up a mountain, the brake controller applies less force. In contrast, for traveling down, the controller applies more force.

2. Time-delay Brake Controllers

The activation of time-delay brake controllers is time-based. That is, a delay always occurs after the brakes are pressed. For these delays, these controllers are named time-delay brake controllers.

It operates, in the same way, every time. After being triggered, they rise from the least amount of power (your braking power) to the maximum amount fixed by the trailer user. That’s why it is also often known as a user-controlled brake controller.

The time delay brake controller gives you the ability to set the maximum voltage output. Several brake controllers also have an adjustable time delay so that the delay can be fixed to a short or long time based on your requirement.

Moreover, along with the ability to set the maximum voltage output, the least voltage output can also be adjusted depending on the highest voltage percentage setting. The minimum voltage output is also known as a boost.

For instance, if the highest voltage is 10 volts and the least amount is fixed to 30 percent, then the braking power applied upon pushing the brake lever would be 3 volts.

Out of all the trailer brake controllers, the time-delay controller is the least costly one. But that doesn’t mean that their performance is less compared to the expensive ones. They also function and constantly operate, even in risky conditions like others.

They are also easy to install as these types of brake controllers can be attached to any location as there are no inner movable parts in them. The time-delay controllers are ideal for medium and heavy-duty trailers that frequently need to go through a bumpy and irregular ride with loads.

Still, the time delay method is not as exact and accurate as compared to the proportional one.

3. Factory Trailer Brake Controllers

The factory trailer brake controllers are usually the best option for avoiding risky conditions as they are specially adjusted for these situations in the pull vehicle. These brake controllers mainly operate by detecting the amount of brake lever to be slowed down.

Based on that detection, it applies the trailer brake equivalent to the pull vehicle’s brake. This controller allows you to change the gain depending on your requirement to get the best braking performance for any kind of situation.

The factory trailer brake controller operates much better and offers smoother and constant braking for every situation at any time they are used. Moreover, it provides several trailers adjustment settings.

Instead of changing every single time a different trailer is used, you can just select which trailer you are pulling on the vehicle computer and then can adjust comfortably based on your need. Therefore, these controllers also lessen your job as you don’t need to adjust whenever a new one is used.

Another leading aspect of these factory-installed brake controllers is that it lets the vehicle’s computer assist the controller. So whenever there is a sudden situation where the brake controller is needed the most, it can spontaneously apply the trailer and vehicle brakes to correct the pull.

The user can then finally carefully halt and change the loading to avoid any further situations like this.

Therefore, these are the different working mechanisms of the 3 most common types of trailer brake controllers widely used and sold in the market. Now that you know about all of them, buy one based on your trailer braking system to meet all your requirements.

Otherwise, you will need to change it later, which will be a painful matter that you will certainly not want. Hence, check it properly before purchasing your trailer brake controller.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, you have now got a complete idea about how does a trailer brake controller work. A brake controller needs no telling when it comes to having a safe drive and better braking performance while towing.

Different types of brake controllers are best for particular applications based on your trailer braking system. That’s why you must understand the working mechanism of varied kinds of brake controllers to ensure a safe ride along with getting the best performance. Therefore, buy one that meets your needs to get a comfortable and relaxed driving experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Normally, people tend to have doubts regarding some vital points about the trailer brake controller. That’s why to clear that confusion, we have tried to answer the most asked question in our FAQ part. Hence, go through them if you want to clarify your ones.

What does a brake controller do?

A brake controller uses power from the vehicle for applying a particular amount of force to the trailer brakes. For detecting and regulating the amount, it uses electrical circuits and trailer gain adjustment settings to offer a comfortable and safe driving journey.

How do trailer brakes work?

The brakes are applied based on the trailer weight to slow down the drive. Once you step on the vehicle’s brake, the hydraulic cylinder will get compacted at first, and then the force will be shifted to the trailer brake, resulting in slowing the trailer.

What is meant by trailer gain?

The amount of force that a trailer brake controller applies to the vehicle brakes is known as the trailer gain. This force is equivalent to the highest amount of power needed for stopping that trailer.

Moreover, when the vehicle’s brake lever is applied, the trailer gain then tells the controller about the amount of voltage to be applied to the brake electromagnets.

What is the perfect trailer gain to be set at to get a better functioning?

For getting a better function of the brake controller, the trailer gain needs to set depending on the trailer weight and the capacity. However, for heavy-duty trailers, you need to set a higher trailer setting.

On the other hand, for small-duty trailers, a lower trailer setting should be set to prevent the brake’s locking.

How to adjust a trailer brake gain?

For adjusting a trailer brake gain, begin with the parameter as indicated by the company. After then, check your trailer brake at 20-25 miles per hour (mph). Then test if the vehicle slows down or the brakes get locked as based on these 2 things, you need to set the trailer gain.

If the vehicle starts to slow down for stopping, then rise the trailer gain. And if the brakes get locked, then decrease the trailer brake gain.