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Custom Fit Brake Controller
An electric trailer brake controller is a device that installs in the cab of your tow vehicle and activates your trailer's electric or
electric-over-hydraulic brakes when you hit the brakes in your tow vehicle. Many models are available, and they differ from how
they look to the number of brakes they can power. But all of them can be divided into 2 main groups: proportional or time delayed.
A proportional brake controller senses
how the tow vehicle
is slowing or stopping and applies the trailer's brakes with the same intensity. So if you slam on the brakes in your tow vehicle, the controller will
activate your trailer's brakes just as forcefully. With a proportional controller, you can adjust the initial braking power and aggressiveness based
on your trailer's weight and your braking preferences.
A time-delayed (or solid-state) brake controller activates the trailer's
brakes with a preset intensity (power output) and rate of application (sync), both of which are determined by you. With this type of controller, there is
a delay between the time that you initially apply the brakes in your tow vehicle and the time that the controller reaches maximum power output to the
trailer's brakes. However, this delay can be adjusted with the sync setting.
With a proportional brake controller, you can get heavy-duty emergency braking, general braking, or slow-to-an-idle braking for your trailer
automatically. The intensity with which your trailer brakes are activated and the rate at which they are applied are dependent on the deceleration of
your tow vehicle. This means that, unlike time-delay controllers - which send the same amount of preset power to your trailer brakes every time - proportional
controllers are able to adapt to every braking situation differently. So if you slam on the brakes in your truck, your trailer
brakes will activate with the same extreme intensity. And if you merely slow down as you approach a red light, your trailer will gradually brake in the same
A proportional brake controller senses when and how your tow vehicle brakes with an internal inertia-based sensor. This sensor responds to the deceleration of
your tow vehicle as you brake by signaling the controller to send out enough power to your trailer brakes so that they are activated with an intensity
that matches. The result is uniform braking across your towing setup. No push-pull action - just smooth, proportional braking every time.
A time-delayed brake controller applies your trailer's brakes when the brake pedal in your tow vehicle is engaged. Every time you apply the brakes
in your tow vehicle, a signal is sent - via the brake switch - to the brake controller. The controller then sends power out to your trailer brakes to
activate them with an intensity set by you, at a rate determined by you. Both the amount of braking power (output) and rate of application (sync) can be
adjusted to suit your preference, the road conditions, type of trailer, and size of the load. To determine which levels are best for your application, you
must test out your towing setup and choose what feels best.
A time-delay controller is so named because there is a delay between the time that you initially apply the brakes in your tow vehicle and the time
that the controller reaches maximum power output. Unlike a proportional brake controller, which activates your trailer's brakes based on the
deceleration of your tow vehicle, a time-delayed controller sends power out in the same way, with the same gradual delay, no matter the braking
situation. Although this delay always exists, it can be adjusted by changing the sync setting.
A time-delayed brake controller doesn't rely on internal parts to sense braking motions of the tow vehicle. This allows you to mount the
controller at any angle.
Most time-delayed brake controllers can allow the brakes to pulse on and off when the hazard flashers are activated and the brake controller is set aggressively.
This happens because power from the brake lights can feed back into the brake controller. A pulse preventer can isolate the brake controller from
the flashers and will eliminate this problem. Pulsing of the brakes when the hazard flashers are in use is not usually a problem for vehicles
that have a different bulb for the stop and turn signals. You can usually identify a vehicle that has separate stop lights and turn signals because it
will have amber turn signals.
For more information about installing a trailer brake controller, see etrailer.com's article Brake Controller Installation: Starting from Scratch.
For more information about installing a 7-way connector, see etrailer.com's installation guide Brake Controller 7- and 4-Way Installation Kit (ETBC7).
Four wire connnections are required for installation of a brake controller.
If your vehicle is equipped with a factory tow package (ie, there is a 7-way trailer connector at the rear of your vehicle), a vehicle-specific brake control
wiring adapter may be available for your vehicle. With a custom adapter, the brake controller installation will be simple: just plug one end of the adapter into the controller and
plug the other end into the factory connector under your vehicle's dash.
If a custom wiring adapter is not available for your vehicle, then you'll have to install the brake controller with a universal wiring harness. This harness will
plug into the controller at one end, and then you'll have to splice the other end into the existing wiring on your vehicle. The chart below will help you match wire colors from
the brake controller to your vehicle.
Note: Vehicle manufacturers change wiring configurations regularly, so use a circuit tester to verify all connections.
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