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Trailer Brake Controller Comparison Review

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Review of Brake Controllers for a Trailer


Today we are going to talk about the two main kinds of brake controllers, the proportional and the time delay. The two we have here are the Journey HD and the Draw-Tite Activator II. These are what you call the time delay brake controllers. Basically what happens is that when you hit the brakes, they come on at a certain speed that you set on the brake controller. Like on this one here, we have a sync switch here that controls how fast it comes on and then this knob here controls how much power it takes to stop the trailer. Basically you hit your foot brake and it comes on at the rate you determine and at how much power you have set aside for it, and then it stays there until you completely let off the brake.

However, there is not a time delay on these. These are inertia activated, which means there is basically a little pendulum on the inside for lack of a better term that just moves forward as soon as you hit your brakes. With inertia, you know, as soon as you hit your brakes, stuff goes flying forward. With a little movement in here it does the same thing. The more the movement goes up, the more power it sends out to the trailer brakes. So once your trailer brakes start activating and your truck brakes start activating, everything starts slowing down. The pendulum starts coming back down too, and also it lets off the current going out to the trailer at the same time. So that way you have a gradual stopping power going with the trailer brakes. It makes the trailer act as one with the truck, more so than with the time delay units. A couple of differences about these is basically in how you install these on your vehicle. Whats really nice about the time delay ones is you can mount them like that, or sideways, or upside down it does not matter because they are completely solid state no moving parts whatsoever. And this one, the same way you can mount it on top of the dash, sideways, you can mount it on the bottom basically anywhere you want, as long as you keep it in easy reach. Now with the proportional one its a different story. They have a limited amount of angle that you can install them at. Basically you have about a 70-degree angle up and maybe a 30-degree angle down. It varies with different brake controllers. I think with the Odyssey you can probably go up to 90 degrees and it will work just fine. However, you can not really do any tilting like this, just a little like this, and maybe a hair of an angle like this from left to right. And you can do that on both of these. But for the most part, the closer to level you can keep the proportional ones the better off you are.

Basically, some people ask, Well I only use it two or three times a year, do I really need to spend all that money on a brake controller? If it is only two or three times a year and you have got a small pop-up camper, chances are the time delay one is going to work just fine for you. And, in fact, this one has a quick disconnect so when you are not using it you can just disconnect it from you vehicle, uninstall it and just keep it in your glove box or toolbox or wherever you want to keep it. If you are going to do a lot of heavy-duty hauling or even light duty with a pop-up camper but you are going to be driving a lot of miles you are going to be more impressed with the performance of the the proportional ones. Again, it is a little bit more of a headache to install in the mounting position, but you will get better performance all around, and smoother braking. And you will not get that kind of jerky action when the brakes and trailer engage and the slack gets taken out of the coupler and the receiver hitch, and it will be a little smoother on that.

Again, if you are going to drive a lot of miles, I recommend the proportional. For two or three times a year or for the weekend warrior or short trips, the time delay ones are probably going to be your best bet. I think maybe a possible advantage of the time delay over the proportional ones is it is kind of nice to feel your brakes working on the trailer almost all the time. Basically, you can feel them working right off the bat and it gives you a little extra sense of security. Again, you get a little rougher ride, but you do get a sense of security when you do that. However, that being said, the better brake controllers, like the P3 and the Odyssey, they have whats called boost features in them. And basically it makes the brakes come on five percent right off the bat. So it works kind of like a time delay at first, and then about a second later it reverts to its proportional mode and it everything works a lot smoother. That way, you can get the feeling of a time delay, where you can definitely feel the brakes working, but then you will not have that jerky action when you start slowing down.







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