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Which Electric Brake Controller Will Suit Me?

Article by Peter Smith - Caravans Plus

Why do I need a brake controller?

Nearly every caravan now built has electric brakes fitted to the caravan. These brakes require an electric current from a brake controller mounted in your car, to make them operate. Any towed trailer or caravan that weighs 750kg or more must be fitted with independent brakes. Electric are the most common.

What about heavier trailers?

Caravans or trailers that exceed 2,000kg GTM must have brakes fitted to all wheels and have a Break-Away system attached. The system must be capable of automatically activating should the trailer become detached from the tow vehicle. Under these circumstances the brakes must remain applied for at least 15 minutes. These are in effect a brake controller that is attached to the trailer with its own power source.

How do electric brakes work?

Your caravan brake hubs have the traditional brake shoes inside, they rarely have disc brakes.

The magnet becomes activated when power is supplied from your brake controller. It is attracted to the inside flat face of the rotating brake hub (not shown). The rotating hub causes the magnet to rotate as shown (the magnet is attached to a lever that pivots). When it pivots it causes both brake shoes to spread and apply your brakes.

The brake controller that gets installed into your car (on or near your dashboard), is what controls the power that gets sent to the magnet at your wheel.

The controller has a direct connection to your battery for the source of power. It also has a connection to the stop lights, usually from the switch at the brake pedal. This tells the unit to supply power to the magnet, via a direct wire from the controller. An earth is also required.

There are many brands and models of brake controllers to choose from, so I will discuss the common features first.

Voltage

Voltage is first and perhaps most important item. They come in 12V and 24V and must match the power source in your towing vehicle. Unless stated as 24V, the vast majority of controllers are for 12 volt vehicles.

Number of axles

The controllers are made to suit a certain number of axles on the towed caravan/trailer. This is really a measure of how much total power they can provide. So even if the controller indicates it is suitable for four axles it can still be used on a single axle, tandem axle, or triple axle trailers.

It is important to provide adequate wire thickness when multiple axles are braked.

Proportional or non-proportional?

Proportional brake controllers can use different methods to sense the vehicles deceleration, and then apply proportional power to the electric brakes. In other words, proportional controllers deliver power to the trailer brakes in a direct relationship to the actual physical deceleration of the tow vehicle. These must be mounted within certain limits.

There are a couple of varieties of these - some need the controller to be manually set up to suit the angle of installation, while the more advanced will automatically level themselves.

These are generally more expensive than the following.

Non-proportional brake controllers can be time delay activated or solid state. They apply a fixed amount of power to the trailer brakes at any one time. However they are still adjustable from the drivers seat for different driving conditions, e.g. in the wet. These can be mounted at any angle.

Caravans Plus recommends Proportional Brake controllers for a smoother result.

Click the link below to see our full range of Brake Controllers:

Electric-Hydraulic

Some very specialised trailer brakes are a combination of hydraulic and electric. If this is your case you must ensure your brake controller has this capacity.

Display type

This has little effect on braking performance, but the display can vary from just a coloured LED to indicate the controller is working, to a digital display showing effective power being delivered and a menu system to setup the controller.

Mounting

The controllers may be mounted in a cradle under the dashboard or remotely with just the controls protruding through dashboard.

mounting brake controller

In keeping with our recommendation for a proportional brake controller, the Hayman Reese Compact IQ offers the best features for a remote mounted brake controller to date.


Hayman Reese 6000 Compact IQ: 12V Proportional Brake Controller - Remote MountBest Seller

Hayman Reese 6000 Compact IQ: 12V Proportional Brake Controller - Remote Mount

8 In Stock Now.
$249.00
$154.95
View

DIY fitting

Hayman Reese does offer special wiring cables that can connect to some existing vehicle wire harnesses. Due to the large number of vehicles sold in the Australian market that do not meet the requirements for these, Caravans Plus does not sell these. Individuals may further research these under the SmartClick Wiring Solutions.

Fitting brake controllers onto or behind the dash, plus the wiring to the trailer connector is certainly within most DIY capabilities. All units do come with installation instructions, and some additional items are required like extra wire, wire connectors, and a fuse. We have a list of items required shown here.

DIY fitting brake controller

All the above separate items will be displayed if you type "KIT1000" into our search box.

Fuse/Circuit breaker:

1 x Manual reset ATS circuit breakers, 20Amp for and one or two axles
OR
1 x Manual reset ATS circuit breakers, 30Amp for three or four axles
1 x ATS standard blade fuse holder. In line


Manual Reset ATS Circuit Breakers, 20A, 10V - 32V

Manual Reset ATS Circuit Breakers, 20A, 10V - 32V

4 In Stock Now.
$8.55
View
ATS Standard Blade Fuse Holder. Excludes Fuse

ATS Standard Blade Fuse Holder. Excludes Fuse

15 In Stock Now.
$3.35
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Terminal connectors:

1 x Ring terminal (yellow) to connect to positive power source
2 x Connectors (yellow) suit 5mm wire
2 x Connectors suit 4mm wire


NARVA Handyman Terminal Pack, 56520, 320 Pieces

NARVA Handyman Terminal Pack, 56520, 320 Pieces

$63.95
View

Wire:

5mm Blue single core, take power from controller to rear vehicle socket, 6 metres
5mm Black single core, battery power to controller, 3 metres
(below not sold by the metre, substitute colour or larger size)
4mm White extension for earth, 1 metre
4mm Red extension for brake switch, 1 metre


Our Recommendations

Models can come and go, and suppliers price to us can vary from time to time. Our current recommendations are shown below. The P2 and P3 offer the same stopping quality with a superior menu system on the P3.
The Compact IQ is our recommended behind the dash controller.

TEKONSHA Prodigy P2: 12V Proportional Brake Controller - Pocket Mount

TEKONSHA Prodigy P2: 12V Proportional Brake Controller - Pocket Mount

$199.95
View
TEKONSHA 90195 Prodigy P3 - 12V Proportional Brake Controller - Pocket Mount

TEKONSHA 90195 Prodigy P3 - 12V Proportional Brake Controller - Pocket Mount

15 In Stock Now.
$214.95
View
Hayman Reese 6000 Compact IQ: 12V Proportional Brake Controller - Remote MountBest Seller

Hayman Reese 6000 Compact IQ: 12V Proportional Brake Controller - Remote Mount

8 In Stock Now.
$249.00
$154.95
View

Was this helpful?

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2 Comments

  • comment-avatar

    Brian.

    Should be noted that not all brake controllers work with caravan stability controllers.

  • comment-avatar

    Dennis

    What is best brake controller if you have stability control on van?

Add a Comment. Share your knowledge.

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