6 Best Trailer Brake Controllers for RVs and Campers

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If you are planning on towing a larger trailer, one of the most important things you need to consider is being able to stop it. You might think you just hook your trailer up to the hitch and are ready to roll. But to tow safely, you may need some upgrades depending on your setup.  If you are towing a trailer with brakes, one thing you must have is a trailer brake controller. Keep reading to find out what that means and what the best trailer brake controller is.

What Is a Trailer Brake Controller?

The best trailer brake controllers will keep you much safer when towing your trailer. Brake controllers first sense when you apply the brakes in your vehicle. They then automatically engage the brakes on your trailer or camper. This decreases your stopping distance because the trailer is slowing itself and not relying on the vehicle to stop.  

How Do Trailer Brake Controllers Work?

There are a few different types of trailer brake controllers. They each operate slightly differently.

Proportional Controller

One is a proportional controller. A proportional controller senses how hard you are braking and applies a proportional amount of braking to the trailer. This ensures your tow vehicle and your camper slow down at the same rate. Most proportional controllers sense the motion of the vehicle with what’s called an accelerometer to determine how much to brake the trailer.  

The proportional brake controller installed in our truck

A less common proportional type taps into the vehicle’s hydraulic brake line and senses the actual pressure being applied to the brakes. This type is much less common due to its complexity. 

Proportional controllers are considered the best trailer brake controllers. They are more specific and fine-tuned. Plus, they adapt depending on the braking conditions.

Time-Delayed Controller

Another option for a trailer brake controller is a time-delayed controller. This method of braking is much simpler. It senses when you are braking in your vehicle and again signals the trailer brakes. Instead of being calculated relative to the force of braking, time-delayed brake controllers are pre-set. The driver will determine the desired time delay and braking force. These values will vary depending on the trailer weight and other factors.

Brake Types

Trailer brakes are most commonly electric brakes, however, some trailers use a hydraulic braking system that the controller needs to communicate with called “Electric over Hydraulic”.  It’s important to know which type you have installed before purchasing a brake controller.  

To control how varied the braking on the trailer is, the brake controller will increase or decrease the voltage supplied to the trailer brakes. The higher the voltage, the more power the brakes will use, and the harder they will stop the trailer. 

Most brake controllers will also have a finger trigger that allows you to activate the brakes with the pull of a lever. This is how you test the brakes to make sure they are working when you first drive away. 

Many brake controllers will also have what’s called a boost feature. This provides a higher initial braking boost, which is required when the trailer is larger. It will take some testing to see what boost is right for your trailer and to get it to stop the smoothest. 

Who Needs a Trailer Brake Controller?

There are several situations when you might need a trailer brake controller. First, if your camper or trailer has electric or “electric over hydraulic” brakes. Without a brake controller, these types of brakes won’t work. Most state laws also require a brake controller if your trailer weighs over 3,000 pounds loaded or greater than 40% of the tow vehicle’s weight. Some fifth wheel trailers can double or even triple the weight of the truck towing them, so additional brakes are absolutely necessary. 

This is the inside of our trailer brakes, what I am holding is the magnet that gets power from the trailer brake controller and actuates the brakes.

Many new trucks and vehicles that are designed to tow trailers come with factory-installed brake controllers. These are built into the vehicle, and no additional controller needs to be added. If, however, your vehicle does not have a built-in controller, you will need to add one.  

This truck has a factory installed brake controller integrated

5 Best Trailer Brake Controllers for RVs and Campers

A brake controller is an important part of staying safe on the road. That’s why you need to get the best trailer brake controller. Here are our top recommendations.

1. Best for Most Situations – Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Controller

TEKONSHA P3 BRAKE CONTROL + WIRING HARNESS FOR...
  • Fits: '10 - '20 Lexus, GX460 ; '03 - '09Lexus, GX470
  • Fits: '03 - '07Lexus, LX470 ; '08 - '11Lexus, LX570
  • Fits: '13 - '20Lexus, LX570 ; '03 - '13Toyota, 4Runner

One of the best trailer brake controllers for general towing is the Tekonsha P3. This is the brake controller that we have used for years and have never had a problem with. This brake controller kit includes the controller and wiring harnesses needed to get up and running. You can use it with trailers that have up to 4 axles. It also works with both electric and “electric over hydraulic” brakes. Plus, you can customize braking to be the perfect fit for your trailer. 

Our favorite thing about this brake controller is the screen that allows for easy diagnostics. Not to mention, the Tekonsha P3 brake controller received 4.7/5 stars on Amazon. Additionally, most users agree it is easy to use and good value for the money.

If your looking to get the best towing experience possible and to get the smoothest braking experience then take a look at the Tuson DirecLink Brake controller. This unit integrates with the vehicle’s computer system to get speed and braking data which it uses to determine how the vehicle is slowing and matches trailer braking. This provides the smoothest and most seamless braking performance possible in an aftermarket controller.

The DirecLink Is the most expensive of our recommendations but if you want the closest performance to a factory installed controller this is controller is for you!

3. Tekonsha Primus IQ Brake Controller

Sale
Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control
  • Utilizes Plug-N-Play port for 2-plug adapters
  • Self-diagnostics features will illuminate LED readout when issues...
  • Works proportionally in reverse

If you’re looking for something quality but at a lower price point, you’ll want the Tekonsha Primus IQ. This brake controller is easy to install and use with a plug-n-play port. It also has several other unique features. One is the self-diagnostics, which provides a readout when you have issues. Another is that it works proportionally, even in reverse. So backing up your trailer will be much simpler.

The kit comes with mounting hardware and the wiring harness needed to hit the road. Reviews for the Tekonsha Primus IQ are even better than for the P3. It earned a 4.8/5 star rating from over 3,000 Amazon customers.

4. Reese Towpower Brake Control

Sale
Reese Towpower 8508211 Brake Control (Proportional...
  • 1-4 Axle capacity
  • Boost feature gives ability to apply more initial trailer braking
  • Reverse battery protection

Another one of the best trailer brake controllers on the market is the Reese Towpower. It is a proportional brake controller that operates for between 1 and 4 axles. This brake controller also includes a boost feature. This allows for more initial trailer braking for a safer ride with heavy loads. It also provides a diagnostic output, making troubleshooting a breeze.

The Reese Towpower is also easy to use in multiple vehicles by adding another pigtail wiring harness. All you need to do is plug it in. It also comes with plenty of satisfied customers and a 4.7/5 star rating on Amazon.

5. Draw-Tite 5535

Sale
Draw-Tite 5535 Trailer Brake Control (I-Command...
  • Requires no leveling with "up-front" buttons for easy access to...
  • Proportional brake control means sure, even stopping power
  • Boost feature gives the ability to apply more initial trailer...

The Draw-Tite 5535 is another solid choice for a trailer brake controller. It provides proportional braking for a smoother slowdown with a shorter stopping distance. There is also a boost feature for higher initial trailer braking when needed. You can use it with trailers up to 4 axles.

The Draw-Tite is easy to use. It requires no leveling and comes with all the hardware you need to install it. Like many of our other favorite trailer brake controllers, it also comes with diagnostics. Another wonderful feature for cross-country travel is the automatic adjustment for traveling over hilly (or mountainous!) terrain.

The price point is right and with 4.8 out of 5 stars, you really can’t go wrong with the Draw-Tite 5535.

6. Curt Time Delay Brake Controller

CURT 51110 Venturer Electric Trailer Brake...
  • RELIABLE SAFETY. The Venturer electric trailer brake controller...
  • EASY TO USE. This trailer brake controller features an...
  • POWERFUL. The simple controls of the Venturer brake controller...

Last is the Curt Time Delay Brake Controller. Although proportional brake controllers are superior, the Curt is a good time delay option. And if you’re looking to cut costs, a time delay brake controller is the best way to save money.

The Curt brake controller lets you control settings and sensitivity for smooth braking. It also works with any vehicle and just needs to be plugged in. You must buy the wiring harness separately though! Since it has a simple design with no moving parts, it is less likely to break as well. Its reviews aren’t as high as the other brake controllers we have covered, but it still gets 4.4 out of 5 stars. The ratings are actually pretty impressive, considering the natural limitations of a time delay controller.

This brake controller is a great option for towing a lightweight trailer. But if you tow more often or heavier loads, we recommend spending the extra money on a proportional trailer brake controller.

A Safer and Smoother Ride

If you are looking for the best trailer brake controller, we’re confident you’ll love our top 5 choices. Choosing a brake controller is an important task. This little device helps keep you safe on the road and makes the ride much smoother. Luckily, brake controllers are usually easy to install and operate. So once you get yours set up, you’ll be ready to take on any road.

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Mortons on the Move

We are Tom & Caitlin Morton. We gave up the stationary life for one where we are constantly on the move. We live in a fifth wheel RV and travel with our two pups, Mocha and Bella. We enjoy hiking, biking, boondocking, videography, and upgrading our RV to suit our off-grid mobile lifestyle. Our goal is to share educational, entertaining, and inspiring content with our readers and viewers.

View Comments

  • Just read your "5 best trailer controller" article. Enjoyed it.
    The trailer brake controller built-in to my 2019 RAM 1500 is controlled by the truck's brake pedal and it's anti-skid system. I discovered this last spring when my bumper pull 8,000 travel trailer started fish tailing when we let up on the gas going down a small hill at 50mph. The truck sensed the sway (it was moderate growing toward dangerous), automatically applied only the trailer's brakes (big time) then released them while straightening out the steering wheel slightly. Saved my truck, my trailer and my relationship as my girl friend was the one driving.
    Built-in trailer control technology (computer controlled braking systems, blind spot monitoring, 360 degree trailer sensing, back-up assist and hitching assist) has really grown-up in the last few years.
    Enjoyed your Alaska videos and your articles

  • You forgot the "best" one. Tuson Brake controllers for the heavy weights.
    Antilock proportional hydraulic brakes in the trailer based with a tone ring.
    Truck controller is on the truck Canbus so all wheels are stopping uniformly with antilocks.

    We are the heavies Tom. Our trucks are 20K and the trailer is 25K. You'll likely see us on a freeway somewhere with a Smart car on the deck. There are 3 rallies a year. East Coast in mid TN in the spring, Idaho in the summer, and the big one in KS in October.

    Followed for a long time, probably 4 years now including the Alaska trip. Ought to come join us sometime. KS is the best one.

    Bill

    • After extensive research and recommendations from others, I too got a Tucson Direct Link Brake controller for my heavy duty (Class 8) truck pulling my 5th wheel RV trailer. As Bill stated, all brakes are actuated at the same time by the brake petal on the towing vehicle. Perfect braking every time and in every circumstance.

      • I think that's a great choice! I am going to add that one to the list. I personally have used the brake rite controllers that tap hydraulic lines in the past and they are amazing, but no longer made. The Direct link seems like the next best option.

  • The technology has come a long way, indeed. Glad the one on your RAM worked well in that scary situation. Thanks for reading!

  • Not really connected to this subject but in one picture there is a picture of your odometer showing 219xxx miles. Since you’ve owned the Ram from new, have you done a blog posting about your experiences with it, maintenance costs, surprises, etc?

  • Great article. I use a TEKONSHA P3 brake controller in 2011 Chevy Silverado to pull our Lance 2465. It has a always worked great and very easy to adjust. Last month the LED display went out, I got out my info and checked warranty( Was life time). Called there service line and was asked to unplug unit to see if it would reset. Nope still didn't work. Called them back ( Danny was my Tech) and all was quick and easy. Emailed all requested info and mailed unit back on Wednesday and to my surprise received my replacement unit on the following Sunday. Great job TEKONSHA new unit works great. Wish all RV issues could be solved this easy.

    • Wow! Sounds like you received great customer service from Tekonsha. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • I have a 2009 ram 1500 trying to find a brake controllers to install not sure who makes one for this year model any help would be appreciated

    • Any of the controllers listed here will work. They will come with instructions of how to wire them and you will need to cut into the existing trailer brake wiring. If you do not have an electric brake line run to the back of the truck you will need to run a new one from the controller. I recommend 10 gauge wire for the brake line.

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