This summer has been all about towing! With limited international travel opportunities, a lot of Albertans have been hitching up their trailers and exploring our own beautiful backyard. Whether you are a trailer towing veteran or a newbie, you have probably done extensive research on the accessories you need to safely tow to and from your destination and one of the accessories you may have happened upon is a “trailer brake controller.” 

A trailer brake controller is an accessory that uses technology to automatically apply the brakes on your trailer when you operate the brake from your vehicle. There are two common categories of brake controllers, these include proportional brake controllers and time-delayed brake controllers.

Various types of brake controllers

Various types of brake controllers

What is a proportional brake controller?

Proportional controllers use a sensor system to “sense” the intensity of the vehicle’s braking pressure during deceleration. The brakes then communicate and calculate the suitable amount of force to apply to the trailer’s braking system. This allows both the vehicle and the trailer to decelerate at the same time. This form of brake controller is most suitable for heavy braking because it offers gradual braking that is safe for the vehicle and trailer.

What is a time-delayed brake controller?

A time-delayed brake controller uses a signal from the vehicle to the trailer to communicate to the trailer about when to apply brake pressure. This is not applied at the same time, however, as there is a “delay” from when the controllers detect the braking in the vehicle to when the braking system is activating in the trailer. The benefit of the brake controller is it allows the driver to control the braking force in combination with the time delay and this can potentially offer better control with certain road or weather conditions

If you are a frequent tower, we would generally suggest that a proportional brake controller is best to use as it is more suited for emergency braking with its automatic sensing capability. The proportional brake controller will also prevent less long term wear on both your vehicle braking system and trailer braking system.

Why not just wire your brake signal to your trailer?

While wiring your vehicle’s brake signal to your trailer may seem like another feasible option, this is something we advise against. Through a wiring system, you are providing braking power 100% of the time and this can be both dangerous and can wear out the brakes on your vehicle really quickly. A brake controller helps the braking system on the towing vehicle and trailer communicate, offering a safer stopping distance and preventing the trailer from swaying during deceleration.

Our experts would be happy to help you find the best brake controller for your vehicle. We offer a wide variety of both proportional brake controllers and time-delayed brake controllers in our store and can answer any questions you may have on which system is more suitable for your towing job. We look forward to seeing you soon.