Brake controllers are a necessary and handy component for traveling with an RV. As an added safety feature, they allow your trailer to have braking capabilities and are controlled by the brakes in your towing vehicle. Installed in the cab of the vehicle you are towing with, this electric brake system is activated when you hit the brake in your tow vehicle. There are two main types of brake controller options to consider, which are proportional and time-delayed brake controllers.
Proportional Brake Controllers
Proportional brake controllers sense when your tow vehicle slows down or stops and matches the speed and strength of the brake for the trailer. This is really handy because it will adjust to any type of braking situation. If you needed to stop short, the proportional brake will ensure that your trailer will stop just as abruptly as your vehicle. These types of controllers can be adjusted based on the weight and your normal braking tendencies.
Proportional brake controllers are built with a sort of pendulum-type mechanism or motion-sensing device in the controller that senses when you begin to brake or decelerate, and it signals your trailer to brake with the same amount of intensity. This results in a very smooth ride, as there is no back and forth pull action, just a uniform braking sequence every time! It also reduces the amount of wear on both your tow vehicle and your trailer's brakes, and it increases the overall efficiency of your braking system!
Time-Delayed Brake Controllers
Time-delayed brake controllers use a preset amount of braking power. You are able to set the intensity and application rate. This means that every time you brake, your trailer will be stopping or decelerating the exact same way each time. It is activated when you first tap the brake, but the brake will not employ until it reaches maximum power output, hence the name time-delayed brake. One thing to account for is that even if you were to buy a sync switch to help reduce the delay, you will always experience a delay in braking. It may take some experimenting to determine the correct setting for your tow vehicle and trailer, as several different factors can affect which setting you'll need, such as trailer load and size, and weather conditions.
This type of brake is typically easy to install, because it does not use a pendulum to gauge the inertia to initiate the brake system, so it can be mounted at any angle inside the cab of your tow vehicle! Unfortunately, unlike proportional brake systems, they do ultimately cause more wear between your trailer and your tow vehicle.
Choosing Your Brake Controller
So now that you know more about brake controllers, how do you decide which brake is best for you? Here are a few factors to keep in mind!
Tow Load And Frequency
One thing to keep in mind when considering brake controller options is the size of the load you plan to be towing, and how often you plan to tow! If you have a more lightweight RV model, you should consider a time-delayed bake controller. A lighter tow load will help to reduce the amount of wear between the trailer and vehicle, and if you're not using it too frequently, there is less opportunity to create that stress! On the other hand, if you have a more weighty trailer, you'll want to consider a proportional brake controller. You might want to look into this type as well if you plan to travel frequently, as you can still create wear with frequent use, regardless of tow weight.
There is a major difference in the way proportional and time-delayed brake controllers have to be mounted, so that is an important factor to keep in mind! Time-delayed brake controllers can be installed anywhere you'd like, and at any angle. However, proportional brake controllers have a more restrictive angle at which they can be mounted because of the motion-sensing pendulum housed within them. As a rule of thumb, you'll generally need to install a proportional brake controller at no more than a 70-degree-angle from level in order for them to work properly.
Typically, you will find that time-delayed brake controllers will tend to be cheaper. However, improvements and advances in the technologies of proportional brake controllers have made the cost difference considerably smaller. In conclusion, the decision is ultimately yours when making the choice between which type of brake controller to purchase! We hope that these tips have helped you determine which of these options will work best for you! If you have any other tips you'd like to share, leave us a comment!