You’ve probably heard that you need something called an electric brake controller to safely tow your travel trailer, fifth wheel, or other trailer. Obviously braking is important, but what exactly is a brake controller, and why do you need one?
So, what is a Trailer Brake Controller and How Does it Work?
A trailer brake controller is a small electronic device that has been installed as part of a tow package in your vehicle by the manufacturer or is an aftermarket product that is installed in your tow vehicle’s cab. It activates your trailer brakes via an electrical signal whenever you apply your tow vehicle brakes. Essentially, it just means that when you apply the brakes in your tow vehicle, the brake controller delivers the message to your trailer so that it can stop too.
Why is this important?
Well, you don’t want the full responsibility of braking to fall on either the trailer or vehicle. Imagine a situation in which your trailer isn’t capable of braking: you’re traveling 60 mph down the highway when you hit the brakes. Your tow vehicle stops, but the momentum of that 7,000 -15,000 pound trailer keeps pushing you forward, increasing your stopping distance and possibly even causing a crash.
Brake controllers help manage the stopping distance and can control trailer sway by syncing up the two sets of brakes on the tow vehicle and trailer so that both activate when you need them. Braking intensity and the speed at which your brakes are applied can be adjusted based on your trailer size, load weight, road conditions, and other factors. Brake controllers also come equipped with a manual override, which allows you to apply the trailer brakes without applying the brakes in your tow vehicle. This is particularly useful in stopping trailer sway.
Do You Need a Brake Controller?
The quick answer is yes, if you want to rent from Central Texas RV Rentals. Our insurance carrier requires a brake controller to rent from us. Our trailers have electric or electric-over-hydraulic brakes, so you need a brake controller. Most states have laws on the books about brake controller requirements (typically any trailer 3,000 lbs or more requires one, although laws vary by state).