How Does an Electric Trailer Brake Controller Work?

by Lars Tramilton


Electric trailer brake controllers function to provide power from the vehicle that is being towed to the electric brakes used by the trailer. There are a lot of different types of electric trailer brake controllers, mostly differing based on the amount of brakes that they can power at one time. However, there are two main groups of electric trailer brake controllers: time delayed and proportional.


Proportional electric trailer brake controllers are also often referred to as pendulum brake controllers. These can track the speed of the slowing of the vehicle being towed and therefore apply the exact same amount of brake power over to the trailer.

Time Delayed

Time delayed electric trailer brake controllers are often called solid-state brake controllers. When the driver steps on the brakes of the vehicle, a certain amount of brake power is transmitted over to the trailer. This results in a delay because the unit is now increasing to complete brake power.


In general, time-delayed brake controllers are cheaper. The brake power they send to the trailer is consistent, as it is always the same. With proportional brake controllers, the amount varies depending on the speed of the slowing of the vehicle being towed. Time delayed controllers also result in more wearing down of the brakes and trailer. Proportional controllers distribute the braking power in a more even manner. Proportional brake controllers are also usually bigger and wider than time-delayed controllers. If you plan on towing the trailer frequently, you should use a proportional controller instead of a time-delayed one, because it works more efficiently in unpredictable towing situations. Proportional brake controllers are also considered to be safer due to the fact that they automatically rise to complete power in the situation of an emergency stop.

About the Author

Lars Tramilton has been writing professionally since 2007. His work has appeared in a variety of online publications, including CareerWorkstation. Tramilton received a bachelor's degree with a focus on elementary education from Kean University.

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