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Choosing The Right Brake Controller

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Choosing The Right Brake Controller


Hey everybody, Ryan here at etrailer. Today, we're gonna be talking about how to choose a brake controller that's gonna be right for you and your particular application. When it comes to picking out a trailer brake controller for your particular setup, things can get overwhelming pretty quick. There's just so many different options out there. And so many available things can start to get confusing. So the purpose of today's video is just to break that down, simplify it, and hopefully get you going in the right direction on what type of brake controller will be right for your vehicle.

So today we just pulled out a handful of them. These ones are all really popular. A lot of people have had good luck with them and are highly rated and ones that we've had good luck with. So we're just gonna be using these as an example. And right off the bat, we're not gonna get into the fine details about them, but we will touch base on some of those later on whether they're time-delayed or proportional and we'll elaborate on all that as well.

But with that said, why don't we get right into it. And an attempt to simplify things, I broke our brake controllers down into three different categories and this is just what I like to call them. So we have our wireless type for these two here. I like to call these two in the middle more factory like options. And then these over here, I like to call them more of the classic or traditional type brake controllers.

And so they all have a place. They'll all work, but some might be a better fit for different types of vehicles or different types of situations. But with that said, we'll just start to work our way down here and explain to you certain scenarios where one might be a better fit for you. For our wireless ones, we have the CURT Echo, which is this here. And then there's also a CURT Echo under-dash trailer brake controller, which is this one here.

We'll start with just the standard CURT Echo wireless brake controller. And this thing's pretty cool. We've had a lot of good luck with it and they're gaining in popularity. Essentially, these are gonna be for those of you that don't want anything on the dash. You're not gonna have any buttons or anything along those lines to mess with. With this one, it's pretty unique. So all this is gonna do is plug into your vehicles 7-way. And then on this end, you're gonna plug in the 7-way from your trailer and everything's gonna work essentially off your mobile device via Bluetooth. And that's going to tell the trailer when to apply the brakes and everything else like that. So this would probably be a good fit for those of you that one don't really tow all that often, just 'cause you don't really have to mess with anything. You throw this in your glove box. Or for those of you that have multiple tow vehicles. I know some people have a big truck or something like that to tow heavier stuff and they might have a smaller camper that they like to pull through van, get better gas mileage, whatever the case may be, because this is interchangeable. This isn't married to a particular vehicle. You could use it over the weekend and then let your buddy borrow it the next day and you won't run into any issues there. Or for those of you that maybe constantly trade in vehicles. You hold onto your car for a year or so and get a new one. You can keep this with you and use it for the new car. So it's pretty neat and would be a good fit for those of you in that particular situation. And then with the under-dash one, essentially this is gonna be very similar to this, but this will be essentially permanently installed on your vehicle. You won't see this. You can tuck this up under the dash and whatnot and it's gonna work the same way kind of, but it's gonna be more permanently attached. If you're not looking for any buttons, but you do tow a lot or you plan on holding onto your vehicle for a long time, this would be one to consider and it's gonna work the same way. Once this is plugged in, you're gonna use your mobile device to set everything up and control it. One more thing with these two that I just wanna touch base on. It seemed like when these first came out, some people did wanna have a little bit of control of the manual overrides. So that's the button you can push to apply just to your trailer brakes. And they didn't like the idea of having to use their phone. So if that's what you end up going with and that's your thought too, they actually make a wireless button that will sync up with these and you can stick this wherever you want it really and that'll be your manual override button. So pretty cool. If that's something you're looking to do, there's definitely a solution for you there. So something you can check out. But now that we touch base on the wireless ones, let's move over to our REDARC's or our factory type ones, what I like to call them. So right here we have the REDARC Tow-Pro Elite and this red one is the REDARC Tow-Pro Liberty. And these are super popular. We do a lot of them. I'm a big fan of them. They're really high quality and they just flat out work. They really do. And the reason I dub them factory like is because what you're gonna see on your dashboard or wherever you decide to mount this is very very minimal. The only thing you're gonna be able to see is this little knob or this dial here. And that holds true for both of them, whether you have the Elite or the Liberty. And so it looks really good. It blends into a lot of different dashboards and it's usually relatively easy to mount. The knobs are relatively small and you can usually sneak them in just about any place. The thing is with these, they're really feature heavy. You can do a lot of cool things with them and essentially all those things that you can do are just controlled from the single dial. So you can make your adjustments push down on it for your manual override and everything in between. Something I did notice, especially over the last few years, when it comes to the REDARC's, I feel like these are getting more sought after because a lot of the late model or modern vehicles, the dashboards there's just so much going on. There's so many buttons, there's not a lot of room, and so many different options and electronics and whatnot. It just really limits you on where you can mount stuff up. So for example, a lot of these newer vehicles, there's not space to put some of these classic ones on the dash. You don't wanna drill into it or hit an airbag or something like that. So I feel like that's why a lot of people are going after these, which makes sense 'cause you have that mounting versatility. You only have to worry about one little piece here. And not to mention they also make some panels as well. A little knockout panels for a lot of the popular vehicles. Just push a little piece of plastic out, push their piece in and it gives you a perfect factory looking option to mount up the knobs. And once again, we'll show you some of these, actually in these vehicles and come back to talk about the features a little bit more in depth, but I just wanted to cover our bases real quick. That way, it'll give you an idea on what one or what style we need to focus on. Moving on to our classic type brake controllers. These go from super simple to really loaded up or feature heavy and everything in between. So there's a ton of different options with these and nothing wrong with them at all. They're tried and true. The style's been around for a long time. And in some cases, makes sense to use in a particular vehicle. So if you got a lot of dash space or maybe an older vehicle that doesn't have all those options like we talked about earlier with the REDARC, definitely something to consider or a lot of times these will be a more economical option and just depending what you're trying to accomplish there. So for example, we have our Hayes Synchronizer, which is this one here. Very simple, it's a time delayed brake controller, and it'll get the job done. It's not gonna be able to do all these crazy different things and have ton of adjustments, but it will apply the trailer brakes. And then you have, for example, your Tekonsha P3, which is this one here and this one can do just about anything. There's a ton of adjustments and a ton of different things you can do with this one, which is really cool. Then you have something that falls in the middle, which is our Tekonsha EVN brake. One of the things I actually do like about this one, it is relatively small for what it is. About the size of a deck of cards. You have some adjustments, some adjustability, and it'll still definitely get the job done. I have been thrown that term around time-delayed and proportional. And so I just wanna take a second and explain that because that is a big difference between a lot of these brake controllers. Usually what I recommend is proportional type ones and this is just my opinion, but I feel like they offer more of a smooth braking experience, a little more controlled, and it gives you a little more peace of mind, at least when it comes down to my opinion. So what proportional actually means is however hard you hit the brakes in your vehicle, that's how hard the trailer brakes are gonna be applied. So let's say if you're rolling up to a stop sign, something like that and you're about halfway on the brake, trailer brakes are gonna do the same thing. On the other hand, if you're going down a big hill or there's an accident up ahead, and you really have to stand on that brake pedal, trailer brakes are gonna match that. And so in a sense, you're stopping as a whole unit or in unison and it just provides a smoother experience. On the other hand, when it comes to time delayed, it means exactly what it sounds like. There's going to be a preset amount of delay in the brake controller when you hit the brakes in here. And there're also going to be a preset aggressiveness or how hard those brakes are gonna be applied. So sometimes you can change it up a little bit, but let's say if you hit the brake and a few seconds later, trailer brakes come on, you get what you get. You know what I mean It's not really adjusting on the fly. With nowadays, the majority of the brake controllers are gonna be proportional. And my thought is it's a little bit better in most instances why not take advantage of that and use it. However, there is a time and place for time delay. If that's what you're familiar with, if you have an older truck or something, and that's what you had forever, nothing wrong with it. It'll still work. But for the reasons I just explained, that's why I favor proportional type brake controllers. The CURT Echo this here is gonna be a proportional brake controller. And honestly, I'm a good fit myself for this brake controller and I say that because I don't really tow all that often, trailers that have brakes at least. And generally I only hold on to cars every couple years. After about two, maybe three years, I get into something else. And so that's what I use because I can take this with me. I don't have to modify my vehicle to use this. And whenever I get in a different vehicle, I can hold onto this and use it in that as well. So it's pretty convenient. I'll have something like this for life essentially and it'll always work out. And just a quick rundown how it works, it plugs into the 7-way and then your trailer plugs in to the other side and then you get on your mobile device, download the app, and that's how you're gonna control everything. So back inside, we won't get too carried away here, but I just wanted to show you, this is the way the app's gonna look and you have all your adjustments and everything else. And I talked about that manual override button. So essentially this is the manual override button. That's what some people didn't like it being on the screen. And so that's where this will come into play. You could stick that on the dash wherever you want and still be able to use both. So pretty cool. The CURT under-dash trailer brake controller is essentially gonna be the same thing. It's gonna look the same on your app and everything else. But instead of this being removable essentially and plugging into the back of your 7-way, this will just get wired in and hide under the dash where you're not gonna be able to see it, but same concept essentially. And one of the things I was concerned about when I first heard about this was what if your phone or your mobile device dies or you close out of the app or whatever. And they thought all that through 'cause obviously trailer brakes are important, safety. And if something like that happens, it's going to remember all those presets that you have in here, how you have it set up, and just run off that. So nothing to worry about there if that particular situation does end up happening. As far as the factory type brake controllers go, at least how I like to phrase them, this is a really good example. So we have a late model pickup truck and we actually have the REDARC Liberty installed on this one. So really clean. You hardly even notice it's there, but it's super easy to get to, super easy to operate. So like I said, this particular one is Liberty. the Elite is gonna look very, very similar. The same idea and all your adjustments are made right there on the fly and everything else. And so you can see where this comes into play in a lot of scenarios. A lot going on in the dash, not a whole lot of room. Especially this particular vehicle, he has a few kids, car seats in the back. He gotta sit up a little bit closer to give the kiddo some space. And if he had a brake controller traditional style one here, it'd get annoying real quick. So end up working out perfect and is a great option for those of you that are trying to go that direction. As far as the classic type brake controllers go, here's a great example. The one that we have in our Dodge Ram here today. This is the Tekonsha P3. So you can see what I'm talking about, how these mount up on the dash, and in some vehicles, it's just not ideal. This one, pretty good fit. This is a work truck, his workhorse. He really don't care so much about the appearance and there's a lot of room to work with and everything else. So something like this in here makes sense. Not to say that the other ones won't be a good fit or working here either 'cause they will, but I'm just trying to give you some ideas on something that you can build off of. And now we have the Toyota 4runner here. So really versatile vehicle. It's like a Jeep almost. And honestly any of these style of brake controllers just make sense and it's really just gonna be your preference. There's plenty of space down here to use the traditional style one or the classical one. This is the Hayes Synchronizer that he used and he chose to use the time delayed one like this because he grew up using it, like that's what he's familiar with. And so wanted to stay true to that, which definitely understandable. This is a good example too of how the REDARC can look. So a lot of times in these Toyotas and other vehicles you'll have these factory knockouts here from where there could be other options in terms of what it comes up from the factory. But a lot of times you have a couple blanks. And for a lot of vehicles, REDARC's makes little panels here. You could pop them out and plug that brake controller and have the knob right there. So pretty cool. Looks really factory. And obviously we know about the wireless one. So in something like this, you could go any which way really. And it just come down to your personal preference. But now that we've seen a couple examples, actually in vehicles and how these look and everything else, something else that can determine what brake controller is gonna be best for you is how you actually plan on using it. What type of trailer you're gonna be pulling primarily How many axles is it going to have Do you have that single or double axle trailer and that's all you plan on towing, or do you have a big triple axle trailer, maybe you're in the service industry and you don't know what trailer you're gonna be pulling that day. And that's gonna determine where you wanna go as well. And thankfully, within each category, there's other specs that you can choose from. So for example, let's say if you like the wireless, the thought of the wireless. So the CURT Echo's here. This particular one is gonna work for trailers that have one to two axles. But if you're pulling trailers that are bigger than that, the under the dash one will work for one to four axles. So a big spread there. As far as the REDARC's go, the Liberty is gonna work for trailers that have up to two axles. And then if you need to go even bigger than that, the Elite will work with trailers that have up to three axles. So generally speaking, covers everything there. And then in terms of these, the classic type ones. Hayes Synchronizer here, the time-delayed one, that's going to work with trailers up to two and both the Tekonsha BRAKE-EVN and the P3 are gonna work for one to four axles. So you have a lot to choose from. And like I said, thankfully, within each category, we have a couple of options to roll with. Something I just wanna throw out real quick too, I think it's worth mentioning, especially with off grid camping getting more and more popular. If that's what you plan on doing, the Tow-Pro Elite by REDARC is definitely the one I'd recommend. And I say it because like we talked about, this proportional type brake controller, but then once you get off road, you can change this to a different mode, which is called user control. And it's going to allow you to preset how you want the trailer to brake. So when you start getting on that sand or mud or gravel, get into your camp spot, sometimes you don't want the trailer to brake in proportion. You want it to be preset. So it gives you ultimate adjustability there and can make your experience a little bit better. So probably not a huge deal for a lot of people, but something I just wanted to mention and go over real quick. One of the things we do get a lot of questions about is installation. Do all these plug in Do you have to run wires What do you need to do And it's gonna be tricky to answer that so vaguely because every vehicle is set up a little bit different, but I'll do my best here to at least get you going. So generally speaking, a lot of times, if you have a bigger truck or SUV and you have a factory 7-way trailer connector at the back and a factory hitch, a lot of times what you'll find underneath the dash, there will actually be a factory connector, a brake controller connector plug. And if your vehicle has that, almost with every brake controller out there, there's an adapter so you could plug into your factory one, plug into the brake controller, and then mount things up and go from there and it's pretty straightforward. Other times, it's not always the case. If your vehicle doesn't have that or almost all the time if your vehicle doesn't come equipped with a factory tow package, you're gonna have to do a few other things. Obviously, you'll need your trailer hitch if you plan on towing and then you'll need a 4-way flat wiring connector. So the standard trailer wiring, if you will, and then you can pick up a universal brake controller install kit that we carry. It has a 7-way, some wiring, some breakers and other things to allow you to wire everything up and hook up your brake controller. Now, like I said, this is generally speaking, that'll cover most scenarios, but sometimes there are oddball vehicles that have a combination of the both, or sometimes they're not equipped with them and everything else. So you can always refer to some of the other content that we have here and maybe that'll give you an idea or find a couple of things to look for. One of the other different things with the Echo here, the one that plugs into the 7-way. Obviously if you have a factory 7-way, you plug this in and it'll fire right up. If you don't, there's another kit similar to that brake controller kit. It just comes with a few last things. And essentially it's gonna give you 7-way round and your 12 volt power because this, you just need that 12 volt power to turn this thing on. You don't need some of the other things that other kit has. So if this is the one you're leaning towards, that's definitely something worth checking out if your vehicle isn't equipped with that factory 7-way. So in short, what brake controller is gonna be best for you is really just gonna depend on your preference and how you plan on using it. If it we're me and I had to give a summary, let's say, if I had a work truck or something along those lines, I'd be perfectly fine with using the classic style ones here. Within those, I'd probably pick the P3 just because of all the options that it has and all the cool things you can do with it. If you're looking for something a little more economical, the Tekonsha one here, you get a lot of bang for your buck with it and it's pretty small too. So that's always a bonus. If I had, let's say more of a late model vehicle or a Jeep or something I was really concerned with in terms of appearance and I wanted something that was real high quality and very reliable, you definitely can't go wrong with either of the REDARC's. Which one I would go with will just depend on how I plan on using it like we talked about earlier. Either one is definitely not a bad choice. And then like my particular situation, like I said about my truck, not towing that often and I change vehicles a lot, that's where the Echo wireless one that plugs in the 7-way would come into play. And if I didn't wanna see anything at all in the dash, that's where the under-dash one would come into play. So they're all gonna work in the majority of the situations, even ones that we don't have on our table here today. There's tons of them out there and all gonna do the same thing. So as long as you can sort through them and find them one that's gonna work best for you. I feel like that's what's really important 'cause you're gonna have to live with it every day. It's in your vehicle and you want something that's catered to your particular needs. But other than that, I feel like that's what it's really gonna boil down to and hopefully this video that we did here today can simplify things for you and help you figure out what brake controller to pick up..