Are you looking for the best electric brake controllers in the Australian market?
We have put together a list of electric brake controller reviews for you to read, along with a handy brand comparison table toward the end of this article. Let’s take closer look...
First off, how does an electric brake controller work?
Simply put, a trailer brake controller (or caravan brake controller) is the device used to control the electric brakes on the trailer (most of which come already fitted with brakes), which therefore mimic the action of your tow vehicle brakes. Using power from the battery of your car, the controller senses when the driver brakes and sends power to the electromagnets inside the trailer's brake drums. These magnets then push the brake shoes onto the drum, causing attrition and therefore activating the brakes and slowing down the trailer. Most of the electric brake controllers currently on the market are adjustable, allowing you to control the amount of braking power applied, similarly to how a remote control would enable you to listen to TV programming at different volume levels. At the same time, most electric trailer brake controllers integrate the possibility of manual overrides, which allow the trailer brakes to be activated independently from the tow vehicle brakes as required.
What are the most important considerations when choosing an electric brake controller? We suggest assessing the following factors while shopping for your trailer’s new electric brake kit:
1. Vehicle-based or trailer-based brake controller
Until recently, only vehicle-based brake controllers were available on the Australian market. This meant that, in order to enable your car to tow any trailer, a brake controller kit had to be installed on the car itself. In other words, with vehicle-based brake controllers, you were forced to install a kit on any and every car that you were planning to tow your trailer with.
A new option is available as of 2017, which is a trailer-based brake controller. Rather than installing the controller on your tow vehicle(s), the trailer-based brake controller goes directly onto the trailer’s drawbar and then syncs wirelessly with the driver’s smartphone in the car. This allows for far more flexibility in terms of which vehicles can move the trailer. The only brand currently offering this setup is Elecbrakes.
Another important factor to consider is voltage. Brake controllers, just like vehicles, come in either 12V or 24V and need to match the power source of the towing vehicle. Most controllers are fit for 12 volt only, however 12V and 24V-fitting brake controllers are becoming more common to ensure compatibility with a wider range of vehicles.
3. Max number of axles
The maximum number of axles that a brake controller can handle is a direct measure of how much total power it can provide. You will be able to tow a single, tandem, triple or quad-axle trailer with a four axle brake controller. Most trailers only have one or two axles.
4. Proportional or non-proportional
Non-proportional brake controllers, or time delay brake controllers, activate the trailer brakes with a pre-set amount of braking power with a delay, ramping up the power to full braking. Time delay brake controllers are generally more economic, offer more flexibility in terms of how and where they can be mounted, and are recommended for lighter, non critical cargo, such as lawn equipment.
Unless your trailer is equipped with an over-run (or override) braking system, the ADR requires all trailers with GTM over 750kg and up to 4,500Kg must be equipped with brakes “designed so that the braking force can be progressively increased and decreased”. Proportional brake controllers, or motion-sensing brake controllers, implement a motion sensor that reads how quickly the towing vehicle is stopping and applies an equal, or proportional, amount of pressure to the trailer’s brakes. No matter how suddenly you have to stop, the towed trailer will stop at exactly the same time. While non-proportional brake controllers can only increase the brake force, motion-sensing brake controllers are able to increase and decrease the brake force progressively once you start braking, much like what you can do when you regulate how much to slow your vehicle down while driving. This allows for more accurate and controlled braking and reduces wear on the brakes of both towing vehicle and trailer, providing a significant improvement to driver comfort and levels of fatigue. It is important to understand that proportional controllers are still adjustable by the user, but they always apply the trailer brakes in proportion to the vehicle brakes.
Proportional brake controllers are also known as automatic brake controllers. Conversely, non-proportional brake controllers are also known as user-controlled brake controllers because they require the user to set up preferences in terms of how hard the trailer should brake.
5. Interface & user experience
Display and user experience should arguably be on your list of factors to consider when purchasing an electric brake controller, because that’s where the driver sets up and interacts with the device. A good brake controller should be reliable and easy to use, both for the owner of the trailer and the driver (for instance, if you are lending your trailer to a friend or hiring it out on Camplify
). Electric brake controllers available nowadays can be basic knob-controlled devices, sport a digital display, or even operate via an app on your smartphone.
Our List of Electric Brake Controller Reviews on the Australian Market in 2017
A vast assortment of electric brake controllers is available nowadays that covers the needs of even the most demanding camper. Here is a comparison of the most popular electric brake controller brands in Australia: [add images from respective websites]
RedArc Tow Pro Classic
The Classic model offers a single, non-proportional, mode of trailer braking, advised for lighter trailers. To adjust how hard your trailer brakes, you simply need to turn the control knob in the desired position, ranging from minimal (0) to maximum (10).
RedArc Tow Pro Elite
On top of the user-controlled mode offered by the Classic model, the Elite model also offers an automatic mode of trailer braking (namely proportional) for highway conditions.
Learn more about the REDARC Tow-Pro Range here
Hayman Reese Sentinel
Hayman Reese Sentinel is the least obtrusive model among those brake controllers that need to be installed under the dashboard of lighter trailers, providing more clearance than others available on the market. Sporting a simple digital display, it has two simple modes, soft and aggressive, thanks to its Sync-Control function; alternatively, the driver can apply trailer brakes manually by squeezing the manual control button to help trim trailer sway.
Hayman Reese CompactIQ
The CompactIQ is a proportional brake control unit that has a separate interface component (dial and LED indicator) which can be mounted in a spare switch panel rather than through the main dashboard, while the brake controller itself is stored out of sight behind the dashboard. It provides the driver with greater control in braking situations thanks to its Boost feature.
The Voyager proportional model ensures smooth and secure braking as well as making setting up quick and easy thanks to the broad control range. Relative braking power is indicated via an LED light indicator.
Tekonsha Prodigy P2 & P3
The Tekonsha Prodigy is a proportional brake control system featuring a digital display for real time voltage, connection and magnet conditions reading. While it is fully automatic and the trailer will brake at the same rate as the tow vehicle, it features a Boost mode (similarly to the Hayman Reese CompactIQ system) which also gives the driver the option of braking harder if towing a heavier load.
Learn more about Tekonsha products here
The Elecbrakes Wireless Electric Brake Controller
The latest innovation in the category of electric brake controllers, Elecbrakes is a remote mount electric trailer brake controller. Australian designed and assembled, it is installed on the trailer rather than the car: a simple solution for any trailer that gets towed by more than one vehicle. Launched in 2017, this wireless electric trailer brake controller allows you to configure and monitor brake response with precision and directly on your smartphone, via the widespread Bluetooth technology. You can create and save up to 5 favourite settings as well as keep an eye on key performance indicators, such as overall braking time, which may help you keep abreast of your trailer’s service needs. The best bit? Because Elecbrakes is installed on the trailer, this device enables you to employ virtually any vehicle to tow your trailer—as long as the vehicle has the appropriate towing capacity.
Here at Camplify, we help RV owners earn money by hiring out their caravans, motorhomes and camper trailers while they’re not in use. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a strong trend towards more and more Australians hiring out their caravans to holidaymakers. Naturally, we speak to lots of hirers who are reluctant to go to the effort and expense of permanently fitting a brake controller to their vehicle. Because of this, we miss out on around 20-25% of hire bookings. With thousands of RVs to choose from, Camplify now allows prospective buyers the flexibility to “try before they buy”, so they can decide whether purchasing a caravan is right for them and if so – which one suits them best.
With this in mind, the Elecbrakes product suits our customers perfectly. We also think it is also great for anyone out there who wants the flexibility of allowing their trailer to be towed by anybody with the right car.
To help you easily compare the best brake controllers available on the Australian market, we’ve compiled this comparison table for you:
So that concludes our review of the best electric brake controllers available on the Australian market in 2017. We’re sure you’ll agree that we’re spoilt for choice with so many great options on the market these days and we hope our comparisons have helped you decide which brake controller suits you best!
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