How To Install A Brake Controller
September 8th, 2014
  By Bert Camp
  Customer Service Representative at ReeseHitches.com


How To Install a Brake Controller 
 
Hi All.  I’m Bert, one of the product specialists here at Reese Hitches.  We get quite a number of calls from people asking about brake controllers.  These can be a real handy accessory to make trailering larger loads a lot easier and safer.  Here are a few things that should help you determine if a brake controller is right for you.
 
In order to properly choose, purchase and install a brake controller, you will need to understand a few things before making your final decision.
 
First, is the vehicle equipped with the factory 7-way harness?  Second, what style of brake controller are you looking for?  And most important, how many brakes are on the trailer?
 
Brake controllers are manufactured with two different methods of brake application - Timed and Proportional.
 
TIMED brake controllers apply braking power at a predetermined rate that is not proportional to your applied braking pressure. They provide voltage output that gradually increases (depending upon the gain and sync settings) over a period of up to three seconds. This is known as a ramp cycle.   The advantages of a TIMED controller are no mounting restrictions, no leveling required, no internal moving parts and a superior service life.  Last but not least, they are economically priced.   The disadvantage is that they may have to be manually adjusted for highway/city driving. 
 
PROPORTIONAL brake controllers offer a smooth braking response to almost any stop with no need for adjustments once they have been properly set up.  A PROPORTIONAL brake controller determines the tow vehicle’s rate of deceleration and then applies the trailer’s brakes to match.  The advantages are, no sync adjustments are necessary, and smoother stops compared to a timed controller.   The disadvantages are, some models require leveling like the Tekonsha Voyager and proper set up must be maintained in order for the unit to function properly.


 
Once you’ve made your choice of brake controller, you now need to determine if your tow vehicle is equipped with a 7-way harness from the factory. This will determine if you have to hardwire the brake controller OR if you can purchase a “plug and play” adapter. What I mean by “plug and play” is that IF the tow vehicle is equipped with the factory 7-way harness/plug and the necessary under-dash connector, installing the brake controller may be as simple as connecting a brake control wiring adapter between the controller and the vehicle’s wiring harness.  See the link below to help determine if an adapter is available for your vehicle.  In some cases it may be necessary to install additional fuses or relays to complete the installation.  Consult your vehicle owners’ manual for more details.
 
If your vehicle is not equipped with the factory 7-way plug and wiring, we offer several different wiring kits with the necessary components to complete the installation.  Another nice option is the Multi-Tow Connector from Hopkins Manufacturing that has a 7-way plug and a 4-flat pre-wired into it with additional leads for trailer brakes, auxiliary power, backup lights and ground.  You would plug this 4-flat end into the existing 4-flat from your tow vehicle (if equipped) which would provide the stop, turn and tail light functions, and then hardwire the other functions.
 
Some pickups are already equipped with a 7-way harness from the factory.  If the plug isn’t present at the rear of the vehicle, check to see if it’s tucked above the spare tire. If you are one of these “lucky ones” all you need to purchase is a 7-way and 4-flat Multi-Tow connector . and a brake control wiring adapter.  
 
Bear in mind that the 7-way and 4-flat Multi-Tow connector fits many applications, so check with us to determine if it will work for your vehicle.  Or, click here for Hopkins Manufacturing’s list of applications.
 
Please note: not all vehicles are 7-way ready and not all vehicles can have a brake controller installed in them.  If you are not familiar with vehicle wiring, this job may be best left to a qualified professional.
 
Still not sure of the next step?  Give us a call at 877-509-0719.  We can quickly let you know if a brake controller is a good option for your vehicle.
 
Happy Trailering!
 
Bert