The Two Different Types of Electric Brake Controllers

April 30 2021
trailer electric brake controller

Are you aware that brake controllers are essential parts of a safe towing experience? Besides using a quality tow bar, good brake controllers are required to stop the vehicle at the right time.

Hitching a trailer on the removable tow bar of a vehicle can make slowing down a lot harder due to the extra weight that it needs to carry. The good news is that many states require drivers to equip their trailers with devices called brake controllers.

Let’s learn more about brake controllers in the following sections.

How Do Electric Brake Controllers Work?

The electric brake control unit of a vehicle depends on a pendulum effect in order to detect braking. As deceleration happens, it swings the pendulum within the unit forwards to activate its electric brakes.

Older models and the more budget designs use a manual adjustment for the pendulum of their units. The more modern designs make use of an automatic adjustment. They also tend to be smoother when the trailer brakes are used. The only downside is that they cost a lot more than the older models.

Types of Electric Brake Controllers

Two types of electric brake controllers exist. The first is the motion-sensing design also known as the pendulum style and the time delay activated or the solid-state.

Although the methods are different for both controllers, the two types work in a similar fashion. Both use the same wiring configuration while allowing the user to adjust their braking power. They also make use of manual trigger for override purposes. This lets the trailer brakes work independently apart from the vehicle brakes.

Motion Sensing Controller

Also called pendulum style controllers, the motion-sensing type uses a pendulum circuit when activated. It is enabled through the brake pedal switch which the controller senses whenever the vehicle stops moving. It then applies the appropriate voltage to the brakes.

If configured right, the trailer can decelerate at similar speeds to that of the towing vehicle. This is going to increase the braking efficiency while reducing wear for the brakes.

Time-Delayed Controller

This type of controller is more affordable than the motion-sensing type. It has a low profile and can be installed on almost any angle.

Time-delayed controllers work at a pre-determined braking rate and they are made to activate the brakes based on a set delay. In some instances, the brake application rate for an emergency stop and gradual stop is the same.

Although time-delayed electric brake controllers offer some braking power, it is not the most efficient and balanced design when used for towing trailers.


Motion sensing brake controllers seem to be the better choice between the two. It uses a balanced approach that provides braking power adjustment when needed. It is also a more efficient design with the ability to reduce brake wear in the long run.

If you want to match this type of brake controller with good quality towing equipment, then you should definitely check out the tow bar products we have for sale. At West Coast Towbars, you can purchase the best removable tow bars and roof racks in Perth you need. Give us a call to learn more!

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