A brake control system is composed of an electric brake controller, electronic wiring, brake lining, and electrical controls. The device that supplies power to a trailer's electric brakes from the tow vehicle is called an electric brake controller.
There are many types of brake control systems, but the styles differ in the number of brakes the controller can power, its look, and how the brakes provide brushless control and control brake surge. There are only two major types of electric brake controllers; the the Proportional, Motion Sensing, or Pendulum type and the Time Delayed or Solid State brake controller type.
Proportional, Motion Sensing or Pendulum Break Controller Type
A motion sensing or proportional brake controller can easily sense how fast a trailer’s tow vehicle is moving to a stop and provides an equal amount of power to the trailer’s brakes. This type of controller provides proportional balanced braking and is most suitable for trailers that are relatively heavy and travel long distances. This controller optimizes braking as both trailer and tow vehicle’s brakes stop in unison.
A pendulum circuit activates the brake controller and senses the tow vehicle’s stopping motion. A brake pedal switch enables the proportional brake controller. When the driver steps on the vehicle’s brakes, an attached motion-sensing device detects the speed at which the vehicle will stop and applies an equal amount, as slow or as fast braking power, to the brakes of the trailer. This makes the trailer and tow vehicle stop with the same speed. In an emergency or sudden stop where the brakes of a tow vehicle are stepped on abruptly, the set maximum braking power is immediately sent by the proportional controller to the trailer brakes. If the brake pedals are adjusted properly, the trailer and vehicle easily decelerates at the same speed. This increases the brake’s efficiency and reduces the brake lining wear. A proportional controller provides the least wear and tear on the tow vehicle and trailer's brakes and provides the fastest and smoothest braking.
Time Delayed or Solid State Brake Controller Type
When this system is used, even if full pressure is applied on the vehicle brakes, only a predetermined rate of braking power is passed on to the trailer. There is a time delay as the trailer unit slowly builds up its full braking power.
A time delayed brake controller system is user friendly and can be easily installed and mounted at a selected angle. The brake controller activates the trailer brakes, based on a set delay from the time the stoplight is activated. The trailer weight is used as a basis for the user to set the maximum power output to be sent to the trailer when the tow vehicle’s brake pedal is stepped on. A 'sync' switch is used to lengthen or shorten the time delay and the pre-determined amount of braking power is adjusted using a control on the controller system.
Though a time delayed brake controller provides enough braking power, it does not provide an efficient source of balanced braking application for a tow vehicle and trailer unit. The brake application rate is sometimes the same for an emergency stop and a gradual stop. Depending on the pre-determined settings, either the truck/ tow vehicle or the trailer does the greater braking power that results to an uneven brake lining wear.
The two brake control system types are similar in the installation electrical wiring configuration and electronic wiring, but are different in operation control, level of brake surge, and brushless control. Both control systems have a manual override trigger and adjustable brake power.