Newbie Q about trailer brake controller

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


New member
Apr 30, 2006
Just purchased a 15-foot vintage trailer that has electric drum brakes. We plan to tow "Alice" behind various vehicles. Apparently, with electric brakes it is common to use a controller -- such as a Tekonsha Prodigy, Draw-Tite Activator, or Valley Journey -- that is installed in the cockpit of the towing vehicle. These controllers offer the driver feedback on the trailer brake operation, and even give the driver the option to dial-in the amount of braking required. That's great, but I don't want that. (Also, I'm not interested in a comparison of the devices I mentioned above.)

What I want is a device that stays with the trailer and either operates by sensing deceleration on its own or by the amount of deceleration force that's appled to the ball. What I want is a surge brake that operates with electric drum brakes so that we do not need to wire each of our tow vehicles with a controller. It seems that surge brake actuators are available for hydraulic brakes, but our old canned ham has electric brakes. Is there such a thing as a surge brake for electric brakes? Does it work well? What's been your experience with this type of controller/actuator?

Please forgive if this topic has been beaten to death. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Gary RV_Wizard

Site Team
Feb 2, 2005
West Palm Beach, FL
I've not heard of any such device.  Electric brakes are pretty much standard on trailers and surge brakes are used only on relatively light weight units.  An electric brake controller is not a "nice to have" - it is required with electric brake units. But you could easily move the electric controller among to tow vehicles once you provide the basic hook-ups. 

You are going to need light and brake hook-ups on each tow vehicle [TV] anyway, so plugging in the brake controller is just one more small step in the process. Basically, a brake controller needs a power source and a connection to the brake pedal plus an output line that goes back to the trailer connector.  You could rig a threepront plug to provide those connections and simply move the brake controller from TV1 to TV2.

You could also convert the trailer to an axle with hydraulic surge brakes instead of electirc. A replacement axle isn't terribly expensive.

John From Detroit

Well-known member
Apr 12, 2005
Davison Michigan
I too have never heard of the type of thing you are looking for.
Here is the brake controler page on Tekonsha's web site

The controler does not connect to the vehicle hydralics, only to the electrical system (Brake Light) uses a decelerameter to determine how hard you are braking.  Thus it should be possible to put just wireing harnessess in assorted vehicles, and mounting brackets, and move the controller from tractor to tractor along with the trailer

You can visit the Tekonsha web site for a lot of information on their systems.


Well-known member
Mar 19, 2006
The Cornhusker State
Some time back I watched a show called Crank & Chrome on TNN. Sam & Dave installed a brake controll system on a trailer that wasn't installed on the TV. Instead everything was on the trailer & you had a handheld wireless unit you carried with you in any vehicle. I am really racking my brain but I can't remember the name of it. I will do some research on this!


Active member
Jun 2, 2006
Moreno Valley, CA
The guys are right - an electric brake controller is a MUST, not an extra, and in a round-about way, required by law - brakes on trailers fo spacific weight and size are required, and properly controlling them is part of the game as well.

I know what you mean about the hydraulic brakes - I rented a little 12' enclosed u-haul trailer not long ago, and it had as you are discribing, where it senses the decelleration and applies brakes (it SUCKED... but i guess it was legal. bah.). The way to go is get a good brake controller, use the quick disconnect harness for each of your TV's and you will be much happier!

IMO, the ONLY controller to get is the Prodigy. it will run you around $150, but it is the one to get, and especially if you will be moving it between vehicles, it's self-calibrating, its the way to go.

Top Bottom