If you are trying to decide if you need a brake controller to pull a trailer, the short answer is, yes. The way you will know for sure is if the trailer you are towing has brakes, then you need a brake controller. If your trailer has brakes, but your towing vehicle does not have a brake controller, you will not have any ability to apply the trailer brakes.
The easiest way to find out if a trailer has electric brakes is to safely crawl under the trailer and look. First, block the tires using wheel chocks. Bring a flashlight with you and crawl under the trailer. Look at the inner side of the wheel. If you see two wires running from the frame of the trailer and feeding inside a hole in the backing plate behind the wheel, the trailer has brakes. Every wheel that has these wires will have brakes. You may not have brakes on all wheels, depending on how the trailer was designed at the manufacture. However, remember that having brakes on a trailer does not mean the brakes actually work.
Most trucks come with a brake controller installed by the manufacture (OEM).
The brake controller usually has an image of a trailer and you would see a dial and two small knobs.
On the OEM controller, the brake settings are usually controlled from the dash but the settings are displayed on the screen directly on your instrument panel. Aftermarket brake controllers look similar, but are often installed under your steering column and have a digital readout directly on the controller module.
The two most commonly used trailer braking systems are Time Delay Brakes and Inertia Brakes. Inertia brakes use an accelerometer to detect changes in momentum. The trailer brakes are applied based on these momentum changes. The Time Delay Brakes are activated when the driver presses on the brake peddle. The Time Delay Brakes are more common on most trailers and this is the braking system we will talk about in this guide. If you need to purchase an aftermarket trailer brake controller, you can find them at your local parts stores or they can be purchased online. There are several brands but Curt and Reese are among the more popular brands.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this page is provided by Big Trailer Rentals, LLC as a general guide to assist with the proper use of a trailer brake controller. Each brake controller and trailer is different. Always follow the instructions from the manufacture for the specific brake controller you are using. Big Trailer Rentals, LLC is in no way liable for use or implementation of information provided in this guide.