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How to Use a Trailer Brake Controller: 4 Simple Steps

Written by Philip Lopez / Fact checked by Paul Lemaire

how to use a trailer brake controller

I always enjoy towing my trailer when I go camping, but I’m worried about road safety. I don’t want my trailer bumping into something when I hit the brakes. The good news is that there’s a camper trailer brake controller to safely tow heavy loads, as long as my trailer is equipped with electric brakes.

It’s quite easy to use – simply connect the trailer to your vehicle, make necessary adjustments, and find the right gain setting.

Let me show you how to use a trailer brake controller in more detail below.

Table of Contents

What to Prepare

  • Brake controller for trailer
  • An open area to do the driving test, preferably a traffic-free environment

Trailer Brake Controller How to Use: Step-By-Step Instructions


Step 1: Connect The Trailer

Some vehicles have integrated trailer brake controllers, while others are built with a trailer brake service connector located under the steering column. The controls for the integrated trailer brake controller are found on the instrument panel, which shows adjustments for gain, type control, and trailer brake output.

  • Connect the seven-pin connector at the back of the vehicle. This is a round plug that’s also used to supply the trailer’s lights.
  • If you have an information display, look for the trailer connection indicator. It should turn green to indicate the proper connection of the trailer wiring.

Step 2: Choose The Correct Type Of Trailer Brakes

Once the trailer wiring has been properly connected to the vehicle, it’s time to choose the right type of trailer brake that is used on the trailer.

  • On the instrument panel, push the TYPE button continuously until it shows the correct type of trailer brake on the display. In our case, it was ELECTRIC.
  • Check the manufacturer’s manual to verify what type of travel trailer brake system is built for your trailer.

Step 3: Adjust Electric Brake Controller

Most RV brake controllers are self-calibrating, while others don’t need any calibration. Simply watch for a flashing light or signal to indicate when the towing brake controller is finished calibrating.

Some brake controllers allow you to customize the settings to fit your preference. These settings make the interface of your device easier to view.

Make all necessary adjustments before use.

Step 4: Set Trailer Brake Gain

The GAIN setting of your electronic brake controller is either a dial or a plus and minus button, denoting how little or how much power is applied to the trailer’s brakes. Once you’ve found that right gain setting, the trailer braking system will work smoothly.

  • Set the gain at 5.0, or whatever the manufacturer recommends as a starting value.
  • In an open area, drive forward at around 25 mph and apply the brakes. Get a feel for how your vehicle stops or slows down, and lower or increase the brake output as necessary.
  • Do this repeatedly, adjusting the gain value until the trailer wheels stop skidding and turning abruptly.
  • Ask someone to watch the trailer tires. The tires should not go flat or emit smoke.

Watch how to adjust the gain setting in this video.

Additional Tips:

  • Make sure that you park your trailer and vehicle on a level surface, with lots of stopping distance away from traffic as possible.
  • Reset the gain settings whenever there are changes in the trailer load, road conditions, and weather.
  • Some electric trailer brake controller models have a manual activation button. This can be useful in correcting trailer sways and gradually moving down a steep hill.


It’s easy to know how to use a trailer brake controller. Simply connect it to your vehicle and make the necessary adjustments. Once you’ve found that sweet spot, the trailer will automatically slow down every time you hit the brakes on your vehicle.

Tell us what you think about trailer brake controllers, and share this article with your friends if you like it.

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