So You Have a Caravan With Electric Brakes. What Now?
The caravan brakes will not work unless you have an Electric brake controller in your car. This device can be attached under, or in the dash of your vehicle, or sometimes in the centre console. It is wired to the car’s battery, the stop light circuit and also to the seven or twelve pin socket into which the caravan plug connects. Its installation is virtually independent of the vehicle’s electrical circuit and has no conflict with car computers or ABS Braking Systems. Installation usually takes Swift Caravan Services around three to four hours depending upon the vehicle.
A wide range of Caravan Electric Brake Controllers are available but they all operate on similar principles. Power is fed from the vehicles stoplights into the controller then back to the caravan through the plug and socket. This allows the caravan brakes to come on automatically when you apply the vehicle brakes. The characteristics of the power flow will vary from unit to unit. Swift Caravan Services recommend a pendulum based or proportional brake controller. Why? Because a proportional controller sends a variable amount of power to the caravan brakes, in proportion to the stopping motion of the motor vehicle. This will deliver smoother and more responsive braking in all situations. Most controllers also have a manual device which allows the user to apply the caravan brakes independent of the car brakes. This is a helpful feature that can assist with correcting caravan sway or instability.
Following is a brief description of the most popular Caravan Electric Brake Controllers and a comparison chart for thorough analysis. We invite you to call us with any questions that you may have or to make a booking for installation.
RedArc Tow Pro Elite – The Swift Favourite
This unit has become a favourite with caravanners as its smooth, uses minimal dashboard space and very easy to use. This is the first proportional remote head brake controller on the market, and is a great choice in some vehicles where we can’t fit a Prodigy, due to knee airbags, limited space under the dash, etc. With just a rotary dial mounted through the dash, and the rest of the control unit hidden under the dash, it makes for a very neat fit, taking up very little space. Also, being proportional, it provides smooth braking. See prices below.
Tekonsha Prodigy P2
The Prodigy is the most technologically advanced brake controller available. Even with its pendulum based output it requires no levelling and is equipped with a self-adjusting sensing device to compensate for varying terrain. Its digital display illustrates the voltage level delivered to the caravan brakes whilst driving and also reports any electrical fault conditions such as power loss, short circuits and more. It has a plug in wiring harness for easy removal and a unique pocket mounting for flexible options. This Unit has a variable power level that is further complimented by a “boost” feature for incremental power. See prices below.
|Feature||Description/Explanation||Prodigy P2||Tow-Pro Elite
|Pendulum Operated||Does the controller automatically apply power to the caravan brakes PROPORTIONALLY to the tow vehicles deceleration.||YES||YES|
|Manual Pendulum Levelling Required||Most Pendulum Operated Controllers require a simple one off adjustment to achieve smooth brakes.||NO-AUTO||NO-AUTO|
|Variable Output||Can the power level be increased/
decreased to suit different caravan loads or driving terrain.
|Manual Control Operation||Application of the manual lever will apply the caravan brakes independent of the car. This helps to control any caravan sway.||YES||YES|
|Digital Display of output level to brakes.||The digital readout gives the operator powerful information to achieve consistent braking.||YES||NO|
|Mounting of Unit||Pendulum Based Controllers require the front of the unit to be horizontal but the angle can vary.||0 to 70 degrees||Rotary knob through dash, main unit under dash, in any position.|
|TROUBLESHOOTING DISPLAY||Digital display symbols which provide helpful information to the operator||DIGITAL DISPLAY||LIGHT|
|– “Trailer Connected”||Symbol/light indicates the caravan is connected||YES||YES|
|– “Circuit Indicator”||Symbol/light indicates the braking circuit is complete||YES||YES|
|– “Loss of Power”||Symbol/light indicates a loss of power to the unit||YES||YES|
|– “Short Circuit”||Symbol/light indicates a short in the braking circuit||YES||YES|
|Warranty||Term of warranty||LIFETIME||TWO YEARS|
|Size||Approximate Dimensions Height/Width/Length (mm)||35/65/130||30/80/105 (UNDER DASH)|
|Number of Axles||Suitable up to how many braked Caravan axles?||FOUR||THREE|
|Plug in Harness||A snap connector makes it simpler to swap from car to car.||YES||YES|
|Memory Feature||Microprocessor to retain Power Level selection.||YES||YES|
|Price||Swift Caravan Services Supply and fit to Conventional Vehicles||$495||$550|
European Vehicle Installations
At Swift Caravan Services we have two auto electricians who specialise in caravan brake controller fitments. We often install brake controllers into BMW X5, VW Toureg, Audi Q4, Land Rover Discovery plus other European vehicles.
There are usually additional costs with these vehicles as their electrical systems are very complex.
Watch our video on car and caravan electrics