DRIVING/TOWING - TOWING
Need to tow a trailer, but your vehicle doesn’t have an electric brake controller? No problem, thanks to Elecbrakes: the unit that connects to the trailer, not the towing vehicle.
This Bluetooth-connected system does away with the need for a vehicle mounted electric brake controller and head unit. Elecbrakes kits are wired or plugged into the trailer, not the tow vehicle, with driver control of five braking programs done by a remote unit or a smartphone.
This Australian designed and made system can be wired into the trailer circuit, or can be supplied as a plug and play kit that connects between the trailer’s male seven- or 12-pin plug and the tow vehicle’s female plug.
Whether wired to the trailer or plugged in, the Elecbrakes system operates similarly to a tow-vehicle electric brake controller, giving the driver control over brake force and also with a manual trailer brake override function.
If a vehicle with an electric brake controller needs to couple to an Elecbrakes-equipped trailer the Elecbrakes plug and play kit can be bypassed, or the service brake wire (blue) can be disconnected from the trailer plug, letting the Elecbrakes unit take over, without interference from the tow vehicle’s brake controller.
Elecbrakes on test
OTA evaluated an Elecbrakes plug and play kit that was kindly lent to us by Camperact, the prominent east-coast dealer for many camper trailer and slide-on camper brands.
OTA Team members, Sheree and Simon Martin, picked up a Track Trailer Mate camper trailer from Camperact and coupled it to their HiLux, plugging in the Elecbrakes kit at the same time. (In a previous time, Simon drove B-Doubles for a living, so he’s well used to assessing trailer braking performance.)
Because the Elecbrakes unit was a test item it wasn’t screwed to the trailer drawbar, but cable-tied, vertically, in place. Horizontal mounting is also acceptable. The plugs in the kit connected between the trailer and tow vehicle and powered up immediately.
Simon downloaded the Elecbrakes app to his smartphone and a choice of screens was displayed. Available info included braking force settings, voltage and light status, along with a page that displayed the brake override button for use in an emergency situation. This page also lit up a large red dot every time the brakes were applied.
When driving, the Elecbrakes system felt just like any other brake control unit on the market and allowed easy adjustment of braking force on the trailer, depending upon the weight of the load being towed.
We took our test unit on an 800km road test that included highway driving, country roads, city driving and dirt roads, corrugations and shallow river crossings that submerged it, but the system did not miss a beat. It stayed connected for the entire trip and showed no signs of Bluetooth connection lag.
If we had a trailer that needed to be towed by different vehicles we wouldn’t hesitate in fitting an Elecbrakes unit to it. At a cost around $700 it’s around twice the price of a wired-in electric brake controller, but needs no installation and is easily transferrable from trailer to trailer and vehicle to vehicle.