When you need to tow more than a certain amount, you’ll need to fit an electric brake to your car.
But how do they work?
When you tow anything small, you brake and the load behind you generally stops based on the kinetic energy of the car that is driving the load. Simply put, the trailer is just being dragged around, so when the car stops, the trailer stops.
But because caravans and boats don’t just come in small sizes, you need an electric brake controller. If you’re towing a trailer, boat or caravan with a gross trailer mass (GTM) of 750kg or more, you’re required by law, to fit an electric brake controller.
An electric brake controller helps to stop a towed load, by sending power to the trailer brakes from the car.
A small electronic box is mounted in the front of the car’s cabin, within reach of the driver: usually on or under the dash. This box controls how much power the brake controller should send to the trailer, by being wired into the battery, as well as the brake pedal, which sends it through to a plug which the trailer attaches to.
You need to fit an electric brake controller when you’re towing anything above 750kg GTM, with a braking system on at least one axle.
For caravans that have a GTM of over 2,000kgs, you must fit a system that applies brakes to each wheel with a ‘break-away’ function, which automatically applies the brakes to the trailer or caravan, keeping the brakes powered for at least 15 minutes if it becomes detached from the car.
A brake controller isn’t mechanical, so you can fit it yourself – although for peace of mind, we’d recommend taking your car to an auto electrician, who can run the wiring from the front of the car to the back seamlessly, so you can get on the road knowing that you’re fully in control of whatever you’re towing.
Check the tyre pressures on your vehicle and your trailer, as well as oil, water and battery in the car – making sure they’re all running in top shape, as your car is doing a lot more work with a load hitched to the back.
Make sure that the coupling is securely fastened and latched or screwed down to the tow ball, and that the coupling socket and connection are the correct size
Go for a small test drive at low speed with your trailer or caravan fitted, and your electric brake controller connected, braking to check if the trailer lights activate and it slows properly when you apply the car’s brakes.
The expert technicians at Motorama see over 30,000 vehicles per year pass through our service departments, including cars that are used for towing trailers around town and caravans for holidays. Before you set off with a load hitched to the back, come in and speak to our friendly service advisors to go through what you need to check before you get on the road and tow with your vehicle.