Is Your Brake Controller Failing? Tips to Identify a Bad One

To know if your brake controller is bad, perform a brake pedal test and check for warning signs, such as inconsistent brake output and flashing error codes. Driving with a faulty brake controller is a serious risk, as it can lead to accidents and damage to your vehicle.

Brake controllers are essential components in towing vehicles, as they help control the trailer’s brakes, preventing dangerous trailer sway and other issues. It is important to keep them properly maintained and replace them when necessary. If you suspect that your brake controller is not functioning correctly, it is best to seek professional help to assess the situation and ensure your safety on the road.

In this article, we will discuss signs of a bad brake controller so that you can identify them and take action promptly.

Is Your Brake Controller Failing? Tips to Identify a Bad One


Signs Of A Failing Brake Controller

If you’re worried about your brake controller’s health, then you’ve come to the right place. Your brake controller is the main component that sends signals to your trailer’s braking system to stop your vehicle from moving. Without proper functioning brake controllers, you’re endangering your life and the life of others.

Here are some telltale signs that your brake controller might be failing:

Inconsistent Or Delayed Braking

If you notice that your trailer brakes are not responding adequately or the braking is delayed, then it could be an indication that your brake controller is on its last legs. It’s essential to test your trailer brakes regularly to detect these kinds of issues.

Illuminated Warning Light

Modern-day brake controllers have built-in warning systems that notify the driver of any issues with the brake system. If you see a warning notification on your brake controller, it could be an indication of a malfunctioning system.

Hot Brakes

After driving for an extended period, it’s normal for your brakes to heat up a bit. However, if your brakes are getting way hotter than usual, it could be a sign of a problem. Hot brakes can cause brake fluid to boil, which could lead to brake failure.

Noise From The Brake System

Whether it’s squeaking or grinding, any unusual noise coming from your brake system is a bad sign. It could be an indication that your brake controller is failing, or your brakes need to be serviced.

Brake controllers are one of the most critical components of your vehicle’s safety system. If you notice any of the above signs, it’s crucial to get your brake controller inspected by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible. Ensure that you have your brake controllers serviced annually to avoid any potential issues down the road.

Causes Of Brake Controller Failure

When it comes to your vehicle’s brake system, it’s important to ensure that your brake controller is functioning well. Failing to do so can put your life and those around you in danger. If you’re unsure whether your brake controller is functioning optimally, here are some of the potential causes of brake controller failure to look out for:

Electrical Or Wiring Issues

One of the most common reasons for brake controller failure is an electrical or wiring issue. Some of the electrical issues that can affect your brake controller include:

  • Loose, damaged, or corroded wiring
  • A malfunctioning fuse
  • An ineffective battery
  • A blown diode in the brake controller

Water Damage Or Corrosion

Water damage or corrosion is another factor that can cause your brake controller to fail. This can occur because of exposure to water, moisture, or road salt, which can result in the following:

  • Rust build-up on the brake controller’s components
  • Corrosion in the brake controller’s connectors or wiring
  • A short circuit which leads to brake controller malfunction


Overheating is another concern to be aware of when it comes to brake controller failure. This can happen due to overuse, improper installation, or lack of maintenance. The following are potential causes of overheating:

  • An excessive load on the brake controller
  • Inadequate ventilation of the brake controller
  • Insufficient cooling of the brake controller’s components
  • Improper installation

Improper Installation Or Maintenance

Finally, improper installation and maintenance can also contribute to brake controller failure. Here are some of the issues to be aware of:

  • An incorrectly installed brake controller
  • An incorrect adjustment of the brake controller
  • Lack of maintenance including regular testing and cleaning

By keeping an eye out for these potential causes of brake controller failure, you can stay safe on the road and ensure your brake system functions as intended.

How To Check For A Bad Brake Controller

When it comes to maintaining your vehicle’s braking system, a brake controller plays a crucial role. The purpose of a brake controller is to send the right amount of power to your trailer’s brakes when you hit the brake pedal.

A faulty brake controller can cause significant safety issues, especially when hauling heavy loads. Therefore, it’s essential to know if your brake controller is functioning correctly or not. Here are some ways to check for a bad brake controller:

Use A Multimeter To Test For Proper Voltage Output

The first step in checking a bad brake controller involves multimeter testing. A multimeter is an electrical device that reads voltage, current or resistance in an electrical circuit. Here’s how to use a multimeter to test brake controllers:

  • First, locate the brake controller’s wiring harness, which is usually located under the dash of your vehicle.
  • Next, using a multimeter, connect the red lead to the brake controller’s green wire, and the black lead to the white wire.
  • With the brake controller in use, apply the brakes, and check the multimeter’s voltage readings. Correct readings should be within two volts of the vehicle’s battery voltage. Anything lower than that indicates a faulty brake controller.

Conduct A Visual Inspection For Signs Of Damage

Visual inspection is the easiest and quickest way to spot a bad brake controller. Your brake controller may show signs of damage over time from continuous use or exposure to extreme weather. Here are some visual signs to look out for:

  • Check if the display is working correctly, i.e., any error messages or the state of the display.
  • Verify if any frayed wires, loose connections, or melted wires are present.
  • Inspect the circuit board for signs of burning or corrosion.

If your visual inspection reveals any damage, it’s best to replace the brake controller.

Conduct A Road Test To Check Functionality

Road tests are an essential step in determining if your brake controller is functioning correctly. They let you note if there are any variations when you drive your vehicle with a trailer attached. Here’s how to conduct a road test:

  • Drive your vehicle at a speed of around 25 mph, with your trailer attached.
  • Apply your brakes as if to stop the vehicle. The trailer brakes should engage promptly and with the same force as the tow vehicle.
  • Repeat the test several times, increasing your speed to determine that the braking force is consistent at all speeds.

Regularly testing your brake controller is critical to ensure the safety of your vehicle and its passengers. Use a multimeter, a visual inspection, and a road test to see if your brake controller is functioning correctly. By doing so, you can prevent any accidents or injuries while towing and prolong the life of your vehicle’s brake system.

What To Do If You Have A Bad Brake Controller

Get It Repaired Or Replaced As Soon As Possible

If you suspect that your brake controller is bad, it is essential to take action as soon as possible. Failing to repair or replace it can result in serious accidents on the road. Here are some practical steps to take:

  • Check your brake controller’s manual for troubleshooting tips. If you’re not sure about the problem, consult a certified mechanic or a towing expert.
  • If you’re not confident about your skills, don’t attempt to fix it yourself. It’s better to err on the side of caution and seek professional help.
  • If the controller is beyond repair, replace it. Your safety and the safety of others on the road are critical concerns that you cannot compromise.
  • Make sure you select the right replacement for your vehicle’s make and model.

Consider Upgrading To A Better Brake Controller

If you’ve had issues with your brake controller in the past and want to avoid accidents, you may want to consider upgrading to a better one. Here are some benefits of upgrading:

  • Improved safety: Newer models offer more reliable and safer features, including proportional braking, which evenly applies the brakes on your trailer and vehicle in sync with real-time conditions.
  • Enhanced control: Better brake controllers provide increased sensitivity, so you have more precise control over your vehicle and towing capacity.
  • Improved compatibility: A newer brake controller may be better suited for your vehicle’s electrical system and the trailer you’re towing.

Properly Maintain And Care For Your Brake Controller

Proper maintenance and care can extend the lifespan of your brake controller and keep it in good working order. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Regularly clean the controller’s surface to remove dust and debris.
  • Inspect the wiring and connections periodically and replace any worn-out parts.
  • Keep the controller dry and prevent it from exposure to the elements.
  • Always store the brake controller in a dry and secure location when not in use.
  • Finally, replace the brake controller every three to five years or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Frequently Asked Questions Of How Do I Know If My Brake Controller Is Bad

How Do I Identify A Bad Brake Controller?

To identify a bad brake controller, check for warning lights on your dashboard, unresponsive brakes, abnormal sounds or smells, and erratic braking.

Can A Bad Brake Controller Cause Accidents?

Yes, it is dangerous to drive with a bad brake controller as it affects the proper functioning of your braking system, which could lead to accidents or collisions.

How Often Should I Replace My Brake Controller?

It is recommended to replace your brake controller every three to five years. You can also look for signs of wear and tear or seek a professional inspection.

Can I Still Drive With A Bad Brake Controller?

It is not recommended to drive with a bad brake controller as it may affect the functioning of your brakes. It is crucial to get it fixed immediately.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Brake Controller?

The cost of replacing a brake controller varies depending on the make and model of your vehicle and the complexity of the job. On average, it ranges from $100 to $300.

How Long Does It Take To Replace A Brake Controller?

The time it takes to replace a brake controller varies depending on the make and model of your vehicle. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for a professional to complete the job.


After going through the signs and symptoms listed in this blog post, you can now have a clear understanding of what to watch out for if your brake controller is bad. Prolonging the replacement of a faulty brake controller can lead to unnecessary expenses and danger on the road.

Once you detect any bad brake controller signs, such as inconsistency in braking, consult with a professional mechanic for immediate assistance. Remember, before purchasing a new brake controller, ensure that it is compatible with your vehicle’s make and model. If you follow the tips shared in this post, you can save time and money while ensuring your safety on the road.

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