Best Towed Vehicle Braking System: Don’t Compromise on Safety

Stay safe and road-legal with our top towed vehicle braking systems

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Best Towed Vehicle Braking System: Don’t Compromise on Safety © Best Towed Vehicle Braking System: Don’t Compromise on Safety

There's more to hooking a towed vehicle up to your RV than just setting up the hitch and tapping into the light system. You're going to need to set your rig up with a towed vehicle braking system. Now, you might be willing to let your RV do the heavy lifting in the name of some savings. That doesn't mean everyone else on the road is on board with the idea of loading an additional few tons to your already massive RV without addressing the brakes. Heck, some states don't even allow it.

To make a long story short, it's something you really can't do without. The good news is that you've got this guide to help you nail down the perfect setup for your situation. Oh, and for good measure, make sure to take the towed vehicle out of gear before you take off. 

Summary List 

Our Methodology

Towing is one of those things that, even if you only do it on rare occasions, you need to know a lot about it. The risks of getting things wrong simply aren't worth taking a gamble on. That means a good bit of research is essential for anyone involved with it. We understand that and made sure to do our share of homework when putting this guide together. We were sure to consider the most common towing situations and what applications people typically work with, as well as made sure that any product on our list is proven to be both safe and effective.

Best Towed Vehicle Braking System Reviews & Recommendations

Our Verdict

Again, the Roadmaster 8700 Invisibrake Hidden Power Braking System steels our top pick as it's a quality unit that works well for the typical towing situation. However, the Roadmaster 9160 Brakemaster Towed Car Braking System just might save you some money if it'll work for your application. In any case, be sure to base your decision on the best choice, putting pricing second, as there truly is the right tool for the job in this scenario. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Towed Vehicle Braking Systems 

Never grab the first thing recommended to you. Especially not when your safety and everyone else's is counting on your decision. These next few tips are essential to you making the right pick for your towed vehicle's braking system. 

Types

Proportional

A proportional braking system includes a device that monitors your primary brakes. This is usually either an accelerometer to measure acceleration/deceleration, or a sensor to watch how much pressure is being applied. The braking system then applies a proportional amount of pressure to the towed vehicle, so they’re both braking with the exact same intensity.

Progressive

Unlike a proportional brake, a progressive brake doesn’t adjust pressure up and down. Instead, once the towed vehicle registers that the towing vehicle’s brakes have been applied, it starts applying the toad’s brakes with increasing pressure. Pressure will keep increasing as long as the main vehicle’s brake pedal is depressed, though it cuts out at a certain point to protect the towed vehicle’s brakes.

Direct

Direct braking systems are wired directly to your main vehicle’s brakes. It won’t be matching the proportion of your vehicle’s brakes—it will be your vehicle’s brakes. Any pressure applied to your primary brake pedal will be applied 1:1 to the towed vehicle. While direct braking systems are extremely accurate, they’re also the hardest to install, usually requiring mechanical expertise.

Key Features 

Connection

A braking system for a towed vehicle can’t do its job without some kind of hookup to the towing vehicle. Normally, this will involve connecting a few wires to ports in each vehicle before driving. The toad’s braking system uses this connection to monitor what’s happening in the driving vehicle’s brakes, and react accordingly.

Adjustment

There should also be some sort of mechanism governing that reaction. Toad brakes should always be prepared to provide a large amount of stopping power if needed, so they’re able to increase braking pressure on their own without driver input—and decrease it as well, to avoid straining the toad’s brakes.

Driver Signal

An important feature of towed vehicle braking systems is the ability to monitor how they’re working while driving the primary vehicle using a dashboard alert or other sign. RVers should know at all times whether your toad’s brakes are active, and how much pressure they’re applying. They should also connect to your tow vehicle’s brake lights.

Towed Vehicle Braking System Pricing 

Towed vehicle braking systems can sell for anywhere between $800-$1500 for the average situation. The price you pay is heavily dependent on the specifics of your situation and what features are necessary to make things work. Unfortunately, you can't base your decision on which is cheapest as the most affordable option unless you know for sure that it will work for your setup.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q. Can I tow without a brake controller? 

A. You can, but you’re only putting more stress on your towing vehicle’s brakes, diminishing its ability to function properly. This is dangerous in any case and can easily lead to an accident. 

Q: What states require braking systems for towed vehicles?

A: Forty states and D.C. specify weight limits above which a towed vehicle has to have a supplemental braking system. Three states (ND, PA, and NJ) require braking systems no matter what, and another six (NH, KY, KS, UT, WY, and OR) require a certain stopping distance.

Q: How are towing weight limits determined?

A: Legal limits almost always measure the weight of the vehicle being towed, irrespective of the size of the one doing the towing. Even if you’re using a motorhome to tow, it’s the size of the toad that counts.

Q: What are the advantages of a non-portable brake system?

A: If your towed vehicle brake system is non-portable or permanent, you’ll only have to install it once. It can take more specialized knowledge, but it saves you a ton of time on each drive—unlike a Brake Buddy or other portable system, which you’ll have to reinstall every time.

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