Redarc’s Tow-Pro Elite rivals factory-installed brake controllers, applies sophisticated electronic technology and adds a big dose of safety
Stopping a tow vehicle and trailer requires a team effort. Electric-drum or electric-over-hydraulic disc brakes on trailers provide proportional braking in concert with the rate of deceleration during stopping. Controllers are used to activate trailer brakes, and these devices are typically mounted under the dash in tow vehicles that are not factory equipped for this purpose. Redarc Electronics, a supplier to the RV industry Down Under, has introduced the Tow-Pro Elite Electric Trailer Brake Controller, a product that minimizes required dash space while providing selectable proportional braking using sophisticated electronics.
Rather than incorporating a single component with a built-in activation lever, the Tow-Pro separates the control head from the main unit. The remote head can be integrated into the dash seamlessly within easy reach of the driver, circumventing the need to hang a box under the dash. This solves three problems: The control can be reached quickly during emergency braking, it can be adjusted without distracting the driver by simply turning a knob, and the device won’t collide with the driver’s knees.
Beyond the comfort factor, this device features an Active Calibration program that makes it just about impossible to set up the controller improperly. Once the main unit is mounted securely in a logical location, it calibrates orientation automatically by driving for a short distance — even without the trailer in tow. The only caveat is that the main unit must be mounted securely in any fixed position inside the cabin. The main unit cannot be attached to a wire loom, for example, using a cable tie. A solid mount makes it possible for the controller to measure braking force correctly and send the proper signal to activate braking in proportion to tow-vehicle deceleration.
Gain adjustments and mode selection are accomplished by turning the knob on the remote head. To activate the brakes in an emergency, the knob is simply pushed. A lighted bezel provides the necessary information during the calibration process and informs the driver of the selected mode.
There are two modes: proportional (blue LED) and user-controlled (green LED). In the proportional mode, the harder the tow-vehicle brakes are applied, the harder the trailer braking. This is the desired mode for effective trailer braking. The user-controlled mode will apply the brakes to the level set on the remote head, regardless of the rate of deceleration. The driver might select this mode in heavy stop-and-go traffic or in an off-pavement environment.
Modes can be changed via a sequence of rotating and pushing the knob and applying the vehicle brakes (when stopped). If the controller detects vehicle braking while stopped for more than three seconds, trailer- braking effort will be reduced intelligently — and even decreased to zero —depending on conditions. No user input is required to operate electric-over-hydraulic brakes, but will likely require a separate 12-volt DC feed to power the hydraulic pump.
The simplicity of the Tow-Pro Elite will be appreciated by the installer, who can get the job done in an hour or two, depending on the difficulty running a power lead directly to the battery (if necessary). The Tow-Pro Elite was installed in a Ford F-250 that was using an aftermarket brake controller that hung precipitously under the dash and required leveling. Power for the Redarc main-unit harness was routed directly to the battery using the company’s 30-amp Circuit Breaker Kit ($51.41); wires in the original harness for the brake-light trigger, ground and to the trailer brakes were reused.
It took a bit of time to route the power lead through the firewall, and the wire in the kit had to be extended. Routing a power wire was deemed prudent since the power lead was in bad shape and too light a gauge to carry the rated load. Redarc offers a number of premade harnesses ($18.50) that will plug right into a number of vehicles with tow packages, and can even provide wiring to connect directly into existing harnesses for other popular brake controls.
From here, mounting the main unit behind a dash-access panel and routing the wiring was relatively easy. Finding a suitable place for the remote head was dependent on clearance, and the cutout template provided drilling locations for the optional knockout panel ($8.17). Printing the template on heavier paper stock would be helpful, but the process went without much consternation — just remember to test the location carefully. Adding a layer of transparent packaging tape will make the template more durable for use. There’s no going back once holes are drilled in the dash.
Using the Tow-Pro Elite presents a new level of driver confidence, braking safety and convenience. Gain adjustments while towing the Grand Design Momentum G-Class 21G toy-hauler travel trailer were user-friendly and precise, and trailer braking ramped up smoothly. For safety’s sake, there’s no comparison between simply pushing an ergonomically placed button for emergency braking and leaning down to reach a lever under the dash. For $202.10 (MSRP), the user can install a high-quality brake controller that rivals factory-installed systems and adds a big element of safety.
Special thanks to Mike Thompson’s RV in Colton, California, for providing the Grand Design Momentum toy hauler.
An RV/MH Hall of Fame inductee and publisher emeritus of Trailer Life and MotorHome, Bob Livingston has written countless RV technical and lifestyle articles and books, and created and appeared on the weekly television show RVtoday. A lifelong RV enthusiast, Bob now travels and lives full time with his wife, Lynne, in their fifth-wheel trailer. He continues to be a regular contributor to Trailer Life.