I remember the first time I ever had to use an electronic brake controller for a camper trailer. It was a Tekonsha Voyager and I found it to be extraordinarily frustrating to operate. It was a fairly primitive device in that the application of the trailer brakes was either fully on or off. Nothing in between. It required resetting the adjustments every time I used the trailer which meant the first few kilometres of any trip involved repeated braking and adjusting the controller to get some resemblance of comfortable, controlled braking. In reality it was never satisfactory and was a constant source of frustration.
The reason for this is the way the unit operates. The simple on or off application of the brakes is not how you would apply the brakes in your car. You apply them proportionally according to the situation. It stands to reason that you would want to apply the trailer’s brakes in much the same way.
So I purchased the Tekonsha P3 proportional electronic brake controller to replace the Voyager. In the majority of cases, it should be a straight replacement as the wiring is exactly the same between the 2. The mounting brackets are also interchangeable so no additional drilling into the dash to mount the unit was required.
The P3 is a vast improvement over the Voyager, both in the simplicity of its operation and also in the additional functionality it offers. First off, the unit is self calibrating. You never need to adjust it for the majority of circumstances. You can vary the braking effort but for most situations, you can allow the unit to figure everything out for itself.
The display on the front offers a wealth of information including voltage and current draw of the braking system itself. This is invaluable for diagnosing any wiring issues. I nice touch is the ability to select a backlight colour for the screen so you can make it match the instrument lighting of your vehicle, giving a customised user experience. It can also be set to a night sight friendly red colour so you’re not blinded at night looking at the display. It should be noted that if you go into the troubleshooting mode, the backlight colour will revert to a light blue for that function. I found the main battery voltage readout to be particularly useful.
I used it on a variety of trailers over the years including a 1.5t camper trailer, a Coromal Seka 505 off road pop top caravan and our River Eliminator 2.6t full off road caravan. I never found the need to make any custom adjustment to the settings. The unit just seemed to know what it was doing regardless of what was connected to the tow vehicle. Using the P3 to manually control the brakes of our caravan when driving down a very steep downhill road is a delight and gives you a sense of confidence that you have complete control over the car and trailer and you will not overload the tow vehicles brakes in the process.
There are 2 negative aspects of this unit that you should consider before you buy one. The main issue is space to mount the unit. With the reduction of available space in modern sculptured dashboards of today’s vehicles, you may not find a suitable place to mount it. This is particularly problematic for vehicles equipped with knee air bags as this is where these controllers are traditionally located, under the steering wheel. I also found the unit seemed to get a little confused at first application of the brakes to each journey. It would apply the trailer brakes to the maximum setting regardless of the braking effort. It would only do this once so I never really considered it to be a big problem.
In summary I believe the Tekonsha P3 to be one of the finest 4wd accessories you can buy. It will totally transform your towing experience and give you the extra confidence to tackle some more challenging terrain with your caravan or camper in tow.
For a comparison between the Tekonsha P3 and the Redark Tow Pro, click here.