If you plan on towing anything with your Chevrolet Silverado 1500, you may be wondering about the installation of a brake controller. On this page, we are going to walk you through everything that you really need to know.
What is a Brake Controller?
The job of a brake controller is to control the electric brakes on your trailer. If you do not have a brake controller, then the brakes on the trailer won’t work.
How Does a Brake Controller in a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Work?
The exact way in which a brake controller works will be dependent on the brake controller that you purchase. However, we can give you a brief overview in this section.
When you own a Chevrolet Silverado 1500, or any vehicle built for towing for that matter, there will be a connector on the back of it.
There are 7-pins on this connector. As a result, it is called the 7-way. Each of the pins will have a slightly different job. Your trailer will plug into this.
The brake controller will have a sensor in it. When it is connected up to the vehicle, each time the brake controller senses that the vehicle is braking, it will send a signal up to the 7-way connector, and the electric brakes on the trailer will know that they have to be activated too!
Read also: Trailer Brake Controllers: 25 Facts You Should Know (Explained)
Do You Need a Brake Controller in Your Chevrolet Silverado 1500?
In most states, there is a legal requirement to have electric brakes on your trailer if it is larger than a certain size, either in terms of length or weight.
As we said before, your electric brakes won’t work unless you have a brake controller and, therefore, this means that you need to buy one.
Even if there is no legal requirement to have a brake controller, we suggest that you get your hands on one anyway if you are planning on doing any towing with your vehicle.
This is because brake controllers are not only affordable, but they make you a lot safer on the road.
Read also: Can I Tow A Trailer With Electric Brakes Without A Brake Controller?
Wireless or Wired? Which is the Better Brake Controller?
Both wireless and wired brake controllers exist for the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and, assuming that you buy from a reputable brand, both are a great addition to your vehicle.
The features are much the same, but the installation and cost to buy is slightly different.
If you want a cheaper brake controller, then the wired route is the best route to go down. The whole unit will sit in your vehicle.
Now, you will have to physically wire it into your vehicle. However, since the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 has been built for towing, it is likely that you will already have the connections that you need to make in your vehicle anyway, so installation is going to be dead simple for most people.
You may have to do a small amount of drilling into the dashboard to get the mount installed, though.
Read also: Curt Wireless Brake Controller: 9 Facts You Should Know (Explained)
Wireless brake controllers sit outside of the vehicle. They can be added and removed whenever you want. While they are more expensive, the installation of them is nice and quick.
As a result, they are often used by those people that may be using more than one vehicle to tow trailers. This is because the wireless brake controller travels about with the trailer as opposed to the vehicle. The wireless functionality is via Bluetooth.
Some models will have a special handset you add to your vehicle, while others will communicate with an app on your smartphone.
How to Install the Brake Controller
We are going to assume that you have a 7-way installed on your vehicle already. Most Chevrolet Silverado 1500 models that have been sold will have a 7-way connector as they are designed to be used for towing.
If you don’t have one, then you will need to talk to a mechanic about the possibility of having one installed. We won’t cover the installation here as it does involve a small amount of complicated wiring.
Wireless Brake Controller
This one is going to be simple.
You will need to start by mounting the mount that will hold your controller into the vehicle. The vehicle will then plug into the cigarette lighter to give it power.
The brake controller will then be mounted onto the trailer. It will often go onto the hitch. The trailer 7-way cable will then plug into the brake controller. The brake controller then plugs into the 7-way on the rear of the vehicle.
You will then need to go through the set-up process to get that Bluetooth connection working. How you do this will be dependent on the model of brake controller that you have purchased, so make sure that you read through that manual.
Wired Brake Controller
This is where things become a little bit more complicated. When you buy your wired brake controller, you will need to purchase a wiring kit for the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 along with it.
It is not too expensive, but it is a requirement if you want to actually hook the brake controller into the system.
In the wired brake controller manual, there will be a guide to what each of the cables does. You need to pay attention to this.
To begin with, you will need to put the brake controller mount somewhere in your vehicle. This should be within easy access of the driver. This is to allow the emergency brakes to be engaged if required. Once that has been mounted, you can start your wiring.
The wires you need to connect the brake controller up to will be behind the kick panel on the driver’s side. The group of wires will be as follows:
- The red wire with a black stripe on it will provide 12V power
- The blue wire will provide the trailer brake voltage
- The white wire is the ground
- The blue wire with a white stripe sends the signal to the brake controller.
If you do not have these wires in your vehicle, then you will need to talk to a professional so they can install the wiring for you. However, the base model of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 should come with them.
You now need to match up the relevant wires from the back of your brake controller to the colored wires here.
Remember, they will likely not be the same color, hence why you need that manual to know which wire goes where.
You will need to crimp the wires together. This means that they will need to be stripped first. Although, both of these jobs can be accomplished with a basic set of tools.
Installing a Trailer Brake Controller – 2018 Silverado >> Check out the video below:
How Much Does it Cost for a Professional To Install a Brake Controller in a Chevrolet Silverado 1500?
Assuming that you have the brake controller and wiring kit already, it should only cost around $100 to $200 to have the brake controller installed in a Chevrolet Silverado 1500.
It will cost more if you also need to have the 7-way installed.
Read also: What Is The Average Cost To Install Trailer Brake Controller – (Facts & Numbers)
Setting Up the Brake Controller
Once you have the brake controller hooked up and verified to be working, you have to learn how to set it up.
You will have to set it up each time you attract a new trailer to your vehicle or if the normal trailer is heavier or lighter than usual. Thankfully, the process shouldn’t take too long.
Connect the Trailer and Turn on the Brake Controller
Your first job is to connect up that trailer and turn the brake controller on. Check the manual for the brake controller if you do not know how to do this.
Find a flat piece of road to drive on
You now need to find a flat road to drive on. You need to be able to hit at leas 20mph without anybody getting in your way.
Now, you need to drive until you read 20mph. As soon as you do, hit those brakes.
Observe the trailer
The trailer will likely do one of two things:
- The brakes may lock up
- The trailer brakes too slowly in comparison to the vehicle.
Adjust the gain
Your final job is to adjust the gain. The gain is the amount of pressure that the electric brakes on the trailer apply. The higher the gain, the higher the pressure. You will want a high gain if the trailer is heavy, and a low gain if the trailer is lighter.
If the brakes lock up, you will need to turn the gain down.
If the trailer is braking too slowly, then you will need to turn it up.
Once you have changed the settings, you will want to test the vehicle again. Keep doing this until the vehicle and trailer brake normally.
Read also: How To Set a Trailer Brake Gain? 6 Easy Steps (Explained)
If you plan on towing with your Chevrolet Silverado 1500, it is highly recommended that you get a brake controller installed. In some cases, it is a legal requirement. In all cases, it is an important safety feature.
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