Should Electric Trailer Brakes Lock Up? (Explained)

Should Electric Trailer Brakes Lock Up

Have you ever wondered should your electric trailer brakes lock up? Look no more. We´ve got you covered.

If you have electric brakes on your vehicle, then you may find that they lock up on occasion. So, should they be locking up? Is this an indicator of a problem?

So, should electric trailer brakes lock up? No, your electric trailer brakes should not lock up. Brake lock-ups are not good for tires, nor are they are going to be good for the trailer or vehicle. If you are noticing that your electric trailer brakes are locking up a lot, then you need to deal with the problem.

How do you solve it? We are going to answer all of the most burning questions that you may have right here.

How Electric Brakes Work on a Trailer

Electric brakes on a trailer don’t just function on their own accord. 

When you own electric brakes, if you want them to work, they will need to be hooked up to something known as a ‘brake controller’.

The purpose of the brake controller is to tell the electric brakes when they should be engaging. In almost all cases, this will happen if the actual vehicle comes to a stop.

Read also: Can I Tow A Trailer With Electric Brakes Without A Brake Controller?

If you do not have a brake controller, then the brakes will not work. However, that is a story for another day.  

We just had to point out the importance of a brake controller, because it is the brake controller that is going to determine whether your brakes lock up or not.

How Electric Trailer Brakes Work >> Check out the video below:

Should Electric Trailer Brakes Lock Up?

In normal situations, no. In order to understand why electric trailer brakes lock up, you need to know about ‘gain’.

To keep things simple, ‘gain’ is the amount of force that the brakes will apply to the trailer. The gain will be set by the brake controller. The higher the gain, the more force is applied to the trailer.

When you have a smaller trailer i.e. not carrying huge amounts of weight, then you want the gain to be low. If it is too high, the brakes will apply far too much force to the trailer and this will cause them to lock up.

Read also: Curt Wireless Brake Controller: 9 Facts You Should Know (Explained)

How Do You Deal with Electric Trailer Brakes Locking Up?

If you are just plugging the trailer in and driving right away, then chances are that you are going to be dealing with brake lock-ups, particularly if you have a lighter trailer.

If you have a modern brake controller, then you will need to give it time to adjust to the weight of the trailer before you drive the vehicle.

This means that you will need to be parked on a flat area. You then plug in the trailer to the controller and use the brake controller to automatically configure things.

How you do that will be dependent on the brake controller that you have, so it is important that you read the manual.

If you do this, then you will find that the settings are going to be almost perfect. You will not need to do any further adjustments.

Read also: What Is The Average Cost To Install Trailer Brake Controller – (Facts & Numbers)

If you still find that the brakes are locking up on your trailer, then you may want to turn the gain of the brake controller down a little bit.

A lot of brake controllers will allow you to tinker with the settings manually. If the lock ups aren’t happening all that frequently, then you will only want to turn the gain down a little bit.

It is important that you do not turn the gain of the electric trailer brakes down too far. If you do, then the vehicle will brake too slowly. This is, of course, going to be incredibly dangerous. 

Electric Trailer Brake Diagnosis & Repair >> Check out the video below:

What About Brake Controllers That Do Not Automatically Configure? 

There are some brake controllers that will not automatically detect the correct settings for the trailer. Instead, you will have to manually adjust the settings. How you accomplish this will be dependent on the brake controller.

It is, therefore, important that you read through the manual. We will give you a brief overview of the process, though.

To begin with, you will need to hook the trailer up to your vehicle. You will then need to find a relatively flat area of road. Ideally, it will be somewhere that you are not going to be irritating people as you will be doing a lot of braking.

You should then turn the gain of the brake controller up to the maximum level. Driving at 25mph along the road, you will want to brake. If the brakes lock up (and they almost certainly will at a high gain setting) then turn the gain down a level.

Keep turning the gain down a little bit until the brakes no longer lock up.

Remember, if you have a brake controller that is not going to automatically adjust for you, you will need to adjust the settings over time.

The gain that you start out with will not necessarily be the gain that you will need for the entire journey. As we said, brakes get hot. Brake pads will also wear down a little bit. 

Read also: Tekonsha Wireless Brake Controller: 11 Facts You Should Know (Explained)

Heat Can Impact Brakes

If you have a quality brake controller, then it should automatically adjust as you drive your vehicle. This is because as brakes get used, they get hotter. When brakes get hotter, they are more likely to lock up.

Once you have been driving your vehicle for 10-minutes or so, it is likely that you will start to see your brakes lock up a lot more. If this is the case then, once again, you may need to adjust the gain. 

How Do You Know if it is a Problem with the Brake Controller?

We are almost certain that the issue is not going to be with the brake controller itself. In fact, it is very rare that you hear complaints about brake controllers breaking. This is because there isn’t a whole lot that can go wrong with a brake controller. It is a pretty simple system.

That being said, if the settings, particularly for gain, constantly seem to change or the way in which the brakes work is unpredictable, then this could indicate that there is a problem with the brake controller.

If your brake controller is more than a few years old, then it may be worth looking into buying a new system.

There is also an ever so slight chance that there could be an issue with the wiring or even a problem with the brakes on the trailer. The only way that you will be able to tell this is the case is if you take your vehicle to a mechanic to look over.

Make sure that they have some knowledge about trailers. They will be able to get to the bottom of the problem rather quickly, one would hope!

Best Trailer Brake Controller

I really like the Curt TriFlex Brake Controller. It’s not terribly expensive but gets amazing reviews. Just follow the link to Amazon where you can see current pricing.

👉 Purchase: If you are interested in this Curt TriFlex Brake Controller then just follow the link to Amazon where you can see current pricing.


Electric brake trailers shouldn’t be locking up. While the odd brake lock up is going to be inevitable on occasion, particularly if you have a lighter trailer, it is not something that should be happening too often.

If it is, then it is likely that the settings for your brake controller are set a little bit too high.

If you adjust the gain, or give the brake controller time to calibrate a little bit, then the problem will almost certainly sort itself out.


Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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