Toyota Highlander Brake Controller: 13 Helpful Tips (Explained)


Looking for Toyota Highlander brake controller?

The Toyota Highlander is a fantastic towing vehicle. However, as you may well know if you want to tow safely, then you need to have a brake controller installed.

On this page, we are going to talk to you about everything that you need to know when it comes to the Toyota Highlander brake controller installation.

What is a Brake Controller?

A brake controller is a simple gadget that sits in the vehicle (or outside, if you are using a wireless brake controller).

When you brake in your vehicle, the brake controller will sense the braking and it will send the signal up through the 7-way on the rear of the vehicle.

The trailer, which will be plugged into the 7-way, will receive the signal telling it to brake, and it will brake.

In many states, it is a legal requirement to have a 7-way installed if you are driving a trailer over a certain weight or length. Therefore, it is worth looking into what the rules for your state are. That being said, we suggest that you have one installed anyway.

It is so much safer and can drastically cut the risk of an accident while out there on the road.

Read also: Trailer Brake Controllers: 25 Facts You Should Know (Explained)

How to Buy a Brake Controller

We don’t want to give a complete buyer’s guide here. This is because buying a brake controller is something that we have discussed extensively on this website.

What we do want to say, however, is that with the Toyota Highlander, you should be trying to purchase a wireless brake controller if you can.

This is because the wiring on the Toyota Highlander is a little bit more complicated compared to some of the other vehicles that you can install brake controllers in.

In most vehicles, you would normally clip the brake controller into a location close to the steering wheel and pedals. However, on the Toyota Highlander, the areas where you need to connect everything up can differ from model to model.


Of course, you are free to buy a wired brake controller if you wish. However, do bear in mind that you will likely need to go to a mechanic or a towing expert to have it professionally installed.

Even if you know your way around vehicles, you will likely have a ton of trouble with the Toyota Highlander.

When you are looking for a brake controller, we suggest that you try and purchase something that has been listed as ‘proportional braking’. This means that the brakes on the trailer will work in sync with your vehicle.

So, if you lightly brake on your vehicle, the trailer will lightly brake too. With non-proportional brake controllers, the trailer could come to a short, sharp stop which isn’t that fun!

Where is the Brake Controller on a Toyota Highlander Installed?

Since there are two types of brake controllers that you can purchase for your Toyota Highlander, each of them will have to be hooked up in a slightly different way.

We are going to assume that you already have a 7-pin installed on your vehicle. If you do not, then head to a mechanic to have one installed.

You cannot hook up a brake controller to any vehicle, Toyota Highlander or otherwise, without having a 7-pin. it is as simple as that.

Installing a Wireless Brake Controller

If you have a wireless brake controller, then this is dead simple. You would have to plug the brake controller into the 7-pin at the back of the vehicle. The 7-pin plug that comes from the trailer will then, in turn, have to be placed into the brake controller.

After that, it is just a case of pairing the brake controller up with the wireless device and you are ready to roll. This part is going to be simple, for most people.

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

Installing a Wired Brake Controller

Installing a wired brake controller in a Toyota Highlander is difficult, to say the least. This is because, with each release of the Toyota Highlander, there has been a different location to plug the brake controller in. It has baffled even those that regularly install them.

Not to mention that some people have installed their own brake controller on the Toyota Highlander and ended up suffering from all sorts of issues.

Therefore, this is one of only a few models of vehicle where we actively suggest that you consult a mechanic or a towing specialist if you want to have things carried out properly.

It will cost a hundred dollars or so (plus your equipment), but it is going to be worth it. The Toyota Highlander causes just too many headaches otherwise.

Setting up the Toyota Highlander Brake Controller

No matter how you have gone about installing your Toyota Highlander brake controller, it will be installed. However, you can’t just connect a trailer up to your vehicle and expect that brake controller to work right away. You are going to need to be doing a small amount of configuration.

The exact buttons that you will need to press on your brake controller will differ. Therefore, you will want to consult the manual for the brake controller that you have purchased.

Here, we are going to talk about adjusting something known as the ‘gain’. The gain is the amount of pressure the brakes are supposed to apply when they receive a signal from the brake controller.

If you get this wrong, then it is going to end up causing all manner of issues while you are out there on the road. You will also likely need to continually adjust the gain.

This is because as brakes heat up, they will likely need to use more pressure, although your brake controller will likely have a ‘boost’ feature built into it to make this as simple as possible.

Read also: How To Set a Trailer Brake Gain? 6 Easy Steps (Explained)

Turn on the Brake Controller and Hook Up the Trailer

The first step is to switch on that brake controller and hook the trailer up to your vehicle. This part should be simple.

At this point, we do want to point out that many of the more modern brake controllers may have some sort of auto adjustment built into them. This means that they will automatically calibrate themselves to the weight of the trailer that is attached.

This is more common with wireless brake controllers. However, you shouldn’t be relying on tech alone. You will still need to carry out a small amount of adjustment yourself.

Find a Flat Area of Road and Drive

Now you need to find a flat area of land that you can drive around in. You need to be able to hit at least 20mph.


Once you have hit 20mph, you need to brake with the vehicle. Once you do, observe the way that the trailer reacts to the braking.

If you notice that the brakes are locking up, then you are going to need to switch the gain down and test the vehicle again.

If you notice that the trailer is braking far too slowly, then you will need to turn the gain up and test the vehicle again.

Eventually, after a bit of adjustment and constant retesting, you should be able to get the trailer to the point where it is fairly comfortable to drive on the road i.e. the brakes never lock up, and the brakes work in line with your Toyota Highlander brakes. 

Toyota Highlander 7-Pin Trailer Connector Installation >> Check out the video below:

Troubleshooting Toyota Highlander Brake Controller Issues

As we said before, the Toyota Highlander tends to be a far more complicated vehicle than average when it comes to the installation of a brake controller.

For example, some people have installed the brake controller and had warning lights come on in their vehicles, etc. These aren’t problems that you can fix yourself.

You will need to take the vehicle to a specialist. Often, it requires the installation of a small extra diode, although this depends upon the model of Toyota Highlander that you have.

The one issue that you can probably fix yourself (outside of gain issues) may be any brake lockups that occur when the vehicle is in reverse.

This is normally down to a short in the wiring in the 7-way adapter or a faulty cable at the back of the vehicle. Dealing with the short, which normally just means moving some of the wires around so they are not touching, is likely to take 5-10 minutes, at the most.

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


As you can see, the Toyota HIghlander works well with a brake controller if you have a trailer in tow. However, you have to bear in mind that this is one of the hardest vehicles to work on when it comes to the installation.

Unless you are planning on purchasing a wireless brake controller, we suggest that you take your vehicle to a mechanic or a towing specialist to have the vehicle’s brake controller installed.

The small amount of cash you will pay for the installation is going to save you so many headaches. 


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.

Recent Posts

error: Content is protected !!