Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Controller review
The Tekonsha P3 trailer brake controller stormed onto the market a few years back, and has ruled the roost ever since. Coming from the Tekonsha line of brake controllers that were the first and best brake controllers to use a G-Sensor accelerometers, instead of the traditional pendulum mechanism, they heralded a new era in which brake controllers would work reliably on downhills and inclines. Where pendulum mechanisms would go awry in such a situation, and send wrong voltage to the trailer brakes, the Tekonsha line of accelerometer controllers work perfectly. The G-Sensor makes the P3 quick and accurate, detecting deceleration from the tow vehicle, and sending the appropriate voltage to the trailer brakes, based on the user’s max output setting. We’re big fans of the P3 here at Trailer Brake Controller, and sits comfortably as our highest rated unit.
Tekonsha P3 Review | Installation
Tekonsha provide a range of “plug and play” wiring harnesses, compatible with a massive range of trucks, different years and models. So, make sure you purchase the correct harness with your P3. With the correct harness, installation really is as simple as can be, it really impressed us how smoothly this went having battled with many units down the years. If you have a general grasp of vehicle electrics, you can do this yourself – it’s a simply 4 wire hookup; 12v input from the battery (through a 30A auto reset breaker), output to the brake pint of your trailer connector, stoplight input connected to your vehicle’s stoplight switch (behind the break pedal), and a frame ground. If you aren’t experienced to do this, simply get your local garage to fit it for you. The unit comes with a mount, which is fixed using 4 screws, and can be mounted at most angles (apart from straight up or down). It also need to be facing as rearward as possible. All in all, we found installation painless, and were up and running very quickly.
Tekonsha P3 Review | Interface
The Tekonsha P3 trailer brake controller feature a great 1.5″ LCD displayed on the face, with four control buttons and a manual switch. The LCD display use a large two / three read out, which will show 0.0 on initialization, as soon as it sense a connection with the brakes. You set the max brake power using the two large “up” and “down” arrow buttons, moving in 0.1 increments, which you set depending on the weight of your trailer. A clever feature we really liked when first using the unit, was how it moved up to 25% power after being stationary for 3 seconds, which acts as a “hold” function when you are on a decline / incline. On our initial test drive, performance was near enough flawless, the proportional system providing extremely smooth braking throughout the journey.
The two other buttons are for “Page” and “Boost”, which I cover in the features section. The manual switch, which I mentioned earlier, is for the manual brake override. This is a standard feature on most brake controllers, and simply allows you to add manual braking power (up to the user set maximum level) without having to press the foot break. Certainly a handy feature in emergencies.
The last feature to highlight on the face is the “Warning” screen, which has a trailer on it in deep red, and a big “no” sign. If the controller loses connection with the breaks, it will light up. This generally shows a problem with the wiring, or with the actual brakes themselves.
Tekonsha P3 Review | Features
One of our favorite features of the Tekonsha P3 trailer brake controller is the “Boost” function. It provides 4 levels of boost (off / 1 / 2 / 3) for the trailer breaks, adding a very brief burst of voltage to the trailer brakes, and slows the trailer slightly more than normal, stopping it from applying force to the tow vehicle when braking is applied. Many trailers these days weigh more than the tow vehicle itself, as did ours during our test drive, and we found this feature absolutely vital to allow smooth performance. The 4 levels provided go from off, through small, medium and large trailers. We found medium best for ours, but you simply need to try each setting to see which works best for you. After the initial burst, the brake controller quickly settles back to it’s automatic recommend output from the sensor. It really nice addition to this brake controller, and something we’re sure will become standard.
The somewhere oddly titled “Page” button actually takes you to a new menu, with some really useful features. You can navigate the menu with the “up” and “down” buttons, and use the “boost” button as an “enter” button. You get handy “Backlight” option which allows you to brighten or dim the display. The “Color” options lets you adjust the color of the display itself, from the default white, to either green, dark green, violet, dark blue, orange and magenta. The most useful feature of the “Page” menu, though, is the excellent “Troubleshooting” area, letting you view diagnostics on your travels. It has readouts for brake input signal voltage, battery voltage, brake current and brake voltage. When you are setting up your brake controller for the first time, make a note of these various readouts at the start, so that if you have trouble down the line or feel as though performance isn’t as it should be, you have a reference point to adjust from. You can run tests to see if you have any electrical problems. Very, Very useful!
Tekonsha P3 Review | Performance & Conclusion
If you’ve never used a high quality proportional brake controller, you are in for a treat. Performance is extremely smooth, pretty much faultless during our test drive, no matter the incline / decline. Once you have your max power and “Boost” function set properly, it’s a joy to use. The extra features on this unit are extremely handy, especially the “Troubleshooting” feature which can come in useful both during setup and if you encounter performance issues. We can not find anything bad to say about this unit; it looks good, it’s easy to install, it’s easy to use, and it provides the smoothest braking we’ve ever seen from a trailer brake controller. Buy it!