Truck Makers, Stop Selling Trailer Brake Controllers Separately

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Despite charging dearly for trailer towing packages, manufacturers don’t include everything necessary to tow right out of the box. Why?

Maybe you’ve been there, or maybe you haven’t. You just bought a brand-new truck (or new to you), and you’re ready to put it to good use. As you prepare to tow a utility trailer, boat, camper, etc., you realize something’s missing — something that’s specifically required by law in most states.

As you may know, I recently leased a 2017 Ford F-150 XLT. While it isn’t overloaded with options like the King Ranch or Platinum models, it has a few nice features. But more importantly, it’s equipped with the $895 Trailer Tow package (53A), optional Pro Trailer Backup Assist, and standard Trailer Sway Control.


Ford option code 53A includes a class IV 2-inch trailer hitch receiver, auxiliary transmission oil cooler, a 7-wire harness and 4/7-pin connector, an upgraded front stabilizer bar and rear bumper.

By all means, everything I thought necessary to tow a 4,500-pound rental camper. Well, it turns out I was wrong. I was missing one thing, and it wasn’t included in my $50,665 truck. A trailer brake controller (TBC).


While I wasn’t completely shocked, it made me wonder why Ford wouldn’t include a TBC in the pricey Trailer Tow package? Notice I didn’t say standard, but in the optional $895 package. After all, every state with the exception of Delaware, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming requires trailers to have a separate braking system. These mandated separate braking systems utilize TBCs to be operated.

While most states use 3,000 pounds as the benchmark for requiring a TBC, some like Nevada require them at 1,500 pounds. Furthermore, even some of the states listed above require vehicles to stop within a certain distance when towing.


A Common Practice

After research the matter, I discovered that Ford does include the trailer-brake controlling device in the King Ranch, Platinum and Limited trims. Folks buying a Lariat or under are stuck buying it separately or going aftermarket. Chevy and GMC share a similar approach, offering it separate from the trailer towing package, only including it in their High Country range-topping model. Meanwhile, Ram includes it in their $460 Trailer Tow Mirror and Brake Control package regardless of the truck trim.

Outside of the “Big Three,” Nissan includes the TBC in the Titan’s optional towing and convenience package, but making it standard in the Platinum Reserve  model. Lastly, Toyota includes the magical device in their optional towing package, as long as the Tundra is equipped with the 5.7-liter V8.


What Now?

Wether it is at the dealership, accessory shop, or at home, I’m stuck buying and installing a TBC. The fact that they range anywhere from $50 to $250 makes it even more aggravating. Why not charge $995 for the Trailer Tow package and save customers the hassle?

Yes, I’m aware Ford offers a $1,295 “Max Trailer Tow Package” which includes a TBC, a 36-gallon fuel tank, plus everything else the $895 Trailer Tow package does. But, that’s only available with the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine — not in the 2.7 or V8.


Besides up-selling, is there a real reason why truck manufacturers can’t make TBCs standard? These are trucks, not sports cars!

Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>

Jerry Perez is a regular contributor to Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and 6SpeedOnline, among other auto sites.

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