The Ram 1500 is one of the most popular pickup trucks for both work and recreation. With its impressive towing capacity, many Ram 1500 owners use their truck for towing trailers. Adding a trailer brake controller allows you to activate the electric or electric-over-hydraulic brakes on your trailer, providing critical additional stopping power.
While many Ram 1500s come equipped from the factory with an integrated brake controller, others do not. The good news is that it is possible to add an OEM Ram brake controller to your truck, even if it didn’t come with one originally.
Benefits of the Factory Trailer Brake Controller
Integrating an OEM brake controller offers some key benefits over an aftermarket unit:
- It is designed to seamlessly integrate with the Ram’s systems for optimum performance and safety.
- The controls are incorporated into the dashboard for easy access and operation while driving.
- It offers simple configuration for different trailers with electric or electric-over-hydraulic brakes.
- The system can tap into the truck’s hydraulics for smooth, proportional braking.
- Diagnostic and troubleshooting information can be accessed through the Ram’s computer.
Aftermarket brake controllers typically require mounting in less optimal positions that can be harder to access while driving. The integration and communication with the vehicle’s computer systems are also not at the same level as the factory installed unit.
Installing the Factory Brake Controller
To add the factory brake controller, you will need to obtain the following:
- Brake controller module
- Brake controller software & firmware
- Associated wiring harness
- Dashboard switch/control unit
Ram uses a module that mounts behind the dashboard to operate the brake controller system. This module connects to the trailer brake output as well as the truck’s hydraulic control unit for proportional braking.
The switch usually mounts in the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. It provides a proportional slide control that makes it easy to apply the trailer brakes with your fingertips.
- Removing dash components to access the brake controller module mounting location.
- Running wiring through the firewall to the trailer brake output near the hitch.
- Connecting the brake controller module to the vehicle’s computer network.
- Programming and calibrating the system using a diagnostic scan tool.
The installation typically takes 2-3 hours for a professional shop to complete. Expect a labor charge of $150-$250 to have the work done.
Adjusting and Using the Brake Controller
Once installed, the controller will need to be calibrated to match your particular trailer. This involves making small adjustments while towing the loaded trailer and braking hard from 20 mph while monitoring the brake response.
The proportional slide control makes it easy to apply the right amount of trailer braking. Slide it farther to increase braking force. During normal driving and braking, both the trailer brakes and truck brakes work together seamlessly.
It is important to follow the brake controller manufacturer’s instructions for proper setup, use, and maintenance. Make adjustments before towing a new or different trailer to ensure optimal braking performance.
Trailer Brake Controller FAQs
Many Ram 1500 owners have questions about adding an aftermarket or factory brake controller. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
Can I install the factory brake controller myself?
While it is possible for mechanically inclined owners to self-install, the complexity of running wires, integrating with vehicle systems, and programming means it is best left to professionals.
What brake controller options exist for my older Ram?
Brake controller technology has evolved over the years. Work with a knowledgeable parts supplier to identify the right components and modules compatible with your truck’s age and systems.
Will a brake controller work with a bumper pull trailer?
Yes – brake controllers function the same whether you have a bumper pull, 5th wheel, or gooseneck trailer. Proper setup is key.
How do I troubleshoot trailer brake issues?
Consult your brake controller manual. The problem may lie with the trailer brakes, not the controller. Inspect wear and adjustment of brake shoes or pads. Check the trailer brake wiring.
Should I unplug the controller when not towing?
You can unplug it when parked without a trailer. But it’s designed to remain connected full-time, allowing you to leave settings programmed.
Adding the integrated, factory brake controller to your Ram 1500 provides optimal electrical trailer braking performance and safety. While professional installation is recommended, it can be an affordable upgrade for capable DIYers.
The factory-installed brake controller in Ram 1500 pickups offers an integrated solution for controlling trailer electric or electric-over-hydraulic brakes. While a professional installation is recommended for most owners, some mechanically inclined DIYers have successfully added the OEM brake controller components to their truck.
With proper calibration and setup, it seamlessly works with your Ram’s systems to provide safe, smooth trailer braking power. Considering the safety and performance benefits, it is an upgrade worth investing in if you plan to tow heavy trailers.