How to Set Trailer Brakes on Your RAM 1500

Feel like your truck is working overtime when you tow your boat or camper? Upgrading to a trailer brake system is the answer. Trailer brakes give you more stopping power and control when hauling heavy loads with your RAM 1500 pickup. Installing and setting them up properly ensures safe stops and lets you have more fun on the open road.

Here’s a straightforward guide to walk you through the process start to finish. Before long, you’ll be in charge of every towing trip.

Here’s a quick answer:

To set up trailer brakes on a RAM 1500, install a brake controller by connecting the wiring harness, plugging into the pre-wired port under the dash, securely mounting the controller unit, and adjusting the settings. Properly adjust the brake gain and threshold according to your trailer load weight and preferred braking responsiveness through test drives. Following RAM’s voltage guidelines ensures safe, optimized electric brake power.

The Basics: Understanding Trailer Brake Systems

Trailer brake controllers are devices mounted inside your pickup that apply the brakes on your trailer when you step on the tow vehicle’s brakes. Here’s a quick overview of how they work:

  • A brake controller senses when you brake in the tow vehicle. It send an electric signal to a box on the trailer that operates the brakes.
  • The amount of braking force depends on the signal from the controller. The more you brake the truck, the more power goes to the trailer brakes.
  • Modern controllers are “proportional” meaning the trailer braking mirrors or “proportions” to truck braking force. This gives you exceptional responsiveness.

Trailer brake controllers are a smart addition for any truck with towing capabilities. For a RAM 1500 sporting its rugged looks and available 5.7L HEMI® V8 engine pumping out 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft torque, a controller is practically a must when towing larger toys.

Before you get started with your new setup, check through this checklist of items you may need on hand:

  • 7-pin trailer wiring harness to connect your truck and trailer
  • Tools like crimper, wire stripper, voltmeter
  • Brake controller unit
  • Electrical tape
  • Cable ties for wire management

Step-by-Step Installation

Installing your trailer brake controller is doable in around 2-3 hours. Here are the key steps to tackle:

Locate the Best Mounting Spot

RAM trailers typically come prewired with a port under the dash to plug in a brake controller. Take a peek to see if yours is installed and accessible. If not, you’ll hardwire it in using the wiring harness.

Either way, choose your mounting spot for ease of access. You’ll want to be able to see and reach the controller to make adjustments on the go. Common spots are on lower dash panels or around your right knee.

Connect Wiring Harness

Your wiring harness connects to the back of the controller unit. Use the stripping tool to prep the ends of the wires. Match red to white, white to blue, and so forth. Use the crimper to secure connections and protect them with electrical tape.

Pull the loose end of the wiring harness underneath your carpet to the port where it will connect into your truck brake system. Connect the ground wire to a screw inside the metal body near the port.

Plug into the Brake Control Port

The loose end of your wiring harness will have a plug that inserts into the port under the dash pre-installed from the factory. Make sure the connection is secure before moving onto mounting the unit.

Mount Your Controller in Place

Position the controller and mark where you’ll drill the screw holes. For sturdy attachment, this may involve drilling into metal framework behind dash panels. Go slowly and carefully during this step – safety first.

Thread screws into place securing the controller. Check connections once more before testing things out. Don’t forget to replace dash panels.

Adjust and Test Braking Sensitivity

Before hitching up your trailer, take your RAM out for a quick test drive without a load to set sensitivity. Your controller will have manual adjustments for braking power.

Try a few light brake presses at various settings. Most controllers also have diagnostic features that indicate voltage delivery. Look to your truck manual for proper voltage ranges for your setup.

Start conservative until you get a feel for the responsiveness. Adjust again after connecting your trailer and noting the increased stopping distance under your actual towing conditions.

Going forward, you’ll get a tactile sense for how your truck and trailer work together. Adjust sensitivity higher or lower based on load weight and your preferred responsiveness.

Stay Safe Out on the Open Road

The miles will fly by when you’ve got the convenience of trailer brakes letting your truck relax and tow heavy loads with less strain. Show your RAM 1500’s rugged capability by cruising with your biggest toys.

We’ve covered the basics of installation and setup. Most important of all is staying alert to towing safety practices. Be sure to adjust speed for road and visibility conditions. Maintain safe braking distance. And don’t let the confidence of increased brake control cause you to overload your truck.

Now grab those keys and hit the open road for that weekend adventure you’ve been waiting for! Your RAM is ready to roll when you master the power of your integrated trailer brake controller.


What type of trailer brake controller should I get?

Most experts recommend a proportional brake controller for full towing capabilities. These adjust trailer braking force relative to truck braking force for smoother stops. Top brands are Tekonsha and Draw-Tite controllers.

How do I know if my RAM 1500 is pre-wired for a controller?

Look under the dash on the driver’s side for a port labeled “brake controller.” You can plug a wiring harness directly into this port on newer RAM models. Check your owner’s manual to confirm if your model year has the built-in plug-in.

Do I need a brake controller for towing all trailers?

You need one whenever your trailer has its own braking system installed. The most common is electric brakes that require the controller to operate. Surge hydraulic brakes don’t need a controller but provide less stopping power.

What are brake gain and threshold settings?

Gain controls the voltage and power sent to trailer brakes. The threshold sets the minimum truck pedal pressure before trailer brakes are activated. Adjusting these tailors responsiveness for heavy or light loads.

Can I install the controller myself?

With some basic tools and wiring knowledge, self-installation is totally doable. Key steps are connecting harness wires properly, mounting the unit securely, and testing for proper voltage levels. Consult a technician if needed.

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