Brakes

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Brakes

Postby Chris C » Fri Jul 01, 2005 11:32 am

After talking with lots of people in Minden, I've decided I MUST have brakes on my tear................as I'm pulling it with a Honda Accord and will be traveling mainly in SW Colorado. But I don't really look forward to the brake control box under the dash in my Honda like I have in my big Dodge van. I only saw one tear in Minden that had a surge brake on the tongue, but the fellow I talked with swore it was the solution for him. Is anyone familiar with the pros and cons of surge brakes vs. electric brakes for trailers?
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Postby madjack » Fri Jul 01, 2005 11:52 am

...over the years I have used both in various applications...here's my take.
Electric brakes give you a little more control in fine tuning the braking proportionality between tow vehicle and trailer while driving, they also tend to be a little smoother since they are activated at the same time as vehicle brakes. They can be used independently of vehicle brakes which can be a lifesaver such as when I blew a wheel cylinder coming down Berthoud Pass in the central Rockies, pulling a 21' travel trailer(extemely high pucker factor).
Surge brakes, being a basic hydraulic system are much more robust and much easier/cheaper to maintain and are much less susceptible to water damage. Because the tow vehicle must brake first before the trailer brakes are activated, that makes them a little more "clunkier" in feel and operation
Either is acceptable and far better than no brakes at all, especially in a mountain towing situation
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Postby Nitetimes » Fri Jul 01, 2005 12:11 pm

I have used both frequently also and pretty much have the same thoughts on them as madjack. They both work but I personally prefer the electric for most of the same reasons mentioned and a couple other important ones. 1. if you get the trailer in a slide at all a quick tap on the brake controler will jerk it back straight, almost impossible with hyd. 2. if the trailer gets to whipping as I have seen and had happen on more than one occasion using the brake controler itself will pull back on the trailer and get you back straight.
Another thing to keep in mind with the surge brakes, your trailer is pretty light and the brakes work from the force of the trailer pushing into your vehicle when you slow down so they won't work as well on a light trailer as they do on a heavier one.
Electric brakes can also be adjusted for the amount of brake that is applied when you hit the brake pedal (eliminates skidding), no such adjustment can be made on the surge brakes so you gets what you get.
Either way you go is better than nothing if you have a small vehicle and plan to be in the mountains.
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Postby JunkMan » Fri Jul 01, 2005 1:32 pm

I have surge brakes on my boat trailer, and they seem to work fine, but when I try to back up my STEEP driveway, they try to lock up the brakes. Makes it real hard to back up :shock:

I just bought a new actuator (about $125) that has a way to lock out the brakes when you back up. Haven't installed it yet (don't have enough water in the lakes to bother with the boat this year), but it looks almost identical to the original controller. Something to keep in mind if you back up on hills.

One other thing to consider, the control adds more weight to the tounge than a standard coupler, and more weight ovearll to the trailer versus an electric controller in the tow vehicle.

One thing to consider about adding an electric controller to your tow vehicle, is that if the tow vehicle has anti lock brakes, you have to be very careful wiring the electric controller. If you get the wrong type of controller, or wire it wrong, it can screw up the computer for the anti-locks.
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Postby Chris C » Fri Jul 01, 2005 2:05 pm

Jeff,

The fellow who had the surge brakes in Minden just drilled a hole in his frame, in front of the actuator, where he would install a bolt to allow him to back up a hill. Just thought I'd pass that tip on.

So you are suggesting I let a qualified trailer brake person install the electric brake control box, if that's the way I go? Great tip. Thanks.
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Postby SteveH » Fri Jul 01, 2005 2:06 pm

I've used both and agree with what everyone has said, and I'll just add one comment about mountain driving. If you mostly want the brakes for mountain driving, I would steer away from the surge brakes because on the down hill side, which is where you want the brakes, when you are trying to maintain your speed with the engine by down shifting ( you do down shift on the grades, don't you?) the surge brakes will be operating all the time and at some point WILL get hot and ineffective. Then, there you are trying ot hold your speed with hot trailer brakes when you need them the most. I know, I've had it happen to me.

Electric brakes on the other hand, are not used until you apply the vehicle brakes and can be saved from getting hot by proper driving.
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Postby Gerdo » Fri Jul 01, 2005 4:35 pm

I've also driven both. The tear that I am building has electric brakes because they are smooth and you can adjust the drag to the conditions. Surge brakes can lock-up if you have slipery conditions (wet, ice, snow). I was driving a 50,000lb truck pulling a 11,000lb trailer that I could not see in my mirrors and going down a steep grade I turned on my engine brake which activated the surge brakes on the trailer which locked up. I did not even know that the tires were smoking. I also know of a guy that had a pich up truck that they pulled a 10,000lb trailer with surge brakes and they totaled 2 trucks on 2 different occasions by panic stops and the brakes locked and the trailer lost total control.

I belive that Electric Brakes are the only way to go. YOU have total control of the trailer brakes.
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Postby Chris C » Fri Jul 01, 2005 4:39 pm

WOW! :shock: Lots of good tips. I have a 7' x 16' Well Cargo trailer which has electric brakes, so I'm aware of how they work and how efficient they are. I just didn't want to go to the extra expense of the actuator and wiring inside my small Honda. But with all this info, I'll probably go with electric brakes. Thanks for all the input.
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Postby JunkMan » Fri Jul 01, 2005 6:45 pm

Chris C wrote:So you are suggesting I let a qualified trailer brake person install the electric brake control box, if that's the way I go?


Either that, or just make sure that you have the proper controller if you car has ABS, and be sure to follow the instructions.
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Postby bdosborn » Fri Jul 01, 2005 8:18 pm

Has anyone put electric brakes on a harbor freight trailer? Will they even fit on the oddball hub it seems to have?
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Postby mexican tear » Fri Jul 08, 2005 9:54 pm

Chris
The first axle that I had on my tear had 10in brakes and it was a b____. When I changed axles I went with the 7in brakes electric brakes, and they work great. So the only advice I have is don't over brake.

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Postby angib » Sat Jul 09, 2005 7:02 am

When I first came across electric brakes, I was somewhat amazed by their apparently unecessary complication. I have since learnt that, if fitted, they seem to have several advantages - the 'if fitted' being important since even quite large trailers (by our standards) seem to be towed without brakes.

So here, fer yer edderkayshun, is how brakes are done in Yurp - cable-operated mechanical brakes, just like on your grandad's car:

You fit a braked coupler. Nowadays they are required to be the hydraulically-damped variety. As can be seen, this provides a handbrake and nose wheel mount:

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This is connected to the brakes by open wire or enclosed (Bowden) cables:

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The brakes are simply mechanical drum brakes - just like the handbrake operation of a basic auto:

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It seems to me that this system has only one advantage over electric brakes - it does not require the tow vehicle to be equipped for trailer brakes. However, from the number of forum postings I've seen (elsewhere) about people not fitting brake controllers and so not using brakes, this would seem to be a fairly significant advantage.....

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Postby Arne » Sat Jul 09, 2005 8:03 am

I've driven mountains in VA with steep declines and hairpin turns.. never had a problem with no trailer brakes. But it takes sensible driving practices. And as I recall, I've never, yet, had a panic stop.

If I went to brakes it would be surge brakes. I think all the negs mentioned can be adjusted for. On mild braking, trailer brakes are not needed (I am talking 1,000 pound trailer, not a 10k pound trailer). On more severe braking, that is when I'd want the tear brakes to engage, so I doubt in normal driving they would ever overheat....... just my take on it......

sign me; brakeless..... so far.
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Postby Chris C » Sat Jul 09, 2005 9:25 am

WOW, Andrew, that's a pretty neat setup. :shock: But I imagine it would be cost prohibitive to try to get something like that here in the States.

Arnereil, you failed to mention what type tow vehicle you are using. I'm going to be pulling with a 6 cylinder, 1996 Honda Accord. Not the heftiest tow vehicle in the world.
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Postby Arne » Sat Jul 09, 2005 10:16 am

Honda Odyssey.... and my driving habits have altered because of my age and lowered testosterone level. I do not tailgate, I do not accelerate like I'm in a rush, I leave very reasonable following distances, I always try to leave lots of room to stop, when I see a red light ahead, my foot automatically comes off the accelerator pedal, etc.... in short, I am conservative to start with and become even more so when towing my tear.. I tend to drive in the right lane and stay out of the 'positioning' that continually goes on in the other lanes... I find that being the slowest driver (like 65 mph) is the least stressful.... and I often find myself between the 'clumps' of traffic that form on highways.
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