electric vs. surge brakes - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-19-2011, 04:07 PM   #1
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electric vs. surge brakes

As I research my upcoming trailer purchase, the question of brakes has arisen. No previous trailer I owned had brakes, but my next trailer will. The trailer I am leaning towards has surge brakes. I would like to hear opinions of surge brakes from people that have them and especially people that have had both types.
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Old 11-19-2011, 04:23 PM   #2
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Electric brakes allow a person to make adjustments to braking strength from within the cab, including application of trailer brakes without using vehicle brakes. The former is handy in dealing with changing road conditions (loose gravel or slick pavement can make the trailer brakes lock up) and the latter is a great safety feature in the unlikely event that trailer sway is encountered. Surge brakes would not be my first choice.
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Old 11-19-2011, 04:38 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Magee View Post
Electric brakes allow a person to make adjustments to braking strength from within the cab, including application of trailer brakes without using vehicle brakes. The former is handy in dealing with changing road conditions (loose gravel or slick pavement can make the trailer brakes lock up) and the latter is a great safety feature in the unlikely event that trailer sway is encountered. Surge brakes would not be my first choice.
Good to know. Thanks
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Old 11-19-2011, 05:06 PM   #4
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I believe the U-Haul trailer we rented some years ago (not a camper) had surge brakes. We towed it from Las Cruces, NM to Eagan, MN behind a C-class MH. Not sure if or when they worked, but from what I remember, we were not to backup with the utility trailer (I believe because of the brakes might engage if backing it up). But I could be wrong.

On the two travel trailers we have had, both had electric brakes. Mike Magee seems to have mentioned all the good points of having them. But will reaffirm the features I like about them as well: 1. If the trailer starts to sway a lot, by using the manuel application of trailer's brakes can pull the trailer back into 'plumb'. I have used the manuel applied trailer brakes to slow the speed down when descending steep hills as well, without having to use the pickup's breaks. 2. Really nice to be able to adjust the degree of breaking on the trailer's break. I like a stronger breaking action on open highways than in towns. In cities, while being stopped at lights or signs, I can turn down the breaks, even turn them off, therefore not allowing the electro magnets to magnetize the break drums. (But the surge brakes might let up after stopping anyway)

I would have though most RVs would have electric breaks. ???

Depending on the weight of the trailer vs the weight of the tow vehicle, if you really like the trailer & your vehicle is heavy enough to manage the trailer well, I wouldn't let the breaks be the deciding vote. But this is just my Guess. Just an Opinion.

Good luck with our Quest.
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Old 11-19-2011, 07:19 PM   #5
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My T@b has surge brakes. I was glad I didnt need additional wiring or a brake controller added to my minivan. Toyota electronics can be finicky. There is probably a learning curve with adjusting/setting the electric brakes and as a newbie it is one less thing I have to worry/learn about right now. They just do their job when needed. I can back up with mine as they have an auto lock-out feature specifically for backing. Going down hill causes the trailer brakes to engage even if the tow vehicle brakes are not applied. That is due to a mechanism in the tongue being compressed as the trailer accelerates against the tow. It looks kindof like an accordian. The further the accordian in compressed the harder the trailer brakes. I would not let the type of braking system prevent you from buying the trailer of your dreams. There are advantages to electric brakes but surge brakes are ok and it's one less thing to worry about in the beginning.

Happy Shopping!

Melissa
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Old 11-19-2011, 08:53 PM   #6
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Given a choice I would always choose electric brakes. Scamp 13' brakes a very small don't do a lot of braking and do help when needed to keep the trailer in line. I know of several examples where electric brakes kept a tragedy from happening, one was hydroplaning in heavy rain. Electric brakes brought things into control, surge brakes would not have been able to do. I hit a road imperfection that started a side to side bounce, electric brakes stopped it without jack knifing. I don't think surge brakes would have, I was on a curve.

Surge brakes were used by U-Haul because it would not have been practical to use electric brakes and require a brake controller on a renter's vehicle.

Then there's the break away situation...
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Old 11-19-2011, 08:58 PM   #7
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Electric brake controllers are generally very easy to adjust. Usually just turn a dial to increase or decrease the amount of braking. There was no problem wiring the controller into my Highlander.
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Old 11-19-2011, 09:05 PM   #8
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One draw back on the electric brackes is if you trade vehicles, it is expensive to transfer from one vehicle to the other. If you have surge brackes, they always stay with the trailer. Just a thought.
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Old 11-19-2011, 11:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laura June View Post
One draw back on the electric brackes is if you trade vehicles, it is expensive to transfer from one vehicle to the other. If you have surge brackes, they always stay with the trailer. Just a thought.
Not very. A little wiring maybe. The controller moves very easily. In fact I have two vehicles, I think it cost me about $20 to use the second vehicle. You have to wire for tail and brake lights, and one more wire for brakes. Also many newer vehicles have a connector under the dash that with right cable (about $15) you can simply plug in the controller.

Yes there is some expense and work with a change. But, I think it's still worth it.
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Old 11-20-2011, 11:13 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
Not very. A little wiring maybe. The controller moves very easily. In fact I have two vehicles, I think it cost me about $20 to use the second vehicle. You have to wire for tail and brake lights, and one more wire for brakes. Also many newer vehicles have a connector under the dash that with right cable (about $15) you can simply plug in the controller.
My new Tundra came pre-wired, all I had to do was buy an adapter for a few dollars and plug my old controller in! It took less than a minute. The tundra came with a universal adapter, but for a few dollars I didn't even have to mess with that!
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Old 11-21-2011, 07:13 AM   #11
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I used to be invovled in the mfg and sale of trailers. While I prefer to drive with electric brakes, Surge brakes do offer one advantage. Surge brakes will work with any tow vehicle the trailer is connected to, with no wiring at all. These are popular in industrial applications and contractors.
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Old 11-21-2011, 08:15 AM   #12
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We have had both, surge and electric. We prefer electric brakes for the reason that Mike Magee already mentioned - the ability to control within your cab.
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