Electric Brake or Surge Brake? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-23-2006, 11:23 PM   #1
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Does anyone know if all 17' Bigfoot trailers came with electric brakes, or did the older ones (ie. 1985 year) have surge brakes?
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Old 08-24-2006, 12:20 PM   #2
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I looked at a 19-foot Bigfoot of the same vintage as the 1984 model shown in the FiberglassRV Bigfoot Album. It had electric brakes.

The couplers which incorporate a hydraulic surge brake master cylinder look quite distinctive, with a pile of hardware on them. The coupler for a cable-actuated surge brake system also looks unusual. It might be worth just looking, even at photos, for the tell-tale hardware; you can't see the brakes except from under the trailer, but the coupler is a lot more visible. There are various Bigfoot models and vintages in that album.

Unlike for those of us with Bolers (for instance), the ultimate expert is still around to consult: the manufacturer. Like the other current builders, Bigfoot is listed in the Helpful-Links section of this web site, under "Trailer Brands". I asked Bigfoot a question by e-mail once, and they did respond.

This does not say anything about 17' Bigfoot models specifically, but I have not noticed any reference in this forum to surge brakes on any travel trailer built in North America, other than the European-style Tab (which isn't moulded fiberglass, but gets discussed here frequently). By the way, the European trailers use cable-actuated surge brakes, not the hydraulic system.

Another non-Bigfoot observation: Bolers and Trilliums of the 1970's with brakes used electric brakes just like today, so 1985 is not old by the standards of this type of trailer, and electric brakes were common long before that year.
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Old 08-24-2006, 02:25 PM   #3
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I had a car dolly with surge brakes at one time.I was told that in some places they are illegal.I never did confirm that.
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Old 08-24-2006, 02:49 PM   #4
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Specifically in the province of Alberta (where Bonnie, Chester, and I are all located), requirements for brakes are given in Part 2 (sections 54 and following) of ALBERTA REGULATION 322/2002, Traffic Safety Act, VEHICLE EQUIPMENT REGULATION, the same regulation which covers things like lights and tires. It does provide trailer brake requirements, but I see nothing in it which would ban (or require) any particular braking technology.

If surge brakes were illegal - anywhere - what would happen with all of those boat trailers and rental cargo trailers which have surge brakes? U-Haul operates all over North America with units which circulate freely among their dealers (due to one-way rentals), and it seems that their trailers which have brakes (the smaller ones don't) are hydraulic surge systems. Even if there were some bizarre dependence on trailer type (e.g. no surge brakes on travel trailers), there's always the example of the surge-braked Tab. Despite logic, there could of course be a law...

Perhaps someone has confused a need for brake lights with the brake actuation method? Using that car dolly without proper lights would presumably be illegal, and with surge brakes some people may be tempted to skip the wiring entirely.

In the end, for Bonnie's purpose this may be entirely irrelevant, since my guess is that brakes on Bigfoot trailers have always been electric.
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Old 08-24-2006, 03:58 PM   #5
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I have a 1985 Bigfoot 17' and it has electric brakes. Surge brakes do not operate in reverse and as your vehicle brakes have very limited effect in reverse it can create problems with a relatively heavy trailer. In the province of B.C. and many other jurisdictions in North America, surge brakes are outlawed on new trailers.
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Old 08-24-2006, 03:59 PM   #6
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Thanks for the responses. My assumption would be that the Bigfoots would have electric, not surge, just thought I would ask.
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Old 08-24-2006, 06:31 PM   #7
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...In the province of B.C. and many other jurisdictions in North America, surge brakes are outlawed on new trailers.
That's interesting information. Tabs are sold in BC with (cable-actuated) surge brakes, which seems like a conflict with the law. Sam, do you know which law (presumably a provincial regulation) this is?

I suspect that this may be a reference to the B.C. requirement (which I have seen quoted on various web sites) for trailer brakes which can be controlled by the driver - and thus not surge brakes - on trailers over 2800 kg (6173 lb). It would be nice to know the specific requirement, especially for anyone considering one of the European fiberglass trailers with surge brakes.
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Old 08-24-2006, 07:12 PM   #8
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I would hate to see boat trailers with electric brakes...

*zap*
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Old 08-24-2006, 08:29 PM   #9
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I would hate to see boat trailers with electric brakes...

*zap*
I'm not sure I see any difference between electric brakes and electric tail, brake, and turn signal lights, all have to be water proof. Even the brakes on a red and white Burro I'm sure are water proof. Otherwise, hydroplaning Burro, apply brakes, *zap*, no more brakes. ....Shudder.....
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Old 08-24-2006, 08:44 PM   #10
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That's Gina's point, Byron. Lights on boat trailers are a nightmare to maintain. They're always corroded and don't work. Submerging the electric components of electric brakes such as occurs regularly on boat trailers wouldn't make for very happy nor long-term braking. Surge breaks, OTOH, while a less desireable braking system, generally work for years and with reasonable maintenane are fairly impervious to water damage to the actuation system.

The electric brakes on our trailers are reasonably water-resistent, but they still wouldn't do well being submerged.

Roger
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Old 08-24-2006, 09:29 PM   #11
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The electric brakes on our trailers are reasonably water-resistent, but they still wouldn't do well being submerged.
Roger
I haven't looked at magnets, but I would imagine they'd pretty well sealed. I know the kind of testing required for most automotive and truck components go through. They're usually sprayed with a salt water solution. If anything will get through the seals that stuff will. It'll also prove it's penetrated the seals by eating up the insides. Therefore I think it's a perception issue rather than a real life issue. However it might as well be real since the perception persists. Lots of things in this old world are like that. Not a biggy as far as I'm concerned.
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Old 08-24-2006, 10:29 PM   #12
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and perception vs. real world experience is another.

Altho I have personally never owned a boat, I am fortunate enough to have been around them and have many friends that do and I enjoy thier boats as much as they do.

I used to go with friends very near where Byron lives several times a month after work (Because in Oregon, you CAN )

As a "fee" for your enjoyment on thier dollar, if you are a nice guy, you learn to show up early and stay late, helping them launch, take out (and CLEAN!)

One thing I have picked up from everyone from being the nice guy is that no, you won't kill fish with an electrical shock from submerging electric brakes, but, yes, electric boat trailers brakes do not live long, especially in salt water. For what technical reason, I do not know, but my Dad dumped a trailer that did (It lived one summer and died) and so did one other friend.

I would imagine there is a difference in exposure from having road water splash up on the components vs. total submersion for several minutes, or longer, but I will have to defer to Byrons industry knowledge on that.

Anyway, My point actually was..

since MOST boat trailers are surge brakes (For whatever reason you may believe, it's still the reality that they are) that it would be hard to make a law against them without having some uproar from the boating community.
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Old 08-24-2006, 10:41 PM   #13
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I scrapped a 1974 Starcraft Galaxy pop up, and it was equipped with a hydraulic surge brake system....also a rental car trailer that I rented for a while had surge brakes....I suppose that many rental trailers of that type would have surge brakes for convenience as not every tow vehicle has an electric controller.....I found them to work well .....Benny
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Old 08-24-2006, 10:49 PM   #14
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I have towed other peoples trailers (Yeah, get a hitch on your car and all of a sudden everyones ignored trailers need to be moved.. ) and boat trailers with surge brakes.

I didn't have an issue with how they function, and the reverse thing is no big deal as long as you are reversing on the flat.

If the Burro had surge brakes, I would be fine with it. I just won't back down any hills
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