I would definitely get brakes, although trailer to Element weight ratio of 50% doesn't seem "huge"...
I think of it this way: if the trailer is 50% of the Element's weight
, then it is 1/3 of the combined vehicles total, and none of the traction due to that weight
is being used by brakes
. A typical car has only 40% of its weight on its rear axles, and while stopping hard the front axle
takes more load, so the rear is only carrying about 1/3 of the car's weight. Would any of us drive a car with no rear brakes
You could get away with it, and I'm sure most drivers wouldn't even notice in normal conditions, but I wouldn't choose to do this.
In the end, most of us (including Patrick) seem to agree that trailer brakes are a good idea.