Braking Options - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-08-2012, 10:06 PM   #1
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Name: Nick
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Braking Options

A very quick introduction, I'm currently living in Canada, I'm originally from the UK and I'll be heading back sometime next year. Since being here, I've really come to appreciate and admire the RV scene you have going here in NA, but in particular, I've grown rather fond of the Boler 13ft trailer. So much so, I'm now looking in to the logistics of exporting one back to the UK. I've never owned a trailer or RV of any description, so it's all a steep, albeit interesting learning curve at the moment.

Back in the UK, small cars are the norm and there's a very noticeable trend of people trading 'down', in part because of the high gas prices we pay. Therefore, realistically the trailer is going to require brakes. However, I have vague ideas of using the Boler on different vehicles, so the option of an electronic braking system isn't really viable, due to the modifications required on the towing vehicle. Hopefully I've got that right.

So my question is, what alternatives are there which wouldn't require the tow vehicle to have any special kit fitted? Assuming such a thing exists, from a legal viewpoint, is a trailer fitted with brakes the same as any other, in reference to tow limits? As an example, my current car has a braked tow limit of 800kg / ~1,750lbs.

It's all early days, but if I was to pick up a trailer, I figure it would probably make sense to get the axle and brakes replaced / fitted whilst here.

Thanks in advance.

(first post!)
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Old 11-08-2012, 10:54 PM   #2
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I don't see any reason why a US/Canadian brake controller wouldn't work in the UK. Aside from wiring for 12V power, ground, etc., the only critical connection is to the brake light switch and I'm sure they're set up pretty much the same over there. There's really no "electronic" connection since the controllers sense the motion of the car. What I see as a bigger problem is the fact that we use the ball system for towing and there seems to be something completely different over there. I saw plenty of small (framed) fiberglass trailers in England when I was there over the summer. What different between those and a Boler?
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Old 11-08-2012, 11:04 PM   #3
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Nick, you need to be a bit careful in regards to the older 13' bolers as many of them do not have any brakes and the axle on them doesnt have the flange on them that you would need to mount them. So you may be looking at having to have a new axle put on them in order to have the brakes fitted to them. The brakes fitted to them are the same regardless of the cars tow limit. The only differences in the brakes is in regards to their size - a 13' trailer axle will have smaller brakes than a 16' trailer axle. You would though need to add a brake controller to your car in order to use them of course and that controls how much braking power you wish to apply to the trailer brakes or not apply. In order to do that the car would as you say need to be wired for the controller but some do come prewired and its pretty easy to unplug a controller and use it in another car if it also has the wiring in place for it. If your in the lower mainland area and you do buy a boler and want the axle replaced your best bet is to take it to Escape Trailer Ind. to have it replaced - there prices are the best around - or so those who have used them tell me.

Have fun looking.
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Old 11-08-2012, 11:07 PM   #4
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Hi Terry, thanks for the reply.

My hope was / is, that it would be possible to hook up a trailer to essentially any car with a towbar without requiring a brake controller to be fitted. However, I must admit I hadn't even considered the brake lights requirement, which of course makes complete sense. Is it a standard connection? I ask because I've seen there's people who rent RV trailers here, I just wonder how they get over this issue, given it must be a legal requirement to have working lights, I'm sure.

I also wasn't aware of the ball joint fitting and it's UK equivalent, so that's also something I'll need to research further. I guess potentially if I was to have a new axel fitted, there's no reason why it couldn't be modified to include a different style of attachment.

As for why a Boler, well, honestly, it's completely an aesthetic / retro thing. I'm not a huge fan of the typical European style caravans, and despite the increasing amount of obstacles, the idea of having a classic trailer in the UK does hold a lot of appeal.

and thanks, Carol.

It's entirely possible I misread, but I thought I had seen reference to a completely mechanical braking solution that can be fitted. It's possible I've got that wrong though.

Myself and my partner back in the UK have been talking about geting a camper van or something similar for a while now, but after seeing some of the smaller trailers available here, I've started to have a change of heart. Also, I think there could potentially be a rental opportunity, as I know the unique (for the UK) stylings of the Boler and it's siblings would go down very well. However, for that to be viable, any car (with a towbar, naturally) would need to be able to tow it, without the need for additional equipment / wiring, hence my queries.

I appreciate all the help!
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Old 11-09-2012, 12:41 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twohoots View Post
It's entirely possible I misread, but I thought I had seen reference to a completely mechanical braking solution that can be fitted. It's possible I've got that wrong though.
I think you might be referring to surge brakes? A U-Haul owner would have to talk to you about that.
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Old 11-09-2012, 12:43 AM   #6
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That's it! Something else to research..
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Old 11-09-2012, 05:54 AM   #7
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Nick, welcome to FiberglassRV. Here you're wanting to take a Boler you Europe and there's many of us that would love to have one of the European trailers on this side of the pond! Too bad we can't just trade

Have you checked out the BIOD Scout? BIOD - De caravan voor een levenlang kampeerplezier
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Old 11-09-2012, 06:41 AM   #8
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OP, you may know that UHaul designed and manufactured their own campers for rental service. Their approach to the braking and light issues was this:

For lighting, they had bullet type connectors on the ends of the trailer connector. They used a 3 light tail light system with separate amber turn signals which could be used for tow vehicles with a separate, amber rear turn signal. If the tow vehicle has a regular red turn signal, the amber light was not used. The bullet connectors plugged into 3M type splice connectors, which were installed in the tow vehicle at the time of rental.


For braking, they used a surge type hydraulic system. The tongue of the trailer has a sliding movement and when the tow vehicle slows, the trailer inertia actuates a master hydraulic cylinder (just like the foot operated one in your car). This gives proportionate braking, but can't be initiated from the tow vehicle cab like electric brakes to stop a sway incident. Surge brakes are widely available and are used for boat trailers that are backed into salt water and can't use electric brakes.

Actuators Wheel brakes
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Old 11-09-2012, 08:46 AM   #9
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I would suggest that Nick contact his peeps back in the U.K. about the local requirements for trailer towing and what approvals may be needed for using N.A. towing gear in the U.K. and Europe. In most euro countries towing equipment must be TUV approved before being used on public roads.
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Old 11-09-2012, 08:57 AM   #10
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As long as the tow vehicle is wired to operate the trailer lights, it is possible to use a wireless brake controller to operate the electric trailer brakes. There is a brake controller unit that gets permanently mounted onto the trailer and plugs into the trailer lights/brakes cable. There is also a plug from the brake controller unit on your trailer that then plugs into the trailer connection on the tow vehicle. A wireless brake controller hand held device plugs into the 12V power source (cigarette lighter) inside your car and can be used in a manner similar to any controller to monitor and manually apply the trailer brakes, and is easily interchangeable between tow vehicles. Tekonsha makes the Prodigy RF wireless controller that has received excellent reviews. I own a Prodigy RF, but have not yet had the opportunity to use it as my trailer is not going to be constructed until April next year.
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Old 11-09-2012, 09:34 AM   #11
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The idea of a wireless brake controller seems like a nice idea. Still, a quick Google of UK towing shows all sorts of requirements not found in the US. For instance, trailers with brakes must have hydraulically damped coupling, auto reverse brakes, and a parking brake. More info here:

The Law for Trailers.

As for the UK tow bars, they go with a 50 mm ball which is fairly close to 2". It might work but it being the UK, there's many more standards than we have here. It's probably not going to be as easy as showing up at a U-Haul and having them put on a hitch. Here's a company that sells UK towbars:

Witter Towbars | Tow bars | Bike Racks | Cycle Carriers | Towbar Fitting | Roof Racks

Nick, you're probably more knowledgeable about European bureaucracy issues than us, but trying to import a Boler into the UK sounds like something that could earn you months (if not years) of frustration. Good luck with whatever you decide. Here's a link to Bailey, which seems to be the largest manufacturer over there:

Caravan Sales, Touring Caravan, caravans for Sale, Caravan Manufacturer - Bailey Caravans
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Old 11-09-2012, 01:36 PM   #12
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Thanks for the replies, everyone, I really appreciate it. The more I investigate, the more problems and hurdles I seem to be uncovering. However, trying to find any reference to Boler in the UK, for example on google.co.uk and it pretty much comes back with nothing, which makes me think it would be all but unique back home. Quite exciting in itself, but potentially very appealing if I was to ever go down the rental route.

Speaking out loud, it looks like the brakes issue could be overcome with the installation of a pair of surge brakes, this would rely on the existing axle having the mounting flange present, if not a new one would be required. I'm seeing quotes in the region of $1,000 for a complete refit if that was required.

The hitching assembly is another issue, 2" here, 50mm back in the UK. I read on a site about importing Airstream trailers that it's best to replace the tow assembly on the tow vehicle with a 2" ball, which makes sense, but that conflicts with my tow with any vehicle idea. I'm guessing even after market adaptors were available, they probably wouldn't be road legal, which only leaves the option of replacing the whole trailer, unless I'm missing something.

I'll look in to the u-haul, that sounds quite interesting, thanks for the tip there, particularly for the lighting arrangement.

I'm starting to think it would be cheaper for me to move here than it will be to export a little 13ft Boler back! It's quite funny to imagine other people having the same issues that are wanting to import a caravan from Europe.
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Old 11-09-2012, 07:28 PM   #13
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About the only problem we Yanks would have importing caravans would be customs and duty. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the states don't monitor much on caravans like they do on motor vehicles.

But I think that there are less expensive options for surge brakes here, but the ball diameter and TUV acceptance might still both be a problem.

Have you thought about just doing a complete body swap to an existing UK frame with a junque coach. The good news is that the import duty would be only for parts. Buy 3 different flavors of Eggs and stuff them into a 40' container
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