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Are Surge Brakes Any Good

author
Brent Mccoy
• Tuesday, 12 January, 2021
• 7 min read

As the tow vehicle’s brakes are pressed, there is force applied to a hydraulic cylinder located on the hitch that activates the trailer brakes. The quicker you slow down your tow vehicle, the more pressure is applied to your trailer’s brakes.

atwood surge brakes advice help
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Contents

There will be less wear and tear on the tow vehicle with a properly set brake controller. Surge brakes are not exactly driver-controlled; they activate automatically whenever the driver slows the tow vehicle.

In the next few minutes, you’ll learn how surge brakes work, why they are the most popular form of trailer brake, and how to maintain them. Surge brakes require no setup or knowledge of the braking system to operate, no electric controller or special wiring, and can be submerged in water.

Both of these types of brakes require specialized experience and don’t perform well in water or freezing conditions. Surge brakes remove safety hazards in the water and with operators who aren’t familiar with other trailer brake systems.

The front side with the hitch is separate and slides on the ledge to the back half of the neck. When the load gets heavy the rod extends between the two parts of the neck and the weight is distributed between them.

Trailers with surge breaks typically start to slow when applying the brakes. But, it’s a small price to pay for ease surge brakes give when operating your trailer.

signs need brakes changed visual ly infographic brake infographics join embed
(Source: visual.ly)

Periodic maintenance is required, but simply follow the manufacturer recommendations to get the most out of your hydraulic surge brakes. Your surge brakes have got your back, but always practice increased safety when driving your trailer with a tow vehicle.

My Caravan boat trailer axle is rated at 3520 pounds and has surge brakes from the factory. I had the drums off to pack the bearings and during the reinstallation I adjusted the shoes.

With the wheels back on and one still on a jack stand, I gave it a good spin. I attempted to manually push in the tongue actuator and the wheel kept spinning.

It always feels quite stable, even on the mountainous curvy roads I travel. My state, PA, requires brakes if the trailer axle weight is rated above 3,000 pounds.

I have read mixed opinions concerning marine applications. Complete brake assemblies, battery breakaway unit with built in charger and 7 pin wiring.

brakes
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It's a painted one, not galvanized and has only seen fresh water to the best of my knowledge (I'm the third owner, I purchased it in 2013). When looking into the master cylinder, it looks a bit rusty, another reason to upgrade.

If you spend some time on google, you will find a lot of people tell you how it will simply not work for long, and then a handful of posts on random forums where someone tried it and swears by it, even in salt water. This is really no different from regular light bulbs from an electrical standpoint, different size coil for a different purpose.

If lights will work after dunking there is no reason electric brakes won't. Add to that, that electric brakes are way cheaper than surge brakes, about $150 per axle I believe.

Assuming they last even 1/3 as long you would still break even for your money, though not your time to install them. Worst case scenario you'll have to redo your system in a year or so, but I find that really unlikely.

I'm ready to abandon all that hydraulic mess and go electric, but some sellers state they are not for marine use. If you spend some time on google, you will find a lot of people tell you how it will simply not work for long, and then a handful of posts on random forums where someone tried it and swears by it, even in salt water. My perspective is that electric breaks are no more than an electrical coil.

1999 proline pro line wa mercury walk around
(Source: yachtsboatslist.com)

This is really no different from regular light bulbs from an electrical standpoint, different size coil for a different purpose. If lights will work after dunking there is no reason electric brakes won't.

Add to that, that electric brakes are way cheaper than surge brakes, about $150 per axle I believe. Assuming they last even 1/3 as long you would still break even for your money, though not your time to install them.

Worst case scenario you'll have to redo your system in a year or so, but I find that really unlikely. I'm ready to go for it and have read that some boat trailer manufacturers are starting to go with electrics, but there are still some that say no.

I helped my pal fix his 25 yr old Heritage trailer brakes. I kept reminding him to not let the reservoir run dry, or we would have a do-over. Gravity bleed may work.

Open both bleeders and pour in fluid until the bleed is bubble free. BTW I have electric drum brakes on my trailer and I love them.

brake fluid need change
(Source: youtube.com)

Discs, I'd spend the time and money to make them work. I don't boat in salt water ever, but I have heard that drum brakes generally (electric or otherwise) don't last so long in salt or brackish water. Electric brakes are very easy to install.

I don't boat in salt water ever, but I have heard that drum brakes generally (electric or otherwise) don't last so long in salt or brackish water. Electric brakes are very easy to install. I just replaced mine, including the brakes, hubs, and drums.

Anyone who says electric brakes won't work in water, or will short out, or anything similar simply doesn't know what they are talking about. Thanks for the encouragement! It's also a good idea to use heat shrink butt connectors.

They have some really cool ones that have a solder ring inside that melts with your heat gun. Any drum brakes, be it electric or hydraulic, suck if you dunk in salt water.

Mechanical cable discs would be on more than 90% of the trailers here (Au's) but I'm not sure if they comply with your legs. On one of my older boat trailers had surge brakes that never worked right went to electric brakes and loved them.

macgregor 26m 2007 sailboats category larger sailboatlistings sailboat
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Towed behind an older motor home and with the electric brakes set right helped stop the motor home better than it stopped without the boat behind it. Drilled the trailer part that slides and added two 3/4” bolts and was good to go wish I knew how to weld would have done that, but bolts worked good for me.

On one of my older boat trailers had surge brakes that never worked right went to electric brakes and loved them. Towed behind an older motor home and with the electric brakes set right helped stop the motor home better than it stopped without the boat behind it.

Drilled the trailer part that slides and added two 3/4” bolts and was good to go wish I knew how to weld would have done that, but bolts worked good for me. I've done electric also on another trailer, these were really nice, never failed here in Michigan, I always unplugged them before launch.

Got it out this spring and was ready to go electric until I adjusted with just a little drag as I spun the wheel, working like a charm now. Also, when I went electric I took master cylinder and coupler right off and replaced with a straight solid one.

Thanks for the encouragement! It's also a good idea to use heat shrink butt connectors. They have some really cool ones that have a solder ring inside that melts with your heat gun.

proline 201 1999 walk around wa mercury pro line
(Source: yachtsboatslist.com)

You know, I tried those this year while I was rewiring the trailer and I found them to be a bigger pain than they were worth. I could get a good strong connection when I was working at a bench, but when I was upside down on a creeper, trying to join two uncooperative wires under the trailer, holding a torch or heat gun, I had much more difficulty.

Either I didn't get a good solder joint or the plastic sleeve got too hot and burned. They were even tougher to use in areas were I was making several connections. I ended using standard weatherproof crimped butt joints that I then covered with liquid tape for good measure.

If it's what you have twist the wires together, and pres older, then used the heat gun to shrink. My 2 c. why junk surge ... less apt to fail due to electrical short... I've only had surge . Ive got 2200 lbs of too and motor sitting on a new tandem Scotland with 4 surge breaks. Gtw 5500lb capable. Works perfectly for me.

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