The Texas Department of Public Safety requires that trailer brakes are installed when hauling anything over 4,500 pounds. Whether or not you are legally obligated to install additional brakes for your commercial vehicle, having the right brakes installed in your utility trailer is an important step to ensure a safe trip. These brake systems are designed to reduce the wear-and-tear on your vehicle and provide the driver with more control. Two types of utility trailer brakes are readily available but there are some key differences you should be aware of in order to make the best decision.
Electric trailer brakes are managed from the tow vehicle using a brake control system, usually installed under the dashboard for easy access while driving. Hydraulic surge brakes do not have independent controls in the cabin of the tow vehicle and are mechanically designed to respond to the tow vehicle’s braking. If you are looking for utility trailer brakes in the Rio Grande Valley, call Camco Wheel & Axle at (956) 781-4800 to learn more about installing one of these systems.
Hydraulic brake systems are most often used to tow boat trailers, and they do not rely on electricity to operate. The system senses the deceleration of the tow vehicle and is affected by the weight load of the trailer. As the tow vehicle slows down, a mechanical pressure is created as the trailer continues on its inertial path. The pressure is applied to the system’s push rod on the surge brake coupler and the brakes are applied accordingly. Because the system physically reacts to the rate of the tow vehicle’s deceleration, the system is effective at coming to a slow stop or quickly applying the brakes in case of an emergency. To find the right system, you will need to know the weight load of the utility trailer and purchase a hydraulic system that can handle the amount of force.
Depending on the type of utility trailers you plan on towing, electric brakes offer the driver more independent control and more options in case of an emergency. These systems operate without hydraulic fluid, master cylinders, or brake lines which limits the number of components that can fail over time. Once installed, electric trailer brakes only use the computer that is located inside the cabin with the driver and a series of wires that connect the system to the brakes on the trailer. The controller uses 12 volts DC from the tow vehicle to initiate the braking system and the system stays on as long as the tow vehicle is running.
Electric brake systems are connected directly to the tow vehicle’s braking system, so when you apply the brakes the system gets activated and the trailer decelerates at the same time. This type of control reduces the amount of response time it takes for the trailer to begin slowing down and gives the driver a greater ability to navigate the utility trailer efficiently. Many vehicles that have tow packages come with a controller plug already installed, so all you have to do is get the system and plug it in.
Because the electric brake system has a controller installed inside the cab, the driver has the option to adjust the sensitivity of the system to add or reduce braking power. Instead of having to manually arrange the hydraulic components to find the perfect stopping force, all the driver has to do is set the controller to the desired level and they’re done.
Time-based electric brake controllers respond by applying the brakes on the trailer as a function of time and add a predetermined amount of pressure to the brakes based on the load weight. Proportional electric brake systems sense the tow vehicle’s brakes being pressed immediately and apply the brakes to the trailer based on how hard the tow vehicle brakes. This type of system tends to be slightly more expensive but it does a great job of putting less strain and pressure on the brakes of both the tow vehicle and the trailer. You may have heard about a third type of system that is available, called a pendulum system, but it is not as effective as the other two. It works by sensing deceleration and then applying the electric brakes, similarly to a hydraulic system.
Camco Wheel & Axle has been the go-to retailer for commercial vehicle and utility trailer parts in Pharr, Texas for over 30 years.
We are dedicated to offering exceptional service and the necessary products for all of our customers. We have experience in finding custom solutions for any trailer need, and we can help you. Contact a service representative today at (956) 781-4800 so we can guide you towards the right parts that you are looking for.