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Electric Brake controler?

Discussion in 'Trucks and Trailers' started by Petr51488, Mar 25, 2005.

  1. Petr51488

    Petr51488 LawnSite Silver Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,377

    What are the point of these? Do they help your trailer stop better? I have an enclosed trailer with brakes and would like to know what the advantages of this is. Can someone explain it to me? Thanks - Peter
  2. Evan528

    Evan528 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,144

    Your trailer brakes wont work without it...... when you press the brake in your truck the brake controller sends the signal to the trailer brakes to kick on also.
  3. PLM-1

    PLM-1 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,640

    If you don't have a brake controler and your brakes actually work, you have surge brakes!...I hate them!
  4. wroughtn_harv

    wroughtn_harv LawnSite Member
    Messages: 194

    Back in the day it was simple. You bought a brake controller. It came with an adaptor to tap into your brake master cylinder. You plumbed a line from the master cylinder to the controller you'd mounted under your dash. Then when you hit the brake pedal it applied hydraulic pressure against a rheostat in the controller sending the correct amount of voltage to the brakes on the trailer.

    Now it's complicated. In your glove box of your truck there's a pigtail. (wires attached to a plug) You buy your controller and mount it per the instuctions supplied. You then splice the wires from the controller to the wires in the pig tail. Plug the pigtail into the truck per instructions and you're wired to stop.

    Unless of course you buy a new Ford with the built in brake controller. Then it's really complicated. You hook up to the trailer and haul.

    For small trucks, one ton is a small truck, there are two basic trailer brake systems. Surge and electric.

    Surge is where the coupler on the trailer floats forward and backward activating a master cylinder. When you apply the brakes on the tow vehicle the tow vehicle slows down. The inertia of the trailer pushing against your bumper activates the master cylinder applying the brakes on the trailer.

    Advantages of a surge system: it's great if you're lending out your trailer to your friend who's convinced he doesn't need trailer brakes. It's good if you've got different tow vehicles and don't want to put in a brake controller in every one of them. They're wonderful if you're hiring idiots with driver's licenses.

    Disadvantages: when the trailer is empty it can start a whipping motion that will drive you crazy. You apply the brakes, trailer does a split second later, jerking your tow vehicle. You release your brakes, trailer does too, again, a split second later. It can drive you crazy. Backing up a grade or over a curb can be impossible without getting out and locking out the master cylinder. I've found surge brakes great when I have a heavier tow vehicle. A light tow vehicle can be the cart before the horse with surge brakes.

    Electric brakes advantages: you can adjust your braking from the cab. My trailer has a fourteen thousand pound gvw. The tires are 12-16.5 twelve plies. I don't want to flat spot them, too expensive to replace. So when I am loaded I increase the gain on the controller and I have more trailer brakes. However, when I'm empty I don't want the brakes locking up and flat spotting the tires. So I cut back on the gain so there's less trailer braking.

    Disadavantages: You have to have a brake controller in the tow vehicle or they don't work. The operator needs to know how to adjust the gain so the right amount of braking is applied under different circumstances.

    Let's say you're looking at the trailer of your dreams. It has surge brakes and you're set up for electric. Good news. To change from surge to electric means changing out the backing plates and wiring up the new brakes. The bearings, drums etc don't change. The difference is the wiring and the backing plates. Of course you want to either change out the surge coupler or disable the floating capability.

    Going from electric surge is similar. But much more expensive. A good surge brake coupler will run near three hundred dollars. Compare that to sixty for a comparable standard coupler. Then there's the brake lines. But again it's only the backing plates that need to be changed out, not the hubs or axles.

    Surge brakes have a slave cylinder similar to what's in your car if you have drum brakes. Hydraulic pressure activates the brakes.

    Electric brakes operate via voltage applied to a magnet that is attached to an arm. When voltage is sent to the magnet it attempts to grab the brake drum. This moves the arm spreading the shoes slowing down the vehicle. The more voltage applied, the more pressure on the arm and the shoes.

    It isn't rocket science. But it isn't falling off the truck simple either.
  5. SodKing

    SodKing LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,641

    It was my understanding that Surge brakes are not allowed any longer on trailers. Don't quote me on this but that was my understanding.

    TURF DOCTOR LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,138

    We pull 3 trailers year round we have surge brakes on all 3,no problems so far it is all in getting adjusted.we own 8 trucks i could not see in putting elec boxes in all of them.
  7. Petr51488

    Petr51488 LawnSite Silver Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,377

    Great Reply Wroughntn Harv, I actually learned something out of that.. lol So in other words, the trailer will brake easier and work the way its suppose to with the electic brake controler? How easy/hard is it to install it?
  8. PLM-1

    PLM-1 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,640

    My new boat trailer has them on it. They're coming off this Spring!
  9. wroughtn_harv

    wroughtn_harv LawnSite Member
    Messages: 194

    That depends upon how old your tow vehicle is. If it's a late model you can get a pig tail from the dealer or your local auto parts store. Then it's a matter of locating a place that's easy to see and get to that doesn't interfer with your normal driving. My son in law put his inside the console of his 2001 four wheel drive C2500.

    As for surge brakes. They have their place. And they do what they're supposed to do. And they don't seem to have the maintenance issues you sometimes get with electric ones.
  10. Petr51488

    Petr51488 LawnSite Silver Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,377

    I have a chevy silverado. either a 98 or 99.. they have an electic brake controler at northern tool for about 50.00

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