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Electric vs. hydraulic surge brakes

Discussion in 'Towing' started by curmudgeon, Aug 9, 2010.

  1. Aug 9, 2010 at 8:20 AM
    #1
    curmudgeon

    curmudgeon [OP] New Member

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    CLee
    San Francisco Bay Area
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    Hello all, seeking your expert opinion on the merits of each for my indended application. I am looking to purchase a vehicle trailer for occasional hauling of my money-pit classic truck, total weight of around 3500# with my '07 4x4 V6-6sp with the factory tow package. The cost of having the trailer with hydraulic brakes is close to the cost of an electric equiped model plus the controller. Is it worth the extra hassle of wiring in the controller for only 2-3x use per year? Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Aug 9, 2010 at 8:47 AM
    #2
    Oldewing

    Oldewing Guest

    I just hauled a Saturn on a U-haul car trailer, 4200 lbs total. With surge brakes on the trailer, I had no problems, not even close to making the taco sweat. My MPG empty is 22.7 hwy, with trailer it dropped to 19.1 and with trailer and car, 15.8 So I was OK with the entire set up. I would take this coast to coast without worry. I am shopping for a travel trailer, and I will keep it at 5K, safely under the 6500 limit.
     
  3. Aug 9, 2010 at 9:08 AM
    #3
    macgyver

    macgyver Well-Known Member

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    Whats your budget for a vehicle trailer?

    If you have $5-6k to spare. BUY A FEATHERLITE.

    My buddy has a 17.5' featherlite and its great tow with. I have towed quite a few cars with it using my truck. All aluminum so it doesn't rust. It only weighs 1200-1400 lbs IIRC. It also comes with electric brakes. It will also make your show truck look nice.
     
  4. Aug 9, 2010 at 9:11 AM
    #4
    skytower

    skytower Well-Known Member

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    Hitch and wiring, aux back-up light, rear strobe lights, radio and underseat sub.
    Backing a trailer that has surge brakes is a PITA. Upkeep on surge brakes is comparable to a normal hydraulic system.
    Electric brakes are easier to control. You can tailor the brake force to the load you are hauling. Ie. Setting the trailer brakes to start applying before the truck's brakes eliminates the slam forward. Surge brakes are not adjustable on the fly.
    Personally, I'd go with electric.
    I have seen wireless controllers, but that was on a home depot rental trailer. It worked well.
     
  5. Aug 9, 2010 at 10:04 AM
    #5
    Janster

    Janster Old & Forgetful

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    Electric brakes ALL THE WAY!!!!!

    Electric brakes are adjustable - assuming you have a good brake controller. You can adjust how hard/fast they come on for optimal usage depending on the load you are towing. Aside from that.... again - brake controller dependant - some brake controllers have a lever that you can activate the brakes anytime while you're driving. Say for instance....you're driving along on the highway and a gust of wind caused the trailer to start swaying - you can reach down, flip the lever to activate the brakes slightly and stop the trailer from swaying without even taking your foot off the gas.

    Can't do any of that with surge brakes.
     
  6. Aug 13, 2010 at 7:20 PM
    #6
    Isthatahemi

    Isthatahemi Well-Known Member

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    BFG AT's, Weathertechs, Hoppy's brake controller.
    Surge breaks are self adjusting for load; As long as the shoes are kept in proper adjustment, I have found surge brakes to be better for towing.
    FWIW - I have owned 2 trailers, both with GVWR's of 3500#, the electric brakes were good, but always required tweaking, and would lock if not adjusted every time the load changed, my unit with surge brakes was always good, stopped better, and didn't require re-setting anything.
     
  7. Aug 13, 2010 at 8:16 PM
    #7
    Barnone

    Barnone Guest

    Funny but I've had the exact opposite experience with much better control with electric brake controllers. I find it a great advantage to be able to adjust the trailer brakes according to the load.
     
  8. Aug 16, 2010 at 2:55 PM
    #8
    Isthatahemi

    Isthatahemi Well-Known Member

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    BFG AT's, Weathertechs, Hoppy's brake controller.
    Properly adjusting electric brake controllers is not fun. It basically involves fully applying the brakes, (to the threshold of tire lockup),to properly determine the maximum (gain) setting, and then setting up the sensitivity to apply the brakes at a rate which matches the vehicles braking system. To maintain full braking power, this needs to be done anytime the load, or road conditions change. In other words, the vast majority of people with electric brakes are not set up correctly. The single advantage of electric brakes is the ability to independently apply the trailer brakes to stop trailer sway.
    With surge brakes, they are self adjusting to load, maximum stopping power is always available, trailer empty or full. One other advantage is no need to install a controller, and anyone can tow the trailer safely. The single disadvantage of surge brakes is the need to be manually locked out when reversing up an incline.
    My opinion is that in a travel trailer, electrics are handy for sway control, and reversing, whereas in a cargo trailer, surge brakes are the only way to go.
    In the case of the OP, there will likely only be 2 settings, loaded or unloaded.......As long as the trailer is single pupose.
     
  9. Aug 17, 2010 at 1:49 PM
    #9
    JDCPA

    JDCPA Well-Known Member

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    I've pulled trailers, campers and kids from Florida to Canada and back with both types of braking systems. Mountains and flat.

    I prefer the surge brakes. They are a self-contained system that is transportable from vehicle to vehicle without having to move a controler and its hookup. Easy maintenance and much, much less tempermental, too.
     
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