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Frequently Asked Questions

Trailers and Tow Vehicles


Q7)  What types of braking systems are found on most trailers?

Electric brakes are by far the most commonly used type of braking system up to about 16,000 lbs. 

Electric over hydraulic brakes and surge brakes are also used on trailers.

Electric brake systems are the mainstay of the light trailer industry.  A brake control unit is necessary to activate and control braking when the tow vehicle brake pedal is depressed sending an electronic signal to electromagnets located in the wheels of the trailer.  As the electromagnets receive power they begin to adhere to the metal wheel drum activating the brakes and stopping the trailer.  A "panic" bar located on the brake controller can be used to override the current setting(s) that is used for normal braking.

Any trailer that has electric brakes must have an electronic brake controller installed.

Surge brakes are in reality hydraulic brakes, much like those used in cars and light trucks.  Surge brakes use hydraulic pressure to push a piston inside the wheel cylinder that in turn pushes out the brake linings into the wheel drum.  This stops the trailer.  An advantage of this system is that it is self-contained and any tow vehicle that is used can activate the system.  The major problem with this system is that on slippery road surfaces the activation is minimized or not reliable.

Additional resources include:

Kiefer Built, Inc.
P.O. Box 88  Kanawha, Iowa 50447
Phone: 515-762-3201
Fax: 515-762-3425
Toll Free: 1-888-2KIEFER (1-888-254-3337)

Trail-Et Inc.
P.O. Box 499  Waupaca, WI 54981
Phone: 715-258-8565
Toll Free: 800-344-1326
Fax: 715-258-8593

Feather Lite Trailers

Information for these and other trailer/tow vehicle questions is courtesy of:

Mr. Ray Reimann
Horseman Trailer Sales
W5712 Hwy JJ
Appleton, WI  54913

Back to Trailer and Tow Vehicle Index

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