Hitting the brakes on a trailer makes for rather complex math. Depending on the type of brake system installed, a trailer’s brakes are only as good as the brakes themselves or those of the vehicle towing it. One thing, however, is simple enough to understand; if your trailer weighs over 3,000 lbs, it’s best to get an independent trailer brake.
Quality utility trailer parts for braking can either be surge or electric, according to trucking expert Kent Sundling. Surge brakes are independent systems but rely on the momentum produced by the vehicle stopping to apply the right amount of braking force. Electric brakes, meanwhile, are wired to the vehicle’s braking system to activate every time you hit the brake pedal.
It’s easy to determine the type of system installed. Electric brakes have a control module inside the car wired to the vehicle while surge brakes don’t.
In recent years, however, vehicle manufacturers have begun integrating control modules into later models, reducing the cost of the more expensive electric brakes. Later Ford F-150s, for example, feature an integrated trailer brake controller system, which was introduced in 2005. Its rivals, GM and Dodge, followed suit a few years later.
When conflicted between the two, always remember that water and electricity don’t mix. So if your trailer is carrying a boat, you probably don’t want an electric trailer system. As a matter of fact, there are only a handful of boat trailers carrying electric brakes (most of these are designed for marine applications).
On a related note, surge brakes are effective at 8,000 lbs maximum; 3,000 lbs is basically a recommendation from Sundling. Electric brakes also work, but you can save money with surge brakes, especially if the weight of the trailer doesn’t need a lot of braking force. Ask your local dealer like Champion Trailers for quality utility trailer kits, which may include brake units.
(Article information from “Trailer Brake Controllers: What’s Wrong and What’s Right,” PickupTrucks.com)