Bought a used boat trailer with surge brakes, trailer is rated for 15,000 pounds gvw, I usually run around 10,000 pounds, brakes work well. Looking on site here there are dozens of threads with electric brakes and controllers, nothing re surge brakes that I can find. I gather they're not popular with the towing fraternity, can anybody tell me why?
Surge Brakes are usually only found on boat trailers and rental trailers these days. If set up correctly they are very effective and trouble free. I actually prefer them. Electric brakes would not last long under water and people forget to unplug them when loading or unloading their boat.
Most folks seem to prefer the added control of being able to apply only the trailer brakes in the event of sway, which surge brakes do not give you. Also, trailers equipped with surge brakes push against the back of the tow vehicle to activate the trailer brakes. That said, I have towed both and do not really see a difference between them while driving in "normal" circumstances. I do tend to drive conservatively enough I would not realize the trailer brakes were non-functional most of the time. I have not had surge brakes in a panic stop or in snow so I cannot speak to that.
Boat trailers give you special problems when you submerge the axle/brakes to launch the boat. Electric brakes do not like getting an "all over" bath like that.
It is supposedly easier to back up with electric brakes, although some surge brake systems have a reverse-disabling setup on them nowadays. Braking in reverse is not even like going forward is. Some controllers are better than others for this.
The ability to apply the trailer brakes independently of the tow vehicle's brakes does have advantages with regard to reducing sway. As a price for this, you have to set the power level for the brakes, though. Surge brakes do that for you. You can also put disc brakes on surge, which is a big advantage in my book.
I have used both types on car haulers and flat-deck trailers, and I prefer electric because of the added control you get out of it. Mine have never failed on me.
A trailer that sways on the road is one that loaded incorrectly with not enough weight up front. Applying the trailer brakes or slowing the rig down will certainly get you out of a jam, but it will not fix a improperly loaded trailer.
+The trailer has to be close to perfectly level for them to work correctly
+Most WD hitches can't be used with them
+On long downgrades, you might get to the bottom with fried trailer brakes
+Having to stick a screwdriver in the actuator to back up, unless you have a lock-out solenoid wired to the back-up lights
+They're illegal in some areas, 'cause you can't control them from the cab
Surge drum brakes can be swapped for discs, but the actuator needs to be changed also due to the higher pressures
Fulton makes electric brake kits for marine use; they have finishes for fresh and salt water. I installed these on my boat trailer 3 years ago (along with a Prodigy), and have had 0 corrosion problems (I pull the drums every winter to check). I also installed a flush kit, which IMO should be on any marine drum brake system.
Sway can be induced by passing/ being passed by big rigs, not just low tongue weight. Being able to "snap" the trailer back straight behind the tow vehicle when it starts to sway is the biggest reason I now use electric rather than surge brakes.
The trailer connector should be disconnected anytime you're gonna "dunk" the trailer, whether you have electric brakes or not.
when i tow i prefer electric brakes because of the control you have at your finger tips. it's a nice thing to be able to adjust gain for the trialer brakes instead of pressure on the hitch to activate them. Just my $0.02
jmcgsd is right, when talking about pop-up/travel trailer brakes. Marine electric brakes are coated to prevent corrosion, and all plug-in connections should be filled with silicone grease. In 3+ years I've had ZERO corrosion or electrical problems with the Fulton electric brakes on my boat trailer.
i used to hate surge brakes, they suck to back up... then i got to hating electric brakes because they over heat and crysatlize... which really sucks... so i moved to electric over hydralic... and let me tell you there is nothing better... everything else... short of air brakes is just a compromise
if you take electric brakes apart you will see that they actually engage by using a magnet to stick to the side of the drum... now obviously this thing has a ton of friction... which means they loose their effectiveness very quickly, not to mention they wear fast and have poor proformance.
surge brakes have some silly limitations... but last a long time, and have very good proformance...
electrick over hydralic use a pump to push brake fluid ie they are controlled by your electric brake controller.. and give you the best of both worlds... the downside is they cost a bit mroe.. but you know how it is... you get what you pay for
If I ever hit the Lottery, I'm gonna replace my electric brakes with hydraulic discs and an electric/hydraulic actuator unit. There're at least 2 companies that make these units - which one did you go with? Are you running drums or discs?
there are about ten people who make actuators... i did alot of research before i bought mine, and they are not expensive. they start at 300 dollars and work their way up 1000
i have an actibrake, and it is a good unit and the people stand behind it. another good one is the blue dot unit which is similar but from what i understand lacks the bells and whistles... then there are several other dexter and the like units... on the lower end that work well,
oh i forgot on the high end there is master brake who i dont care for because they have been advertising for over a yearwith no products on the market... a poor way to do business, and several companies have dropped their product for the same reason....
my brakes are drums and i am very happy with them they have at least 2 times the stopping power of electric, if you have a hydralic like surge brakes it is almost the same cost to add an actuator than to change brake assemblies. if y ou have electric you can change the brake assembllies out, and it is about 50 per wheel plust the actuator....
i love them... and cannot say enough good things about them