JTI Inc. Cleveland

Trailers, Hitches, & Maintenance

Trailers & Trailer Braking Essentials

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Most states require brakes on trailers (at least trailers over 3,000 lbs gross weight) and brake controllers are also commonly required. Of course being in compliance with the law is important, but isn’t safe hauling your goal? We thought so. Read on.

JTI-brakes-curt

Trailer Brakes 101

While they type of braking system you’ll need depends on your trailer/tow vehicle combination, there are only two main types of brakes: Electric and hydraulic.

Electric brakes are essentially like the brakes on a vehicle (featuring disc or drum brakes) activated by the tow vehicle driver, with an electrical system (wiring) runs between the trailer and tow vehicle controlling brake function.

Key to set-up is making sure stopping action and delay settings are established to

Hydraulic surge brakes are different: they automatically apply braking pressure to the trailer whenever the driver slows the tow vehicle. (Sensors are triggered through wiring in the hitch.)

One important part of set-up and installation is making sure the braking actuator is properly in sync with tow vehicle operation. Setup must take into account trailer weight (including typical loads) and usual driving speed, as during braking, the trailer presses against the hitch and compresses the braking actuator.

Brake Controller Basics

The two primary types of brake are proportional brake controllers and time delayed brake controllers. (We sell and service both.)

Proportional brake controllers use sensors to determine tow vehicle speed (and specifically, stopping speed) to ensure the trailer stops at the same rate as the tow vehicle. Not only is it safe, it reduces wear on both the tow vehicle and the trailer’s braking systems.

Brake controllers typically come with a four-wire configuration (trailer feed, ground, brake switch and battery power) and many trucks and other common tow vehicles come with built-in wiring systems for brake controllers. That’s not to say it’s a “plug and play” situation – we see many built-in systems that require some adjustment. Those are typically very easy (inexpensive) fixes, but if there is any concern about the way your brakes are working on your trailer, we recommend making an appointment right away.

More Trailer Brake Info & Resources

  • Safe Trailer Braking: Get Smart, Get it Right   We work with some great manufacturers and distributors, and Curt Manufacturing deserves a special shout out for the excellent educational information it provides – not only to dealers and trailer service professionals, but also to trailer owners andtow vehicle drivers. Check out Curt’s Towing 101 info or head over to its YouTube user channel, and you’re on your way to better hauling.
  • Electric over Hydraulic Brakes: In a Boat Trailer? Although BoatUS acknowledges the idea of mixing water and hydraulics may sound “crazy” to many boat owners, many boat trailers in fact employ hydraulic brakes. Read more at the BoatUS site.
  • Trailer brake laws by state on the AAA site.

JTI, Cleveland trailer expertsWe’re here to keep our customers rolling – and to make sure they can stop safely. Contact us to troubleshoot your trailer brake system.  Call 440.232.4311 or request a service appointment or safety inspection online.

Author: JTI Trailer & Hitch Experts

JTI is John's Trailers Inc., Cleveland's trailer experts since 1935. Our blog offers trailering tips, service, maintenance, and advice regarding trailers, hitches, and all related equipment (including snow plows).

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