Surge Brakes vs Electric Brakes

The choice between surge brakes and electric brakes for trailer applications requires consideration of a number of factors. This article will help you make an informed decision by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Surge Brakes

Surge brakes are activated when there is a change in momentum. When your vehicle stops, the inertia in the trailer pushes forward on to your car’s hitch, which then activates the surge brake actuator. Surge brakes use hydraulic pressure to apply force to the trailer’s drum or disk-shaped braking hub and slow down the trailer’s rotation.

  • The main advantage of surge brakes is their simplicity – they require minimal maintenance since all components are sealed within the unit.
  • Surge brakes are also a cheaper option than electric brakes.
  • The main disadvantage of surge brakes is that the braking power is dependent on the towing vehicle – if your car isn’t powerful enough, then your trailer won’t be able to stop quickly or efficiently in an emergency situation. Additionally, surge brakes can cause jerking and bucking when applying the brakes which can be uncomfortable for passengers.

Electric Brakes

Electric brakes use electricity from the tow vehicle’s battery to activate a brake controller when you press down on the brake pedal. This sends an electrical current through wires that run from the tow vehicle all the way back to each wheel on the trailer. When activated, electric brakes can apply the brakes up to 12 times faster than surge brakes.

  • Electric brakes are more reliable and provide much better stopping power than surge brakes. Additionally, they don’t require as much maintenance since all components are sealed within the unit and there is no jerking or bucking that comes with surge brakes.
  • The main disadvantage of electric brakes is their higher cost compared to surge brakes. Additionally, you need to have a brake controller installed in your tow vehicle which adds to the overall cost. Finally, if the wiring between your tow vehicle and trailer becomes damaged, it could lead to an unexpected loss of braking power.

Surge Brakes vs. Electric Brakes

  • Cost Parts Replacement: Electric brakes enable you to save on replacement parts costs with their long-lasting and reliable wear items. Compared to hydraulic brake backs, an FT-10 I 6K 12″ x2″ electric self adjust complete break backer is 40% cheaper at $65 than its hydraulic counter part for a cost savings of nearly $35!
  • Maintenance: Hydraulic Brake trailers provide a low-maintenance experience, ensuring owners have the peace of mind that comes with taking extra steps to protect their brake lines from corrosion and maintaining necessary hydraulic actuators & assemblies.
  • Installation: With most vehicles manufactured since the mid-’90s, setting up an electronic trailer brake controller is effortless. Truck, van, SUV and RV owners may find a factory-installed “quick plug” under their dashboard – simplifying installation even more for those whose pickups were made in recent years with a built-in brake control on the dash.

In conclusion, both electric and surge brakes have their own advantages and disadvantages. Your decision of which system to use will largely depend on your needs, budget, and the type of tow vehicle you are using. If you are looking for maximum stopping power, then electric brakes would be a better choice. If you’re on a tighter budget but still want reliable performance from your trailer, then surge brakes may be the way to go.

Both systems can provide safe performance when properly installed and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. So no matter which system you choose, make sure to follow all safety guidelines so that you can enjoy worry-free travels with your trailer in tow!

Hope this article helped shed some light on the debate between surge brakes vs electric brakes. Good luck!

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Philippe strives to give you the best overview of automotive equipment, tools, parts, and solutions to a variety of complex automotive problems, based on his own experience. You can read his car reviews on TopSpeed.

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