Who uses trailer brakes?

Discussion in 'Tires / Brakes / Bearings / Axles' started by Jeep Guy, Mar 16, 2018.

  1. Jeep Guy

    Jeep Guy Active Member

    Mar 7, 2018
    I just recently bought a 2009 Starcraft 2106 pup from a neighbor and I have not towed it more than a few blocks to get it to my house. Yesterday, I was getting the camper ready for our first trip this weekend and I discovered that the camper has trailer brakes. My vehicle is wired with the 7 pin wiring harness, but I do not have a trailer brake controller installed in my vehicle. How many of you actually have a trailer brake controller installed and use the trailer brakes? I towed a heavy ski boat for about 15 years and I never had had trailer brakes on it. I guess I will find out this weekend if I really need the trailer brakes to be functional.
  2. myride

    myride Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2015
    Edmonton, AB
    If supplied with brakes "use them"! Controllers are rather inexpensive and the wear and tear on your TV / safety aspect is more than enough reason to use it if it has them. Many areas require them if a PUP is over 2000 lbs. If that trailer was
    supplied with them from factory my guess is it's over that weight and should be used.
  3. theseus

    theseus Centerville, OH

    Feb 6, 2007
    Centerville, OH
    I agree with myride. If your trailer has brakes, use them. A good proportional controller, (never use a time-delayed controller) is less than $100. The safety and the reduction in wear and tear on your tow vehicle's brakes will be worth it.
    myride likes this.
  4. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    May 7, 2013
    Somewhere in Idaho
    Check your state laws too, operating brakes might be required. But a lot depends on the weight of the trailer, size of the tow vehicle and terrain where towed. Personally, if it came with brakes the manufacture thought it was a good idea and a good brake controller is not that expensive and gives you some extra piece of mind when towing.
    Fbird and BelchFire like this.
  5. Jeep Guy

    Jeep Guy Active Member

    Mar 7, 2018
    The sticker on the camper says that is has a weight of 2,050 lbs. I did see that the wires on one of the brakes are not even connected to the wiring for the trailer wiring harness. So I need to fix that. I may also pull the drum off and inspect the brakes since I am the 3rd owner of this camper. I guess fixing the brakes and installing a trailer brake controller will be my next project.
    BelchFire, MrsSquid and myride like this.
  6. myride

    myride Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2015
    Edmonton, AB
    ....over 2000 lbs is why the manufacturer supplied the brakes. Rewire and add a controller. Checking the drums/shoes/magnets etc is a good idea.

    P.S. Just noticed your handle, if its a Jeep your towing with trailer brakes are even more important...that's a pretty short wheelbase. Not that it CAN'T tow, it would just make the experience that much better. The trailer wont have the tendency to "push you around" when braking if it's assisting in stopping.
    Jeep Guy likes this.
  7. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2009
    Albuquerque, NM
    Our first pup was tiny (6", <700#) and did not have brakes, and we did OK. Second pup was 8', <2500# or thereabouts, and had brakes. I would not tow again without them.
    We towed twice last year without brakes on our TT (3500# or so). First time, the connector cable loosened and I realized I didn't have brakes when I got off the interstate for the last few miles home. Uphill in stop and go rush hour traffic, so I didn't bother to find a place to stop and fix it. Second time was the last trip of the year, after the new axle install.The wires leading to the brakes did not have enough slack, after the axle work, for bumpy roads. After some huge potholes at one exit, we realized we no longer had brakes, not by behavior of the trailer (we're pulling at somewhere under 40% of our tow limit), but by the lights on the controller. Given the distance and rest of the route that day, my husband made the decision to wait until camp to repair the wires. (It was much easier there than on the side of the road, we had extra wire, etc. in the tool box, though borrowing one tool from our friends made shorter work for one part.) While it did OK, I was very glad to have it all fixed.
    (Now I do hands-on check of the connector plug at stops and bob my head more often to check the status on the brake controller, since I can't see it from the driver's seat.)
    Jeep Guy likes this.
  8. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2017
    Maplewood, MN
    I have towed trailers (mostly boat and utility trailers) most of my adult life and my pup is the first trailer that had brakes and having a brake controller makes a BIG difference. Stopping distance is greatly reduced when using them.

    Even though Minnesota law says that using the trailer brakes is not mandatory for my pup, I had a controller added to save wear and tear on my RAM. Anyone that has had to stop quickly while hauling a trailer can tell you that it can be scary if you don't have trailer brakes and you then realize that the extra weight should not be taken lightly. Again, that extra weight greatly affects your vehicles stopping.

    My RAM did not come with a brake controller but I decided to put one on because it has such a large tow capacity that I figured it was inevitable that I would eventually tow larger trailers.

    Some States require that you must have a brake controller if the trailer has brakes.
    Orchid and Jeep Guy like this.
  9. Jeep Guy

    Jeep Guy Active Member

    Mar 7, 2018
    Yes, I have a 2013 4 door Jeep Wrangler. I had a heavy ski boat for 15 years that I towed a lot and I was also in the National Guard for 6 years and I drove 18-wheelers. So I have a lot of experience in towing. I always start slowing down much earlier with a trailer than I normally do when I am driving without a trailer.

    I will be installing a controller soon to get the brakes working.
    BelchFire and threebeachboys like this.
  10. nineoaks2004

    nineoaks2004 Every meal is a picnic and every Day is a holiday

    Oct 15, 2006
    Graceville, Florida
    For safety reasons you should use the brakes, also to save wear and tear on your vehicle brakes, quite a few states require working brakes if the trailer weights over a certain weight ( I think Fla. is 3000 lbs). also can be used to slow or stop sway. controllers are not that much money and are easy to install. Better to be safe than sorry
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
  11. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    May 7, 2013
    Somewhere in Idaho
    3000 lbs in FL, as in most states.... (http://www.readybrake.com/state-towing-laws.html)
  12. Pops64

    Pops64 Member

    Sep 21, 2009
    Garland, TX
    Most people have hit the nail on the head. If your trailer has them, use them. In an emergency braking situation, it WILL make a difference. Once you've learned to tow with them, you won't want to be without them.
    Jeep Guy and kitphantom like this.
  13. nhlakes

    nhlakes Well-Known Member

    Oct 15, 2011
    DE and NH
    If the boat/motor/trailer was ~3000lbs or more it very likely had hydraulic surge brakes, which do not require the RV style round plug or brake controller.

    If you used a flat 5 pin connection the 5th pin prevents the surge brakes from engaging the brakes while backing up. You can also manually disengage the brakes to backup if you have a 4 pin flat connection.
  14. Snow

    Snow Well-Known Member

    Jul 19, 2007
    Actually, from what I have read here and on other boards, it's law in most States and Provinces that if the trailer has brakes, they have to be functional regardless of the trailers GVWR ..
  15. Dback2k4

    Dback2k4 Active Member

    Jul 16, 2017
    Somebody already said this, but yeah, most watercraft trailers have surge brakes that don't require the 7-pin hookup. My pup has the electric brakes and I have the controller hooked up.

    I *may* have accidentally towed home from the storage yard once and forgot to connect the wires, I could tell the difference when I got to that first stop light, and I have a pretty good sized truck!
  16. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    May 7, 2013
    Somewhere in Idaho
    What States require working brakes on a trailer that is NOT required to even have brakes? I have checked numerous States' statutes over the years for this information and after checking about ten States I gave up. For a LE officer to issue a ticket, there must be a law that has been violated; at least that is true in the USA, I cannot even think what it would be in Canada.

    From what I have found is that if a State requires brakes on a trailer over x-lbs, it will state the brakes must be in working condition (under various different methods) and in some cases a breakaway function must be provided.

    The following Idaho Code is similar to many States, some States use a stopping distance requirement for the brake requirement, some will not require a breakaway function; even if brakes are required. There is NO requirement for a trailer to have working brakes on a trailer under 1500 lbs.

    Example is Idaho Code Title 49, Chapter , 49-33 Brakes:

    (3) Every trailer or semitrailer of an unladen weight of one thousand five hundred (1,500) pounds or more when operated upon a highway shall be equipped with brakes adequate to control the movement of and to stop and hold the vehicle and be designed to be applied by the driver of the towing motor vehicle from its cab. The brakes shall be designed and so connected that in case of an accidental breakaway of the towed vehicle, the brakes shall be automatically applied.
    (4) Every new motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer sold in this state and operated upon the highways shall be equipped with service brakes upon all wheels of the vehicle, except that any motorcycle or motor-driven cycle, trucks and truck tractors having three (3) or more axles need not have brakes on the front wheels. Vehicles equipped with at least two (2) steerable axles need not be equipped with brakes on the wheels of one (1) axle, and any trailer or semitrailer of less than one thousand five hundred (1,500) pounds unladen weight need not be equipped with brakes. Every farm trailer while being used hauling agricultural products from farm to storage, marketing or processing plant, or returning therefrom, and used within a radius of fifty (50) miles, shall be exempt from these braking requirements.
    (5) One (1) of the means of brake operation shall consist of a mechanical connection from the operating lever, or by equivalent means to the brake shoes or bands, and this brake shall be capable of holding the vehicle, or combination of vehicles, stationary under any condition of loading on any upgrade or downgrade upon which it is operated.
    (6) Brake shoes operating within or upon the drums on the vehicle wheels of any motor vehicle may be used for both service and hand operation.
    crackerJack likes this.
  17. roybraddy

    roybraddy Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2016
    King George, Virginia
    Not only does our state require the trailer brakes to be in working condition, they also state you must have a working 12VDC battery setup to operate the BREAK AWAY switch connections to lock up your run-away trailer brakes.

    If your run-away trailer causes damage to the public roadway or causes bodily harm or even death and if it was found that the trailer brakes were not functional your insurance would most definitely go against you...

    It is part of our annual safety inspection here for sure...

    I would check with the local DMV/DOT folks to see what the SAFETY INSPECTION rules are for your licensed state.

    Roy Ken
  18. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

    I'm completely shocked, to see on the map posted, that WV only requires on 3,000 lbs+

    Having lived half my life in that state, I can't imagine anyone towing anything without brakes there. Very scary thought. It needs to be moved down to 1,000 lbs, like some other states have. In WV, just driving a car, without towing, can require 4wd in many places. In bad weather, just stopping your vehicle alone can be an ordeal.

    When we lived there, we had trailer brakes on everything we ever towed. I guess I just assumed they would be required by law, at any weight.
  19. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

    Jul 30, 2008
    My state only requires brakes on 3k+. I have towed many sub-3000 pound trailers without any white knuckle experiences...I currently own two.
  20. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

    Me too, in FLORIDA. We didn't have a brake controller installed for the first year we had our current camper with dry weight #2150. Wouldn't dream of trying that in WV. Maybe on the interstate, but certainly not anywhere else. Too many super steep, curvy roads.

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