To Surge or not to Surge? What Brake System is On Your Travel Trailer?

Prodigy brake control for trailer towing
Brakes are an important feature of a travel trailer. And what type of brakes it has and how they work are very important to understand to ensure safe towing of a travel trailer. So what are the types of brakes do travel trailers have? Well there are two basic systems, surge and electric. These are the two types of braking systems available when towing a travel trailer.

Surge brakes require no electrical connection between the two vehicle and the trailer, except for, of course, the trailer lights.  Mounted on the tongue of the trailer is the surge coupler which inside of it, contains the linkage to a hydraulic master cylinder.

With the surge brakes the braking efforts start with the tow vehicle and are continued through to the surge coupler to the master cylinder . When the tow vehicle applies it brakes, the momentum of the trailer pushes on the surge coupler, which slides rearward and applies pressure against the master cylinder and releases the trailer brakes.

The reverse happens when the two vehicles brakes are released.  When the vehicle starts to move, the forward pull on the surge coupler relieves the pressure on the master cylinder and releases the trailer brakes.

Unlike electrical brakes, surge brakes cannot tell the difference between baking up and just normal braking. Therefore, either a reverse solenoid wired to the tow backup lights to vent brake pressure when backing up or a free backing mechanism that releases the brakes when backing up is needed.

The other type of braking system that can be found on travel trailers is electric brakes.  This type of braking system is activated by an electrical connection to a dash-mounted inertia switch in the tow vehicle or on the trailer itself or an electrical connection to the two vehicle’s brake pedal.

When the two vehicles brakes are applied it sends an electric current proportional to the rate of deceleration which energizes a magnet in each brakes. The magnet then moves an actuating lever to apply the brakes. When the brakes are releases via the driver in the tow vehicle, the current to the magnet is cut off and the brakes are released.  Since trailer loads vary you can adjust the controller to meet your needs. This is the more common type of braking system you find in travel trailers and fifth wheels nowadays.

If your travel trailer only has surge brakes and you want electric brakes you most definitely can do that. We recommend taking your trailer to the professionals at Pennsylvania’s largest travel trailer Dealership to make sure they are done properly. And if you have any questions about the brake system in your travel trailer just leave us a comment below!

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2 thoughts on “To Surge or not to Surge? What Brake System is On Your Travel Trailer?

  1. Pingback: Travel Trailers Used | A Travelers Life

  2. Pingback: Pennsylvania Learn to Control Your RV Trailer Brakes « RVing is Easy at Lerch RV

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