Moderated Discussion Areas
  ContinuousWave: Whaler Performance
  Trailer Brake Actuators

Post New Topic  Post Reply
search | FAQ | profile | register | author help

Author Topic:   Trailer Brake Actuators
kingfish posted 02-03-2002 04:49 PM ET (US)   Profile for kingfish   Send Email to kingfish  
I have a ten year old EZ-Loader tandem axle galvanized trailer I haul my Outrage 22' around on, (with which trailer I am very happy, BTW), and the brake system is drum brakes on one axle with what I believe to be an Atwood 6000 surge actuator.

I am about to embark on the project of upgrading the drum brakes to disk brakes and at the same time I'm going to replace or rebuild the actuator.

Question: What kind of experience if any have any forum members had with electric trailer brakes operated from the vehicle's brake light circuit, as opposed to or compared with surge brakes.



Arch Autenreith posted 02-03-2002 05:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for Arch Autenreith  Send Email to Arch Autenreith     

Do you mean the 'master cylinder', or surge actuator, is to be electronically actuated? Or do you mean the wheel brakes themselves will be electric also? I've never noticed any boat trailers with electric brakes for the obvious electric/saltwater issues. Interesting question.


kingfish posted 02-03-2002 05:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     

The master cylinder actuator is electrically operated (12v) by virtue of being tied in with the brake light circuit on the tow vehicle rather than mechanically operated as with a surge mechanism. You step on the brakes, your brake lights come on, and the trailer brakes are actuated. The brake lines between the actuator and the brakes are still hydraulic.

The Wesco aluminum trailer our Parker came with has this set up. I *think* it's OK, but I can't tell the difference in braking ability from the Parker to my Outrage; I'm hoping to find some more complete and longer experience than I've had among the members of the forum.


kingfish posted 02-03-2002 06:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Hold off on this one - I've sent out some mixed signals I'll straighten out after the game-

Go Pats!

kingfish posted 02-03-2002 10:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
How about those Pats!!

OK, my brakes - I had that whole thing just about as screwed up as it could get. Upon closer inspection, the Wesco trailer brakes *are* surge brakes. The solenoid wire coming from the actuator, that I have wired to the tow vehicle brake lights, either acts to open the trailer brake hydraulic circuit so the surge-activated master cylinder can send fluid to the trailer brakes when the vehicle brakes are applied, and does not allow the brakes to work at any other time(like when trying to back up), in which case I have them wired correctly, *OR* I should have it wired into the reverse light circuit because the solenoid *closes* the trailer brake hydraulic system.

I guess I better get to the bottom of this thing as I may have two trailers the brakes for which aren't working correctly.

Beam me up Scotty---jimh, you may be doing all of us a favor if you just made this whole topic go away...

kingfish's evil twin brother

DIVE 1 posted 02-03-2002 11:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for DIVE 1    
If you have surge disc brakes the wire needs to be hooked to your back up lights. This activates the selenoid behind the actuator to close the solenoid valve in the brake line. When you back up, the actuator is compressed, applying the brakes, without the solenoid you will lock up the brake rotors. The sloenoid is only required on disc brakes, drum brakes are directional and do not lock up when backing.
kingfish posted 02-03-2002 11:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Thanks, Jim-

They are disc brakes, and so it sounds like I have them wired correctly. That's one trailer out of the way; now I can get back to the trailer for my Whaler (the important trailer). I'll re-think the questions I'll post for that and start a new thread when I get my head screwed back on straight-


Arch Autenreith posted 02-03-2002 11:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for Arch Autenreith  Send Email to Arch Autenreith     
I'm not sure that's entirely correct. Seems to me I have read that there are some drum brake configurations that have the ability to backup w/o solenoids. I think that's what I have but I'm not sure. I guess I'll have to find out where I read that.
DIVE 1 posted 02-04-2002 07:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for DIVE 1    
All drum brakes that I have seen have the ability to back up without the solenoid. The solenoid is only required for disc brakes.
bigz posted 02-04-2002 10:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
Jim, Arch and Kingfish,

Drums/disc on typical surge braking system will lock up when backing up a hill or over an obstacle since the surge function would tend to be forward thus locking the brakes. This can be overcome either with a solenoid switch or a manual block out pin can be used, as was mentioned. Generally on level ground not a problem.

There are what is called self-energizing systems which can maximize brakes for stopping yet let the trailer easily back up with out lock up. Attwood has an excellent surge set up which gives free backing ability, safety break away and ease of synchronization for up to 6 brakes. Forget the part number --

In the days I started hauling horse trailer 30 years ago you used a hydraulic system connected to the tow vehicles brake line. This didn't power the trailer brakes. In this system the application of the tow vehicles braking action was transmitted to the trailers tongue where a "slave" cylinder was mounted which is what activated the trailer brakes. This system coordinated the trailer and tow vehicle brakes --- usually a safety chain attached to the tongue's salve cylinder on a lever switch which when pulled could be used to lock the trailer brakes say when parked or in the case of a break away trailer activate and lock the brakes ---

A variation on this for electric brakes used an electrical activated charge from a controller which was connected to the tow vehicles brake line at the master cylinder. When applied the electrical impulse was sent to the electric brakes today this is all done electronically so the tow vehicle brake system isn't needed just a stop light connection pulse is necessary.

In general you don't want to use electrically activated drum brakes for salt water boats. However there are many advantages for electric brake systems for other uses.

Dick posted 02-04-2002 01:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick    
I have allways advocated hydraulic surge brakes for boat trailers. As long as they are maintained properly they work and with the newer free backing style back up is no problem. E-Z Load is now marketing an electric system that is solid state and completely waterproof. It looks good but is very spendy.
WSTEFFENS posted 02-04-2002 04:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for WSTEFFENS  Send Email to WSTEFFENS     

Several things I would weigh here. When I was young & foolish (now I am old and foolish) I seriously looked into electric brakes for my 85 22' Revenge trailer. I was interested as I had done a stint driving 18- wheeler's and appreciated the fact that I could pull the little silver handle on the dash and apply the trailer brakes without activating the tractor brake system in bad weather or an emergency. It allowed me to keep the rig "in line".

I learned that electrics (at that time) were not used due to corrosion in wiring connections as well as the magnets used to power the linings. Minimal rust on the magnet faces and other moving parts was detrimental to performance.

As for converting your drum system to disks, I would be very careful to make sure the master cyl in the surge system is compatable with the disk caliper for volume of fluid and pressure to avoid under-braking or wheel lock-up. I would buy a system "matched up" from Attwod or Dico, for your application.



kingfish posted 02-04-2002 06:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Thanks, Walt-

With some help from some of the guys here I have concluded just that - a complete new disc brake system with matched components.

I contacted EZ-Loader (mfr. of my trailer) and they'll sell me the complete kit - actuator, reverse lockout solenoid, hubs rotors and calipers, lines, etc. - for $750 to $800 and it's not stainless. I happen to know that they use Dico actuators. That seems a lot high to me, especially when not stainless, but on the other hand I'd be able to rely on my own trailer mfr. insofar as correct parts, technical help, etc.

I can't help but be tempted though to look real hard at the complete systems that Champion Trailer sells. For about the same bucks I could be into stainless rotors, and brakes on both axles rather than just one. They use Tiedown Engineering components, which I haven't looked into yet, but it sure looks to me that a trailer is a trailer is a trailer so far as a complete install like this is concerned. (With one caveat; the axles have to be the right type and size. If they're not, Champion sells the right ones.)

I'd welcome any further comments-


DIVE 1 posted 02-04-2002 08:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for DIVE 1    
I would buy the system from Champion. We have installed these on a lot of old trailers and have had no problems. I would also recommend the spindle lube axles. Far superior to those worthless bearing buddies that only lube the outer bearing.
If you have a problem Champions tech dept. is very helpful.
jimh posted 02-05-2002 12:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Regarding electrically operated brakes:

The non-boating trailer guys (Air-Stream, et-al.) seem to favor using an electrically operated brake system which integrates with the car brakes through a proportional electrical controller unit usually mounted on the dashboard. This seems to be so universal that often the larger SUVs have the wiring harness pre-installed at the factory for this stuff.

As mentioned, the problem in marine trailers was/is corrosion of the works when immersed in water.

Recently a company--sorry don't have the citation handy--introduced a hybrid system for marine trailers that used a proportional electrical controller to generate braking on the trailer, but converted the electrical current into hydraulic pressure for actual application at the wheels. The parts of the brake system that get immersed are standard hydraulic brakes, yet the amount of braking can be controlled and made proportional to the towing vehicle's brakes.

My memory seems to point to a company close to you, John, over in Benton Harbor.

The electrically operated brake system needs to have a battery on the trailer to provide the higher current needed. The battery can also provide braking current in emergency situations when the trailer has broken away from the hitch--in fact this is manditory for electrical systems.

The complexity of all this seems high in comparison to traditional hydraulic brakes actuated by a surge actuator.


By the way, when I got my trailer (used) the poor bearing seals had flung so much grease into the brakes that they were pretty much in pristine shape, sort of like old WW-II parts packed in cosmoline. So when overhauled I did not need any new brakes! I'll have to check them this summer as they now have done about 5,000 miles of towing.

kingfish posted 02-05-2002 08:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Thanks, Jim-

I read about those brakes somewhere too, and was intrigued by the technology but turned off by the requirement for a power supply on the trailer. I'm leaning strongly towards a Tiedown Engineering package of actuator and four disc brakes with reverse lockout solenoid, probably through Champion.

Your "cosmoline" embalmed brakes story conjures up a comic picture in my my mind of a disatisfied customer taking his trailer back to the dealer complaining that his brakes don't seem to work, and that there is grease all over everything. Dealer looks them over and says, "What are you complaining about, Bub? Look at these brakes; they're ten years old and they look brand new!

Take my wife...

where2 posted 02-05-2002 12:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Anyone disassembled a "new" tie-down-engineering caliper? Just wondering if they have ever changed the material used for the caliper piston? In know they tried sealing the gap between the caliper and the piston which corroded and hung up the pistons on the early versions. But I still think using dissimilar metals for these two components was a poor choice from an electrolysis and corrosion standpoint.
kingfish posted 02-05-2002 02:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     

When you say 2 dissimilar materials you are referring to the caliper and the caliper piston? I know in their ad copy they indicate the calipers are aluminum; I can't imagine the piston is aluminum, as it would be too soft. I guess the cylinder is or should be sleeved with a stronger metal like the cylinders in an aluminum engine block?

reelescape1 posted 02-05-2002 03:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for reelescape1  Send Email to reelescape1     
I installed tie downs discs on mine last summer...good so far. I believe they changed the caliper (upgrade). I have a reversing solenoid, and the brakes are on the rear axle.
lhg posted 02-05-2002 03:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
JCF - As you may know, I now have the latest version of the Tie Down engineering SS brakes on both axles of my trailer (25 Outrage, installed two years ago), combined with a Dico Model 10 actuator. I've been very happy with the setup and no problems. Two years later, the SS brakes look as good as the day they were installed, which includes 6 months of salt water use each year.

I use the Unique Functional Products (makes Bearing Buddies also) reverse solenoid. This is an interesting little item, about the size of a flash light battery, installed in the brake line directly behind the actuator, and activated by the back up light signal. It blocks the brake fluid flow, but is not an absolute block, which will damage the hydraulic actuator. Instead, the blocked fluid is pressure relieved by re-routing it (the brake fluid) through a little hose back into the reservoir, and through the fill cap.
I think it's called a return cycle solenoid system.

Incidentally, the "SS brakes" really only have an SS rotor, and it is not a vented style rotor, but rather a single plate. The calipers are of aluminum, and the hub and mounting plates are galvanized. They did not come with SS mounting bolts, so I got my own and had the installer use them. They also have two bleeders per caliper.

My previous disc brakes were by UFP, and were originally installed on the trailer when new in 1989. These were actually Chrysler Mini-van front wheel brakes, and had the more desireable vented rotors. In nine years, I went through 3 sets of calipers, and two sets of rotors. They stopped well, but needed continuous servicing and showed surface rusting. But even then I would consider them far superior to the drum trailer brakes. I am convinced the new SS models are of a simpler design, and provide better trailer service, and easy for the owner to service and repair himself. The SS rotor disc is simply replaced, rather than turned.

If you are going to install a single axle system, your existing 6000# actuator may suffice, if in good condition. Email "Backlash" for additional info, since he recently installed this same system recently, and his boat is about same weight as yours.

If you are going to do the both axles, you might want to consider an Atwood unit, as this was recommend by the UFP people for their disc brake systems, as they supposedly have a higher fluid volume required for the disc brakes . This is a different company from the bilge pump people.

Remember, to do both axles, you will have to be sure both axles on the trailer have the brake flanges on them. And finally, don't install any brakes on a trailer without using the Bearing Buddy Spindo Seals. This will eliminate the situation described above [where the axle grease escaped via the inner seal].

If you want to see my installation first hand, you'll have to take me up on my offer for some R&R in Florida!

Post New Topic  Post Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | RETURN to ContinuousWave Top Page

Powered by: Ultimate Bulletin Board, Freeware Version 2000
Purchase our Licensed Version- which adds many more features!
© Infopop Corporation (formerly Madrona Park, Inc.), 1998 - 2000.