Trailer brakes keep you safe when you tow your caravan, needless to say that they are necessary for an accident-free trip that is also fine-free from the highway patrol. This guide details top tips for trailer brake maintenance, installation, and everything in between.

What are trailer brakes?

When you’re towing something heavy, trailer brakes give the trailer the right amount of power to stop it safely as the towing vehicle stops, preventing collision with the main vehicle.

Time delayed controllers – This is an electric brake that allows the driver to adjust the voltage output for the length of delay and the maximum output voltage that allows the trailer brakes to reach the full preset braking force.

Proportional brake controllers – This is another type of an electric brake that has controllers that sense the rate of deceleration of the tow vehicle. It automatically adjusts the voltage output so it would provide the braking effort needed.

Hydraulics brake – The braking force of this system is always dependent on the braking force of the tow vehicle. The drive will be a little jerky while it is still adjusting but will stabilize once it reaches equilibrium.

Air brakes – The pressurized air coming from an engine mounted compressor gives power to the braking systems of the tow vehicle and the trailer. This type of system can bring a full stop to both in case there is a leak or loss of pressure in the working fluid.

When is it required?

If your GTM (Gross Trailer Mass) exceeds 750 kg, then you would have to have trailer braking systems. Not having one could result in fines and no insurance coverage in the event of a crash. Those with less than 750 kg GTM excluding the tow ball weight are not required to have trailer brakes. But you need to remember that the limit includes what you load inside like water, food, fuel and, etc. That means, it’ll be easier to reach 750kg GTM. It’s important to go to a weigh bridge to avoid going over the limit.

Towing weights and requirements

Middle weight -Towing trailers that weigh 750 kg up to 2000 kg GTM are considered middleweight. Trailer braking systems are required because it exceeds the limit required by law. It is common to use override mechanical and hydraulic brakes for this. Another option is to use electric brakes, but a controller would have to be attached to your tow vehicle’s dashboard for it to work.

Heavyweight – Trailerboats can weigh over 2000 kg GTM so, it is required to have trailer brakes with controls within the driver’s reach and for it to have brakes on all axles. Another important equipment is the breakaway system that applies brakes automatically in case the coupling is detached. Heavyweight trailers usually use electric or a combination of electric and hydraulic systems that have all those.

Easy trailer brake set-up

  • Tow your caravan to a not-so-busy straight road.
  • Set the system’s gain dial to the middle level.
  • Drive for 40 km/h then make a stop and observe if the vehicle seems like it’s being pushed or if the trailer wheels lock up.
  • If the towing vehicle is pushed, the braking power isn’t enough and you need to increase it and decrease it if it feels like the wheels are locking up.
  • Do the adjustments in increments until you are satisfied with the braking.

Trailer brakes maintenance tips

  • If you’re using cable-operated brakes, check it every now and then and make necessary adjustments.
  • To keep override brake couplings in good condition, always clean it with fresh grease.
  • Remember to flush the fluid used in hydraulic systems every two years or earlier.

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