Which brake sytem

Submitted: Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 09:51
ThreadID: 7397 Views:2191 Replies:10 FollowUps:3
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I am considering purchasing an off road camper trailer, and am after some advice on braking systems, the trailer with kitchen, full 60lt water tank, fridge box on front draw bar, queen size bed wieghs approx 630kg, once i add jerry cans, kids push bikes, clothes, food, etc, the trailer will come in over 750kgs.
My question is, should i go for:
A, Electric drums or discs, with the controller inside the vehicle, or controller on the trailer.
B, Hydraulic discs or drums, with or without hand break.
C, Mechanical discs or drums, with or without hand break.

Basically what i'm after is the pro's & con's of the different systems, and their approximate costs, your help in this matter would be greatly apprieciated, thanks in advance.
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Reply By: Dan - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 10:20

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 10:20
Sorry, another question, what is the difference between a pendulum and impulse controller,
regards, Dan
AnswerID: 31857

Reply By: Foss - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 10:58

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 10:58
G'Day Dan

There are several things to consider when you are deciding on the type of braking system in your trailer.

A. The controller type.
If you use a pendulum type controller mounted on the trailer it will apply the brakes when you are on sufficient angle such as decending a hill, the pendulum will apply the brakes. Good in theory, bad if you happen to be on a muddy/slippery down hill. The trailer brakes can lock the wheels and there is nothing that you can do to stop it. Worst case, trailer passes car, falls off the track, wedges into adjacent wall, etc.

Hayman reese make a controller that is pretty much industry standard. It allows adjustment in load applied ,from zero to lockup, and rate of trailer brake application. IE. Not just on and off, Slow takeup to avoid the jolt of sudden application. One other application method is also provided via a sliding switch on the top of the unit. This allows you to activate the brakes on the trailer individually to the vehicle. Very handy to sort out trailer sway or to take the load off the vehicle brakes should you so desire. The vehicle can also be held on the trailer brakes on a hill should the need arise.

B. Brake type.

Whichever you end up with, a handbrake is absolutely essential.

I don't think anyone makes electric disks, I could be wrong though.
Hydraulic override disks are available, easy to keep clean don't fill up with crap at muddy/sandy creeks. They are very sensitive. If the rebound spring rate in your hitch is not closely matched to the weight of your trailer, as you brake it will bump up on the vehicle, then the spring pushes the trailer off the car as it stops. This vairies between a slight pulse to the trailer hopping up and down locking the wheels as you stop.

Electric drums are probably the best choice. There are drum backing plates made with washout points these days, good for getting the afformentioned mud/sand/crap out after the creek ETC. There are also electric drum brake backing plates and actuation systems designed for offroad use. You will have to ask at a trailer place to have a look, it's too difficult to discribe the subtle differences here.

Mechanical systems have there place, personally I don't believe that is on a trailer for this sort of use.

Lastly, have no idea what the costs involved would be. I think it would vary widely depending on the manufacturer of your equipment.

Hope this helps.
AnswerID: 31860

Reply By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 11:10

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 11:10
Hi Dan,

First thing, are you sure about your loaded weight estimates. Seems kinda light to me. Our trailer is 760kg unladen but once we fill the j/cans, water tank and add the usual paraphenalia it gets up over 1000kg. We don't carry bikes and our fridge and majority of our food is carried in the car. In your case, you're starting with 630kg, with water and 2 j/cans filled that's another 100kg (as a guide 1L liquid = 1kg), so you're up to 730kg already without adding anything else.

Regards braking...our current camper has electric brakes with the controller in the vehicle. I wouldn't recommend mounting the controller anywhere else other than within easy reach of the driver. For most travelling we rarely have to adjust the settings but once off road we find it necessary to "tweak" it a bit here and there. Also, if you put the controller on the trailer, you then have very real issues about keeping it clean and dry - not an issue in the car.

Our previous camper had hydraulic brakes with a handbrake. The handbrake was useful and ideally we would have liked one on our current camper but that's another story. This camper was a bit lighter (about 880kg loaded) so the hydraulics did the job but downside is they are either on or off. You have no adjustment and particularly in off-road situations we found it better to have the brakes locked off rather than have them coming on at inopportune times. Bottom line is, you don't have the control or flexibility with hydraulics that you do with electrics.

Hope this helps. I'm no expert on braking systems though...my comments are based purely on our experience.

:o) MelissaPetrol 4.5L GU Patrol &
Camprite TL8 offroad camper
AnswerID: 31861

Reply By: simon - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 11:15

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 11:15
what sort of vech is towing the trailer?
your weight est is very light
AnswerID: 31862

Reply By: flappan - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 11:34

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 11:34
Lecky brakes are the way to go with the controller in the vehicle.

Also allows the trailer brakes to be used seperately from the vehicles on, eg muddy slopes.

Mech. brakes use the weight of the vehicle to apply the brakes . . . not much help in the above eg.

Why is the weight being questioned ??? Ours is/will be less then that.
AnswerID: 31864

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 13:41

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 13:41

I was questioning the weight for 2 reasons:
1) Laws regarding trailer brakes vary from state to state but here in WA I think once the GMT is over 750kg, there are fairly strict laws about what type of brakes you can have. Not sure of the specifics only that 750kg is the cut-off point.
2) From a practical point of view, weight is a very important consideration when making the "which brakes" decision. From experience, the hydraulic brakes on our previous camper at about 880kg loaded were sufficient but add an extra 2-300kg and its another story. With 1000kg coming behind the vehicle, I think adjustable electric brakes are a must.

:o) MelissaPetrol 4.5L GU Patrol &
Camprite TL8 offroad camper
FollowupID: 22745

Follow Up By: flappan - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 14:59

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 14:59

you said "First thing, are you sure about your loaded weight estimates. Seems kinda light to me. ".

You seem unable to believe that a campertrailer COULD be that light . . . thats why I asked the question.

Yes, I know the rules on trailers, Yes I know weight is important, but so is the towing vehicle.

ie, its probably more important to have brakes on a 650kg trailer towed by say, a Jack or Pajero, then one towed by say a Patrol or Cruiser. Its not actually required by law to do so.
FollowupID: 22755

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 15:22

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 15:22
Not at all Flappan, I've seen enough camper trailers to realise they come in all different shapes, sizes and weights. My in-laws have one that comes in under 500kg's - and that's loaded weight!

To clarify, what I was referring to as "kinda light" was the loaded estimate given considering everything that was stated as going into the trailer. Reading back over the original post however I see my error because he actually said "over 750kg" whereas I read it as just 750kg.

Anyway, perhaps I'm just being pedantic but I think for all the reason previously stated that it is important to know just how much weight your pulling around behind you...whatever that weight may be!

:o) MelissaPetrol 4.5L GU Patrol &
Camprite TL8 offroad camper
FollowupID: 22758

Reply By: Geebung - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 12:03

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 12:03
I have cable operated discs on my HD camper - seem to work fine for me. Simple. Effective. All parts readily accessible for adjustment and repair. If doing it again, I would get the builder to engineer the cables so that load variation does not upset the cable adjustment....currently, I have to alter the adjustment if the load changes considerably. Also, had to make some HD rubber guards to protect the calipers from stones. In summary, the access and simplicity appeals here.Get me outa these suburbs !
AnswerID: 31870

Reply By: David - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 12:30

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 12:30

You are bound to get that many different views and opinions that you will probably be even more confused.

Some comments I have:

1. Agree with other responses, your weight estimates seem too low. Our camper trailer which I do not think would be too much different from what you mention weighs in at just over 1200kgs loaded. I do admit, we try to keep as much as possible out of the car except for the fridge and daily travelling needs.

2. What sort of vehicle are you towing with? I believe that your towing vehicle mass has a lot to do with brake selection eg

a) If the trailer mass is approximately 70% or more of the vehicle mass you are probably better off with electric brakes. If the trailer ever starts getting a bit untidy,
(on either the highway or offroad) electric brakes give you better control

b) If your towing vehicle is softly sprung or if the weight on the rear axles of the vehicle is such that it sags noticably then overide breaks (mechanical or hydraulic)lose much of their effectiveness.

3. Overide brakes are simple and easy to maintain and adjust. All brakes are effected by water but electric brakes have the potential to be even more effected than others.

4. A handbrake in my opinion is not an option - this is must have. I find that I am always using the handbrake.

5. What sort of suspension does your trailer have? If you have coil suspension you will probably need to look at either electric or hydraulic override

6. Disc Vs Drum - IMO discs have many advantages over drums

I looked at all the options earlier this year when buying our camper trailer and because our tow vehicle is a TD Cruiser (say about 2800kg) based on the above and many other factors I elected to go with hydraulic overide disk brakes (trailer has independent suspension)

I also tow a 1500kg boat (mechanical overide disks) and 18' Windsor full height van (electric brakes with Hayman Reese controller). The electric brakes on the van are with out doubt the best way to go however for the camper trailer, IMO the over-ride hydraulic disc brakes have been the best choice.

Hope that this is not too confusing

Best regards

AnswerID: 31876

Reply By: Member - Russell - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 14:08

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 14:08
I'm not really answering all your questions, but my camper trailer has electric brakes, and I have a Prodigy electronic controller - works very nicely, and I couldn't be more happy with the setup. Also has hand brake on the trailer draw bar - necessary I reckon.Russell S
Prado RV6
AnswerID: 31886

Reply By: Dan - Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 21:18

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2003 at 21:18
Thanks to everyone for their responses, i didn't expect to get so many responses so soon, it seems as though electrics are the go, as far as the weight is concerned, the base trailer with queen bed unladen is approx 540Kg, add 65Kg for the full water tank & tank stone guard, 25Kg for the kitchen unit, & the unladen weight is 630Kg, once again thanks to everone who responded.
AnswerID: 31915

Reply By: Member - Hugh (WA) - Thursday, Sep 25, 2003 at 01:28

Thursday, Sep 25, 2003 at 01:28
Hi Dan,

I have just been through this for my camper trailer, which is fitted with Alko suspension system but no brakes.

Quoted price for Alko electric drum brakes comprising backing plates&shoes, drums and pendulum style controller was $550. This assumes that the stub axles have the mounting bracket to accept the backing plates, which my trailer has. The backing plates come with hand brake levers, so there would be additional cost for hand brake, s/steel cable and fittings. The latter is definitely a must have IMHO.

The following link will provide you advice on how to fit controller youself:

Hope this helps.

AnswerID: 31936

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