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Old 08-27-2013, 08:19 AM   #1
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Benefits of Surge vs. Electric Brakes

Thought I would start a new thread in lieu of piggy backing/stealing the thunder of someone else's thread.

I have 3 vehicles and not one can be towed 4 down, so if I do go the route of towing, then it will have to be a Car Dolly. Next comes the question of what types of brake systems.

I noticed some come with SURGE brakes - like the Kar Daddy varieties. I have seen some mention electric brakes - do they require the brake controller like I had on my TT setup?

I have been looking at some used models(no brand specific) but not looking for brake specifically - I don' think they had them or wasn't mentioned. Can they be added on later?

I also looked a brand called Master Tow and the closest outlet is down the road in Houston. But I didn't see any sort of brakes as an option. Seem to run around 1,000.

And of course the grand-daddy Kar Daddy brand which does have brakes...it runs close to 2,000.

For that kind of money, I could serious look at renting vehicles in the short term so I may be forced to scour the used market.

Thanks for your thoughts in advance.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:18 AM   #2
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Ok let's try this.

Surge brakes are about the most simple system there is. So long as the cable moves freely (you need to check that from time to time) they are fully automated, they are proportional and progressive.. They apply the brakes in accord with how hard the towed pushes the towing vehicle. If the towed has vacuum assist braking, they automatically adjust for the amount of vacuum in the system. All this automatic adjustment is "natural" to the way surge brakes work, not designed in but all governed by laws of physics which can not be broken. Surge brakes are also low cost.
Sugre brakes are powered by the motion of the vehicles and eat NO electricity.


Electric brakes, can provide more stopping power than surge brakes, but they do eat electricity.. If the towed's battery is marginal they can run it down unless you provide a towed charge line (US-Gear does in fact provide such a line on the Decelerator) electric systems can give you more control over the towed brakes, For example. the US Gear Unified Brake Decelerator lets the Motor Home driver adjust the towed brakes, Set the towed brakes, or disable the towed brakes all from the driver's seat of the motor home and the SET is independent of the motor home brakes.. Why would you want to do this? Well one time I hooked up heading down hill.. I simply set the towed brakes till the tow arms locked in the extended position as they should.

(There are other reasons as well).

Other electric systems... Features vary.

I have used the Electric system mentioned above.. My next brake system will be a surge type.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:36 AM   #3
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I think wa8yxm is confusing electric brakes used on a toad and the used type on a dolly or trailer. While the "Brake Buddy" type braking system (and other similar systems) used for towing 4 down does use power from the towed vehicle, electric trailer or dolly brakes are power from the motorhome.

Personally I prefer electric brakes for a dolly or trailer.
The advantages are:
1. They can be adjusted for the load being carried.
2. They can be manually applied if necessary.
3. They stay engaged when stopping on an incline
4. They worke equally well in forward or reverse (not applicable for dollies)
5. Most motorhome chassis are prewired for a brake controller.
6. They don't errantly activate and release over rough terrain
7. Are recommended over surge style brakes by some motorhome manufacturers

Over the years I've had several trailers with surge brakes. They didn't work well on rough terrain and had to be locked out when backing up. They also need routine maintenance like flushing the fluid and adjusting pads or shoes.

All the surge brake trailers have now been replaced by ones with electric brakes. Our dolly also has electric brakes
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:52 AM   #4
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"do they require the brake controller like I had on my TT setup?"


Yes...
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Old 08-27-2013, 10:22 AM   #5
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Thanks for the thoughts. I am thinking that the dolly's either come with brakes or they don't - can't see how this could be an add-on after the fact. Just loading up on information in case I find a good used one. Setting my expectations.
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Old 08-31-2013, 05:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmalberto View Post
Thanks for the thoughts. I am thinking that the dolly's either come with brakes or they don't - can't see how this could be an add-on after the fact. Just loading up on information in case I find a good used one. Setting my expectations.
Actually electric or surge brakes can be added to most dollies that have the spindle & backing plate bolted to the axle.
The key is the spindles have to be bolted not welded to the axle

Both Northern Tool and e trailer sell several different kits to add electric or surge brakes to trailers and dollies. The kits aren't exactly cheap, so in most cases you would be better off to buy a dolly already equipped with brakes
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Old 08-31-2013, 07:21 PM   #7
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Master Tow is a great dolly. It comes with either electric, surge, or no brakes. I have and prefer the electrics.
Electric will require a controller but I suspect your MH is prewired and would only require a controller and an adapter harness.
You might check Etrailer.com for controller to vehicle info.
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Old 09-01-2013, 07:05 AM   #8
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I would sell one of the 3 cars and get one that could be towed 4 down. Faced with the same choice, that's what I did. We planned on using this rig a lot and I wanted to be set up/equipped to do it right. I am SO glad we did!

Lacking the ability to do that, I'd go with a surge brake unit for max simplicity.
As far braking power on rough surfaces, or backing up (you're going to try that with a dolly?) holding while on a hill, I've never experienced problems with any of that using many different surge brake equipped trailers I've had over the years.
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