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Old 07-17-2015, 08:00 AM   #1
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Electric vs disk brakes: pros/cons

What are the pros and cons of each of these brake systems on a tow dolly?
I am inclined towards surge hydraulic disk brakes for their simplicity.

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Old 07-17-2015, 08:36 AM   #2
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I like Disc Surge breaks, have them on my tow dolly. I like them because I didn't have to run a brake controller. Not a fan of electric breaks on a tow dolly.

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Old 07-18-2015, 07:09 AM   #3
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The Acme "EZE-TOW" Tow Dolly

First, understand that to be 50 state legal you must have brakes of some kind on your Car Tow Dolly. In addition to that if you ever want to sell your tow dolly the first question a potential buyer will ask is if it has brakes or not. 8 out of 10 tow dollies sold have brakes.

An Idler tow dolly simply means it has no brakes at all. Idler dollies are most commonly used around town for short shuttling trips of lighter weight cars.

Electric brakes require a brake control device inside your RV or truck. These units have internal sensors that are dependent on the settings from 2 exterior adjusting knobs. If you do not precisely adjust these knobs then you will probably not even have brakes at all. Also, if a malfunction occurs one must trouble shoot the brake controller, the wiring from the controller to the dolly and then the dolly. A quality digital controller will cost between $450.00 and $600.00 installed into a typical RV.

The most superior and trouble free braking system is a Hydraulic Surge Disc Brake System. Not to be confused with a surge Drum brake system. Surge Disc brakes never need adjusting, cool off much faster and resists brake fade. A disc brake design is 4 times more efficient than a drum design. The pads are in clear sight and can be easily changed by a novice.

So, how does a Surge Disc Brake system work? A surge disc brake system is self contained and self actuating. If you imagine that the coupler housing that goes over your hitch ball is actually a piston that extends back into the actuator on the dolly tongue. When you apply your brakes the weight of what you are towing surges forward slightly and pressurizes the brake line. The harder you brake the harder the tow dolly will brake. The Surge Disc Brake design is very sensitive and precise from slight to hard braking. It never chucks or hits hard. It is very smooth and precise braking. Because tow dollies are so light weight the brake system will not activate on an unloaded dolly, thus saving the tires from locking and dragging while unloaded. A surge brake system should be towed as close to level as possible. The more level the more precise and efficient the brakes will be. The Disc Brake design incorporates a clever but simple emergency brake away system. Should the dolly separate from the ball for any reason the brakes on the dolly instantly go to full lock up helping to bring everything to quick and certain stop.

So, in closing, understand that electric brake and surge DRUM brake systems are functional but old technology. The most current generation braking system is the Hydraulic Surge Disc Brake design.
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Old 07-18-2015, 10:35 AM   #4
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However, the surge brake gives you no way of applying brakes to your towed rig without applying brakes to the towing rig. And surge brakes will always push on your towing rig during braking. In several situation, it is desireable to have your towed rig brake for your towing rig, such as on slippery conditions or when your towed rig begins fishtailing. Going downhill on a winding highway you'd want your towed rig to brake without pushing back of the towing rig outside the turn. Surge brake always push on the back of the towing rig -- always. I like a good electronic system. Drum or disk?? Look at the professionals, what do they use? I have never seem a disk brake setup on the trailer of a 80,000 pound semi, have you?
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Old 07-18-2015, 01:51 PM   #5
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Your first point, on having no control of the surge brakes is true.

About the dolly pushing the tow vehicle. How much does it push ? I can not tell the difference, when towing or not, with my surge brakes.

If you are fishtailing, you are going to fast or there something wrong with your setup.

With a 60,000 lb. trailer, pushing a 20,000 lb. tractor, down your winding, wet, hill. Independent brake control is a good thing.

A 2500 lb. car, pushing a 12,000 lb. MH down that hill, is a big difference. Why would I want my dolly to try and hold my motorhome back.

Going down hill, in low gear, without me touching my MH brakes, the surge brake is applying. I have confirmed this, coming down off Skyline drive, VA.

Everyone knows that disk brakes are a better brake. It doesn't need explaining. Bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, cars, snowmobiles and gas motorhomes all have disk brakes.

Drum brakes are on truck-trailer rigs and many air brake equipped, MHs, because they are cheap, effective, proven, system and simple to service, but are prone to fading from heat, sooner then disk.

Disk brakes need higher pressures to operate, so it adds to the equipment needed and cost, to install them on air equipped, trucks, trailers and MHs. There are some trucks and MHs with disk brakes.

The self applying surge brakes, modulate the stopping effect, automatically. If the hitch pushes on the ball, more brake is applied. The faster you stop, the more the brakes apply. The amount of push, is always the same.

Electric controlled brakes depend on the operators input, to initially, set them properly. Too much, gain and the dolly is stopping the MH. To little and the MH is being pushed by the dolly. Adjustment would be needed if switching between a heavier or lighter car. There is no feedback, between the hitch and the dolly, so the correct setting is a feeling.

Just my take on things.
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Old 07-19-2015, 06:42 AM   #6
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The Acme "EZE-TOW" Tow Dolly

Not sure what you mean when you say the surge disc brake system will push you. A surge disc brake system never pushes. It is 4 times more powerful then a drum brake system, cools off in seconds and NEVER needs adjusting.
Drum brakes on dollies are very difficult to adjust because the adjusting port is blocked by the spindle plate. Very few people would ever adjust the brakes every 5k miles as required. At some point they would not even have brakes. Trailers, dollies in particular, do not have self adjusting brakes.
A real nuisance system. technically obsolete.
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Old 07-19-2015, 07:12 AM   #7
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I thought the surge brake derived it's braking force by pushing the sliding tongue into the cylinder to create the force applied to the brake pads. Given that it is always pushing on the towing vehicle when stopping. If it was not for the push there would not be any brake action.

What I wonder about is what kind of maintenance is needed to keep the sliding mechanism working properly? I understand maintenance on an electric system but do not understand it on a surge brake mechanical system.
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Old 07-19-2015, 08:14 AM   #8
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Good points all. The reason for my question was I was going to get an EzE- Tow and wondered which was the best model to get. It sounds like the surge model is the way to go.
I too would like to know about what maintenance might be necessary with surge brakes.
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Old 07-19-2015, 09:14 AM   #9
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I have 2 zirk fittings on my actuator, pins. I will check the instructions, when we park, tonight.
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Old 07-19-2015, 11:00 AM   #10
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Update, 2 grease fitting, on hitch. No mention of when to grease, in instruction book. Book says to check brake fluid and check pad thickness.

14,000 miles on the dolly, I better grease it soon.
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Old 07-19-2015, 11:12 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by EZE Tow View Post
Not sure what you mean when you say the surge disc brake system will push you.
He is talking about the pressure needed to "Push the pedal" as it were (Pedal in this case means the master cylinder piston).

What is that, Perhaps a couple hundred pounds tops. Not enough to be concerned with, negligible.

By the way I was going to make a longer post explaining the difference.. But you beat me to it.. and a very fine job you did I must say.. Then I looked to see who you were.. yup if there is anyone here who knows this topic... YOU are that person!!!
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Old 07-19-2015, 11:21 AM   #12
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disc brakes.
not disk.
not breaks.

Computers use disks.

Cars and trailers and tow dollies and motorhome use brakes.
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Old 07-19-2015, 11:38 AM   #13
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If you decide to get surge brakes, make sure it has a lock-out feature that allows you to temporarily defeat the brakes.
Long story short ---
I had a racecar trailer years ago that had surge brakes.
One February I was invited to show my racecar at an autoshow which was in the basement of the St. Paul Civic Center.
I was in a long line of vehicles lined up to get into the hall with the trailers and pulled down the long ramp (downhill)..
Finally, I was the first in line at the door. When the door opened, I was faced with an 18 wheeler that needed to get out.
Everybody behind me was able to back up the ramp and get out of the way. My rig would back up almost exactly two feet before all four wheels on the trailer were locked.
The 18 wheeler was the one that had to move back into the hall far enough for me to pull forward and out of the way.

So - backing up is something you can do with surge brakes, however, backing-up UP HILL may be another matter entirely..

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Old 07-19-2015, 01:56 PM   #14
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#1, Your not going to back a dolly, with a loaded car, more then a few feet, before it gets, way, out of line.

#2, There is a lock out tab, on EZTow and a lock out pin, on my Stehl Tow. Others probably have similar things.

#3, An electric lockout valve, is available, that gets wired into your tow vehicles, reverse light circuit. But due to #1, it won't help, much.

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brake, brakes

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