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View Poll Results: SURGE or ELECTRIC brakes for a tow dolly?
I prefer Surge Brakes 13 54.17%
I prefer Electric Brakes 7 29.17%
It doesn't matter, they're both good 4 16.67%
Voters: 24. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 02-01-2015, 06:57 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by burgman50 View Post
We have electric brake dolly. it was less expensive than surge, and dealer only had the electric. I bought the external brake contoller from American tow dolly out of Colorado, works great. one thing, since controller is mounted on dolly, anybody that uses the dolly will have brakes ( as opposed to a controller inside your coach)

I'm happy with my electric dolly.
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  • Used for towing one or two axle trailers
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The only issue with this type of brake controller is that it is all on or all off. No variance in braking pressure. Lights on, brakes full on. Also, with drum brakes you have to adjust the pads every 3 to 5k miles if you can reach the adjusting port.
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Old 02-01-2015, 07:00 AM   #30
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I have heard of this, but NEVER seen brake lights that activate with the Jake. Own a small trucking company.
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Old 02-01-2015, 10:51 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by EZE Tow View Post
The only issue with this type of brake controller is that it is all on or all off. No variance in braking pressure. Lights on, brakes full on. Also, with drum brakes you have to adjust the pads every 3 to 5k miles if you can reach the adjusting port.
It is a dolly mounted controller, so just like a standard in-cab controller it is adjustable and modulates the brakes. See:
EZ Brakes | American Car Dolly

The issue I expect is adjustment (guess you must start-test-stop-adjust and repeat) don't know how that would work since adjustment is typically a daily event and, like mentioned above, these electric brakes cannot be "bumped" by the driver if desired.

It does put everything on the dolly (includes break-away) and is obviouly less expensive to build...but I prefer the surge/disc brakes design.

Safe travels
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Old 02-02-2015, 08:18 AM   #32
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For those that prefer electric, what reasons do you have for your preference?
1. Electric brakes will engage and hold when stopped on an incline.

2. Electric brakes can be manually activated by a sliding switch on the controller.

3. Electric brakes don't need periodic hydraulic fluid change and flushing of the system.

4. Electric brakes are truly proportional from the moment the driver depresses the brake pedal. Surge brakes begin braking only after the coupler has been depressed far enough to overcome the initial spring pressure.

5. While not applicable to a tow dolly electric brakes work in reverse. Surge brakes must be locked out when backing up to eliminate brakes being applied as tow vehicle puts pressure against the hitch.

6. Again not applicable to tow dollies, but electric brakes don't grab and release when the trailer is being towed over rough terrain.

7. Electric brakes can be preset for different levels of initial brake application.

Over the years I've had several trailers with surge brakes. In time they all suffered different problems from rusted out brake lines to stuck brake cylinders, to leaking master cylinders. I eventually replaced them with trailers that have electric brakes. The oldest trailer with electric brakes is about 30 years old. So far the only things I've had to do is replace the shoes and adjust them.

We also had a tow dolly with electric brakes for over 12 years. In the time we had it the brakes only had to be adjusted a couple times. Contrary to some other posts the adjusting ports were readily accessible. The whole job took about 1/2 an hour.
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Old 02-02-2015, 02:35 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Hikerdogs View Post
1. Electric brakes will engage and hold when stopped on an incline.

2. Electric brakes can be manually activated by a sliding switch on the controller.

3. Electric brakes don't need periodic hydraulic fluid change and flushing of the system.

4. Electric brakes are truly proportional from the moment the driver depresses the brake pedal. Surge brakes begin braking only after the coupler has been depressed far enough to overcome the initial spring pressure.

5. While not applicable to a tow dolly electric brakes work in reverse. Surge brakes must be locked out when backing up to eliminate brakes being applied as tow vehicle puts pressure against the hitch.

6. Again not applicable to tow dollies, but electric brakes don't grab and release when the trailer is being towed over rough terrain.

7. Electric brakes can be preset for different levels of initial brake application.

Over the years I've had several trailers with surge brakes. In time they all suffered different problems from rusted out brake lines to stuck brake cylinders, to leaking master cylinders. I eventually replaced them with trailers that have electric brakes. The oldest trailer with electric brakes is about 30 years old. So far the only things I've had to do is replace the shoes and adjust them.

We also had a tow dolly with electric brakes for over 12 years. In the time we had it the brakes only had to be adjusted a couple times. Contrary to some other posts the adjusting ports were readily accessible. The whole job took about 1/2 an hour.
how exactly do electric brakes hold on an incline if the brakes are not applied in the tow vehicle

yes they can be applied from inside the tow vehicle,

periodic fluid changes and flushing, who told ya that, cause they are full of it, unless the fluid gets contaminated in a closed system it is good for years and years, just like your car, how many time you change the fluid in it,

some are proportional some are inertia (same as surge) some are simple time delay, and they are not truly proportional as the system is set to inputted parameters,

Surge brake back easily, if they do not and overcome the shock mounted in the controller (not a spring) then it needs replacing,

been towing boat trailer, car trailer and dollys for 40 years and thousands of miles with surge brakes in every one of them have no idea what you are talking about they grab on rough roads, not sure where you cam up with that.

you can set initial parameters for electric surge is self regulating and applies precisely the correct amount of braking, the harder you brake the more the surge head activates the brakes, quite a simply and effective concept

yes brake lines rust, so do wires when the have current running through them and are exposed salt and moisture, maintenance is a part of life although I have never had a dolly or trailer brake line rust, my chev truck is a different story, they do not so well at all in the north where they suffer from corrosion and wiring problems, electric brakes have their place and certainly work well, they are a far cry from superior to surge brakes and more complicated and costly to install and of coarse any vehicle needs to be properly equipped to use electric brakes, as opposed to surge brakes which are proven, reliable and in just about every car on the planet in one form or another, not to many electric brakes on the highway in anything but trailers, ever wonder why?

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Old 02-02-2015, 10:26 PM   #34
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[Mod Edit] "periodic fluid changes and flushing, who told ya that, cause they are full of it, unless the fluid gets contaminated in a closed system it is good for years and years, just like your car, how many time you change the fluid in it,"

Changing fluid and or flushing is recommended after a period of time stated by the manufacturer of most hyd. braking systems.
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Old 02-03-2015, 05:18 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Moxy View Post
how exactly do electric brakes hold on an incline if the brakes are not applied in the tow vehicle

yes they can be applied from inside the tow vehicle,

periodic fluid changes and flushing, who told ya that, cause they are full of it, unless the fluid gets contaminated in a closed system it is good for years and years, just like your car, how many time you change the fluid in it,

some are proportional some are inertia (same as surge) some are simple time delay, and they are not truly proportional as the system is set to inputted parameters,

Surge brake back easily, if they do not and overcome the shock mounted in the controller (not a spring) then it needs replacing,

been towing boat trailer, car trailer and dollys for 40 years and thousands of miles with surge brakes in every one of them have no idea what you are talking about they grab on rough roads, not sure where you cam up with that.

you can set initial parameters for electric surge is self regulating and applies precisely the correct amount of braking, the harder you brake the more the surge head activates the brakes, quite a simply and effective concept

yes brake lines rust, so do wires when the have current running through them and are exposed salt and moisture, maintenance is a part of life although I have never had a dolly or trailer brake line rust, my chev truck is a different story, they do not so well at all in the north where they suffer from corrosion and wiring problems, electric brakes have their place and certainly work well, they are a far cry from superior to surge brakes and more complicated and costly to install and of coarse any vehicle needs to be properly equipped to use electric brakes, as opposed to surge brakes which are proven, reliable and in just about every car on the planet in one form or another, not to many electric brakes on the highway in anything but trailers, ever wonder why?

Moxy


Obviously the brakes in the tow vehicle need to be applied for the brakes on the dolly to work. The difference is that when the brakes in the tow vehicle are applied while stationary on an incline the electric brakes on the tow dolly will also be applied. In this situation surge brakes will not be applied.

All hydraulic brakes need to have the fluid changed and the system flushed over time. Brake fluid is hygroscopic meaning it absorbs moisture. Contrary to popular belief the system is not air tight. As the brake pads or shoes wear down the fluid in the reservoir lowers. Air enters the system through the vented cap. If it didn't the system would create a vacuum and you would never be able to remove the cap.

The air entering the system will contaminate the fluid with moisture. The moisture will eventually lower the boiling point of the fluid to the point that the brakes will either fade or in a worst case scenario fail. Thus the need to periodically replace the fluid and flush the system.

Here's an over simplified explanation as to when and why hydraulic brake fluid needs the be replaced and the system needs to be flushed.

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-parts/brakes/brake-tests/is-brake-flushing-necessary.htm

Every surge brake system I've ever seen has a lockout that needs to be engaged to allow the dolly/trailer to be backed up without engaging the brakes. Some systems lockout a spring while others lock out a hydraulic or gas filled shock. In any case a lockout is necessary.

I didn't say anything about brakes grabbing on rough roads. I said surge brakes grab when traveling over rough terrain. Try pulling a 5 ton trailer with surge brakes through a construction site and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Brake lines, wheel cylinders, and master cylinders on a dolly or trailer are no more immune to rust than those on a car or truck. Under the same circumstances they will all rust. Over the years Iíve replaced brake lines, wheel cylinders, and master cylinders on dozens of surge brake equipped trailers.

Surge brakes on a trailer are not the same as hydraulic brakes on a car or truck. While they are both hydraulic systems the system in a car or truck is operator controlled. The system on a dolly or trailer is essentially a mechanically controlled slave to the towed vehicles system. When moving in the forward direction it mirrors the braking action of the towing vehicle to a point. There are cases when the brakes will not be activated, and others where the action of the towing vehicle will create an undesirable braking action. Surge brakes cannot be activated independently, and will in many cases be activated when the tow vehicle is moving in reverse.

Over the years I've had trailers with both systems. Those with surge brakes were in the long run more costly to maintain, and produced less desirable results. There are applications where surge brakes may be more desirable, however they are not the best for many applications.
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Old 02-03-2015, 05:52 AM   #36
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"All hydraulic brakes need to have the fluid changed and the system flushed over time. Brake fluid is hygroscopic meaning it absorbs moisture. Contrary to popular belief the system is not air tight. As the brake pads or shoes wear down the fluid in the reservoir lowers. Air enters the system through the vented cap. If it didn't the system would create a vacuum and you would never be able to remove the cap."

The vented cap has a bladder/gasket that allows the fluid level to change without allowing air in, the brake system is a sealed system until opened.
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Old 02-03-2015, 06:05 AM   #37
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1- There is a optional valve to wire to your reverse lights to lock out yous surge brakes when backing.

2- I will stay out of construction sites with my RV.

3- I also have worked on 10 ton trailers with electric brakes and HotBox asphalt repair trailers with surge brakes. They were equaly problematic.

I shopped for surge brakes, not wanting to run wires and stuff.

I like my dolly surge brakes. They just work and adjust for the load.

To each his own
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Old 02-03-2015, 07:21 AM   #38
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There is a optional valve to wire to your reverse lights to lock out your surge brakes when backing.
Seems like a good thing to have. Where to find one of these, and how to install??
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Old 02-03-2015, 07:34 AM   #39
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Boat trailer stores should carry them. You take off your brake hose, screw it on the master cylinder and attach the hose to it.

Happy Shopping
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Old 02-03-2015, 07:47 AM   #40
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"All hydraulic brakes need to have the fluid changed and the system flushed over time. Brake fluid is hygroscopic meaning it absorbs moisture. Contrary to popular belief the system is not air tight. As the brake pads or shoes wear down the fluid in the reservoir lowers. Air enters the system through the vented cap. If it didn't the system would create a vacuum and you would never be able to remove the cap."

The vented cap has a bladder/gasket that allows the fluid level to change without allowing air in, the brake system is a sealed system until opened.
Yes there is a bladder between the cap and the fluid most brake reservoirs. However it doesn't form a truly air tight seal. It minimizes the amount of air that comes in contact with the fluid. By doing so it also increases the time interval between recommended fluid changes.

Moisture in hydraulic braking systems has been and still is one the major causes for brake failure. All rubber parts in the system have microscopic pores that allow small amounts of moisture laden air to enter the system. Moisture laden air can also enter the system by slipping past the "seals" The pores are small enough, and the seals fit tight enough to prevent the fluid from leaking out, but they are not small enough, or tight enough to keep some air from entering.


In some cases the fluid becomes water saturated in that it contains 3% or more of water by volume. This greatly reduces the fluid boiling point, and can lead to fade or failure under heavy braking conditions.

When the fluid is heated (by braking) to the point that the moisture boils off the once liquid held in suspension becomes steam. Steam will compress just like air. When the brake pedal is depressed the steam compresses rather pushing the piston against the brake pad or shoe. In less severe cases multiple pumps on the brake pedal will still allow enough force to be transferred to the brake pads/shoes that the vehicle will still stop. In the most severe cases the brakes will fail. Once the system cools down in most cases the braking action returns to normal or near normal.

Beyond the immediate brake fade or failure moisture in the system can over time also cause caliper or brake cylinder pistons to rust or corrode and stick. This can cause lack of braking on one or more wheels, or cause the pads or shoes to drag on the rotor/drum and overheat.

Here's a link to an article that explains how moisture gets into the system, and what effect it has on braking.

Why Change Brake Fluid

Neither Ford or General Motors have a scheduled maintenance interval for brake fluid changes in their cars. However most all foreign car manufacturers do. The intervals range from 24 to 36 months, and 20,000 to 37,000 miles.

As a side note both Ford and Workhorse recommend flushing the system and replacing the hydraulic brake fluid in their motorhome chassis every 2 years.
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Old 02-03-2015, 08:45 AM   #41
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Seems like a good thing to have. Where to find one of these, and how to install??
Here's a link to one.
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Old 02-03-2015, 04:38 PM   #42
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Thanks for the link. I'll call them tomorrow to see what they have that works with drum brakes.
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