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Surge Brakes VS. Electric Brakes: Breaking All The Facts

Surge Brakes VS. Electric Brakes: Breaking All The Facts

In terms of safety, the braking system in your car is unquestionably the most critical component. Stopping or slowing down in an instant significantly reduces an accident or incident’s chances. The choice between surge brakes and electric brakes might be confusing when deciding on the ideal brake controller for your vehicle.

The main difference between Surge brakes & electric brakes is that Surge brakes utilize a mechanical cord to activate the master cylinder. In contrast, electric brakes employ a battery-operated activator to power the wheels’ electromagnets. Also, electric brakes are comparatively simpler than surge brakes systems.

Hydraulic and electric brakes are two of the most common braking systems. Here are the distinctions between the two systems and what you should remember while deciding.

Overview Of Surge Brakes And Electric Brakes

  Surge Breaks Electric Breaks
Activation A mechanical chain is used to trigger surge brakes. A battery-powered system activates electric brakes.
Working Method It activates the master cylinder when attached to the towing vehicle. This power source powers the wheels’ electromagnets.
Application Commonplace in boat trailers and recreational trailers for rent or sale Utilized in both industrial and vehicular braking
Process Manual activation levers or buttons are available. The brake controller regulates the flow of electricity to the brakes.
Cost Parts of Hydraulic Surge Brakes are superior to those of Electric Brakes in terms of their performance. Parts of Electric brakes have a lower rate of wear-and-tear than surge ones.
Location It’s not uncommon for surge brakes to be submerged in water. Below and to the side of the steering wheel is the optimum location.
Break Types Hydraulic Surge Brakes utilize the kinetic energy of the trailer to slow the vehicle. To use electric brakes, the towing vehicle must have a brake controller installed within the cabin.

In Details Of Surge Brakes VS. Electric Brakes

Method Of Working

The brakes are applied when the rod in the master cylinder is forced into the front neck of a surge brake.

The neck expands again for the towing vehicle to continue ahead, releasing the brakes.

The brake magnet is magnetized during an electric brake because of the electricity. The electric drum brakes surface attracts interest.

Friction generates rotation and movement of the actuating arm, which pushes shoes out against a drum.

The Price Of The Parts

Brakes on the trailer is put under increased strain when the truck slows down. 

Surge brakes are a breeze to use once the settings are exactly correct. Parts For electronic brakes, the cost of replacing worn components is cheaper.

On the other hand, Hydraulic Surge Brakes are more expensive to replace than electronic brakes.


Both surge brakes and electronic brakes require regular maintenance. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to get the most out of your hydraulic surge brakes. Brake pads, lines, and fluid levels must be checked.

Check and adjust your trailer’s brakes every 3,000 miles or three months.

  • Lift the trailer’s jacks.
  • Remove the braking system’s brake hood.
  • Set the adjustment wheel to its tightest setting.
  • Make sure that the tire spins freely with a bit of scraping noise.
  • Afterward, reinstall the cover and tighten the wheel nuts.

Installation Process

Surge Breaks Electric Breaks
  • Get rid of the old one. Using jack stands, lift and remove the wheel from the trailer.
  • The Caliper Bracket Should Be Installed. Brake flanges on the Dexter axle will need to be replaced with a caliper bracket if you are going from drums to discs.
  • The Disc/Hub Assembly must be attached.
  • Set up the Caliper at its proper location.
  • Ensure that the Brake Pedal Lines are pliable by performing a bleed.
  • The negative battery cable should be disconnected from the vehicle.
  • Determine where the controller should be mounted on the dashboard.
  • Build a bracket by drilling holes in the wall for it to attach to.
  • Incorporate the brake controller.
  • Custom wire harnesses are required to connect the braking controller.


Surge brakes, also known as Hydraulic Surge Brakes, are popular on boat ramp trailers and other recreational vehicles. Drivers can’t regulate surge brakes; they’re activated whenever the tow vehicle slows down.

An electric brake is a device that uses an electrical current or magnetic actuation force to slow or stop a spinning component. Fast response times and accurate tension management are required in industrial and vehicular braking applications where they are employed.

How Does Surge Brake Work?

Because of centrifugal force, the trailer’s weight pushes forward on its neck when the towing vehicle slows down. This causes the front half of its body to be pulled inward, causing it to sag.

The brakes are applied when the rod is forced into the master cylinder by the front neck being pushed into the rear half.

The neck expands again for the towing vehicle to continue ahead, releasing the brakes.

The brakes can be made to engage sooner or later by adjusting the master cylinder rod.

How Does Electric Brake Work?

Using two-conductor wires, the magnet in the backing plate connects directly to the hydraulic trailer brake system Magnetization of the hydraulic disc brakes magnet occurs when the electric current flows through it.

The drum’s surface attracts the magnet. Friction generates rotation and movement of the actuating arm, which pushes shoes out against a drum.

The friction on such shoes is cooled using a unique brake pad material on the shoes.

The wheel on the ground can’t spin when the shoes are pressing on the inside of the drum.

Is It Necessary To Use An Electric Brake Control System?

Assume you’ve just purchased a brand new caravan and have it safely towed behind your car for your first camping trip. Driving down your driveway, you come to a stop to get into the road, and then BOOM!

Is it possible that your caravan will put the vehicle in harm’s way? Why? Because the electronic brakes on your trailer were broken. It is necessary to use a brake controller to engage electric trailer brakes.

Towing a trailer in Australia is no exception to the rule that trailer brakes and brake controllers are mandatory worldwide.

All trailers produced after August 1989 must list the trailer’s ATM, GTM, and tare weight on its Vehicle Identification Plate (VIP).

How to Replace Surge Brakes on a Trailer with Electric Brakes?

It’s possible to convert surge tow vehicle brakes to an electric-hydraulic system. An electric over hydraulic actuator and a brake controller is required for this.

  • I suggest the Carlisle HydraStar brake actuator for electric-hydraulic actuators. If you have drum brakes on your trailer, you’ll need component number HBA-10.
  • If you have disc brakes on your trailer, you’ll need component number HBA16. 
  • An electric hydraulic brake controller is the next thing you’ll need. If you have electronic over hydraulic brakes, you’ll need a brake controller that works with them.
  • Last, you’ll want to check out the trailer’s actuator. An actuating coupler is almost certainly present if the trailer is equipped with surge disc brakes.
  • Rather than actuating the coupler, I advise locking it out or replacing it with a regular pair.
  • A welded-to-the-tongue coupler may be more convenient for locking out, but depending on the trailer’s age and the design of the actuating coupler, removing it and installing a regular coupler may be preferable.
  • The brake line that was previously connected to the actuating coupler will be routed to the electric actuator instead of the hydraulic one once a fix has been located for your coupler.

Is There A Particular Brake Controller That Is Best For My Trailer?

You should think about the trailer you’ll be towing and how often you’ll be on the road before purchasing a trailer brake controller.

Proper proportional braking controllers are recommended for pulling big loads such as cattle or construction goods. Because of their gentler braking, they are ideally suited for heavy-duty hauling.

A time-based brake works well when hauling lightweight trailers like pontoon boats or pop-up campers. Using the time-based brake controller, you’ll get excellent performance at a reasonable price.

Proportional surge actuator brake controllers should be utilized for regular or commercial towing since they are more reliable and precise than time-based.

These considerations will help you choose the most OK brake controller for your trailer.

Do Surge Brakes Require A Brake Controller?

Surge brakes use the inertia of the braking tow vehicle and the trailer behind it to slow the vehicle down to a safe speed. Surge brakes don’t require any extra controls because they are entirely mechanical.

The trailer parts will “blast” forward when the tow vehicle slows down. To activate the brakes, the actuator in the trailer tongue converts hydraulic fluid pressure to forward motion. An electric lockout solenoid is often the only electrical connection in a surge brake system.

The reverse light circuit of the tow truck is wired to this solenoid. The solenoid locks out the brakes so that the electric trailer brake may be backed up while the reverse lights are on.

What Is the Average Lifespan of Brake Discs and Pads?

Brake pads should last average between 20,000 and 70,000 miles, but they can last 100,000 miles. It’s common for brake discs to survive longer than brake pads, which generally last between 80,000 and 120,000 miles.

On the other hand, car brakes are subject to several variables, including the type of brakes installed and how you drive. 

Whenever you arrange for an inspection, be sure to have both the brake pads and the electric brake controller discs checked.

When you change your vehicle’s brake pads and discs, it’s important to note. How long will it last, and when should I schedule my next brake service or repair? 

May both be answered with this handy little tool. A typical brake pad replacement may be found in this article.

How Can You Make Your Car Brakes Last Longer?

When you require a brake repair, what can you do to extend the life of your brakes? You can do a few things that our brake specialists have recommended.

  • Use your front hydraulic brake sparingly; hard braking increases friction, resulting in increased wear and tear.
  • Be sure you drum brake in advance of the Dart minute.
  • Driving down a slope or in a crowded area, avoid using the brakes.
  • Stay away from congested areas if at all feasible.
  • Don’t slam on the disc brake too hard when following a vehicle in traffic.
  • Purge your home of anything but what you require.
  • More frequently utilize engine braking.
  • It is essential to keep your car’s brakes in top condition.
  • Every two years, change your brake fluid.

More About The Topics

Are Surge Brakes Any Good?

Surge brakes, when set up correctly, may be pretty effective. The surge brakes on the trailer are always used in conjunction with the tow vehicle’s brakes. This might be problematic in some circumstances. Electric brakes with a programmable controller are excellent if you have the cash.

Can You Convert Surge Brakes To Electric Brakes?

You can convert surge brakes to an electric braking system. Also, an electric over hydraulic actuator and brake controller is required. Also, I suggest Carlisle HydraStar actuators for electric-hydraulic actuators.

Can You Backup A Trailer With Surge Brakes?

A specific pin is required to back up a trailer with surge brakes. While a driver or a trailer dolly is using surge brakes to guide the trailer in reverse, the pin in the neck of the trailer prevents the surge brake shoes from being activated.

Can Electric Brakes Be Hydraulic?

Hydrastar can help you upgrade your old, ineffective electric brakes to a more reliable hydraulic braking system. You’ll find everything you need in Hydrastar Hydraulic Trailer Braking System, from the actuator to disc brakes and fittings.

Why Do My Trailer Brakes Lock Up In Reverse?

Boat trailer surge or hydraulic couplers can cause hydraulic brakes to lock up when the vehicle is reversed unless they are attached to the car’s trailer connector and the lockout circuit is activated.

Are Surge Brakes Electric?

There is no requirement for an electric or hydraulic pressure connection with surge brakes or hydraulic trailer brake controllers between the trailer and the automobile. The system only takes action when the car has already started to slow down.

How Do I Unlock My Surge Brakes?

By adjusting a knob on the tongue of the trailer to “backing,” the instructions say I may release the brakes (I tried this, does not release the brakes). You may insert a “key” into a slot to keep the tongue from “surging” forward and triggering the brakes dump trailer.

Can You Put Brakes On A Trailer?

If the axle has brake flanges soldered, it is possible to install air brakes on an axle that does not have brakes. These flanges are metal plates with four holes for 10″ and five for 12″ brakes. Tie-Down Engineering advises against welding them on, as it’s not recommended.

Surge Brakes & Electric Brakes: Why They Are Different?

So, still confused about the difference between Surge Brakes and Electric Brakes. The electric/hydraulic and surge trailer brakes prevent the trailer from moving. In contrast, electric hydraulic brakes need the installation of a braking controller in the towing vehicle.

Some prefer the electric/hydraulic brakes since they may be utilized up and down a slope. A couple must be compressed or pushed into the surge brake casing to function.


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