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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    Tasmania
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    Default Trailer brake recommendations

    Hi All

    I am considering building a single axle trailer around 1500kg ATM to cart firewood, sand/gravel, rubbish... Obviously this would need brakes fitted. My initial thoughts have been to use electric drum brakes, mainly to limit who can borrow my trailer as much as anything. I have a hydraulic over-ride coupling and some other hydraulic brake stuff, so going that way is tempting too as that would require less money to be spent.

    My question is, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the various brake options for trailers of 2000kg or less?
    Hydraulic vs Mechanical vs Electric and Drum vs Disc?

    Simon

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Murray Bridge S Aust.
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    Default

    Hi Simon, from what I've learnt over the years is that Hydraulic brakes can be a problem, unless a synthetic fluid is used. The reason is that mineral brake fluid is hydroscopic, it takes in moisture, which as you probably can guess causes the master and slave cylinders to seize up. A few people who restore cars have the cylinders sleeved with stainless steel and run the synthetic stuff. Another problem is that the master cylinder have a tendency to get broken off, it was fine when I borrowed it, but I lent it to a mate and that's how it came back story. Have seen trailers with reinforcing rod used as a "guard" over the cylinder, they still get snapped off.
    Mechanical brakes are a fiddly beast to set up, cables stretch, corrode, etc.
    Both hydraulic and mechanical brakes rely on the inertia of the towing slowing down to operate. Mechanical brakes are supplied on electric brakes as a park brake.
    Electric brakes can be dialed in, so that they can lock up just by resting your foot on the pedal or braking hard will give the opposite effect.
    As you said with electric brakes, not too many people can borrow your trailer.
    Disc brakes are ideal for on a boat trailer, as the pads don't soak up as much water than the drum brakes, plus they are more expensive.
    Where I work, about 1 in 50 is hydraulic braked, the rest are electric
    I hope this helps with some information, and if I'm wrong in what I'm saying above, PLEASE correct me, as I'm going from memory, which is a bit vague at times.
    Kryn
    To grow old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Armidale NSW
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    Default

    +1 for electric brakes.

    Nothing gives you control like electric brakes do.
    You can dial it in to match the load and road conditions.
    You can manually activate the brakes from within the cab if needed.
    I would advise getting a proportional brake controller, however a non-proportional controller is still better than any other (non-electric) braking system.
    For you application I would go for drums.
    Drum setups and spare parts for them are pretty cheap and readily available.
    Cheers.

    Vernon.
    __________________________________________________
    Bite off more than you can chew and then chew like crazy.

  4. #4
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    Default

    I found out today that a proportioning controller that's normally fitted in the towing vehicle, can be set up on the trailer to allow the electric brakes to work, there's a bit of fluffing around in getting it right, but will allow a non set up vehicle to tow your trailer.
    JUST DON'T TELL ANYONE. OK that way they won't borrow your trailer.
    Kryn
    To grow old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Tasmania
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    Default

    Thanks for the advice guys. It all makes a lot of sense.

    I have a basic brake controller fitted to my tow vehicle, but I found that the brakes lock up on my fathers trailer when it's attached to my vehicle. Maybe he doesn't like me borrowing his trailer. Doesn't stop me from borrowing his tow vehicle to tow the trailer though . Most likely there is a fault in my vehicle wiring or in the controller its self, so I'll have to do some fault finding there.

    We have a boat trailer with mechanical disc brakes that isn't registered yet so I don't have much experience in that area, but I have towed my father's trailer a lot when it had hydraulic brakes and the trailer pushing you about soon wears thin. It seems like electric brakes are the way to go. I also like the thought that you don't have to get out and flip the little spacer over every time you reverse the trailer and then remember to un-flip it again afterwards. After a bit of research, there's not much difference in the cost of parts between the various setups, so the most convenient and safest brakes makes them the best choice.

    It's really great to be able to run ideas past the forum. There's always useful feedback to be had. Thanks again.

    Simon

  6. #6
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    Default

    That's what we're here for Simon, to help members like yourself.
    Kryn
    To grow old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    near Rockhampton
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by KBs PensNmore View Post
    I found out today that a proportioning controller that's normally fitted in the towing vehicle, can be set up on the trailer to allow the electric brakes to work, there's a bit of fluffing around in getting it right, but will allow a non set up vehicle to tow your trailer.
    JUST DON'T TELL ANYONE. OK that way they won't borrow your trailer.
    Kryn
    Depends on what state you are in. They are illegal to be fitted to the trailer in some states.

    Also given the trailer usage I question whether a proportional electric controller is the most suitable. From what I have read they are ideal for a trailer of fixed weight as they are programmed to apply the brakes to a pre set point based on the rate of deceleration and time. If your trailer is empty the pre set point will need to be lightened off, if the trailer is loaded then the adjustment increased.

    Also my experience is when the brakes are cold they will lock on easily, then when they warm up they need increasing amounts of controller adjustment. I have found electric brakes to be a bit of a pain for a trailer that has the load forever changing, but better then rear ending a car and wearing out your car brakes.
    Gold, the colour of choice for the discerning person.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Armidale NSW
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by .RC. View Post
    Also given the trailer usage I question whether a proportional electric controller is the most suitable. From what I have read they are ideal for a trailer of fixed weight as they are programmed to apply the brakes to a pre set point based on the rate of deceleration and time. If your trailer is empty the pre set point will need to be lightened off, if the trailer is loaded then the adjustment increased.

    Also my experience is when the brakes are cold they will lock on easily, then when they warm up they need increasing amounts of controller adjustment. I have found electric brakes to be a bit of a pain for a trailer that has the load forever changing, but better then rear ending a car and wearing out your car brakes.
    That is true, but the fact is that you ARE able to adjust them as you go, from within the cab.

    I have found that it takes me a couple of "braking occasions" to tweak the setting and then I'm all good from then on. Pretty quick and easy really.
    Cheers.

    Vernon.
    __________________________________________________
    Bite off more than you can chew and then chew like crazy.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Geelong, Australia
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    Default

    I'm using a Tekonsha P3 controller for electric brakes and pretty happy with it.
    Easily to set the braking rate and it gives you a real time display of the amount of braking being applied (possibly average current but I cant remember).
    I've used it on a few different vans/campers and it only takes a slight adjustment when you first hook up a new one. I expect it would be just as easy to adjust for a trailer empty/full.
    Basic procedure is to drive at about 30kmh, apply the trailer brakes manually with the lever on the controller and adjust the rate until you have the desired amount of braking at full application (they suggest just shy of lockup).

    I've had a couple of different brake controllers over the years and the P3 is the best one I've had.

    I definitely prefer electric trailer brakes over the hydraulic override style.

    My only other comment is that it's consider building it to 2000kg rather than 1500kg (assuming you've got a vehicle that can cope). A cubic metre of sand/soil etc is around 1.5T.
    A 2T trailer will let you carry that legally.
    Don't put worn out passenger vehicle tyres on it either. Get some decent load rated ones e.g. Light truck.
    You'd get away with car tyres on a tandem but not on a single axle IMO.

    Steve

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Perth, Western Australia
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    141

    Default

    I am sure things have change over 20 years but I can remember my brother getting the trailer he build passed for 1500kg not because he had fitted brakes (though required) he had fitted light truck tyres. It would not have been passed had it had car tyres for 1500kgs on a single axle.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Tasmania
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    Default

    My vehicle is good to tow 2500kg I believe, but since I have access to a 3500kg 12'+ tandem trailer, I don't really need another big trailer. I was going to modify my 8'X5'ish trailer to tandem, but the advice from the rego department said I would need an engineer's certificate to register it with the extra axle and the engineers advice was to wreck the existing trailer and build a "new" tandem trailer that would not need the certificate etc to register.

    In any event I don't really need to tow around that extra axle most of the time just to take rubbish to the tip, but sometimes I want two Bobcat buckets of sand in one trip (500-600kg or so). I also have a few old trailer frames lying around that would fit the bill well without too much modification. Plus, being a cheapskate who tries to recycle just about everything, I have a set of suitable steel wheels for a single axle trailer, though at the price of some wheel and tyre packages available, there's not much incentive to reuse the old ones. That's just it, everything is a sea of compromises and I just have to decide between needs and wants. I bet that the first time I get a flat tyre with a load on, I will wish that I had "compromised" to build it tandem axle trailer.

    Simon

  12. #12
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    Nov 2017
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    Geelong, Australia
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    Default

    Fair enough sticking with the 1500kg if you've already got access to a larger trailer.

    FWIW the only time I've had tyre trouble was old tyres on a camper. Since they never wear out it's easy to end up with old hard 10yo tyres. A bit of load and speed on the highway and they just fall apart.

    I'm no trailer expert but have used a lot of different ones over the years, as well as seen plenty broken on the side of the road. Tyres, axles, and drawbar size/attachment to body are the important bits IMO.
    Some sort of tipper arrangement would be awesome too

    Steve

  13. #13
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    Sep 2010
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    Lebrina
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    Default

    Just beware that most "standard" trailer axles won't handle 1500Kg per axle. Ford bearings top out at 1250Kg.
    It can be done, but you need to get your ducks in a row.

  14. #14
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    Feb 2009
    Location
    Tasmania
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    Default

    Steve, the tipper idea is a good one. I have been collecting pictures of tipping mechanisms for a while and my idea is to be able to mount my ute crane to the LHS front of the trailer and use that to tip the trailer. As far as the load limit, I have to draw the line somewhere as if you start adding bigger axles, parallel bearings etc, the cost starts to creep up and then I'm back to "better to build a tandem trailer", then I'll want one that tows more than 2000kg so I can get my Nuffield 3-42 in it.... Don't even tempt me!

    Karl, you are right about those axles too. My other box trailer has a 60mm round axle that was already bent when I bought the trailer. It took a 50T press not quite maxed out to get it straight. I have no idea what abuse might have done the damage, especially since the rest of the frame was straight. Isuppose that there are people around who are silly enough to overload anything (with extreme prejudice). I have a 50mm axle lined up to use, so that should be strong enough for what I want. Everyone seems to have their own rating for Ford Slimline bearings. Maybe it varies by state? Most ratings I have seen are between 1400kg and 1500kg (Huntsman quote 1400kg, Spinny Things and AL-KO 1500kg) and some like you say at 1250kg. I think that the rating does also vary with the axle diameter and the wheel size, especially if you use bigger than 14" wheels. With the eye to eye leaf springs I already have, SL bearings should be okay while parallel bearings might be overkill.

    As for the draw bar and other strengthening, there will be more questions to follow along those lines. I must have breathed too deeply yesterday as I got light headed and bought a rusty VW Sand Rail "project" just in case I run out of things to do. So, now all those trailer plans in my head will have to change to be able to safely carry a dune buggy.

    Buggy.jpg

    Thanks for the tips guys,
    Simon

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