Do trailer electric brakes work automatically?
Date Posted:19 June 2023
Trailer Electric Brakes: Do They Work Automatically?
Trailer electric brakes are a vital component of modern trailers, providing additional safety and control during towing. These brakes are designed to assist the towing vehicle in stopping the trailer effectively, especially when carrying heavy loads or travelling on steep slopes. Therefore, understanding how electric brakes work and whether they function automatically is crucial for trailer owners and operators. In this article, we will explore the concept of trailer electric brakes, their purpose, principal components, and how they operate. We will also address the question of whether trailer electric brakes work automatically.
Do all trailers have electric brakes?
Not all trailers have electric brakes. The presence of electric brakes on a trailer largely depends on its size, weight, and purpose. Smaller trailers, such as those used for light-duty applications like recreational purposes or transporting small loads, may not require electric brakes. However, electric brakes are often recommended or legally required for safety reasons on larger trailers with a higher weight rating and heavier loads. These brakes increase stopping power and help prevent excessive strain on the towing vehicle's braking system.
What is the purpose of electric brakes on a trailer?
The primary purpose of electric brakes on a trailer is to enhance its braking capacity and improve safety during towing. When a trailer is connected to a towing vehicle equipped with an electric brake controller, the trailer's electric brakes work in conjunction with the towing vehicle's braking system. The controller provides infinite control of the trailer brakes from within the towing vehicle and even allows the driver to apply the trailer brakes independently of the towing vehicle. This cooperative action ensures that both the towing vehicle and the trailer can come to a controlled and safe stop. By distributing the braking force between the towing vehicle and the trailer, electric brakes help reduce the stopping distance, minimise the risk of jackknifing, and enhance overall stability during braking manoeuvres.
What are some of the main components of electric brakes?
Electric brake axle: The electric brake axle is a key component that houses the electric brake assembly. It comprises an axle beam, brake mounting flanges, electric brake backing plates and hubs or drums. The electric brake axle supports the trailer's weight and provides a mounting point for the electric brake components.
Electric brake shoes: The electric brake shoes are the friction elements that create braking force when engaged. They are lined with a high-friction material and are pressed against the inner surface of the brake drum or hub when activated. This friction generates the necessary stopping power to slow down or stop the trailer.
Electric hub/drum: The electric hub/drum assembly is connected to the electric brake axle and houses the brake shoes. When the electric brakes are engaged, the brake shoes expand and press against the inner surface of the hub/drum, creating the necessary friction to slow down or stop the trailer. The hub/drum also provides a mounting point for the wheel and helps dissipate heat generated during braking.
Electric backing plate: The electric backing plate is vital to the electric brake assembly. It contains the magnet controlling the brake shoes' movement inside the hub/drum. When an electrical current is applied to the magnet, it creates a magnetic field that causes the brake shoes to expand and generate braking force.
Drawbar brake controller: The drawbar brake controller is an alternative brake controller to the in-car type. This type of brake controller can be used on trailers under 2000kg GVM. A brake Controller is an essential component that regulates the electric brakes' operation. It is typically mounted on the trailer's drawbar and receives signals from the towing vehicle's braking system. The drawbar brake controller sends the appropriate amount of electrical current to the electric brakes, depending on the towing vehicle's braking input, allowing for precise and proportional braking. Trailers above 2000kg GVM must be controlled via an in-cabin brake controller.
How do electric brakes on a trailer work?
The operation of electric brakes on a trailer involves a series of steps that allow them to synchronise with the towing vehicle's braking system. Here's a breakdown of how electric brakes on a trailer work:
Signal from the towing vehicle's brake system: When the driver applies the brakes in the towing vehicle, a signal is generated by the brake system. This signal indicates the intensity and duration of the braking action.
Wiring harness: The signal from the towing vehicle's brake system is transmitted to the electric brakes on the trailer through the wiring harness. The wiring harness ensures the electrical current flows appropriately from the towing vehicle to the electric brakes.
Brake controller: The brake controller, which can be installed on the trailer's drawbar or in the cabin of the towing vehicle, receives the signal from the towing vehicle's brake system via the wiring harness. The brake controller processes this signal and determines the appropriate amount of braking force required for the trailer.
Brake controller to the magnet: Once the brake controller calculates the necessary braking force, it sends an electrical current to the magnet inside the electric backing plate. The magnet then creates a magnetic field.
Magnet controlling the brake shoes: The magnetic field generated by the magnet inside the electric backing plate interacts with the brake shoes. This interaction causes the brake shoes to expand and press against the inner surface of the electric hub/drum assembly, creating friction.
Friction for braking: The friction generated by the brake shoes pressing against the electric hub/drum creates the necessary braking force to slow down or stop the trailer. The braking force is proportional to the intensity of the braking action applied in the towing vehicle. On the in-cabin style of brake controller the brake force applied can be adjusted up or down to suit the towing conditions.
Do trailer electric brakes work automatically?
Yes, trailer electric brakes work automatically if all the components are set up correctly. For example, once the wiring harness is properly connected and the brake controller is adjusted and functioning correctly, the electric brakes on the trailer will engage and disengage automatically in response to the towing vehicle's braking action.
When the driver applies the brakes in the towing vehicle, the signal is transmitted to the drawbar brake controller, activating the electric brakes on the trailer. As a result, the brake shoes expand and create the necessary friction to slow down or stop the trailer. Conversely, the electric brakes disengage when the driver releases the brakes, allowing the trailer to roll freely.
It's essential to ensure that the electric brake system is properly maintained, including regular inspections, adjustments, and servicing as recommended by the manufacturer. This helps ensure optimal performance and safety while towing.
To Conclude . . .
Trailer electric brakes play a vital role in enhancing the safety and control of trailers during towing. They provide additional braking power and distribute the braking force between the towing vehicle and the trailer. While not all trailers have electric brakes, they are commonly found on larger trailers with greater weight and loads.
The main components of electric brakes include the electric brake axle, brake shoes, electric hub/drum, electric backing plate, in-cabin or drawbar brake controller, and wiring harness. When correctly set up and connected, electric brakes on a trailer work automatically, engaging and disengaging in response to the towing vehicle's braking action.
Regular maintenance and inspection are crucial to ensure the effectiveness of trailer electric brakes. By understanding the operation of electric brakes and maintaining them correctly, trailer owners can enjoy safer and more controlled towing experiences.
Trailers 2000 Parts supplies a complete range of components for trailer electric brakes.