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Old 05-29-2013, 09:42 PM   #1
Par Four
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Default Trailer brakes - disc vs drum?

Just wondering what the group here uses for trailer brakes? I know there are a wide variety of boats/crafts, therefore a variety of solutions.

My situation is an older (slightly heavier) 21' bow rider on a pretty stout roller trailer rated for 4000-lbs and it has drum brakes.

I think the drum brakes have served me well enough, although for nearly a decade I've really only needed to move from dry storage to a ramp that is only about 1-mile away. This year I plan to not only be back out on the lake ( I'll be the guy with the biggest smile!) but I intend to trailer around New England a little bit as well.

I have zero intent for any severe duty braking by any means, but I do want to evaluate upgrade alternatives, all things being equal?

I think I understand the advantages of disc brakes to be: simpler mechanism, stronger braking, easier adjustment/maintenance and braking ability while in reverse.

Any items I missed?

I will also ask the the folks around the lake who sell/repair trailers, but I wanted to ask here also.

Tnx
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Old 05-29-2013, 10:29 PM   #2
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Default Used both

I have used both and they are satisfactory on trailers used in fresh water environment. Disc brakes are easier to rinse when you use in salt water.

One thing about disc brakes is that the brake actuator uses the reverse light signal to deactivate the brakes when in reverse. You need a 5 prong electrical outlet instead of the 4 prong. If you have the standard 8/6 prong outlet you can purchase the adaptor at any trailer supply.

If I am going to replace a drum brake setup and I am keeping the trailer for a long time, I would go for the disc brake setup. You cannot use the same tongue actuator that you have for the drums on the disc brakes.

The disc brakes kit from West Marine is very simple to use to replace a drum brake kit. I would replace the brake lines at the same time.
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Old 05-30-2013, 12:49 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by BroadHopper View Post

One thing about disc brakes is that the brake actuator uses the reverse light signal to deactivate the brakes when in reverse.
Ah ha, the lightbulb finally just came on. This was something I misunderstood in my earlier reading. Then it would be electrically activated disc brakes then that retain their stopping ability when in reverse, not surge disc brakes which need to defeat the surge activation when in reverse.

Tnx for the reply and the pointer to the West Marine kit. I'll be sure to check them out.
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Old 05-30-2013, 05:38 AM   #4
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Default Trailer outlet

Talk to Joe down at trailer outlet. I had looked into this and it was not a good option. I can not remember why but I do know that the cost was very high.
If I remember correctly you have to replace not just the brakes but the whole front of the trailer and I believe the hubs as well. But it has been a while so I really do not remember if it was that complicated.
I do know that the last thing I'd want is to buy an adapter kit. IMHO the only safe way to do it would be to switch everything over, 4000 pounds is a lot of mass to try and stop without properly working trailer brakes.
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:28 AM   #5
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Default Brake Kit

BR is spot on. The brake kit actually replace the drum brakes. This includes the bearing housing as well as the ball hitch. In 2008, the kit was around $600. After buying new bearings, brake lines, ties, bearing grease etc. The bill was close to a grand.

I was trailering a 22' 5,000 lbs. boat between various lakes in the Lakes Region, Sebago and Thompson Lake in Maine. The drum brakes tends to fade and wear quickly. The disk brakes do not fade and the actuator had to be adjusted. You can actually feel the brakes doing more job than the truck. I back it off until all brakes pull the same. This is one thing I don't feel with the drum brakes.
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Old 05-30-2013, 12:23 PM   #6
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Default I think you are mixed up...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Par Four View Post
Ah ha, the lightbulb finally just came on. This was something I misunderstood in my earlier reading. Then it would be electrically activated disc brakes then that retain their stopping ability when in reverse, not surge disc brakes which need to defeat the surge activation when in reverse.

Tnx for the reply and the pointer to the West Marine kit. I'll be sure to check them out.
My disc trailer brakes are surge brakes and they work tremendously. As stated earlier, you really "feel" the brakes when they are activated. What he was trying to say is there is a solenoid on the trailer that is electrically activated when you put the tow vehicle in reverse. This solenoid prevents the flow of brake fluid to the calipers in the event that you are backing up and the surge master cylinder on the tongue engages which makes backing up very difficult sometimes locking the tires up. This solenoid works off the backup light circuit and requires a 5 way plug on the trailer, not the traditional 4 way. In my case, this system is flawless. (Four Winns trailer)

BT
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Old 05-30-2013, 03:31 PM   #7
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Drums are more than adequate. I see no reason to spend a lot of money on the "disc upgrade". A properly adjusted drum & actuator with good pads should serve you more than fine.
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Old 05-30-2013, 03:49 PM   #8
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If you want a great upgrade for cheap money, dump the surge brakes and replace them with electric. They are vastly simpler, engage immediately, require little maintenance, and survive dunking much better than the hydraulic drum brakes I had. They also are not a problem when backing up a hill and they operate in reverse, so when you are backing down a ramp and hit the brakes, the trailer brakes stop you too; surge brakes can't do that.
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Old 05-30-2013, 11:41 PM   #9
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Default Thanks

Thanks for the comments and perspectives.

First things first I'll get my existing trailer, bearings and brake setup evaluated and adjusted if needed.

From there I can see what if anything may make sense to do next.

This year I have a very capable tow vehicle, and it has an electric trailer brake controller already in it, so that may open up some options.

Tnx again.
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Old 05-31-2013, 05:42 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Par Four View Post
Thanks for the comments and perspectives.

First things first I'll get my existing trailer, bearings and brake setup evaluated and adjusted if needed.

From there I can see what if anything may make sense to do next.

This year I have a very capable tow vehicle, and it has an electric trailer brake controller already in it, so that may open up some options.

Tnx again.
Good luck. I agree with what many have said, you are only towing 4K and if it isn't being used all the time then weigh the cost verses the return.
I use both surge and electric and agree nothing beats the adjustable electric trailer brakes on my dump trailer. Also even though mine are electric they are also still drum as are every work trailer I own.
One of the things that does come to mind about switching to disc is more maintenance. Joe said that unless you are using the trailer often then you run the risk of having brake failure from the pistons sticking from lack of use.
My wife's boat trailer is surge disk and it went in for this very reason. One of the brakes locked up when she was bringing the boat down to launch. The trailer is used twice a year and Joes reply when asked what happened was just that it sits unused all year so parts tend to freeze up or rust in place.
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Old 05-31-2013, 06:03 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Par Four View Post
Thanks for the comments and perspectives.

First things first I'll get my existing trailer, bearings and brake setup evaluated and adjusted if needed.

From there I can see what if anything may make sense to do next.

This year I have a very capable tow vehicle, and it has an electric trailer brake controller already in it, so that may open up some options.

Tnx again.
Snce you already have a brake controller, a switch to electric will be really cheap.

1 Find out what size drums you have and buy/install/adjust new backing plate assemblies to fit them. They were only 37 bucks for each wheel on my trailer.

2. Lock your surge coupler. I drilled 3/4" holes through the sliding mechanism on mine and installed a pair of big pins through the holes.

3. Run + wires to each backing plate from the coupler area. I used 10 gauge to keep voltage drop at a minimum. The actual current draw of electric brakes is quite low, they utilize the energy of the rotating drums to apply pressure to the shoes.

4. Ground the other backing plate wires to the trailer frame. There's no polarity.

5. Buy and install a breakaway battery kit.

6. Buy and install a Round trailer plug.
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