Having a basic knowledge of your brakes and how they work is vital in understanding how to transport your boat trailer safely and securely. You’ll find surge brakes in most boat trailers today.
Surge brakes are not dependent on a driver; instead, they activate automatically.
As a result, there are also some cases where surge brakes activate when they are not supposed to.
However, to better understand this, you need first to understand what exactly surge brakes are and how they and their emergency breakaway systems work. Hence, you’ll learn how to reset surge brakes on a boat trailer.
What are Surge Brakes?
Surge brakes work just like hydraulic brakes installed in a car. The brakes activate automatically according to the momentum of the trailer.
Compared to car brakes, instead of a brake pedal powering a pump, surge brakes use a unique sliding hitch assembly. Another name for this special hitch sliding assembly is a surge brake actuator.
This actuator includes a master cylinder. The purpose of a master cylinder is to operate the hydraulic cylinder. In turn, the hydraulic cylinder pushes the drums or disc brakes against the wheels to slow down the moving vehicle.
The master cylinder inside the sliding hitch operates automatically according to the trailer’s momentum and weight in a trailer.
Aside from that, hydraulic surge brakes are among the most used brake types out there for boating trailers.
The popularity of surge brakes isn’t only limited to Boat trailers. They are highly preferred for travel trailers too.
For more information on travel trailers, check out our take on 10 Best Travel Trailers with Murphy Bed and Slide Out.
Boat trailers need to be submerged whenever a boat is launched or retrieved.
Some of the other brake types might go through complications during such a process. For instance, electrical brakes do not go hand in hand with water.
Other than that, surge brakes also require little to no technical knowledge of brakes to operate and work well even in extreme cold and wet conditions.
The Application of Surf Brakes
Imagine your truck and trailer along a road at a speed of 50 miles per hour. The power from your vehicle is pulling along the trailer, and both are moving at the same rate.
However, when you apply your brakes, the exact opposite occurs. The truck slows down and no longer pushes the trailer. Instead, it is now the trailer that uses force on your vehicle and is trying to move it forward.
Let us continue the same scenario forward with a trailer that has surge brakes installed.
Now, when you apply the brakes on your truck. The trailer surges with force in a forward motion; hence the name, surge brakes.
As a result of this forward force, the surge actuator slides.
This sliding motion activates the motion cylinder, which builds pressure in the brake fluids, causing the trailer to slow down.
In other words, you can say that the harder you brake your primary vehicle, the harder the surge brakes present in the trailer boat will take effect.
How do Surge Brakes Implement Emergency Breakaway Systems?
Trailer boats come installed with an emergency breakaway system. These systems are deemed mandatory under federal law.
A “breakaway” system is a safety measure to ensure that rogue trailer boats cause no harm. In other words, it is a system to make sure that if your trailer ever detaches from your primary vehicle, it can hopefully cause no damage to anyone else.
The system is basically a cable or chain attached to your primary vehicle (used to tow the trailer) and the surge actuator (in the trailer) on the other end.
Since you attach the chain to the primary vehicle, too, in cases where the trailer breaks off, the chain pulls the lever, which activates the trailer’s surge brakes.
You’ll find that the brakes still activate even if the chain breaks during the process.
However, while this safety feature has its perks, it can sometimes activate quite unnecessarily. There are many scenarios where this can occur.
Anyone can forget that they’ve left the chain attached to their primary vehicle. It’s not like you can pay attention to the chain every single time.
It is quite normal to unintentionally activate the brakes or even rip the chain off in such cases.
How to Reset Surge Brakes on a Boat Trailer?
In cases where you see the chain left intact, it is relatively easy to reset the surge brakes.
All you have to do is push the chain back into its place or reset the handle. That is all (in most cases).
In cases where you do not see the chain, you must install a newer chain before resetting the surge brakes.
It is not necessarily an expensive procedure. A newer chain with all of the different assortments can make a combined total of less than $30. You may not even have to visit a professional!
There are many articles out there that show precisely how to change the chain step by step.
What are Some Tips to Take Proper Care of Hydraulic Surge Brakes?
You’ll find that surge brakes are mainly popular because their workings are solely restricted to the trailer itself. All you have to do is to maintain the system from time to time simply.
The main areas of maintenance are usually brake lines, brake pads, and brake fluid levels.
Other than that, while your surge brakes are very trustworthy, it is better to avoid speeding, for prevention is always better than cure. It is also better to pack your stuff tightly and ensure that inertia doesn’t interfere with the brakes’ working.
What Are Some Common Ways to Troubleshoot Surge Brakes Not Working?
It is always good to check brake fluid levels if none of the brakes are working correctly. It is better if you replace the wheel and master cylinders when there is no brake fluid. No fluids can lead to rusting.
Brake Line Blockage
You can check the brake line for blockage by disconnecting it at one end and making someone pump the master cylinder using the lever. If the brake fluid flows through fine, there is no blockage.
Your surge breaks are what makes your journey. To keep your boat safe throughout your journey, it is better to have a level of understanding of how your brakes work.
Since the breaks operate automatically, they can activate unintentionally in some cases. It is better to know your brakes and the methods to reset them, just in the event of an unlikely even triggering your emergency surge breaks.