Surge Brakes

Earlier this year I rented a [email protected] that was equipped with surge brakes. I drove on some steep hills and thought that they were doing fine for normal driving up to around 65 mph.

But then...

I was looking for a specific turn off onto a gravel parking lot where I could easily stop and turn around.  The turn snuck-up on me and I braked kind of hard to slow down enough to safely make the turn.  THEN I felt the surge brakes engage.  It turned out that none of the regular driving I had done was enough to engage the surge brakes until this minor "emergency" braking.

Are surge brakes supposed to engage under normal conditions, or are do they only engage for emergency conditions?

Thanks,
marc

Comments

  • rfuss928rfuss928 Member Posts: 576
    It is unlikely you will "feel" properly maintained surge brakes working.
    The trailer has to be pushing on the draw bar to engage the brakes.  The trailer brakes cannot pull on the TV because pull disengages the brakes.  In a well adjusted system the TV brakes basically the same with or without the trailer attached.

    The mechanical surge brakes actuator on the DM [email protected] needs to be kept greased or it can bind.  In your case it is possible normal driving did not break a bound actuator loose but the sudden stop did and then you had to pull a bit to get it to slip back and disengage.  Just a guess.

  • atlasbatlasb Member Posts: 508
    The surge brakes on our 2013 320 had a knurled knob on the passenger side of the hitch in a half circle slot.  Hard to read on the side, but you had to engage it to the proper position for backing up, so it would not actuate the brakes when backing up.  Hard to remember to do it some times and then let it go back to the towing position.
    2018 [email protected] 400, 2017 Nissan Titan Crew cab
  • DalehelmanDalehelman Member Posts: 1,949
     All surge breaks operate on the inertia principal. If you use light braking pressure most times the brake will not  engage. Once the trailer starts to push the tow vehicle under stopping conditions the brake will engage if it is working properly.
    1. Hash  [email protected] Fun
  • MarcelineMarceline Member Posts: 711
    I never notice the surge brakes engaging unless I brake hard. I'm new to brakes (I drove a boat trailer without any brakes at all for many years) but I assumed that this was normal. 
    San Francisco Bay Area
    2013 CS-S [email protected]
    Battered but trusty 3.5l V6 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • DalehelmanDalehelman Member Posts: 1,949
    Most of the time you will not feel them come on.
    1. Hash  [email protected] Fun
  • irvingjirvingj Member Posts: 318
    Ditto. My experience with our older DM [email protected] was the same -- "normal" braking had little effect, but upon higher-load braking I could feel the surge brakes kick in. I thought they worked quite well.
  • MonicaNOCOMonicaNOCO Member Posts: 20
    This is an old thread -- but answered my main question - is should I be able to feel the surge brakes engaging.  So - NO.  I just purchased a used 2014 [email protected], and the seller actually told me there was no brakes at all.  When I pointed out the "backup position" pin on the hitch - she had no idea what that was for.  So in 5 years they had never engaged it to backup, and when I backup (a dozen times in the past 2 weeks) I've never felt the brakes engage and thus I haven't switched that pin either.      

    I have the trailer in for a checkout right now, and my trailer guy says that the brakes are working correctly, and only in some extreme situations would I need to flip that pin to backup....   Is this right?  Is the [email protected] just so light it's not necessary?
    .
  • SweetlyHomeSweetlyHome Member Posts: 269
    @MonicaNOCO, we had a 2012 [email protected] with surge brakes.  You might not feel them when backing up on a level surface, although they maybe functioning at a low level.  You certainly not feel them backing up downhill.  Backing up a hill or on very soft sandy soil they will likely lock up entirely preventing you from moving.  That is when you will need to use the pin for sure.

    You should sense them when coming to a stop.  You will also likely feel them at traveling speed going down a relatively steep hill.  I remember having the trailer hold us back on several long, steep downhill instate slopes.  This is actually nice as trailer is less likely to attempt to pass the TV particularly when braking in this situation.

    Enjoy your new to you [email protected] and welcome to the family.
    Dave and Katie~Jupiter, [email protected] 400, with 2018 Toyota 4Runner

       
  • MonicaNOCOMonicaNOCO Member Posts: 20
    Thanks, Sweetlyhome! I’ve been mostly level so far - so I guess I can put my concerns aside and get on with the camping! 
  • MarcelineMarceline Member Posts: 711
    This is an old thread -- but answered my main question - is should I be able to feel the surge brakes engaging.  So - NO.  I just purchased a used 2014 [email protected], and the seller actually told me there was no brakes at all.  When I pointed out the "backup position" pin on the hitch - she had no idea what that was for.  So in 5 years they had never engaged it to backup, and when I backup (a dozen times in the past 2 weeks) I've never felt the brakes engage and thus I haven't switched that pin either.      

    I have the trailer in for a checkout right now, and my trailer guy says that the brakes are working correctly, and only in some extreme situations would I need to flip that pin to backup....   Is this right?  Is the [email protected] just so light it's not necessary?
    .
    I’ve owned a 2013 [email protected] with the surge brakes 3 years and I’ve probably put about 10,000 miles on it. I’ve never used the “backup” setting. But I’ve felt the brakes engage plenty of times, generally when I’m forced to stop a bit quicker than I’d like (I drove a 1400# boat trailer with no brakes for about 10 years so I’m a very cautious & conservative driver). The surge brakes have worked very well for me, but I do bring my trailer to a trusted shop once a year to have the bearings repacked and the brakes checked. 
    San Francisco Bay Area
    2013 CS-S [email protected]
    Battered but trusty 3.5l V6 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • MonicaNOCOMonicaNOCO Member Posts: 20
    I had a deer cross right in front of me- but I was conscious of the trailer and applied the brakes only as hard as I had to to avoid hitting it.  All I noticed at that time was that I did not feel the trailer pushing me forward... so presumably they were doing their thing.  But thanks again for your experience, @Marceline
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