TO BRAKE OR NOT TO BRAKE....IT’S A MATTER OF STOPPING

There are three schools of thought about brakes on pontoon trailers:

They are NOT needed. I have a large tow vehicle and it has the capacity to stop a pontoon trailer.

We must have them to satisfy state laws, but I want the cheapest style available.

I want the best brakes available to prevent my pontoon & trailer from pushing the tow vehicle into an intersection or running us off the road in an emergency braking situation.

In addition, some people say they don’t need brakes because they only tow occasionally or only on short trips.

Here are some other considerations to help you decide on brakes for your pontoon trailer.
The size and weight of your tow vehicle. Most 1/4 ton pick up’s have a #1500 carrying capacity. If your truck is not fully loaded, one might expect that the tow vehicle could probably stop a pontoon trailer carrying about #1500. Knowing the carrying capacity of your tow vehicle will allow you to make an estimate of what weight it could stop without brakes on the pontoon trailer.


 
 

Standard disk brakes on pontoon trailer We ONLY sell pontoon trailers with modern DISC braking systems.

Stop faster, less heat build up, no springs or small parts to rust. Safe in salt water, etc.  Modern Technology, Less Maintenance

If you tow frequently the benefits of modern disc brakes are so outstanding that you wouldn’t want anything else. If you tow infrequently you’ll be pleased to discover that modern disc brakes don’t rust or lock up from lack of use. You won’t need to spend $200 in a couple of years to have them adjusted or worse have a mechanic service and unlock frozen drum brakes from lack of use. In the next few years all boat trailers will have modern disc brakes. Don’t buy a new boat motor trailer package with old technology.

 

If you’re towing a modern 3000+ lb. pontoon you must pay some attention to brakes. In a perfect world, marine dealers would package your boat motor trailer package with brakes that will serve your needs and stop your load. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and the salesman from the boat show won’t be anywhere to be found when you and your family slide through a stop light. We don’t want to be fatalistic, but that’s what we’re talking about; Keeping your family safe.

 

Single or Tandem Axle Pontoon Boat Brakes?

Our 10” disc brakes can stop about 3500 lb. Many states require brakes on trailers with capacities over 3,000 lb. The weight of the trailer should be included in the weight of the load. A 3,000 lb. boat on a 800 lb. trailer might get by with single axle brakes, you’d be close and probably within the law. But a 4500 lb. pontoon on a 1,000 lb. trailer really should have tandem axle brakes with a stopping capacity of 7,000 lb. The States of Michigan and Pennsylvania require brakes on ALL axles for trailers with capacities over 3,000. A high percentage of the brake trailers sold in Michigan do not meet the law.
disc vs drum brakes on a pontoon trailer
Disc Brakes versus Drum Brakes
Disc Brakes: Disc brakes have more stopping power than drum brakes and they operate better in wet conditions. They run cooler and stop faster in emergency braking situations. There are fewer moving parts to wear and they can be easily inspected. They can be quickly rinsed when used in salt water. Because of increased costs the pontoon trailer industry has been slow to adopt disc brakes, except for salt water trailers. However the price of modern disc brakes has come down in recent years and in the next couple of years most boat trailers will have them.

Drum Brakes:
Drum brakes have moving parts in an enclosed mechanism. Every time you launch and retrieve they are saturated with water and often the water sits in the drums until it evaporates.The moving parts can corrode and salt water will destroy drum brakes in a very short time. Add to this scenario that drum brakes must be adjusted and the only way to inspect them is to take them apart. It’s easy to see why some boaters prefer to take their chances without brakes than to hassle with drum brakes. The automotive industry generally discontinued drum brakes years ago in favor of disc brakes, but a few low quality trailer manufacturers still sell them.
Hydraulic-Surge verus Electric Brakes
The majority of boat trailers use hydraulic-surge brakes. A piston in the brake actuator senses the tow vehicle slowing and sends brake fluid to the brakes. There are various styles of brake actuators but they all work on the same principal.
     
brake actuator brake actuator
Click above to enlarge Electirc Actualtor Inside vehicle Magnets in drum engage the brakes
 
Electric brakes are engaged by stepping on the tow vehicles brake pedal. The tow vehicle and every other vehicle that may be used to tow requires the electric brake controller. ($150+) Some customers have electric braking systems on their tow vehicles for cargo trailers or campers and occasionally they want electric brakes. Painted automotive grade electric brakes are not intended for submersion in water. Submerging a pair of electromagnetic actuators and wiring in water is generally regarded as a bad idea. In the past three years we’ve sold four trailers with electric brakes and had difficulties with three of them. We will not sell pontoon trailers with electric brakes. However there is one company that will. As you’d expect they are one of the low quality manufacturers and electric brakes are generally about $150 less than hydraulic-surge brakes (the price of the actuator). You’ll spend that much or more to wire your vehicle and repair the wiring or electromagnetic actuators when submerged in water.
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Brake Actuators

 pontoon trialer brake actuators

There are various styles of hydraulic brake actuators. The picture shown in the Hydraulic versus Electric Brakes shows the inner workings. Trailerforpontoons.com pays a few dollars extra for the modern concealed brake actuator coupler, it just gives the trailer a more modern look. There is nothing “wrong” with the old fashioned bolt on style, it still works. The bolt on type is easier for the manufacturer to install and that’s why most still use it. But you have a big hunk of steel sitting on the tongue of your trailer.
 
Back-up Brake Lock-Out
backup lockout on pontoon trailerSome hydraulic-surge braking systems have a serious flaw. If you back-up an incline the system thinks that you’re braking and the brakes will lock up. This is infuriating when it happens and it’s an outrage that some trailer manufacturers save money on brake actuators without back up lock-outs but they do. When you buy a trailer make certain that it has a back-up lock-out. Our trailersforpontoons.com trailers have a manual back-up lock out, shown in the image. We also spend money for a solenoid that works with your trailer wiring.

We use a five prong wiring adapter to make it lock out when you back up . The fifth prong is for the brakes so that you only have to use the manual lock out in an emergency. Ordinary trailer don’t have this.
Brake Size Matters
pontoon trailer brake comparison
 
Most trailer brakes are 10”. That’s the automotive size and you get maximum stopping power from 10” brakes. 10” brakes will stop about 3500 lb. Some trailers with small axle hubs and 10” snowmobile tires still use small 7” brakes. You won’t know unless you ask. 7” brakes have less stopping power and you must put them on both axles. If someone is selling you 7” brakes, ask for an extended warranty. You’ll probably need it. Trailersforpontoons.com uses 10” disc brakes that are “automotive” style brakes. That means if you should need parts they are generally available from the local auto parts store, at a reasonable price. Not special ordered from some distant supplier at a premium price and a weeks wait.
 

For Information Call

(877)294-3395 or (574)294-3386