Best Electric Boat Trailer Brake Actuators

If you are about to purchase a boat or already have one, we bet you know how important it is to have the right vehicle to tow it. But it doesn’t stop there. Vehicle alone can not do the job, that’s when you need a boat trailer. And, for more comfort and safety when traveling, you need to take care of certain points. One of the most important ones is brakes. The right brakes installed on the tow vehicle as well as the trailer ensure a comfortable and easy trip even on long distances.

How To Choose a Brake System For a Trailer?

In the end, there are two things that affect the choice most of all. The weight of the boat and trailer and your budget. When considering the weight of the boat, you should calculate the full load with everything you take. That can include fuel, food, water, or any other supplies. The weight of the trailer shouldn’t be neglected either. This is particularly important to take into account to find the right fit.

The next thing to consider is the maximum towing power of your vehicle. The closer the total weight of the trailer and the boat is to the maximum, the smoother the brakes should be. Another point, which is generally not an issue with modern vehicles, is the compatibility of the vehicle brake system with the one for the trailer. You might need to discuss this question with the manufacturer before making your decision. Previously, the surge brakes were used for trailers but electric actuators became rather popular within the last few years for various reasons.

How Do the Surge Brakes Work?

The surge brakes are hydraulic-based. The main brake point for such a system is situated in the tow vehicle. The trailer brakes react to the slowing of the vehicle causing the trailer to move closer and activate the brakes. While the system is quite easy and safe to use, the downsides include issues with towing heavier boats, going down the hill, and backing down the ramp for launching a boat.

The last two points can cause quite some inconveniences to the operator though for different reasons. In case of going down the hill, the driver tends to apply a constant brake force on the vehicle. With the acceleration of the trailer kicking in, the brakes take time to get into action. The constant back-and-forth movement of the trailer causes a faster wearing off of brakes parts. In case of backing down the ramp, the push of the trailer toward the vehicle simply does not happen, so the brakes do not activate.

What Kinds Of Electric Brakes Are There?

The progressive actuators for boat trailers are electric-based. The most cost-effective option is electric drum brakes. The biggest advantage of electric brakes is that they get enabled almost simultaneously with the tow vehicle brakes. This allows for a smoother and safer speed drop and keeps parts from wearing off too fast. Yet, electric brakes require a controller at the dash of the vehicle. Most of the modern cars are supplied with one by a manufacturer. If, however, you need to install one additionally, it may become an additional expense.

Even though electric actuators are made watertight, most of them are not designed to be submerged. The system can withstand heavy weather conditions but should not be exposed to water for a long period of time. The exception is a Marine series of actuators which is designed specifically for use in water. In general, however, the electric actuators should not be used in salty water.

Electric disk brake systems gained popularity within the last years. They proved to be more stable and sturdy than drum systems. This is especially visible on mountainous roads. The disk system has fewer moving parts and they are exposed. This gives an opportunity to inspect the system without disassembling it and easily rinse it.

For the heavier boats, an electric over hydraulic (EOH) system might be the best option. These kinds of actuators are available for both drum and disc systems. In such systems, a breakaway kit (required by law) is installed. In surge brake systems this is taken care of by a special cable. As well as purely electric brake systems, EOH ones are generally not submergible to water.

What Are the Main Advantages Of Electric Brake Actuators?

Besides the already mentioned cases of towing a trailer down the hill and backing down the ramp, there a few more advantages to electric brakes.

  • Parts are cheaper. If a replacement of particular parts is required, it will generally cost cheaper than for hydraulic systems.
  • Less maintenance required. For electric systems, there is less need for maintenance against corrosion, brake assemblies, etc.
  • Easy to connect. Most of the vehicles manufactured starting early 1990-s are compatible with the electric brake systems. In fact, some are already supplied with a controller, which makes installation unnecessary.


Installing an electric brake system for your boat trailer is all-in-all a good solution in the long run. This is especially worthwhile for the owners of bigger and heavier boats. With the easy installation and cab control, you ensure your comfort while traveling and your safety on the road. And we are always happy to help you choose the best option for you!

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