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Shea

Surge Brakes & Mountain Passes

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Shea

Hello all, 

I'm new here, so I apologize if this topic has been beaten to death already.  I haven't found info on searches.  I just got my first boat, really stoked on it.  When picking it up at the dealership I learned the trailer has surge brakes, I immediately was concerned about the last leg of my drive home coming down a long steep mountain pass.  Sure enough, the trailer brakes overheated.  I was using my exhaust brake and hardly touched the brake pedal in the truck.  The forward pressure must have been enough to keep the trailer brakes engaged most if not the whole way down the pass.  Has anyone had this issue?  Any suggestions?  Is there something different I can do next time to keep the trailer brakes from constantly engaging?  Can you convert the trailer to operate off the truck braking system? 

Any thoughts are much appreciated, thank you! 

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Eagleboy99

New trailer?  Old?  What brand surge brake?  Serviced recently ( the pressure orifice will clog)  I tow in the Rockies and no issues.

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kerpluxal
4 minutes ago, Shea said:

Hello all, 

I'm new here, so I apologize if this topic has been beaten to death already.  I haven't found info on searches.  I just got my first boat, really stoked on it.  When picking it up at the dealership I learned the trailer has surge brakes, I immediately was concerned about the last leg of my drive home coming down a long steep mountain pass.  Sure enough, the trailer brakes overheated.  I was using my exhaust brake and hardly touched the brake pedal in the truck.  The forward pressure must have been enough to keep the trailer brakes engaged most if not the whole way down the pass.  Has anyone had this issue?  Any suggestions?  Is there something different I can do next time to keep the trailer brakes from constantly engaging?  Can you convert the trailer to operate off the truck braking system? 

Any thoughts are much appreciated, thank you! 

The only solution if you want to convert to operate off an electric brake controller is electric over hydraulic:

https://www.easternmarine.com/Electric-Hydraulic-Brake-Actuators

 

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andrewml

My first inclination would be to wonder if there is something wrong with your specific trailer brakes.  Before you go all out to change to electric brakes I think I would get the surge brakes looked at and serviced.

 I have surge brakes on my trailer and I tow up and down hills and mountain passes in Idaho all the time with no issue.  Granted my boat is a small 1995 Response.

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mrothwell

First thing that I would do is to make sure there is no air in the lines.  Air will keep the brakes applied enough to cause problems.  

That said, long steep grades always keeps the boat pushing the actuator, I have several long grades and have seen some issues with this, it's just much better when the brakes have been purged well.

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wakesonthesnake

I agree with getting the brakes and actuator looked at.  I was having similar problems with mine.  I had them looked at but they checked out ok,  that is until they locked up for good and boiled the hubs.  It turns out the actuator was not releasing as it should have.  If I would have replaced the actuator when it was first acting up it would have saved me from buying an actuator and new hub assemblies.  They will still get a little warm when on a steep downgrade but nothing crazy.

 https://www.pacifictrailers.com/collections/brakes-and-parts/ufp-a-60-xr-84-actuators?page=1

I bought an inner member and hubs from these guys.  Good customer service.

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Shea

Thanks for all the suggestions and links everyone!  It's a new set up so I wouldn't think it would need service, but it is a 2017 leftover so it's been sitting around for a few years.  I'll have someone service it before I start looking at converting.  Especially if others are driving around the Rockies without issues.  

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Dodger40

I always wonder to myself if I tap the accelerator to turn off the brakes, of course when it’s safe to do so, if that allows a little cooling time? I am not sure if it makes a difference, but you can coast for a while if you start out slow down the mountain. There are many times where this isn’t an option. You can feel the brakes release and everything speed up. For all I know the transmission gears slowly tap on the brakes anyway 

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gregtay
1 hour ago, Dodger40 said:

I always wonder to myself if I tap the accelerator to turn off the brakes, of course when it’s safe to do so, if that allows a little cooling time? I am not sure if it makes a difference, but you can coast for a while if you start out slow down the mountain. There are many times where this isn’t an option. You can feel the brakes release and everything speed up. For all I know the transmission gears slowly tap on the brakes anyway 

I know this makes a difference for me, after braking in a decent I always try to hit the accelerator for a second to try to neutralize the actuator. This method has always worked for me. It does feel a little off to hit the gas after braking... but I just slow a little extra knowing I need to speed up. I do some pretty big passes over the Olympics in WA.

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Pnwrider
7 hours ago, gregtay said:

I know this makes a difference for me, after braking in a decent I always try to hit the accelerator for a second to try to neutralize the actuator. This method has always worked for me. It does feel a little off to hit the gas after braking... but I just slow a little extra knowing I need to speed up. I do some pretty big passes over the Olympics in WA.

That will not make a difference in a diesel using an exhaust brake. 

OP, on a 2017 you shouldn’t be having issues. I towed a 19.5k lb boat through the Northern California mountains on a janky a$$ trailer with surge brakes. No issues and was on the exhaust brake constantly. In fact, I don’t think I had to use the actual truck brakes until I hit rush hour in Portland, OR. 

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mrothwell
On 5/18/2019 at 11:54 AM, Shea said:

Thanks for all the suggestions and links everyone!  It's a new set up so I wouldn't think it would need service, but it is a 2017 leftover so it's been sitting around for a few years.  I'll have someone service it before I start looking at converting.  Especially if others are driving around the Rockies without issues.  

Yeah, dont trust that they were done correctly.  When I picked up my new boat in 07 I noticed on the way home that it was pushing me at stop signs much more than my previous 2 boats.  When I took it into the dealer they found that there was never any brake fluid in the trailer.  So I wouldn't count on them bleeding them correctly all the time.

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jjackkrash

I've got a two-year old trailer with surge and disc brakes.  We are heading over the passes next weekend.  Any preventative/best practices maintenance I should think about on the next few days? The wife is hauling the boat while I haul the TT so I don't want any issues.    

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Molarbu

Back in the day I remember a post from Pistol Pete about how he installed a manual switch that would turn on his reverse lights which then activated the solenoid in the surge brake to disengage.  He used this on mountain passes.  

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MadMan
On ‎5‎/‎20‎/‎2019 at 1:32 PM, Molarbu said:

Back in the day I remember a post from Pistol Pete about how he installed a manual switch that would turn on his reverse lights which then activated the solenoid in the surge brake to disengage.  He used this on mountain passes.  

Brake disable switch, use at your own risk.

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Lerandeau

I Have said switch in my Cummins as well, works great. Only use it on the long grades for obvious safety reasons. Looked at converting to electric over hydraulic but didn’t want all the extras bolted on the trailer. Might try it before you covert the trailer.  

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MadMan

If you do install the brake disable switch, you might want to install a warning light also to remind you to turn them back on.

Also, line locks on drag cars get quite warm in the few seconds they are activated.  The surge brake deactivate solenoid is similar.   Wonder how hot it gets if on for several minutes?

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Lerandeau

Haven’t checked mine, I’ll have stop at the bottom one of these days and check it. 

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MadMan

One more thing with the switch, unless you bypass them, your backup lights will be on when the switch is on.

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Lerandeau

Yes, mine light on the trailer. I tapped in to the plug then put a diode in a few inches down on the pickup side of the harness so the pickup doesn’t think you are in reverse. Also a diode in the jumper wire so the reverse switch doesn’t back feed into my new switch. 

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RyanB

I've lived in Colorado all my life, towed many different boats with surge brakes, and haven't had this problem.  I would say there is something amiss with your trailer.  If it is a new left over 17, I would ask the dealer to look into it - should be warranty.

That said, if I keep my trailer long enough to need any major work on the brakes, I will be switching over to electric brakes.  

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bbattiste247

You can lock the surge brakes so that it doesn't engage. We do this all the time when going down big hills because we don't want to put hot discs in the water. 

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Falko

Did all of the brakes heat up or just one or two? I had a similar issue a couple years back where two of my cylinders locked up in the closed position so ALL of the fluid pressure/volume went to two calipers causing stronger braking on those two wheels.

I've also had cylinders get sticky where they extend then retract slowly causing drag and heating.

The brake deactivation solenoids that come on the boats are not valves to stop the flow, they are a bypass which allows the fluid being pumped to the brakes to return directly to the reservoir. Stopping the flow can actually do damage as there is a lot of pressure build up on that system.

Trailer brakes have always been my nemesis when owning boats. They take more maintenance than anything else and are the least reliable thing. Necessary evil.

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Shea
8 hours ago, Falko said:

Did all of the brakes heat up or just one or two? I had a similar issue a couple years back where two of my cylinders locked up in the closed position so ALL of the fluid pressure/volume went to two calipers causing stronger braking on those two wheels.

I've also had cylinders get sticky where they extend then retract slowly causing drag and heating.

The brake deactivation solenoids that come on the boats are not valves to stop the flow, they are a bypass which allows the fluid being pumped to the brakes to return directly to the reservoir. Stopping the flow can actually do damage as there is a lot of pressure build up on that system.

Trailer brakes have always been my nemesis when owning boats. They take more maintenance than anything else and are the least reliable thing. Necessary evil.

To be honest, I don't know if they all heated up.  That's a great question.  I had just come over Teton Pass at 2am hauling the boat home from Montana.  When I got out of the truck all I could smell was over heated brakes.  I walked around the trailer, all the wheels felt really hot and by the smell they were all way to hot.  I was worried about the pass on my drive back after finding out the trailer had surge brakes.  It's a 10% grade from about 8500ft to 6000ft.  

I did hit the accelerator a number of times on the way down thinking it might release the trailer brakes, I don't think it helped.  Maybe too steep?  

Thanks for all the suggestions.  Unfortunately the nearest Malibu dealer is 4 hours away so maybe I'll have a local shop check the trailer.  I'd way rather be spending money on surf & wake boards than changing over trailer brakes!  

 

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Jsinc29

Late to the party but wanted to chime in...

I won't run surge brakes ever again. Most of the lakes we visit are up in the mountains or have some sort of grade along the way. I have had nothing but problems with surge brakes on any boat trailer I have ever owned. I have converted all my boats to either electric or electric over hydraulic. I have heard from many experts that the Dexter actuator is the only one to go with, I have had no issues with mine. What a difference in braking and peace of mind. 

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