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Can A Boat Trailer Have Electric Brakes?

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Boat Trailer With Electric Brakes

Earlier boat trailers avoided electric brakes due to poor insulation of electric wires, which could cause accidents. Electric brakes have become much safer for boat trailers with improved quality of electric cables in insulation and heat tolerance.

Other brakes suited for a boat trailer are air brakes and surge brakes, but electric brakes are the most preferred ones even by the manufacturers. (source)

Boat trailers can have electric brakes. Most modern boat trailers now use electric brakes by default. The use of these brakes increases power consumption. This power is drawn directly from a battery, requiring a compulsory power source. 

This article is for all the boat owners who are enthusiastic about electric brakes in their boat trailers. It contains a lot of related stuff, so keep reading until the end.

Towing With Electric Brakes Without A Controller

An electric brake controller facilitates operational control when using electric brakes in a boat trailer. An electric brake controller is a device used to provide current to control the electric brakes in a trailer. Once you install the controllers in the vehicles, you can personalize their settings.


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It’s impossible to tow a trailer with electric brakes without any brake controller. The user commands the electric brakes with the help of the controller directly from the vehicle. So, the controller also offers complete control over the brakes. (source)

The electric brake controllers also offer exciting functions such as time delay, sensitivity adjustment, and output settings management. They help enhance overall safety and can avoid several silly accidents.

Can Electric Trailer Brakes Be Submerged?

Electric trailer brakes are designed to withstand moisture, dust, rust, and wear and tear from other sources. Since the boat trailers should be in the water for loading/unloading boats, it’s natural for electric brakes to withstand water.

A few inches of electric trailer brakes can be in the water. Since all the components inside the brakes are sealed, dipping them is entirely safe. However, depending on the type of water, the life of the brakes will be affected. Freshwater will least affect the brakes as compared to salty water.

If taking your trailer into murky water too often, electric brakes are likely to receive some damage.

More Details On Submerging Electric Brakes

If you’re an occasional user, and you don’t require dipping your trailer into water frequently, you can take chances of submerging it without affecting your electric brakes. 

  1. Based on the manufacturer and the type of electric brakes installed in your trailer, you can always submerge them partially or entirely.
  2. It’s safe to use electric brakes in the rainstorm too. Unless the water reaches the sealed box’s internal parts, it will not affect your brakes.
  3. Drum brakes have an inherent design that allows users to submerge them into the water without affecting their lives. But that doesn’t allow you to be reckless in any manner. Drum brakes can go several inches into the water. 
  4. Dirt and dust tend to stick badly on wet things. Make sure you clean your electric brakes once in a while or whenever required to keep functioning correctly. It will eliminate any chances of brakes jamming.

What If Brakes Submerged Too Often?

Since water and electricity don’t mix, it’ll leave irreversible effects on your brakes.


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  1. Water will make the internal parts rust and corrode very fast.
  2. If the brakes are powered ON while submerged, it can cause a short circuit.
  3. The overall life of the brakes will degrade drastically.

How To Secure Electric Brakes When Submerged?

  1. Ensure power is OFF when taking a trailer into the water. 
  2. Even if the brakes become wet, let them dry and ensure you get rid of any remaining water from the sealed box.
  3. If possible, use wax or other material that acts as a waterproofing agent for the brakes. However, this method isn’t very reliable and can be costly simultaneously.
  4. You can also go for regular maintenance by greasing your brakes whenever needed.

How Long Do Boat Trailer Brakes Last?

Boat Trailer With Electric Brakes

When it comes to boat trailer brakes’ lifespan, it depends on how you use them. Several factors, such as frequency of use, type of road (whether it’s a highway, smooth road, or off-road drive), etc., strongly influence the brakes’ life.

After considering several statistics, boat trailer brakes’ average life is usually around 12-15 months or 12,000 miles. In general, surpassing these figures means there’s a need to look after the brakes’ condition and go for maintenance if necessary.

Since brakes are a crucial part of the trailer, carelessness is not an option. Given safety, check the brakes every time you head out for a trip, no matter how short it is. 

Factors affecting the life of boat trailer brakes

How The Life Of These Brakes Is Affected

  1. Water is the worst enemy of your electric brakes. Make sure to keep them away from it as much as possible. If water sits in the brakes for any possible reason, let the brakes dry entirely before taking the trailer out for action.
  2. Corrosion will destroy the brakes sooner than expected. Saltwater causes corrosion faster than freshwater. There are flush kits available in the market. Use them if you’re taking your trailer into saltwater. It can help you extend the life of the brakes.
  3. In the case of drum brakes, you must adjust them manually once every 3,000- 5,000 miles. 
  4. Disc brakes are usually stainless steel, but that doesn’t make them completely immune to corrosion. 
  5. Several moving parts in the brakes result in increased friction. It degrades the brakes’ life drastically. Since disc brakes have only one moving part, they last longer than drum brakes, with 9- 12 moving parts. 
  6. Frequent use of brakes reduces their life. If taking your trailer on rough roads, it’s natural to apply brakes more often. 

How Do I Know If My Trailer Has Electric Brakes?

That’d be hilarious if you’re unaware of the type of brakes installed in your trailer. But, identifying the electric brakes (if installed in your trailer) is the easiest thing to do.

Electrical wires will run into the wheel hubs if the boat trailer has electric brakes installed. These wires are primarily blue and provide current for the brakes to function.

In addition to the wires, you also look for the electric brakes controller (if you can identify it). If there’s an actuator installed, then your trailer probably has hydraulic brakes installed. (source)


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Steps To Adjust Trailer Brakes Controller

Please consult the manufacturer’s recommendations before adjusting to a braking system for safety reasons.

Adjusting the trailer brake controller is essential, and you must know it very well in advance. That can save a lot of money and valuable time. Let’s look at the steps to adjust the trailer brake controller.

Plug The Trailer Wiring Harness

Before proceeding further, park the vehicle and the trailer on a leveled surface. The brake controller requires a power supply and connection to the brakes in the trailer to operate. The trailer draws power from the vehicle. Plugin the wiring to the controller to proceed.

Calibrate The Brakes Controller

Most electric brake controllers are self-calibrating. The controller will calibrate itself once plugging it in. After a few seconds, the controller will flash the light indicating success when the calibration is complete. If your controller isn’t self-calibrating, it probably doesn’t require calibration.

Select The Settings

You’ll now have to adjust the settings as per your preference. It includes setting up the interface’s angle, screen brightness, and the brake’s controller’s location. Please note that these are the personalized settings for the controller and aren’t so essential.

Adjust The Maximum Output

Here, maximum output means the full power, which the brakes controller will apply to your trailer brakes. Since most of you might not have luck in proper adjustment, it is better to test the brakes in an open area to get a good idea of how much power is necessary according to the trailer’s specific weight value.

If there isn’t much load, setting the maximum output too high will cause the trailer to stop suddenly, causing it to lose balance very quickly. If the trailer has much weight and the maximum output is set too low, the brakes won’t stop the trailer well on time, causing a possible collision. 


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In short, you’ll have to adjust the maximum output depending on the weight you’re carrying on your trailer. It is the most crucial step, so take it seriously.

Adjust The Sensitivity

Here, the sensitivity means the intensity of the application of the brakes. Or you can say how aggressively the controller applies the brakes. To achieve the correct sensitivity value, you’ll have to test the brakes repeatedly and readjust the settings as and when required. 

Drive your vehicle a few meters forward and then apply the brakes. If the trailer stops in a lousy manner, perhaps you need to readjust the sensitivity.

You’ll get familiar with the sensitivity and maximum output settings with time.

Activate The Brakes Manually When Needed

The controller comes with a manual activation button. With the help of this button, you can apply trailer brakes without using your vehicle’s brakes. Manual trailer brake activation comes in handy when you’re moving down a hill, or you need to slow down and stop the trailer gradually and gently.


Electric brakes in boat trailers are standard nowadays. They’re the most reliable brakes and offer several advantages over other types of brakes. If you’re installing electric brakes in your trailer, you’ll also have to install a controller. If you surpass a certain weight carried on your trailer, adding brakes (most preferably electric brakes) in your trailer becomes crucial.

Just make sure to have a set of brakes installed no matter how often you use them. In addition to that, it’s crucial to maintain them and ensure their well-being because brakes can avoid significant accidents in the worst-case scenario. 


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