Even the most experienced driver can find it challenging to apply brake safely while towing a trailer and it all boils down to one thing only and that is – additional weight. However, applying brake while towing a trailer is not that complicated. You just have to slow it down. If you don’t slow it down while carrying hundreds of pound of additional weight behind you then it will become difficult to stop (because physics!). Even if you apply brake fast, the vehicle will still take time to come to a complete stop. It will travel a lot further than you think before coming to a complete stop. So, the best way to deal with this problem is by giving yourself enough stopping distance and time to slow down and stop because you will need more space to stop than usual.
Focus on The Road
You should pay undivided attention to the road and surrounding traffic especially when you are towing a trailer. Stay alert all the time and be careful of the vehicle in front of you. In order to bring the vehicle along with the trailer to a stop without facing any untoward incident, you need to apply the brake a bit earlier and also you will have to make sure that you have plenty of room to keep enough distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you.
You should thank your lady luck if your vehicle has got a manual transmission because then you will have another awesome option at your disposal to apply brake while causing any mayhem in the process. Before applying the brake, you should make proper use of downshift because downshift will stop the brake from overheating and thus minimizing the chances of brake fail. But to apply downshift, you need to make sure that you have got plenty of space between your vehicle and the car in front of you because you will need more time to react in this case. Btw, did I tell you that you need to keep the speed of your vehicle in check to make things easier for you?
Swing Is a Factor
It takes twice as long to stop a vehicle with a trailer than it does to stop a solo vehicle. It can take even longer to stop if the towing vehicle is carrying a lot of weight. Now, in such cases, you might have to deal with swing. Things might start going out of control if you are driving at a high speed.
Apply trailer brake gently in case case you are experiencing too much swing and don’t forget to take your foot off the gas and it will ease the problem significantly. Don’t just slam the brake of the trailer because it will make the situation worse.
Compression braking, also known as engine braking, is another technique that you can employ to slow down the vehicle. Compression braking is a great technique that will help you keep your vehicle’s brake in great shape. It basically involves lowering the gears to slow down the vehicle rather than applying brake all the time and thus preventing the problem of overheating.
Different Types of Trailer Brakes
It is legally required in some states to have brakes on the trailer. Trailer brakes can be broadly categorized into these following types –
Hydraulic surge brakes
Hydraulic surge brake works automatically. Whenever the vehicle gets slowed down, Hydraulic surge brake gets activated. It is the inertia of the trailer that activates the hydraulic surge brake. The braking actuator gets compressed by trailer as the hitch gets pressed hard by the trailer and this is what slows the tow vehicle eventually. These Hydraulic surge brakes work independently and don’t need any intervention from the driver.
Electric Brakes are controlled by the driver of the tow vehicle. Electrically controlled, these Electric Brakes are basically either drum brakes or disc brakes. The inner mechanism of an Electric Brake is not that complicated. First a controller is placed between the trailer and the towing vehicle and then wires from tow vehicle’s electrical system are passed through that controller so that the brakes of the trailer can be controlled effectively from the towing vehicle. It can either be controlled manually by the driver of the towing vehicle or the brakes can be set to work automatically. In Auto mode, the trailer brake will mimic the functionality of the towing brake and that means, whenever it suspects that towing vehicle is applying brakes, it will follow suit.