N/A Max towing without trailer brakes

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Matthew K, May 21, 2017.

  1. Matthew K

    Matthew K Line Up and Wait

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    I've read a few threads on this subject, but I want to get some more recent feedback.

    I have a 1999 Ram 2500(24 valve of course) that is basically pure stock. Yesterday due to unexpected circumstances I had to tow a buddies jeep(3500#) with a car hauler that I believe weighs 1500#. This trailer did not have brakes on it. My truck towed it just fine and I was able to stop well within my comfort with the essentially 5000 pound trailer.

    Question 1)If legally you need brakes when over 3000#, why are there so many trailers that can carry significantly over this and they don't have any brakes?

    Question 2) If I lived in mountainous terrain I probably wouldn't even be asking, but since I'm in flat land oh well. What is your max personal limitation on how much you'll tow without trailer brakes on one of these older 2500s/3/4 ton trucks?

    P.S. I'm looking at borrowing a buddies trailer to tow some atv's a good 300 miles. The trailer alone weighs 2800 pounds without anything on it and yet has no brakes. WTH? I'm guessing someone removed them at some point b/c I find it hard to believe a 2800 pound trailer came with no brakes.

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
  2. Tampico Trauma

    Tampico Trauma Line Up and Wait

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    Kind of an (over)loaded question. I'd tow more with my '16 F-150 5.0 than I would if I still had my '99 F-250 with the 5.4.

    With your tow rig and my experience, I'd say I'd feel comfortable up to 8-10k depending on the type of trailer and load.

    We have numerous pieces of roadable equipment in the farming operation that are close to 20k loaded without brakes.


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  3. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Could be the trailer came without brakes because the mfg figured it was the owner's responsibility to add them. Liability reasons?
     
  4. Cooter

    Cooter Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Homemade trailer? Did it have mobile home axles? Other than light ATV style trailers, all the ones I've seen come with brakes.
     
  5. Matthew K

    Matthew K Line Up and Wait

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    Agreed. Many of todays 1/2 ton trucks are just as or more capable then my era's truck.
    I can't see that being it. Maybe at the time these trailers were built the laws allowed more weight?
     
  6. Matthew K

    Matthew K Line Up and Wait

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    I now know of 2 car haulers and 1 trailer(owned by friends) meant to carry heavy equipment and none have brakes. None are home made. These trailers are prob 20 years old or more at this point though.
     
  7. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Each state has its own laws regarding trailer brakes. I think here in KS it's a performance limit, not weight. The rig must stop from a certain speed within a certain distance. This is very logical.

    I don't have trailer brakes on my trailer (7k) and I don't worry about it with my tow vehicles (Excursion and 2003 F-350 diesel). My boat is also around 7k and the brakes don't work on it, it, too, is fine.
     
  8. Matthew K

    Matthew K Line Up and Wait

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    I'm somewhat jealous of KS towing laws then:D.. Georgia law stipulates brakes are needed on every wheel when over 3000 pounds from all documents I've seen. I mean I easily feel comfortable towing 4-5k pounds without trailer brakes with my truck, but I'm trying to make sense of the law. And since I'll be borrowing the trailer, I'd prefer to not cited. :D
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
  9. Acrodustertoo

    Acrodustertoo Ejection Handle Pulled

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    If your trailer lights are all working then you are good to go, why would you want to have the only trailer with working lights AND brakes in the continent?
     
  10. Axtel4

    Axtel4 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    In Kansas, trailers towed by Commercial vehicles must have brakes on all axels.

    Otherwise:
    Every combination of vehicles shall have a service braking system, which will stop such combination within 40 feet from an initial speed of 20 mph on a level, dry, smooth, hard surface, and shall have a parking brake system adequate to hold such combination on any grade on which it is operated under all conditions of loading.
     
  11. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    It is a very uncomfortable feeling, when towing something you have no business being in front of, as you start down that hill which suddenly looks a whole helluva lot steeper than ever before.
     
  12. Matthew K

    Matthew K Line Up and Wait

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    Oh I know what you mean. I once drove a older f150 with a old "heavy" 60s camper behind it that had no brakes, that f150 did not like that load on its brakes. Luckily that was never towed in the hills. On the other hand, my 3/4 ton truck feels very confident in stopping a 5000 pound trailer.
     
  13. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    http://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/trailer-brakes/

    Georgia:
    Every trailer of 3,000 lbs. GVWR or more must be equipped with brakes on all wheels.

    Kansas: already noted in previous post.

    My vehicle POH says any towed load greater than 1000lb requires brakes.
     
  14. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

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    Especially when whatever you're towing was improperly loaded and it starts swaying...

    I don't mind if the brakes don't automatically activate, but I do like being able to reach down and apply trailer brakes to help straighten things out if necessary.
     
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  15. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

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    We towed our boat (5Klbs w/trailer - 1976 model) with no trailer brakes for two decades. We never had a problem with it behind any 1/2 ton we towed it with. It being so old, trailer brakes weren't a requirement in most states and it was never converted. I had an opportunity to swap out the old trailer for a newer, nicer trailer which had dual axle surge brakes. I wouldn't tow without at least surge brakes on that boat again because it makes life so much easier. However, that is for a trailer we are running down the road at 70mph for 1.5-2hrs each way.

    We also have a 7K lbs capacity 18' utility trailer which is only 5yrs old and has no brakes on it. We are usually towing less than 50mph and within 20 miles of the house. I have no problem towing heavier loads short distances and at low speed. It's when you're towing at highway speed/steep terrain for longer distances that brakes should not be forgone.


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  16. Matthew K

    Matthew K Line Up and Wait

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    Since you have a 5 year old trailer with no brakes, are you aware of any laws excluding your trailer from the 3000# rule.
     
  17. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

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    No, I don't know of any exclusion. However, most of the time we're just hauling long pieces of lumber (12'-16') from the local yards. So it's likely well under 3K lbs total weight anyway. I have loaded it up with 5Klbs of retaining wall stone once though, but it was only a few miles on back roads at 35mph, so it was within my risk tolerance.


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  18. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Around here they're just happy when people don't tow their disabled vehicles with a log chain.
     
  19. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    Trailer laws are a crazy mis-mash between States. There's really little more to say about it than that.

    As far as the 3000 lb rule goes, I bet your State also adds a clause somewhere where the trailer must have an emergency brake system for tow vehicle to trailer disconnect. Those two laws usually go hand in hand.

    I've had two bumper tows come off the tow vehicle in my lifetime. One at highway speed, the other at low speed. Both were thankfully retained by the safety chains and the e-brake system was not required.

    But I won't pull a trailer over 3000 or so without an operable e-brake system. Looks like plenty of people here will, and they'll feel pretty bad if they ever send a trailer head on into a passenger car full of people.

    I'm also not a big fan of heavy single axle trailers. Been there, done that, don't find them to be stable, and don't find them to be anything but a huge PITA and usually fairly dangerous if they blow a tire. I mean sure, a little single axle for something like a tiny boat or a jet ski or something, but hauling anything significant? Two axle for me.

    I also refuse to tow anything above the printed GVWR of the trailer or the GCVWR printed on the door sticker of the tow vehicle. I always give idiots towing triple axle 15,000 lb fifth wheels with a half ton truck, a wide berth. They're too stupid to read a door sticker, they're probably too stupid to be driving the rig, too.
     
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  20. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Pattern Altitude

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    A lot comes down to experience, how you drive, and under what particular conditions. A careful, experienced driver could easily be 'safer' towing without trailer brakes than a neophyte with an F350 and trailer brakes.

    I have towed over 3500 without trailer brakes, no issues.
     
  21. N747JB

    N747JB Final Approach

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    I just bought a new 24 foot pontoon boat with a galvanized trailer. The dealer is an old friend and when I bought it, he explained he doesn't order brakes on the galvanized trailers, since people use them for salt water launches and the brakes don't last. Seemed reasonable to me, I towed it home with an F150, and to the beach with an F-250 and it was fine.
     
  22. kurttruk

    kurttruk Pre-Flight

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    Brakes on trailers are very troublesome. Often they are disabled. When axles are replaced some go the cheaper route and order new axles without brakes.
     
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  23. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    Brakes on trailers work great if the owner doesn't neglect basic maintenance. I've pulled trailers all my driving life and won't pull more than a few thousand pounds without brakes. My last two 24' enclosed snowmobile trailers have used electric brakes. Prior to that my trailers usually had surge brakes. Electrics are way better on slick roads. My last couple of trucks came from the factory with electric brake controllers built in.

    FYI. https://trailers.com/state-laws/
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2017
  24. Omalley1537

    Omalley1537 Cleared for Takeoff

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    This.^^^

    Years ago I borrowed my mom's Silverado 2500 (gas) to pick up a mustang (unfortunately the one by Ford, not North American...) on a rented Uhaul car hauler. The trailer had an emergency brake but no normal brakes. When we got to the west side of the SR 2 summit (w/b over the WA Cascades) we had to stop a couple times to let the brakes cool. Nearly lost them once. Unless I'm towing a log splitter or a small motorcycle trailer I want brakes on it. It's not just what's comfortable for normal driving, it's what happens to the trailer when the truck towing it dynamites re brakes for the unexpected traffic hazard, red light runner, etc.
     
  25. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

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    Sort of true, mostly hogwash. Electric brakes don't last too long with saltwater use, hydraulic brakes work just fine. Your friend could order his trailers with hydraulic surge brakes and they'd operate just fine with normal maintenance. The best combo is the Electric-Over-Hydraulic models which allow electric brake controllers to modulate braking action, but use hydraulics to activate the brakes. Kind of a best of both worlds solution.


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  26. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Kansas is overall a very logical state. We also realize that it's flat here.

    I ordered my trailer (new) without brakes because I didn't need them. This saved me a few hundred bucks. My reason for ordering without brakes is because of what you said - brakes on trailers are very troublesome. They don't work on my boat trailer (surge brakes) and never have since I've had it. My first trailer that I bought new had trailer brakes. They worked for about 15-20k miles trouble-free and then started to have issues intermittently. By 50k miles they just quit working and nothing I could do fixed them. For the Dodge I had (2004 Ram 2500 diesel) it wasn't a problem, the brakes on that truck were great.

    Personally I think it makes a lot more sense to add an exhaust brake on a diesel than trailer brakes for most loads, and also keep your trailer brakes in good condition.
     
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  27. Bill

    Bill Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I grew up in a very hilly city, trailer brakes were pretty much a must, even soem cars had to be driven carefully.
     
  28. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I rented a mini-excavator last year. It came on double-axle equipment trailer. I asked the rental place what it weighed and they had no idea, couldn't find specifications but they just said that it was a heavy load but you can still pull it with a half-ton. It had brakes but I don't think they were working, either that or my brake controller wasn't sensing the connection and therefore not outputting power to them. It was definitely heavy... I routinely tow a horse trailer that I figure is around 5,000lbs loaded and this was significantly heavier and harder to pull. The truth is I have absolutely no idea what the weight of that thing was but I just had to go about 18 miles down lightly traveled 2-lane highways and country roads that I'm very familiar with and was able to plan ahead for. I just drove slow and easy and got it home, then returned it the next day with no problems.

    Would I set off on a 100+ mile multi-state journey down busy interstate highways like that? God no. However, in this situation it was fine I just had to be aware of the weight and drive accordingly. Out on the road I routinely get passed by trucks pulling things I know have to be very very heavy and they're doing 10 over in dense traffic in the rain. I'm really far far less concerned about careful people with no trailer brakes than I am those guys.
     
  29. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

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    Agreed. I have done the same with my '08 F-150 while towing a rented skid-steer (probably 7Klbs by itself, easy) on the rental trailer with surge brakes that didn't seem too eager to help. Go slow, stay out of the hills and leave tons of space in front of you and any traffic and it's fine to do for short distances, imo.
     
  30. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Virginia the law is 3000 pounds and up must have brakes. And any trailer with brakes must have a state inspection (like a car/truck safety inspection) each year.
     
  31. Bill

    Bill Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Virginia and NC do their damndest to impersonate yankee states.
     
  32. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Amusingly enough, IL of all states doesn't have statewide vehicle inspections at all. A few counties(Chicago) have them but the rest of the state doesn't need to do it. I have not seen or heard of any problems resulting from this, much like aircraft most car crashes are caused by the humans not the vehicles.
     
  33. N747JB

    N747JB Final Approach

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    I don't disagree, but pulling the boat at most once per year, I think I'll be fine with no trailer brakes. If I planned on pulling it to and from the beach fairly often, I would definitely get some type of braking system. :)
     
  34. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

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    No disagreement. I wasn't implying that you needed to run and get brakes installed, just that there is a solution to the salt-water issue. As I mentioned earlier, we towed our boat for decades without trailer brakes and only upgraded because the newer/nicer trailer was at minimal additional cost to me to swap (came with a parts-boat I bought). Now that I have the surge brakes I wouldn't go back the other way, but we are towing 50+ miles each way 8-10 times a year.
     
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  35. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Lots of braver people here than me. Pulling a trailer without brakes if fine, until its not, then it can be fatal. I have a small trailer to carry a 4 wheeler that doesn't have brakes, but loaded it is less than 1500 pounds. If my GMC 2500 can't handle it, then I would throw the truck away. Plus I don't pull it down the interstate at 85 MPH, not with those little bitty tires turning a million RPM.

    I only have 3 trailers now. Besides the 4 wheeler trailer, all have working brakes. I spend about 15 minutes a year to keep them in working order. I won't pull a trailer without brakes. I have seen the dummy that thought not having brakes on a 3000 pound loaded trailer was a good idea, up until it wasn't.

    I like electric brakes because I can use my hand to slow down or if the trailer gets squirrely I can use the hand unit to get the trailer back behind me.

    Yes, they are.

    For a boat trailer, I would worry more about the wheel bearings than the brakes getting wet. A friend of mine, retired professional bass fisherman, (how does one retire from fishing?) has a cut out switch to turn off the electric brakes while loading/unloading his boat. He never has brake problems.
     
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  36. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

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    The salt water reacts with the electronic components in the brake drums, it has nothing to do with whether or not they are used during loading/unloading. It's just a simple corrosion issue. If he's a fresh-water fisherman, he won't likely have any issue. It's the same reason that the salt water guys use galvanized trailers almost exclusively because untreated steel will rust out quickly, but the fresh water painted trailers will last for 50 years.
     
  37. Witmo

    Witmo Pattern Altitude

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    Texas doesn't require trailer brakes 4500# or less. 4501# - 15000#, no brakes required if you stay 30 mph or slower.
     
  38. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    Anyone who lives in a cold climate gets more salt from road de-icers than most saltwater boaters will ever see. Most of us have aluminum trailers and sealed bearings as a result, yet our brakes work just fine. The reason boat trailers fail is because boat buyers are cheap. They shoot their wad on the boat, not the trailer. Boat dealers are tuned in to that. Trailers are the furthest thing from most guys' minds until an axle breaks or a tires blows out with no spare, and they have to leave $50K on the side of the road while they fetch parts and help.
     
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  39. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Should depend a bit on the tow vehicle. An unbraked 7k equipment trailer with a bobcat behind a class 6 dump truck is probably a safer setup than a 2999lb equipment trailer behind a S10.
     
  40. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    In Alaska you wouldn't be allowed to leave the weigh station in a commercial truck with no trailer brakes. The truck would get inspected to the Nth degree for driving it like that, too. Those inspections bring business to a grinding halt.