It is highly recommended that all towables and towed vehicles have their own braking system.  You can never have too much stopping power.  From the smallest travel trailer to the larger fifth wheeler, each should have it's own independant stopping force.  These additional braking systems are wired through the vehicle to the driver's position and can be activated at the touch of the brake pad.  An additional hand control (brake controller) near the steering wheel can be offered for some preferring to control things that way.

Larger RV's often have a secondary braking system such as a hydraulic or exhaust brake.  These are also popular amongst large towables and assist when encountering steep decents where strong braking is required.   Vehicle's primary brakes can easily overheat and fail on long decents and if you can smell your brakes then it is a good chance you are overusing them.

Adjustable trailer brakes at the driver's fingertips synchronize with the trailer to ensure smoother safer stops.

Practice reaching for the brake control and test them every time you hook up.

The following is taken from the US Department of Transport Website -

The selection of a brake system also will depend on your tow vehicle and the type and fully loaded weight of your trailer. For a trailer with a loaded weight of more than 1,500 pounds, many states require a separate braking system and a breakaway switch, located on the tongue of the trailer, to activate the trailer brakes in the event the trailer separates from the tow vehicle. There are two basic types of brake systems designed to activate the brakes on a trailer:


  • Electronically controlled brakes usually provide automatic and manual control for trailer brakes. They require that the tow vehicle be equipped with a controlling device and additional wiring for electrical power. These brakes typically have a control box installed within reach of the driver and can be manually or automatically applied. The control box may require adjustment or “tuning in” for variations in trailer load. 
  • Surge brakes are independent hydraulic brakes activated by a master cylinder at the junction of the hitch and trailer tongue. These brakes are not controlled by the hydraulic fluid in the brake system of the tow vehicle. Note: The hydraulic system of the tow vehicle should never be directly connected to the hydraulic system of the trailer. These systems are self-compensating and do not require adjustment for variation in trailer load.

Follow the tow vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for brake selection. Some states require braking systems on all axles of the trailer. So, check your state’s requirements by contacting the motor vehicle administration.

Tips when braking
  • Allow considerably more distance for stopping. 
  • If you have an electric trailer brake controller and excessive sway occurs, activate the trailer brake controller by hand. Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes; this will generally make the sway worse. 
  • Always anticipate the need to slow down. To reduce speed, shift to a lower gear and press the brakes lightly.
Acceleration and Passing
  • When passing a slower vehicle or changing lanes, signal well in advance and make sure you allow extra distance to clear the vehicle before you pull back into the lane. 
  • Pass on level terrain with plenty of clearance. Avoid passing on steep upgrades or downgrades. 
  • If necessary, downshift for improved acceleration or speed maintenance. 
  • When passing on narrow roads, be careful not to go onto a soft shoulder. This could cause your trailer to jackknife or go out of control.
other articles that may interest you
towing terms
tow hitch
weight ratings
sway prevention
trailer tires

tow vehicle
weight distribution
backing up
scale weights
trailer wiring
trailer towing
tongue weight
trailer sway
loading the trailer
general maintenance


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