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I have a boat trailer with surge breaks. The boat is 4000 pounds give or take plus the weight of the trailer. The brakes were not working when I first purchased a set up 2 months ago and I just had the brakes installed. It is a duel axle it has a hole to put a trailer hitch style pin in when backing up so it will disable the system.

Guess what I forgot to do? I backed up without even thinking and there was zero resistance I then looked out after parking and saw that I had blown a brake line.

The mechanic said that it was not necessarily entirely my fault as the brake line fitting appeared to be defective from the factory.

My question is… How much resistance should be on a boat trailer when you are backing up if you forget to put in that pin? As said before there was zero resistance I was backing it up like I had done for the past six months when the system was in active. Would a person be able to feel that the brakes were locking up? Or can I expect if I forget again I will be blowing  brake lines and fittings.

I am new to Boating with this type of trailer system so there’s a lot to remember and of course this one was a costly mistake.    I’m assuming that when you are traveling long-distance is with the trailer you would leave the pin out and as soon as you stop near any marina or ramp immediately put it in even before you decide to back up so you don’t forget.

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1 hour ago, hooziz2005 said:

My question is… How much resistance should be on a boat trailer when you are backing up if you forget to put in that pin?

None.  Zero!

The weight of the boat/trailer is pulling back from the tow vehicle due to gravity (assuming you're in a downhill situation like at the boat ramp).  Remember, the brakes are only activated when there is forward pressure on the boat/trailer and the master cylinder in the hitch is compressed.  Since there is no compression, there is no brake activation.

If you have an electrical lockout, you should have a 5-pin harness for lights and a brake lockout.  When you put your tow vehicle in reverse, it activates a solenoid which acts just like the pin you described deactivating the surge brakes. 

A good way to test the system is to unplug the harness and try to back up a hill (don't put the pin in either).  You should then have compression of the master cylinder and the brakes should lock up.

Edited by TexasPilot71
Clarity for down hill in first sentence
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My experience is surge brakes with drums don't have the 5 pin or the need to lock them out when backing.  There is some resistance but not a lot.  For some reason, drum brakes work much better going forward than backwards.  On trailers I had with drum I never bothered to lock out my brakes.  Disc brakes work equally in both directions so usually have a connection to the backup lights as stated above.  If I forget to plug in my lights and try to back up the slightest incline mine will lock up.  Mine locked when I tried to back into my garage with the lights unplugged and hit the 1/2" lip that keeps water from running into the garage.  You have drum or disc?

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Just to clarify, as Texaspilot said, zero resistance if the trailer and boat aren't compressing the master cylinder,  ie backing down hill, regardless of which type you have.  My first reply assumes the master cylinder is being compressed.

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When backing, if I forget to deactivate my brakes, my trailer tires will lock up making it almost impossible to reverse. I`m guessing that you did have a defective line as I cant see it blowing out just by backing. You should have a trailer plug wire that disables pressure from reaching the brake pads when you put the tow vehicle in reverse. You should not need the pin unless you reverse the trailer without an electrical connection to the tow vehicle.

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1 hour ago, SG Boater said:

My experience is surge brakes with drums don't have the 5 pin or the need to lock them out when backing.  There is some resistance but not a lot.  For some reason, drum brakes work much better going forward than backwards.  On trailers I had with drum I never bothered to lock out my brakes.  Disc brakes work equally in both directions so usually have a connection to the backup lights as stated above.  If I forget to plug in my lights and try to back up the slightest incline mine will lock up.  Mine locked when I tried to back into my garage with the lights unplugged and hit the 1/2" lip that keeps water from running into the garage.  You have drum or disc?

Correct, my double axle trailer with Drum brakes I can backup (on flat or obviously downhill) without using the lockout.  However I have to use the lockout to backup any steep incline.  

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My tandem trailer [surge-drum] originally had a lock out switch. Before backing up [level or on the ramp] the lock out had to be engaged to release the brakes. Otherwise it wouldn't move much. The new hitch does not have a lockout pin or switch. So now, I just back up without having to lock out. Nice and convenient.

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On my tandem axel disc brake trailer I can't even back up on flat ground.  I guess disc brakes grab better than the drum brakes.  Switch them over the disc brakes if you want some more stopping power.  

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Interesting, jlai, because mine are drums and if those brakes are engaged going in reverse for whatever reason, the trailer ain't backing up an inch.  And I'm towing with plenty of power so no issue there.  I guess it all depends on your specific system and if brake fluid is filled and bled properly and lines are in good shape as well as the drums etc., brakes should work right and stop you completely.  Not just a little bit.

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Depends upon the style of drum brakes used.  I've had several vehicles where I've left the emergency brake on and backed out of the garage and not even noticed it was on till I put it in forward and couldn't move.  My '05 Jeep wrangler is like that.  My '12 Nissan Titan works on both directions.  Drum brakes on my previous boat trailer were barely noticable in reverse,  even up an incline (slight).

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3 hours ago, Jjlai724 said:

On my tandem axel disc brake trailer I can't even back up on flat ground.  I guess disc brakes grab better than the drum brakes.  Switch them over the disc brakes if you want some more stopping power.  

If you have the right connection , when you place the truck on revers it will activate a swish,  so you  will not have any problem. If not there is a place for a pin to do it on manual.

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26 minutes ago, ramoszx12r@comcast.net said:

If you have the right connection , when you place the truck on revers it will activate a swish,  so you  will not have any problem. If not there is a place for a pin to do it on manual.

Sorry. About the misunderstanding.  When I first bought the boat with surge disc brakes, I tried to back up and it wouldn't let me because the brakes on the trailer locked up from the surge from backing up.  This was before I had to insert the fuse in the truck to activate the back up solenoid on the trailer.  

All is good now.  

I do enjoy electric over hydraulic though for backing down on the ramps.  But after you take the boat off the trailer you have to adjust the brake controller otherwise you be locking up the trailer tires when youa are in the parking lot.  

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1 hour ago, Jjlai724 said:

Sorry. About the misunderstanding.  When I first bought the boat with surge disc brakes, I tried to back up and it wouldn't let me because the brakes on the trailer locked up from the surge from backing up.  This was before I had to insert the fuse in the truck to activate the back up solenoid on the trailer.  

All is good now.  

I do enjoy electric over hydraulic though for backing down on the ramps.  But after you take the boat off the trailer you have to adjust the brake controller otherwise you be locking up the trailer tires when youa are in the parking lot.  

I have  disk breaks with surge and my work good no problem backing.

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If you can back up a trailer with the boat on it using surge brakes, they are not working properly. Maybe on a very flat grade where the trailer will roll back very easily, but that is it. As the truck backs up, the brakes should start to slow the trailer causing the truck to push harder on the actuator, causing the brakes to lock harder. So, if you care or wish to remain legal, you really should be checking them. Need to be bleed or adjusted, depending whether they are drums or disk. Drums have an adjustment, disks do not. I would bet that half of all boat trailer using drum brakes would simply have the pads fall right off if you removed the tire and drum. 

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On 9/21/2020 at 4:34 PM, IndyChap said:

Correct, my double axle trailer with Drum brakes I can backup (on flat or obviously downhill) without using the lockout.  However I have to use the lockout to backup any steep incline.  

Most drum brakes used on boat trailers are “free backing” and do not need a lockout solenoid. With “free backing” when rotating backwards, the shoes pivot away from the drum, so no brake effect.  My disc brake trailer will not back up at all without the solenoid connected or a lockout pin in place. 

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13 hours ago, brick said:

Most drum brakes used on boat trailers are “free backing” and do not need a lockout solenoid. With “free backing” when rotating backwards, the shoes pivot away from the drum, so no brake effect.  My disc brake trailer will not back up at all with the solenoid connected or a lockout pin in place. 

That's interesting and there's actually a way to test that and see if it is indeed the way it works, on mine anyway.  I can just disconnect the 5-pin electrical connector from truck to trailer and see if it backs up.

Something tells me it won't work that way on mine because I'll never forget the 1st time we ever went boating on our own and we got to the ramp, waited in line until it was our turn and when I went to back in, trailer brakes just clamped right up and I couldn't move a millimeter backwards.  The system wasn't bled properly is what I found out later but I had to pull out of the ramp and into the parking lot, get under the trailer and disconnect one of the lines and empty all the brake fluid out.  Then we were able to backup but I lost all trailer brakes until we got home.  Had to drive carefully. 

So I'm thinking mine definitely has the electrical lockout that bypasses the surge brakes from activating when backing up. 

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On 9/22/2020 at 8:42 AM, SST said:

My tandem trailer [surge-drum] originally had a lock out switch. Before backing up [level or on the ramp] the lock out had to be engaged to release the brakes. Otherwise it wouldn't move much. The new hitch does not have a lockout pin or switch. So now, I just back up without having to lock out. Nice and convenient.

I am confused, what is purpose of the lock out , you are backing up hill, why do you want to lock up your brakes when backing up.

I have a surge an drum set up, and a lever to disengage it. 

If I am backing up, why would I want anything that would prevent me from doing that.

Is it some sort of safety feature?  Denny.

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You are confused Denny. You have it backwards. The breaks lock up on the trailer when they try to back up on flat or inclines unless they 'lockout' the breaks.... due to pressure on the tongue. 

 

I've personally had 6 different boats and never experienced any issues or the need to lock anything out...

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Bingo Phill

Backing up is the same logic as slowing from 5 mph.  The trailer surges forward . Causing the brakes to start applying.

IF your brakes drag a little you will need a backing up lockout.

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17 minutes ago, Phillbo said:

You are confused Denny. You have it backwards. The breaks lock up on the trailer when they try to back up on flat or inclines unless they 'lockout' the breaks.... due to pressure on the tongue. 

 

I've personally had 6 different boats and never experienced any issues or the need to lock anything out...

Ok, now I understand, if there is extreme pressure while backing up on the tongue, you engage the lock out pin to prevent the brakes from engaging. Welcome to my world of old age, glad I was able to share it with you. Thanks.  Denny.

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9 hours ago, Phillbo said:

You are confused Denny. You have it backwards. The breaks lock up on the trailer when they try to back up on flat or inclines unless they 'lockout' the breaks.... due to pressure on the tongue. 

 

I've personally had 6 different boats and never experienced any issues or the need to lock anything out...

You are right Phillbo. There is an extra wire on the plug so when is in  revers they will be free. If not you can put a in in it,  so it will not work and you can back up.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 9/24/2020 at 6:42 AM, ramoszx12r@comcast.net said:

You are right Phillbo. There is an extra wire on the plug so when is in  revers they will be free. If not you can put a in in it,  so it will not work and you can back up.

DITTO - the extra wire in the truck harness energized when in reverse gear and activates brakes lockout (reverse lockout) solenoid if a trailer is equipped with one.

There are three ways to allow a trailer with surge brakes to back up. There can be an electric reverse lockout (solenoid), a manual lockout pin or lock, or a free-backing brake assembly if the brakes are drums.

Some more practical info here: https://www.etrailer.com/question-42886.html

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