by H. Kent Sundling, www.MrTruck.com
Smooth, Powerful and Fast
Ever hear of an automobile with electric drum magnet brakes? Only in the trailer world, not because they’re good, but because they’re cheap and less regulated. Experts have told me that hydraulic disc brakes have 30 percent better braking. My experience says it’s twice what electric drum brakes are. I think all trailers should have disc brakes. All new heavy duty pickup trucks 3/4 and one ton, come standard with disc brakes all the way around.
The majority of cars have 4 wheel hydraulic disc brakes. All have at least front hydraulic disc brakes. I remember how happy I was when trucks started coming with them in 1998. Faster stopping, less brake dust, less brake fade, better heat dissipation and cheaper replacing brake pads than shoes. At least one horse trailer manufacture has gone to all disc brakes. There will be more, but you can have them now. We just added the Kodiak vented disk brake hydraulic conversion to our Logan Coach that we take to horse expo’s around the country.
In Real Life: Generally folks towing trailers are more cautious, especially towing horses. But in cities traffic backs up and even when you try to leave proper stopping distance in front of you, cars will just fill in the gap. So now what do you do? On my last trip from Denver to Oklahoma, on I-25 during rush hour, there was of course an accident, the cars in front of me slammed on their brakes. So I had to slam on my brakes, and guess what? I could stop as fast as the cars.
Then the next city, Colorado Springs, a semi load of round bales rolled over on a curve on I-25. I was in the left lane and hit the brakes hard. It was incredible, powerful brakes stopping like those little cars, keeping me from becoming the accident. I know, you may not want to stop that fast with horses, but if you couldn’t stop fast enough to stay out an accident, the horses will be in worse shape. And you will want to stop that fast if your kids are with you.
From our tests on a race track and a brake testing Road Simulator, the maximum brake force from the hydraulic disc brakes had almost twice as much braking force as the electric drum brakes. The hydraulic disc brakes put out 4084 lbs of brake force on two axles. The electric drum brakes put out 2126 lbs of brake force from both axles.
In stopping distance from 60 mph, 595 ft with Kodiak hydraulic disc verses 1457 ft with electric drum just using trailer brakes alone. Then adding truck brakes to the trailer brakes produced stopping at 231 ft. with Kodiak verses 270 ft electric drum.
Bill Barnett of Brake Smart brake controllers explained “hot electric brake drag” to me. Since the mission of my website is to educate folks about trucks and what you use with them, I thought I’d share. Bill explained there are 3 major sources of heat from electric brakes, #1 the voltage heat to the electro magnet, #2 heat from the magnet dragging, #3 and conductive heat from the brake shoes and magnet to the drum. All this causes brake fade and then what do you do, coast to a stop?
Way back when, 20 years ago I was replacing magnets left and right on my electric trailer brakes hauling hay on dirt roads with my flatbed goosneck, the gravel roads ate the magnets on my electric brakes. It was a constant maintenance problem of adjusting brake shoes, fixing the magnets and even reattaching the brake wires to each wheel. I envied the bigger hydraulic dump gooseneck trailers. A lot of them had hydraulic brakes. And I had my magnets.
So I gave up on trailer brakes and went to dually trucks for stopping power. Hydraulic trailer brakes seem to disappear for a while in the eighties and I hadn’t heard about them for years. They’re back! Now this isn’t the vacuum system that has a pump on your truck and the long hose to your trailer. The modern electric actuators for electric/hydraulic on the market today are fast, reliable with less boost lag and as an option give you anti-lock-brakes (ABS) on your trailer. And I haven’t even got to the part about how much better hydraulic trailer brakes are, with less fade, reduced maintenance costs and faster brakes. There is a reason your truck has hydraulic brakes.
Electric drum brakes, cut away picture above, brake dust, grease, dirt, it all stays with the electric drum brakes. You’ve got to adjust the brake shoes, check amps, the magnet and make sure the magnet is wearing even. How long does it take to get to your trailer magnets after you take off the wheel, then the bearings and hub. Then there’s the wires bouncing in the assembly and going out to the trailer, constantly flexing until the wires break. Ever see a truck with magnet activated electric brakes? Straight from the Dark Ages, look at all the junk in the hub, shoes, springs, spreader link, wires, magnet all holding the heat in. And a place bearing grease can push to.
Electric drums, not known as the best brake, just the cheapest. The National Highway Safety Administration wouldn’t allow it on cars. Cars and truck have had front hydraulic disc brakes for years. Now even some big RV coaches have hydraulic disc brakes. Today all pickup trucks have 4 wheel disc brakes. Trailers are like the forgot world. Basically a self regulated industry, laws about trailers are minuscule compared to autos.
And then you have to adjust brake shoes and try to get them braking the same. Hydraulic disc brakes self adjust. If you over grease the wheel bearings or have a seal go out, guess where the grease goes? All over your brakes and magnet. This is what you do, work on wiring, especially the wires going to the wheel. Even with junction boxes and conduit, wire constantly flexing breaks. With hydraulic disc brakes, heavy duty hose and steel lines like your truck has are used not the wire bouncing with the axle on electric brakes.
This is what I have, 13″ disc rotors, greaseable hubs. Big difference on what the right brake system can do for your safety and peace of mind. With the more powerful diesel pickup trucks coming out each year, I know you can pull more weight, pull it faster, and now the with all these trailer accessories, you can stop this bigger trailer, smoothly and safely!
Why you need Kodiak hydraulic disc brakes?
Hydraulic disc brakes are plumbed in, like your truck with steel tubing and rubber hoses. It’s a hydraulic hose at your trailer wheel, not a wire bouncing with your axle. We’re all familiar with the “wire problem” junction boxes, wire connection corrosion. several connections to get to the brake magnet in the wheel. Hydraulics’ are more reliable. I’ve never heard anyone bragging about how good their electric brakes are, but they are cheaper.
Hydraulic disc brakes, self adjust, are dramatically more powerful, pads are cheaper to replace and faster. You don’t have to take the rotor off to change pads. There’s a reason modern cars and pickup trucks have gone from drums to disc brakes. What you won’t find is an auto with electric magnet drum brakes or any vehicle that transport humans. Electric brakes alone aren’t much. They need help from the truck. Hydraulic brakes on the other hand are powerful by themselves. Disc brakes are vented for cooling. Disc pads are cheaper than electric drum shoes.
Brakes can look Cool Too!
Above, my first trailer with Kodiak disk brakes, we jazzed it up with Dacromet Coating, red calipers were for my hot rod horse trailer. Standard calipers are black. These hubs were oil bath also. My new trailer has greaseable axles. With Kodiak rotors, just the rear seal determines oil bath or grease on these axles with zerks.
Kodiak Trailer Components was established by Bill Glidewell in 1989. Longest warranty in industry, 6 years on Stainless Steel, 3 years on E-Coat and Dacromet Coating. Standard automotive finish and E-Coat are for highway use, Dacromet Coating and Stainless Steel are suited for boats and salt water.
Kodiak rotors are offered with an automotive finish (as machined), E-Coated Dacromet Coated and Stainless Steel (not available in integral hub/rotors). At a minimum, all Kodiak caliper castings and caliper mounting brackets are e-coated with stainless steel pistons, stainless clips, stainless guide bolts to resist corrosion from magnesium chloride on our roads in the winter.
Hydraulic disc brakes are dramatically more powerful than electric brakes. Now add ABS and you have the ultimate braking system for smooth and fast stopping on dry roads, mud, snow, ice, black ice and the fast side of mountains. Kodiak hydraulic disc brakes come ready for Anti-Lock-Brakes. I live near the mountains in Colorado and worry about my brakes on the fast side of the mountain.
Electric brakes have a wire going from the trailer to the brake magnet. Just a wire and it flexes with your trailer wheels, constantly flexing. You know when you bend a wire enough times it brakes. Kodiak hydraulic brakes have a steel line and rubber hose just like your truck. The brake hoses is designed to flex with the wheel. When was the last time you replaces a brake hose on your truck?
Rotors are tested and balanced vented, 35,000 psi tensile strength castings for longer rotor life. The standard dual port bleed screw with 2 1/4 in stainless steel pistons, Kodiak brackets have side support, therefore the bracket carries the load not the guide bolts.
Hard chrome plated steel pistons on E-coat and Stainless Steel Piston in Dacromet Coated rotors and Stainless Steel rotors. All fittings are brass, grade 8 bolts, stainless steel guide bolts and sleeves. stainless steel sleeves, Self adjusting calipers are cast iron for strength an universal left or right. Brackets are Ductile iron for strength, stainless steel clips, E-Coat caliper and bracket.
Kodiak brakes retrofits all axles with the widest selection from 2000 lb axle 8″ disc to 14,000 lb axle 15″ disc, 4 option coatings and 3 bearing lubrication options; greaseable, XL-Lube which is no lube or oil bath like semi-trailers. Rotors can be machined at maintenance just like our truck and car. Brake parts can bought from a parts store, making Kodiak easy and cheaper to repair.
You can change pads without taking off rotors or hubs. Another choice and Kodiak is about having plenty of choice, is choice of brake pads including Ceramic pads with a limited lifetime warranty, double coated polyurethane backing plate for max corrosion protection.
Kodiak brakes are corrosion and water resistance, which is why they dominate the boat trailer market, with magnesium chloride on our roads in the winter, replacing salt, your trailer needs the protection.
For our brake tests, we used the Road Simulator at Transwest Truck Trailer RV to measure brake force among other axle parameters. In a previous brake test years ago, the Road Simulator showed the factory electric brakes were over greased and caused 3 of 4 brakes to fail. Greasable axles, get greased at axle factory, trailer factory, dealer and of course the owner greases. The brakes fill with grease and then the brakes don’t work. With Kodiak, if you over grease them, the grease just goes out the back seal to the ground.
Road Simulator, for testing trailer brakes
We had to cut the backing plate bolts off on my trailer… …they were not long enough for the big caliper brackets… we put new ones in from the other side with Lock-titeCaliper guide bolts come with Lock-tite already on.
You can see the tone ring (cogs) ABS readyCast iron calipers, are rigid, no flexing providing more braking torque. It’s easy changing rotor pads with KodiakYou can see the rotor vents for cooling the disc.
Easier to work on, easier to bleed, top nipple either side.Rubber hose is so much better at flexing than wire on the axle. Clear plastic cap can be used for oil bath or to cover the grease bearingsStainless steel rotor and caliper for salt water or show trailers.
My test trailer is a Logan Coach Maverick 2 horse gooseneck with a 5 ft. short wall LQ. With heavy steel horse expo displays on board, it weighs just under 10,000 lbs with water tanks full. First we replaced my worn electric brakes with new brake assemblies, which gives us new wires, new shoes, springs magnets etc. This makes for a fair test as the hydraulic disc brakes will be new.
We burnished (30 times, 30 mph, 30 %) the new brakes, so we were ready for the brake test at the Bandimere Speedway in the foothills at Morison Colorado. We used a measurement wheel for time and distance which was wired to a counter and then wired to our in cab laptop. We did 3 runs per test and averaged the distance. Our distance test was on the track return asphalt road. We accelerated to 60 mph on the smoothest, level part of the road. The wind was slight at over a mile above sea level at the base of the Rockies.
Hydraulic Disc Brakes
The Logan trailer had 7K Dexter axles, we added Kodiak 13 inch rotors and pads. Kodiak calipers have two bleed nipples for easier access on either side. We bleed the actuator first, then the wheels. Disc brake pads are self adjusting.
Electric Drum Brakes
Old electric brakes on my Logan trailer had some miles left, we just wanted a fair test will all new brakes for both types for the test. New electric drum brake assemblies installed with new shoes, springs, magnets and wires. We adjusted electric drum brakes for maximum force and burnished the brakes before the track test.Tested new electric brakes and new hydraulic disc brakes on Transwest’s “Road Simulator” all brakes passed before road test.
We used Transwest Truck Trailer RV’s facility in Fredrick Colorado. I had the trailer tech’s inspect the drums to see if they needed turned or replaced. They installed the new electric drum brake assemblies, adjusted the shoes and then we tested the brakes on the Road Simulator for rolling resistance and brake force on Transwest Truck Trailer RV. Brakes were tested at Bandimere Speedway for a day, back to Transwest for new Kodiak disc brakes and DirecLink-ActuLink from Tuson.
In one day of brake testing with the new drum brakes, the heat ruined the new drum seals (picture left). Next day we installed the new Kodiak disk hydraulic brakes. Transwest Truck Trailer RV has specialized equipment to test and fix trailers besides the Road Simulator.
Measuring wheels wired to…….counter box wired to……..all ends up in the laptop in the truck cab.
We used Transwest Truck Trailer RV’s shop to install the trailer brakes and use their Road Simulator. The RS can test brake force, axle weight, rolling resistance, weight balance and steer axle fittings. After we added the new electric brake assemblies, we put the trailer on the Road Simulator and all 4 wheels passed. Then adapting the trailer to Kodiak disc hydraulic brakes and again passed the Road Simulator decelerating and brake force tests.
Interestingly, the maximum brake force from the hydraulic disc brakes had almost twice as much braking force as the electric drum brakes. The hydraulic disc brakes put out 4084 lbs of brake force on two axles. The electric drum brakes put out 2126 lbs of brake force from both axles.
Our MrTruck.com test mule, is a 2006 Ford F250 diesel and the 2010 Logan Coach gooseneck horse trailer. We used two trailer brake controllers, DirecLink and Prodigy and two hydraulic brake actuators, Tuson’s ActuLink and Carlisle.
We used a portable infrared thermometer with laser pointer to check brake heat. We got the brakes hot, braked several times with each trailer brake controller. Our goal was not to lock up the tires but be as aggressive as possible on braking. DirecLink was smooth but grabbed at the beginning. We set it near maximum brake level (gain) at 18 in large trailer mode plus 3 setting for low speed set. The Prodigy at maximum 13 gain and 3 for boost, was wild and bucking. Both controllers chirped at the end of the run so we knew we were close to locking up the tires.
Prodigy smoked the electric brakes with manual override control, lots of smoke. The seals got hot enough to leak grease out the rubber seal and where the seal steel seats into the hub. We used the most efficient gain setting for right next to wheel lockup.
When using the trailer brakes only, the trailer brakes have to stop the truck and trailer (20,000 lbs) at a predetermined deceleration rate. This is how trailer brakes are tested in Europe and Canada.
Our first series of tests is with the brake controller only. This makes the trailer brakes do all the work with no discrepancy between whether the truck or the trailer is doing more braking. When ran each series of tests for 3 or more runs and averaged the distance. I used an infrared digital thermometer with a laser pointer to monitor the heat of the brakes, allowing time to cool off between runs by idling the rig in low gear back to the starting position at Bandimere Speedway.
Dramatic difference in stopping the trailer. I live in Colorado and the fast side of the mountains will test your brakes. In stopping distance from 60 mph, 595 ft with Kodiak hydraulic disc verses 1457 ft with electric drum just using trailer brakes alone. Then adding truck brakes to the trailer brakes produced stopping at 231 ft. with Kodiak verses 270 ft electric drum.
Last test with a gooseneck on a race track and Road Simulator for an accurate test.
Earlier test with a heavy bumper trailer, the trailer braked as well as the truck.
Cameron Rapp, General Manager for Kodiak