How to Determine if my Trailer Has Electric or Hydraulic Brakes

Question:

I was curious to know about what kind of braking system is on this trailer, 1976 Wilderness 2 axil 21 ft, and if I would need to instal a trailer brake inside my truck before towing this trailer? I have a 2014 GMC Sierra 2wd with a 5.3L V8.

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Expert Reply:

Since you have an older trailer, the brakes could have possibly been switched from electric to hydraulic or the other way around. Even on newer campers, unless it is just purchased from the manufacturer, it would be just a guessing game for someone who cannot physically inspect it.

The easiest way to determine whether your 1976 Wilderness trailer has electric or hydraulic brakes is by checking to see if it has an actuator or not. A traditional actuator, like the Titan Zinc-Plated, Leverlock Brake Actuator # T43329007K, or an Electric Over Hydraulic (EOH) actuator, like the HydraStar Electric Over Hydraulic Actuator # HBA16, would mean that you have hydraulic brakes.

If your trailer has brakes, but no actuator, chances are that it has electric brakes. The only exception to this would be if it has hydraulic brakes but the owner decided to not use the brakes (never a good idea) and exchanged the actuator with a normal coupler. In that case you will simply need to check the brakes to see if the brakes use hydraulic brake lines like a vehicle uses, or if there are just electrical wires leading to the brakes.

The only time that you will need to use a brake controller is if your trailer uses electric brakes, or an EOH system. In either situation, the brake controller will sense when the brake pedal on your tow vehicle is pressed and it will activate the brakes on your trailer. If this is the case, the brake controller that I recommend going with is the Tekonsha Prodigy P3 # 90195 which is a brake controller that is compatible with EOH systems. It has an LCD screen which makes it easy to read, and it is very easy to install and setup (see attached installation video). The Plug-In Wiring Adapter, part # 3016, will offer your 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 a plug-n-play installation option of the P3.

If your trailer has hydraulic brakes then you will be good to go without a brake controller.

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Jon G

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