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Old 05-10-2016, 08:41 AM   #1
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Surge or Electric Brakes?

Hello Friends,

My wife & I have purchased a '99 Jayco Eagle 12 SO pop up camper.The weight on the title shows as 2200 lbs. It has class C tires (which I've read is rated safe up to 65 MPH). So, it looks like I'll need to get D rated tires on the trailer. Now, when I opened the door, the GVWR shows 3000 lbs. I've removed the awning, marine battery & the water tank (as we plan to State Park or RV Park camp).

Our tow vehicle is a '12 Ford Escape XLT 3.0 L V6 4WD (6 speed automatic with no overdrive, but does have an engine assist button for steep declines) with a MAX towing of 3500 lbs. It is equipped with a transmission cooler. I replaced the class II hitch with a class III.

We like the camper, but, even with taking things easy when towing it, are concerned that it may ultimately cause harm to the transmission & engine. However, we're not currently able to buy a lighter camper or a more powerful vehicle.

When I hitch up, my tow vehicle lowers only slightly. Nothing is drooping. Everything looks straight & balanced. I've towed the pup & can definitely feel the weight on inclined (overpasses, etc.) Feels fine on the highway, with very minimal sway.

I'm not seeing any brakes of any kind on this pup. Now, we are really just planning on towing it in Texas & it's pretty flat here. However, my wife wants to camp on the beach. In order to do that, we'll have to go through Houston. I am an EMT & am used to manuvering a vehicle with weight quite often. I'm a very offensive & defensive driver.

All that aside, Houston traffic is insane. So, my questions are, should I have surge or electric brakes installed onto the pop up & continue to enjoy it at an easy, cautious pace? Not worry about additional brakes? Or, forget it, sell it & save for something lighter?

Whatever the case, I will value your opinions. And, I thank you all for taking time to read my lengthy post. God Bless.

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Old 05-10-2016, 09:01 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum and, it sounds like, the wonderful world of camping.

I'm not knowledgeable enough about your trailer or vehicle to help with your question.

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Old 05-10-2016, 09:51 AM   #3
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You should be fine with your vehicle. If it is rated for pulling 3500lbs then it can safely pull it. You can take a lot of stress off your vehicle components by simply driving a little more relaxed and lighter on the foot.

Trailer brakes are always better but at 3000lbs you should be legal in most States without them. Here is a link to an AAA website that lists the requirements for trailer brakes in all of the States and Canadian Provinces.

Trailer Brakes - AAA Digest of Motor Laws
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Old 05-10-2016, 10:29 AM   #4
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IF (and that's a big if...) you do decide to put brakes on your trailer, I would recommend electric over surge any day.

Surge brakes only read the relative deceleration between the tow vehicle and the trailer. That force may not be what is desired in all situations.

Personally, I had to get out into traffic on a downslope. The trailer's brakes were in full lock because of gravity. Just when gravity should of been helping.

Electric brakes are controlled by a box in the cab connected to the toe vehicle's own brake pedal. While not perfectly proportional to the tow vehicle's brakes, they respond to driver input (no more, no less). So at least you can control them from the cab.
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Old 05-10-2016, 11:06 AM   #5
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Definitely get brakes. Years ago, the wife and I towed the PUP in my signature with a 2002 Escape 3.0 24V with class 3 hitch. Sagged pretty bad and the vehicle had a time with it. You most likely won't damage anything...especially with the 3.0. I wouldn't travel at higher speeds. It struggled though..no mistake about it. You know it's back there.
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Old 05-10-2016, 02:51 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by richnjen View Post
Hello Friends,

I've removed the awning, marine battery & the water tank (as we plan to State Park or RV Park camp).

If your pop-up has Lp gas and a CO alarm, I would put a battery back in to supply power to the CO Alarm. Hate to have a leak while you are in the pop-up.. safety first

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Old 05-10-2016, 03:27 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by mike837go View Post
IF (and that's a big if...) you do decide to put brakes on your trailer, I would recommend electric over surge any day.

Surge brakes only read the relative deceleration between the tow vehicle and the trailer. That force may not be what is desired in all situations.
X2! I had a popup with surge brakes. It was a '93 Jayco 1208, 2600# GVWR. The short answer is that surge brakes suck and require more maintenance than electric brakes.

However, I will say that despite what the law says, you'd be smart getting any kind of brakes.
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Old 05-11-2016, 06:58 AM   #8
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If the trailer came from the factory without brakes then they are not required.. a cheaper easier solution would be to upgrade your vehicle brakes.. add drilled and slotted rotors and more aggressive brake pads.. this is an easy not expensive upgrade.. you can get what you need from summitracing.com
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Old 05-11-2016, 07:28 AM   #9
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Suggest you not remove necessary or useful accessories [battery comes to mind] in an attempt to make a less than optimal TV more BETTER. I pulled a popup of a similar weight with a straight six Volare wagon and made it back and forth to the Rockies twice, to Fla twice, and several dozen shorter outings and Fall trips to Indiana state Parks. Retired that wagon with 175k miles when we bought our first full sized Van. The oil cooler is a big important deal for your TV. Forget the add on brakes, just take care of the ones on your TV. You will wear them out faster. You can not turn a marginal TV into a dually by adding electric brakes and removing the awning.

PS my cross country trips were made with the family of 3 kids and 1 grandmother, a dog, and plenty of stuff we probably didn't need.
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Old 05-11-2016, 08:07 PM   #10
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I have a 1994 Jay series 1207 I will be pulling with a GMC Canyon 4 cyl.I do not have trailer brakes that work.It has surge brakes but there shot and I decided not to mess with it.I think it weighs some where around 1200 to 1300 pounds.No hot water heater no fridge no battery it has to propane tanks and I did away with the worthless bag canopy.

Where I will be going is mostly 55 to 60 mph roads.I can stay off the interstate 95% of the time.When I do have to get on the interstate I can still keep it around 60 mph.

I keep the truck in 3 and that way it will not shift into overdrive.I am the guy who normally runs a little under the speed limit.Let the ones going 10, 20 and 30 over the limit pass.Just picked up a new set of tires 20.5 X8 -10 those itty bitty tires are to small to be driving fast.

I will just keep my distance brake early and take my time.Whats the hurry anyway.

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