While driving a heavy-duty rig isn’t easy, arguably, one of the hardest things to do is stop moving. You have to pump the brakes far earlier than you’re used to so you can ensure your rig will be able to roll to a complete stop in time. Otherwise, you risk hitting curbs, stop signs, railings, and of course, other motorists.
[box type=”info”] For that reason, many trailers come equipped with brakes. Using a brake controller, it’s possible for you, the driver, to slow down the trailer as well as your towing vehicle.[/box]
If you own a pop up camper or were thinking of buying one, you may be curious about whether these vehicles come equipped with trailer brakes. Let’s explore that question now.
Do Pop up Campers Have Trailer Brakes?
Not all pop up campers have trailer brakes. Whether your vehicle does or doesn’t will depend on a few things. The size of the camper is one such determining factor. After all, the main advantage of having trailer brakes is to control a bigger, heavier rig and prevent accidents. If your camper is smaller, trailer brakes are still ideal to have, but some manufacturers may view them as less of a necessity.
Older campers might have been designed without this feature as well. If you bought a bare-bones cheap pop up without any bells and whistles, regardless of age, it too may not come with trailer brakes.
How Do Brake Controllers Work?
In the intro, we briefly mentioned brake controllers. What is a brake controller and how does it work?
With a brake controller properly hooked up, when you stop your towing vehicle with the brake, you will also brake your pop up.
Brake controllers are built into many trailer rigs. They may be mandated by some states, so always do your homework before planning a road trip in your pop up camper. The brake controller is an incredibly handy addition to your setup. While you’re in the driver’s seat of your towing vehicle, of course you can pump those brakes. You can’t get to the pop up brakes at the same time though, right? This is where a brake controller comes in handy.
There are several types of brake controllers. They are time-delayed, pendulum, and proportional controllers. Let’s talk more about each type now.
- Time-delayed brake controllers: With a time-delayed brake controller, you will determine the amount of power you need to bring your rig to a complete stop and then input that into the controller. The stopping power will go up as your rig weight does. While time-delayed brake controllers are known for their speedy installation and cheap price, they tend to strain your towing vehicle’s braking system over the long-term.
- Pendulum brake controllers: Detecting vehicular motion via a pendulum, using a pendulum brake controller is admittedly more complicated. You’ll need to find an area that’s completely level, park your vehicle, and then calibrate the brake controller before you hit the road. When you stop your rig, you’ll notice your pendulum moves. It will then brake your camper to the degree of power needed.
- Proportional brake controllers: Finally, there’s proportional brake controllers. These are a little more advanced, as they include a motion sensor within them. When you stop your rig, the proportional brake controller applies the same amount of stopping pressure to the trailer brakes. That’s why these are called proportional brake controllers. You’ll have less strain on your towing vehicle’s braking system and stop less jerkily compared to some other brake controllers.
What About Electric Trailer Brakes?
In some instances, your pop up camper might come equipped with electric trailer brakes. There are no wheel cylinders in the trailer brake system if you have these brakes. Instead, they’ll rely on electromagnets.
The electromagnets receive a specific voltage depending on how hard you stop your rig. You’ll still have a brake controller of sorts, typically on your dashboard’s left section towards the bottom. There, you can attach your brake controller to your brake pedal arm. This is often done via a metal rod.
So how much voltage will your brakes receive with an electric system?
The voltage starts at one volt up through 13 volts. The harder you press on the brakes, the more voltage the electric trailer brakes receive. The gentler you press, the less voltage.
Do You Really Need Trailer Brakes?
[box type=”warning”] What if your pop up camper is lacking either an electrical trailer brake or a brake controller? Should you go without these extra brakes? It’s not recommended. First of all, it may be illegal, so why take the risk?[/box]
While lighter-weight campers might not cause stopping difficulties, larger and heavier trailers will. Not only that, but what if your trailer ever comes loose from its hitch? It would sway out of control with no way for you to stop it.
If your camper lacks trailer brakes, we recommend you go to a professional mechanic or another specialist and discuss getting them installed. It is possible to do the installation yourself, but you’d need a lot of expertise, not to mention some pricy parts and equipment. No matter what you have to do, we don’t advise you to go without trailer brakes for very long.
Trailer brakes let you have better control over the stopping power of your rig. You could get an electrical brake system, which uses varying voltages when you pump the brake of your towing vehicle. More commonly used are brake controllers. With this device, when you stop your towing vehicle via its brakes, the pop up camper’s brakes activate as well.
[box] Not every pop up camper will come with trailer brakes. Older or smaller vehicles likely won’t. Inexpensive, bare-bones campers might also have been designed without these brakes. If your rig lacks trailer brakes, we strongly suggest you get some installed. Your safety on the road is incredibly important, not only for yourself, but for your passengers and other people on the road. Having trailer brakes ensures your rig is as safe as it can be.[/box]