View Full Version : Cost to install eletric brakes on trailer

Jul. 23, 2010, 11:46 AM

I am going to look at a trailer this weekend that has elecrtic brakes. the owner has never used them because their SUV does not have a controller, but apparently the brakes have been pre-wired.

I am going to try and take a friends truck that has the brake controller to test to see if they work.

If they dont work or if I can not use my friends truck to see id they work I may, depending on the condition of the trailer, negotiate the price a bit to cover the cost of installing new electric brakes.

To my understanding installing a controller is easy and fairly cheap can be done for under $500 ( I will NOT be negotiating the trailer cost down for this expense). is that an accurate assumption?

Also what is an estimate for installing electric brakes on a 2 horse trailer?


Jul. 23, 2010, 01:11 PM
Lord it is scary to hear about people hauling horses without their trailer brakes working!

If I am understanding you correctly, the trailer has electric brakes and the trailer is wired correctly up to the plug to run them, but the owner has not used them. I am assuming he/she is the original owner.

If they do not work, it is most likely a rust or other issue from sitting unused. That can often be repaired and my guess would be that replacement is not necessary. You might want to allow $100-$200 for a combination of labor and minor parts, but hopefully that's all it would take.

IMHO the owner has not operated the trailer responsibly and therefore I would also be concerned about how they have maintained it. Ask to see receipts for bearing maintenance etc. Watch for unusual tire wear. Take some safety glasses, wear old clothes and crawl underneath and look at the bottom side of the floor, pull out the mats and check the floor from the topside.

Better yet, if it looks OK make your deal contingent on the results of an inspection from a reputable horse trailer repair shop. If something turns up there you will have solid info and a cost estimate that you both can work from.

Happy shopping! There are tons of trailers available these days at great prices. You are buying at a great time.

Jul. 23, 2010, 01:12 PM
Many new trucks designed for hauling, such as the superduty Fords, with hauling option, are equipped from the factory with an electric brake controller.

Installing one aftermarket on your truck should not cost $500- maybe half that or a bit more.

As you state, it would be silly to try and negotiate the price down on the trailer to accomodate this safety feature- I simply wouldn't buy a trailer that did not have both surge and electric brakes as well as a battery controlled breakaway brake.

Fixing electric brakes on a trailer where they do not work could be a very expensive job as well- akin to replacing the drum brakes on your truck, depending on what has gone wrong, could be anywhere from a couple of hundred if only the shoes needs replacing and the drums can still be "turned" or a thousand or more if the drums, aramtures, lines and shoes need replacing.

Installing electric brakes on a used trailer not already equipped with them is probably not worth doing- not sure if that's what you meant to ask, but it will be an expensive job- better to buy a trailer that already has them.

Jul. 23, 2010, 02:09 PM
Assuming there are brakes on the trailer and they had to be replaced totally we charge $375 for 4) assuming no major wiring issues and the drums are ok - the brake controller would run between $125 and $225 depending on brand and whether there was a factory plug in for the controller or if we had to run the wiring - best thing I agree is to have the trailer inspected, it should be serviced anyway 1st thing since the current owner may not have taken care with it

Jul. 23, 2010, 03:56 PM
Thanks to all.

Jul. 23, 2010, 04:55 PM
yikes, that's all I have to say.

Jul. 23, 2010, 06:20 PM
From the ad it sounded like they were an added feature and the owner never uses them due to their towing vehicle not having a controller. Therefore the owner was unsure if the eletric brakes worked or not but said I could test them with my vehicle (in this situation I would use a friends, because my controller has not been installed)

I called the manufacturer because to be honest I wasnt sure if most trailers had standard brakes and then if electric or surge brakes were an upgrade.

The manufacture informed me that electric brakes are standard in their trailers. And is like that on most other trailers - so I guess they do not need to be installed - as I was thinking I would have to do with any used trailer I bought.

I fully plan on getting the brake controller which seems to be an easy install and pretty reasonable $-wise.

Jul. 23, 2010, 06:29 PM
any recent (at least 10 years or so) trailer made by a reputable manufacturer will have electric brakes (unless they are brenderups which I believe use a different system).

Brake controllers are neither expensive nor difficult to install and IMO are an ABSOLUTE must when hauling safely. This is not something I'd scrimp on.

If your truck doesn't have a brake controller, not hard to get it done, and any trailer you consider buying should have working brakes; if they aren't working, get an estimate to fix and take that off the purchase price.

Tom King
Jul. 23, 2010, 06:46 PM
To see if the brakes are activating, or at least trying to activate, hook your vehicle (with brake controller of course) up and have someone hold a compass (North/South not circle drawing) about half way between the center of the hub and the edge of the rim straight up from the hub. While your helper holds the compass there at each wheel, step on the brakes with the ignition on. The needle should point towards the wheel if activating when you press on the brake pedal.

Of course that doesn't necessarily mean the shoes are engaging the drum without a test drive, but it will tell you if the electrical circuit for the brakes is complete and the magnets are working.

Jul. 24, 2010, 12:50 AM
Thanks for all the input. This is not the first truck or trailer I have had, but it is the first one I have paid for myself as an adult and without any input from my dad who is unable to come with me, so I am being a bit neurotic about making sure I get the right thing and a good deal.

When I hauled as a teen and through out college we did not hae a brake box in our truck. But haven driven bigger trucks and trailers now with them, I think it is a m,ust hae even mfor my truck and soon to be purchased two-horse trailer.

Just want to make sure I am getting the best deal money and safety wise.