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Is It OK To Tow A Camper Without Trailer Brakes?

Is It OK to Tow A Camper Without Trailer Brakes?

It might surprise you to know that not every camper comes with trailer brakes.

Typically, one of the first questions people ask when looking to buy a truck is, “How much can it tow?” However, this question overlooks a more important question, “Can it stop my trailer?”

Luckily for drivers, many campers come equipped with trailer brakes to assist with stopping. But not all.

You must know you’ll be able to stop safely when towing a trailer behind you. So, today we’ll answer the question, is it okay to tow a camper that has no brakes.

Let’s get started!

How Much Can You Tow Without Trailer Brakes?

It’s always better to have more stopping power than not enough. States set their regulations when it comes to the requirements for trailer brakes. You’ll find states that require brakes on all trailers over 1000 lbs when loaded and even a state or two that doesn’t require them until exceeding 5000 or 10,000 lbs.

You want to make sure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information when towing. So make sure you check with your local DMV or the DMV for any states you plan to tow in if your trailer doesn’t have trailer brakes.

Up close image of brake.
Trailer brakes give brake support when stopping a trailer while towing.

Why Do Trailers Need To Have Brakes?

Trailer brakes provide brake support when stopping a trailer while towing. This helps alleviate the tow vehicle from bearing the full weight of the trailer when it comes to stopping. This helps reduce the wear and tear on your vehicle’s brake system and creates a smoother stop while towing.

Having trailer brakes is also beneficial when going down hills to maintain control of your trailer. These brakes typically activate whenever you press on your tow vehicle’s brake pedal. This means braking is evenly distributed, and the trailer slows down at the same rate as the tow vehicle. This prevents the trailer from pushing the vehicle and putting more force on the tow vehicle while stopping.

Pro Tip: Don’t get caught with faulty brakes. If your camper comes with brakes, you’ll want to know How Do You Check RV Brakes.

Man happily driving RV.
Trailer brakes keep you and your RV safe while towing.

What Are The Different Types Of Trailer Brakes?

There are a couple of different types of trailer brakes. Let’s take a look at each and see which is best for your setup.

Electronic Brakes

When using electronic brakes, you’ll find a brake controller in the cab of the tow vehicle. Vehicles designed with towing in mind will typically come equipped with a brake controller pre-installed. If not, you’ll need to install a brake controller into your vehicle, which is relatively simple.

Electric brakes can stop a trailer by using electromagnets to actuate the drum brakes in your trailer’s braking system. You can adjust the amount of electricity sent to the trailer’s braking system. When dialed in correctly, electric brakes are a fantastic option for stopping trailers.

You may need to activate the brake controller to eliminate sway in your trailer. This can be useful when going down hills, during a windstorm, or as a massive 18-wheeler passes you on the highway. 

Surge Brakes

Surge brakes use hydraulics and the trailer’s momentum to activate the trailer brakes. Whenever you press on the brake pedal and the tow vehicle slows down, the trailer will push against a hydraulic cylinder. This process activates the trailer braking system and begins to slow the trailer down.

The harder you press the brake pedal, the more pressure is applied to the braking system, and the trailer will slow down faster. This creates an incredibly smooth stop as both the trailer and the tow vehicle are slowing down at the same speed. However, there is no way to activate the trailer brakes themselves should your RV begin to sway or you find yourself in a sticky situation on the highway.

Do All Campers Have Brakes Installed?

Not every camper comes with trailer brakes installed on them, but most do. Because laws vary from state to state, many RV manufacturers add trailer brakes to any campers that exceed the 1,500 lbs range.

This helps ensure owners don’t experience any issues with towing should their state have strict trailer brake rules and regulations.

Man installing brake.
Having trailer brakes stops accidents from happening while towing.

What Are The Repercussions Of Towing A Trailer With No Brakes?

If you’re towing a trailer with no brakes and the trailer exceeds the weight requirements set by the state, you could be issued a citation if caught. You also could find yourself in more severe trouble should you be involved in an accident while towing and someone is injured or killed. We don’t want you to have to live with those consequences for the rest of your life.

Another repercussion would be that you have less control of your trailer when towing. Whether you’re trying to stop or go down a steep incline, you must be in control of your RV at all times. Having trailer brakes that are properly functioning is an excellent way to stay in control of your RV while towing.

Pro Tip: To safely tow your RV, you might need a trailer brake controller. Read more to find out What Is a Trailer Brake Controller? 

Can You Tow A Camper That Has No Brakes?

Depending on the state, you may be able to tow a camper that has no brakes. However, it’s essential to know the weight of your RV and your state’s trailer brake requirements. If you’re planning to tow a small pop-up camper, it may not come with trailer brakes as they’re often incredibly light.

It is possible to tow a camper that has no brakes, but it’s much easier and safer to have trailer brakes on your camper. You want to be as safe as possible while towing. Every advantage you can give yourself helps keep you and others on the road as safe as possible.

Safer Towing with Trailer Brakes

Using a trailer brake can be a life-saver, especially when navigating a mountain pass or other steep decline. Being able to safely stop your RV without burning through your tow vehicle’s brakes is key to maximizing your safety while towing.

If you’ve ever towed a trailer without trailer brakes, how much fun was it? 

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