Can you tow a caravan without electric brakes?

This article will answer the following question: Can you tow a caravan without electric brakes? We will explain the difference between a braked and unbraked caravan and the advantages for each. 

Can you tow a caravan without electric brakes?

You can tow a caravan without electric brakes, meaning that the towing vehicle will be solely responsible for braking in case of an emergency. In most cases, this is perfectly fine and legal, but make sure you don’t overload your caravan, as it can pose great danger, especially when overtaking on the highway.  

Lightweight trailers do not have to be braked since the braking of the vehicle towing them is sufficient. It is also necessary to check that the trailer’s mounting bracket is rigid enough to absorb the braking without the vehicle and the trailer colliding.

When should you equip your caravan with brakes?

On heavier trailers and caravans, which exceed half of the vehicle towing unladen, consider getting a braked caravan. Its role is to assist the vehicle’s primary braking and relieve it of the trailer’s weight.

The goal is to reduce the braking distance to ensure better passenger safety. But it also makes it possible to extend the life of the brakes of the towing vehicle and the contents of the trailer.

Should my caravan be braked or not? 

When you finally decide to buy a trailer or caravan, there is a fundamental question to ask.

You should know that the regulations impose a service brake beyond a gross weight of 750kg. But this is a standard; indeed, beyond this rule, you should know that when you tow a trailer with a gross weight of 500kg, all the braking force will be provided only by the towing vehicle’s brake system. As a result, if you combine a light vehicle with an unbraked trailer your braking distance will be considerably increased. 

In addition, when braking on a curve, it can have a much more serious impact, because when your car is in the middle of a change of direction, your trailer will exert a push at the rear of the towing vehicle, opposite to the borrowed direction.

This can lead to a loss of control and dangerous situations.  We know full well that someone will one day use an overloaded trailer, so knowing that a trailer without associated brakes has such a low overload is unforgivable.

We must admit that a braked trailer is so much more expensive. But it is not only necessary to compare the price/brake ratio, because beyond the system brake you will notice that these trailers are often more robust (reinforced boom, more rigid frame, and especially oversized axles) because the manufacturers know it well, the braked trailers are often intended for professional use.

What is a braked trailer?

Braked trailers are attracting more and more motorists because of the convenience they offer. Not to mention the additional volume they offer to transfer large materials. Trailers with or without brakes, depending on the conditions of use and the needs of the driver. Also, many companies market these trailers, in equally different formats.

And the selection criteria are more and more numerous today. These trailers vary in size, width, length, the material used, and we go. What interests us here is rather whether it is braked or not.

How does a braked trailer work?

As the name suggests, a trailer that benefits from this device is a trailer that has its own brake mechanism. However, keep in mind that it is not enough on its own to guarantee the trailer’s good handling. Whether in autonomy, or once hooked up to a towing vehicle. The brakes used are very often drum brakes. They rest on jaws, which come to rest on the drum and thus slow down the wheel’s moment until it stops.

Keep in mind that the weight of the trailer is a critical variable in many situations. The unladen weight of the course and the loaded weight is counted in the Total Authorized Loaded Weight of the vehicle. We told you which license plate is needed for a trailer. These are similar criteria that come to feed the reflection for the braked trailers. These different weights make it possible to establish whether or not a braked trailer is necessary.

Braked trailer: compulsory if GVW of more than 750 kg

The braked trailer guarantees the perfect safety of the coupling when braking the towing vehicle. It absorbs the weight of the hitch thanks to its braking system. A trailer must be braked in the following cases:

  • for a GVWR (total authorized weight) greater than 750 kg,
  • if its PV (empty weight) is at least equal to half the towing vehicle’s weight.

The braked trailer is equipped with an inertia brake system which includes:

  • a transmission system,
  • the wheel brake,
  • the linkage,
  • the brake cables.

The use of a braked trailer has several advantages in terms of safety:

  1. reduction of the braking distance for a much faster stop of the coupling (approximately 25%),
  2. prevents the trailer from skidding in the event of sudden braking,
  3. allows a systematic stop if breakage of the coupling occurs,
  4. saves the brakes of the towing vehicle: this guarantees the longevity of the brake pads.

Using a braked trailer requires driving with a few precautions:

  • reduce the driving speed on wet roads: as with an unbraked trailer, the braking distance is longer in rainy weather,
  • avoid submerging the braked trailer’s wheels in a salty environment, as the brakes and their components could be seriously damaged or even blocked.

The trailers most exposed to this type of problem are:

  • the kayak trailer,
  • the jet-ski trailer,
  • the boat trailer.


By purchasing a braked trailer:

  • You will relieve the brakes of your vehicle;
  • You will ensure your safety and that of others;
  • You will benefit from a higher payload;
  • The design of your trailer will be of better quality;
  • It will be easier to park thanks to the parking lever, which will immobilise your trailer in all circumstances.

No matter the type of trailer or caravan you are towing, make sure you don’t overload it. Respect the towing capacity of your car and be safe on the road!

Please let us know if you have any tips, comments or questions about braked and unbraked caravans. 

FAQ on Can you tow a caravan without electric brakes?

Do you have to have electric brakes to tow a caravan?

If the caravan weights more than 750 kg, you are required by law to have electric brakes. The goal is to reduce the braking distance to ensure better passenger safety. But it also makes it possible to extend the life of the brakes of the towing vehicle and the contents of the trailer.

Can I tow a trailer with electric brakes without a brake controller?

No, you cannot tow a trailer with electric brakes without a brake controller, as it would be useless. Electric brakes need a brake controller to work!

How much weight can you tow without trailer brakes?

You can tow up to 750 kg weight without trailer brakes, or even more as long as you are not driving more than 48 kph or 30 mph!

Do I need electric brakes to tow a Jayco Swan?

A Jayco Swan has electric brakes preinstalled. What you need is an electric brake controller as the brakes will not work without it. 

How much does it cost to install electric brakes?

The average cost to install electric brakes is $500. 


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