How much can you tow without trailer brakes?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: How much can you tow without trailer brakes? We will discuss the importance of trailer brakes and state laws regarding towing a trailer. 

How much can you tow without trailer brakes?

In most states, you can tow up to 3000 lbs without trailer brakes. There is an exception to this rule only in a few places across the US, as you will see in the table below. 

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.

State laws regarding trailer brakes

StateBrakes required if trailer GVWR is equal or more than X lbs
New Hampshire‘A’
New Jersey‘C’
New Mexico3,000
New York1,000
North Carolina4,000
North Dakota‘C’
Rhode Island4,000
South Carolina3,000
South Dakota3,000
West Virginia3,000

‘A’ — Must stop within a specified distance

‘B’ — Not stated or no requirement

‘C’ — Supplemental brakes always required

Before towing a trailer without brakes

Before setting off, practice turning, stopping and backing to familiarize yourself with the handling and reactions of your vehicle-trailer combination. To turn, take wider turns so that the trailer wheels do not hit the curb or other obstacles.

While towing a trailer without brakes

  • Do not go faster than .70 mph (113 km / h) for the first .500 mi (800 km).
  • Do not start by accelerating suddenly.
  • After driving 50 mi (80 km), thoroughly check the hitch, electrical connections and tightness of the trailer lug nuts.
  • When stopping in a traffic jam or in heavy traffic in hot weather, place the transmission in Park (P) to help cool the engine and transmission, and improve air conditioning performance.
  • Disable cruise control with heavy loads or in mountainous areas. If you are towing a trailer, the cruise control may automatically turn off on long, steep climbs.
  • Shift to a lower gear when negotiating a long, steep incline. Do not brake continuously, as the brakes could overheat and lose their effectiveness.
  • If your gearbox has a hill assist or traction function, use this mode when towing. This function provides more engine braking and avoids too frequent gear changes in order to optimize fuel consumption and gearbox cooling.
  • If your vehicle is equipped with the AdvanceTrac with RSC system, it may activate when cornering with a heavily loaded trailer. This situation is normal. Take turns at lower speeds with a trailer to reduce this tendency.
  • If you frequently tow a trailer in hot weather, on mountain roads, or at the allowable gross vehicle weight (or a combination of these factors), consider having your rear axle filled with synthetic gear lubricant.
  • Allow for a longer braking distance when towing a trailer with your vehicle. Anticipate stops and brake gradually.
  • Avoid parking on a slope. However, if you must park on a slope:
  1. Turn the steering wheel to steer the wheels of your vehicle in the direction of traffic.
  2. Apply your vehicle’s parking brake.
  3. Place the automatic transmission in the park (P).
  4. Place chocks in front of and behind the trailer wheels. The chocks are not supplied with your vehicle.

When should you equip your trailer 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.

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.

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 movement 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.

The bottom line

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 trailers.

FAQ on How much can you tow without trailer brakes?

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

If the caravan weighs more than 750 kg (3000 lbs), 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!

How much does it cost to install electric brakes?

The average cost to install electric brakes is $500. 


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