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  • Writer's pictureThoroughbred Floats

Difference Between Electric and Hydraulic Brakes


Horse floats are essential for transporting horses to different destinations, such as shows, competitions, and clinics. The safety of both the horse and the driver is crucial, and one critical aspect of that safety is the braking system. Two primary brakes are commonly used in horse floats: electric brakes and hydraulic brakes. In this article, we'll explore the differences between these types of brakes and why it's essential to maintain them properly.


Electric Brakes:


Electric brakes are commonly used in horse floats. These brakes work by applying an electric current to the brake shoes or pads, which then apply pressure to the brake drum or rotor. When the driver applies the brakes in the tow vehicle, a signal is sent to the horse float's electric brake controller, which then activates the brakes.


There are two kinds of Electric Brakes, an on-float controller, and an in-cab controller. So, the on-float controller is in most cases on the float’s drawbar on inside a storage locker, there is a small dial that you adjust to get the desired brake capacity. This brake component has a braking capacity to 2500kg so suits the smaller floats, if you have a float that has a GVM of 3500kg then you will need the in-cab controller that works on the same principle however you can adjust the brake capacity while seated in the car and driving. The in-cab controller is either hard wired into the vehicle or remote systems are also available that are more like a plug and play or a unit is wired into the float and the car has a remote that talks to it.


Hydraulic Brakes:


Hydraulic brakes, on the other hand, use hydraulic fluid to transmit pressure to the brake shoes or pads, which then apply pressure to the brake drum or rotor. When the driver applies the brakes in the tow vehicle, the hydraulic fluid is pressurized, which then activates the brakes. Most smaller floats have one axle braked with the standard Hydraulic system which can take 2500kg, however, a 3500kg brake capacity is available but you require two axles to be braked. With the hydraulic override system that has a 3500kg brake capacity, the master cylinder will be larger in order to hold enough brake fluid to brake a double axle brake system. With NZ Law to have a 3500kg Hydraulic override system the manufacturer of the float/trailer will require an exemption and a unique VIN number given to that individual trailer through an NZTA process.


The Differences:


While both electric and hydraulic brakes serve the same purpose, there are some differences between the two. The most significant difference is the way they apply pressure to the brake drums or rotors. Electric brakes use an electric current, while hydraulic brakes use hydraulic fluid. This difference can affect the amount of pressure applied to the brakes and how quickly they respond.


Electric brakes tend to be more responsive than hydraulic ones since they activate almost instantly when the driver applies them. However, they can be more difficult to adjust, and if they're not correctly maintained, they can overheat, resulting in brake failure. Hydraulic brakes, on the other hand, are easier to adjust, and they're less prone to overheating. However, they may not be as responsive as electric brakes, particularly if there's air in the system.


Why Brakes Are a Necessity:


Regardless of whether your horse float has electric or hydraulic brakes, it's essential to have functioning brakes. The weight of the horse float and the horses being transported can put a considerable strain on the tow vehicle's braking system. Without functioning brakes, the tow vehicle may struggle to stop, which could result in a serious accident.


Why Brakes Need to be Maintained:


Proper brake maintenance is crucial for the safety of both the horses and the driver. Neglected brakes can lead to brake failure, which can cause accidents resulting in serious injuries or even death. It's important to have your brakes checked regularly by a professional float/trailer mechanic to ensure that they're functioning correctly. Regular maintenance can also prolong the life of your brakes and prevent costly repairs down the road.

In conclusion, the safety of both the horse and the driver is paramount when it comes to transporting horses in a float. A functioning braking system is essential, regardless of whether your horse float has electric or hydraulic brakes. Proper maintenance of your brakes is crucial to ensure their functionality and prevent accidents. Remember to have your brakes checked regularly by a professional mechanic to ensure that they're in good working order.

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