When you’re out towing your boat, boat trailer brakes arguably make the entire activity far less stressful and safer. It won’t even be farfetched to say that it’s as important as an anchor is to a boat. The best boat trailer brakes can guarantee no less than that.
However, getting to the point where everything is smooth sailing with your brake is easier said than done. Choosing the wrong one could mean all the difference in the world with regards to durability and efficiency. You also need to pay attention to which kind of brake your specific trailer needs.
Want to put the brakes on this particular boat trailer dilemma for good? Then do take the time to read our guide and reviews on different types of trailer brakes. And if you read all the way, you’ll learn a few expert tips when choosing and using these brakes, too!
Table of Contents
- Best Boat Trailer Brake Reviews
- 1. Southwest Wheel Trailer Brake
- 2. Kodiak Trailer Brake
- 3. Highton Hydraulic Marine Brake
- 4. LIBRA Electric Brakes Kits
- 5. Southwest Wheel Hydraulic Trailer Brakes
- 6. ECustomhitch Electric Trailer Brake
- 7. Kodiak Trailer Disc Brake Set
- 8. Replaces Dexter Electric Trailer Brake
- 9. Southwest Wheel Electric Brake Kit
- 10. Tie Down Engineering Vented Brake
- 11. M-Parts Right Electric Brake Assembly
- 12. Ei 12X2 Electric Trailer Brakes
- Buying Guide
- Care and Maintenance
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Boat Trailer Brake Reviews
1. Southwest Wheel Trailer Brake
Southwest Wheel knows how to design no-nonsense but very efficient electric brakes on boat trailer setups. Once you experience its performance first-hand, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
This is the very first electric brake I used for my 5,000-pound boat. Back then, I was still relatively unaware of how powerful electric brakes are. I used to have the habit of braking well in advance to keep a safe distance and put up with my trailer slamming on the back of my truck. If you’ve had to put up with these hassles yourself, then you probably know how annoying and stressful these situations can get.
It’s safe to say that this product finally spared me from those problems. I used mine for 5 years before replacing it with a new one but still the same model. I really can’t find any other electric brake that’s this solid in performance, durability, and overall value for money.
It didn’t take long for me to install the entire thing, thanks to the fact that the entire thing comes fully assembled and only needs to be mounted. Of course, I had to take care of some adjustments and wiring, too, but after that, these brakes simply put me on cloud nine every time I go out towing.
2. Kodiak Trailer Brake
Boat trailer braking systems that center on hydraulic disc brakes often emphasize stopping power. These brakes showcase that characteristic generously while being magnanimous in other aspects.
I bought this kit last year as a complete replacement to the hydraulic surge brake kits I’ve been using for close to two years. What attracts me to hydraulic disc brakes is their relatively high stopping power. I’m going to go ahead and say that these brakes pack a punch in that regard. I can immediately notice the difference in control and stopping ability compared to others I’ve tried.
In all the times I took out my 14’ jon boat to Lake Superior with these brakes, I never had to worry about it not being able to handle the current pressure. Only the caliper fittings are made of stainless steel, while the discs, rotor, and caliper are coated with dacromet. So far, after close to a year of use, I do not see any rusting.
I also love that they come as a complete package, with the inner and outer bearings plus grease seals included. For the price, it’s already a considerable bargain. It shouldn’t be difficult to install them if you already have an inkling about using a standard hydraulic boat trailer brakes replacement kit.
3. Highton Hydraulic Marine Brake
This Highton’s brake assembly is perfect for anyone who has a habit of fishing in freshwater and saltwater. I experienced first-hand its consistent performance and relative durability when used in either water type.
I got this hydraulic brake way back when it was first released in 2013. It’s still in good, working condition but I’ve since replaced it with an electric one. However, I definitely plan to purchase another kit soon for one of my medium-sized boats because I can’t think of a more reliable and versatile brake that can handle freshwater and saltwater with ease.
I attribute its longevity to the purported “advanced” dacromet coating and its combination with stainless steel hardware. I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes the coating being “advanced” but the sheer absence of rust in the entire thing after considerable mileage had me sold when it reached the 6-year mark. I only had to replace the brake pads, and do take note that I make it a point to wash the brakes after retrieval, especially if I used it on saltwater.
I bought the entire assembly and completely removed the previous one it replaced so there wasn’t much difficulty on installation. I often still make the mistake of putting the wrong component first — in this case, I installed the brake line before the drum first — but I was able to figure it out soon enough. The stopping power never let me down, but I would have preferred it to be beefier.
4. LIBRA Electric Brakes Kits
Anyone who needs to add a brake to almost any kind of boat trailer for various reasons can expect to get a quick remedy with the help of this LIBRA creation.
I wanted to try out this LIBRA electric brake because of the notably huge number of positive reviews it has been garnering. It so happened that I needed to add electric brakes to the second axle of my other 20’ trailer. Almost immediately, I noticed the immense difference it made when stopping every time I roll out my 6,000-pound aluminum fishing boat.
Not gonna lie, I definitely loved the fact that they came cheap for what I got. The bearings and grease caps undoubtedly lent themselves to the smoother rides I started to enjoy once I installed this kit. I’m not going to be raining praises on the overall quality of the materials, though. Nonetheless, I’m glad that the entire setup’s still working seamlessly after 1 year of monthly use.
5. Southwest Wheel Hydraulic Trailer Brakes
Want everything that makes hydraulic brakes shine above their counterparts? These Southwest Wheel brakes combine power and durability with relative ease.
My father has been using these brakes for God knows how long, which you can only imagine. I don’t actually own one myself, but I think this one deserves a spot here because of the sheer amount of time he enjoyed towing with these brakes. And, mind you, he’s only a sometime fisherman unlike me.
I wouldn’t hesitate to carry this kit around with me, nonetheless, having towed my father’s trailer occasionally through the years. Stopping power is amazing, considering the year it was manufactured, and soon realized that I can’t remember a single time when this overheated at all. I can say the same for when I’m backing up with no lockup. It’s like I’m not towing a 5,000-pounder behind me at all!
According to my dad, he also loved that he basically dropped them in and was enjoying a nice glass of beer before long. It took him only around 20 minutes to install it, he said, and even if he does jest at times, I’m more than willing to take his word for it. Why? He confessed he had a harder time getting the older brakes off!
6. ECustomhitch Electric Trailer Brake
This kit is less a standard replacement and more an upgrade for most boat trailers. Choose this if you want brakes that are guaranteed to be better than most standard-issue kits.
These kits contain everything I need to replace my backing plates, so I make it a point to carry them on my longer trips. I’ve given them a try a few times, and what quickly stood out to me was how strong the brakes’ stopping power is. My substantial experience with quite a few electric brakes makes this product stand out in that regard — I’d even say it’s on-par with most hydraulic brakes I’ve owned.
Every part contains a marker to help you with the installation. I think this deserves to be highlighted as it shows how thoughtful ECustomhitch is, and I literally can’t say the same for even one of the most popular brands out there. Sure enough, it took me less than an hour to set everything up.
It also provides the kind of control you’re looking for in an electric brake. It’s not as notable as the stopping power, though. Conversely, one glaring downside involves the absence of any marine-grade components, but I can always fit it with stainless steel parts, thankfully.
I make sure I hose it immediately every time I submerge it in water. So far so good if you’re curious about the durability with 8 months in and no rust yet on the hub’s exterior. I’m not sure about the exact materials used, but it’s holding up fairly well in my book.
7. Kodiak Trailer Disc Brake Set
Kodiak’s reputation for making long-lasting and high-powered brakes effortlessly shines through in this disc brake assembly.
I listened to a boating friend who owns this exact Kodiak disc brake and is all too willing to recommend it to me. If you were me, you’d probably do the same considering the fact that he bought this the first time it was released, which was around 9 years ago, and he’s still using it now. Besides, I’ve only ever heard good things about Kodiak, especially their dacromet/stainless steel combinations that tend to last for more than a decade.
I bought mine only recently, but I can safely vouch for its durability by virtue of my buddy’s experience with it. He never had to replace any major parts. He only had to buy additional components like a new hitch to be on-par with the superb stopping power of this product — it has that potent bite that makes me feel confident that it won’t be pushing me.
My friend tows no more than 4,000 pounds with it, and while its general appearance already looks a bit rusted, old and battered after all these years, it still works like new and has never overheated. He refrains from exposing it to saltwater, though. But given what it’s made of, I think it can handle it well enough.
8. Replaces Dexter Electric Trailer Brake
This boat trailer electric brake kit takes care of your heavy-duty towing needs.
I have hauled a maximum of 20,000 pounds with these brakes before but I admit that I was towing a 5th wheel trailer and not a boat trailer when I did so. Still, that should give you a good idea about how much weight these brakes can handle. I have since installed it to my 25′ tandem axle trailer to handle my larger fishing boats.
This kit introduced me to the wonders of alloy steel, with the stellar corrosion resistance well worthy of a special mention. This is one of the few electric brakes I’ve used that capability to handle freshwater outshines the rest. I even submerge it in saltwater occasionally, taking care to rinse it thoroughly afterwards. Not a single presence of rust yet after one and a half years of irregular use.
The stopping power varies depending on the load I’m carrying. Don’t be surprised if you’ll need to brake earlier if you’re towing as much weight as the 20,000-pound trailer I hauled before. I’d say it’s still relatively satisfactory since we’re talking about heftier trailers here.
Another aspect I like is that it hasn’t overheated yet despite the kind of load I’m putting on it. Most of my hydraulic disc brakes disappointed me in this regard, but my electric brakes rarely encounter this issue. I’m glad I can say the same for this product.
9. Southwest Wheel Electric Brake Kit
This kit comes complete not only when it comes to parts essential for out-of-the-box braking solutions but also in performance and, quite surprisingly, customer service.
I’ve only owned and used this for 6 months, but that short amount of time already gave me plenty of reasons to include this electric brake on this list. I was a little wary since some of the reviews said that some parts were missing when they received their orders. That I got everything the first time, bearings, lugs and nuts included, honestly filled me with relief.
Installation took almost an entire week because of a part issue, though. While I did get the whole package, one of the magnets did start to go awry when I was trying to install it. I promptly contacted Southwest Wheel about it, and they quickly replied the next day stating that I’ll be getting a replacement in 3 days.
It arrived exactly as promised, and I immediately threw it on — and voila, I was towing the very next day! It would have taken me around 30 minutes to install everything since it came with pre-packed bearings and the hub assembled already. Nonetheless, I commend the swift and stellar support I got for which I’ve excluded that bad experience in my list of cons.
Performance-wise, I’d say this kit’s strength lies in its control. It’s better than the stopping power, which is to be expected from electric brakes anyway. I can’t say much about durability and any overheating issue yet because it’s still a fresh acquisition.
10. Tie Down Engineering Vented Brake
Want a quick and solid upgrade to your battered or low-quality brake? This disc brake kit is virtually all you’ll need.
Tie Down Engineering rarely lets me down in most of my boating needs. With that said, this brake kit does well to demonstrate why this brand should be anyone’s safe bet when opting for the marine-readiness of essential parts like boat trailer brakes and bearings. I’m going to say it upfront: these brakes should be your top choice if you’re going to be submerging your trailer a lot when launching or loading.
I’ve been using them for 3 years in an almost equal mix of saltwater and freshwater conditions. I can no longer count the number of times I took my 16’ trailer and skiff to Cape Cod with these brakes on. Even after numerous dips in salt water, I still see smooth metal on the brakes and caliper.
The kit offers everything you need to install, and even throws in a number of bonuses like the actuator and the bearings, which come pre-packed. Still, getting the needed slider bolt would have been neat. It’s quite a piece of cake to install on the whole, which is something that I’ll appreciate if I ever need to do a swift replacement.
11. M-Parts Right Electric Brake Assembly
If your trailer’s right-hand brakes ever break down and you need a replacement that’s a cinch to bolt right up and works like a charm from the get-go, know that this assembly exemplifies all those qualities.
I bought this because I needed a replacement for my previous right-hand brake assembly, which happened to be made by the same manufacturer. What I like about this particular assembly is that it’s general-duty and was almost close to identical to the original brake assembly it replaced.
The 3,500-lb axle weight limit fits the standard for boats on the small side. If you take the time to buy marine-grade wiring insulation and heat shrink butt connectors, you won’t worry about water submersions too much. You’ll enjoy the perks of better control and stopping power this way, and not have to worry about the usual water issues of electric brakes.
I have yet to see any hint of overheating, but I tend to keep the load down. I traveled 500 miles to Lake Fork Reservoir with it once, and it was one of my more memorable trips since it was literally smooth sailing from my home to the lake and back. It didn’t hurt that I had my Bob Dylan playlist to keep me in the zone.
12. Ei 12X2 Electric Trailer Brakes
Last but not least, Ei’s electric brake assembly brings plenty of the usual conveniences to the table minus the usual headaches involved in handling water and rough stops.
Like the other electric brakes mentioned here, this kit proves to be amenable to making its wiring more water-resistant. I’ve tested some electric brakes before and only a few were suitable for these slight modifications. These brakes, along with the others mentioned in this list, make up most of them.
I obviously like the larger weight limit of this kit, since I can finally lug around my heavier boats while enjoying more potent control. The stopping power feels adequate, though it doesn’t come close to the kind of stops I want when braking. Even so, I’m still relatively comfortable every time I roll around in my 25’ aluminum trailer.
I replaced my hydraulic drums with them and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the brake drums were still compatible with this assembly. That, plus the fact that this includes backing plates for both sides and most parts necessary for installation, easily convinced me that it’s a real steal. The price that I got it for around 3 years ago only proves this.
When adding brakes to a boat trailer, you have to look at a number of things. List down your trailer’s make, model, and year. Besides obviously making a note of how you plan to use your brakes and how long, paying attention to these other factors will only make your decision-making a smooth process every time.
For your easy reference, I’ve arranged them into categories as follows:
- Total Weight
How much weight will you be lugging around in total? This includes the weight of the trailer, boat, and other stuff you will be bringing along on your fishing or boating trip. Keep in mind the maximum weight that the brakes can handle.
More often than not, the brand readily indicates this in the product description. If not, you can always ask them directly about it. Also, take note of the weight regulations and requirements in your specific locale or state.
- Type of Brakes
Marine trailer brakes come in different forms with their respective variations. Like almost all types of a certain product, each one stands out in certain aspects. At best, these brakes can be categorized into two primary groups: surge brakes and electric brakes. Other variations to these come in the form of disc, hydraulic disc, and drum brakes.
Most electric brakes for boat trailers, for example, often lend better control, allowing you to forego braking early completely to stop at the right distance. They’re easier to use and can rival hydraulic surge brakes in simplicity of functionality and more comfortable control. In most electric brakes, the trailer stops first to allow better control and safety.
On the other hand, surge trailer brakes can make do without the wiring required by most electric systems. However, they often need you to apply the brake earlier or, at least, anticipate a longer distance before you press down on the brake pads. That being said, hydraulic surge brakes address this issue because they’re built to impart greater control and to allow trailers to slow down better.
If you want brakes that don’t compromise on stopping power and often handle marine conditions easily, then you should opt for hydraulic disc brakes. Most manufacturers design these breaks so that they’ll be amenable to stronger currents, for example.
Some even have all-terrain capabilities. Nevertheless, unless they’re galvanized or made mainly of stainless steel, don’t be surprised if you have trouble working on saltwater with them.
- Corrosion Resistance
Dacromet coating typically boosts corrosion resistance to a very notable degree. Paired with stainless steel, like the Kodiak stainless steel boat trailer brakes found in the market, this combination, to me, provides the gold standard for the best boat trailer brakes’ durability. Many boating forums I’ve been to have users attesting to using brakes with these materials for an average of 7 years.
Quite understandably, electric brakes pale in comparison to hydraulic brakes and surge brakes for boat trailers. However, this weakness can be overcome by using heat shrink connectors and marine-grade wiring insulation. Certain brands also use alloy steel for the main hub, which improves rust resistance to an extent.
Furthermore, take note that if you’re transitioning from one brake type to, let’s say, an electric assembly, you might want to use a boat trailer electric brake conversion kit so you’ll be provided with necessities like the actuator, wiring, and controller.
- Components for Installation
Do you have the right-sized bolts, nuts and lugs? This is assuming the kit you’ll be buying don’t have them. Always take this into consideration so your installation will go smoothly. I often take the time to research the proper components prior to making a final purchase.
Care and Maintenance
Whether you’re using electric disc brakes for boat trailers or hydraulic stainless trailer brakes, any kind of brake assembly you fit to your boat trailer should undergo regular checkups, especially if you use them frequently. Not investing in maintenance could not only lead to corrosion but safety issues too.
You can start by wiping any debris that may have gotten stuck to them using fresh water and a clean cloth. Keeping the brakes spick and span has always been a reliable way for me to extend my assemblies’ lifespan.
Don’t forget to inspect the brake shoes for any signs of poor performance; yearly inspections will suffice in most cases. They might require replacing before long if you feel something is off. It would be better if you rely on professional assistance for this to make sure. Be extra mindful of corrosion that forms on the brake lines’ entire length.
While I did say that I rinse my hubs well after use, especially if they took a saltwater bath, I still make sure that I do so carefully. I keep the braking surface from getting wet because that will only lead to higher risks of the brakes malfunctioning or overheating.
Obviously, I’m assuming you’re using brakes that have minimal or close to zero protection against rust when I say this. Even if they have them, it’s no guarantee that they’ll be completely immune to rust. This is why I even take things further in some of my brake systems by applying corrosion resistant coatings to them.
Pay close attention to the lug nuts since I’ve had my share of nuts that have rusted to the point that they cling vice-like to the wheel studs. Never a pretty sight so be sure to rinse them liberally, too. Lastly, if you’re using surge brakes, make sure to check your brake fluid levels before a trip.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who makes the best boat trailer brakes?
The first brand that I always put my trust to when it comes to boat trailer brakes is Kodiak for its products’ sheer longevity. Highton, Tie Down Engineering and Southwest Wheel are tied at second place. This is because the former two make hydraulic brakes and disc brakes specifically designed for boat trailers, while Southwest Wheel pushes the limits electric brakes can go to make themselves more water resistant.
With that said, I’ve tried all the products said above for every boat trailer I’ve driven, owned or otherwise, and can attest to their performance in most settings, including the road and water conditions that these types of trailers are regularly subjected to. For this fact alone, I recommend all of them.
Does my boat trailer need brakes?
In my experience, fitting brakes to boat trailers only makes towing far less stressful. I enjoy better control and don’t have to stress about braking earlier that much — if at all. However, if you’re comfortable towing without brakes and aren’t required then I don’t see the point of getting them for your trailer.
With that said, in certain states and countries, installing brakes is actually required after you go past a certain weight limit.
What kind of brakes do boat trailers have?
Most boat trailers nowadays either use surge or hydraulic, disc, or electric brakes. Their main difference from those used in standard trailers or RVs lies in the fact that they’re often made up of materials that are more water resistant or are coated with substances like dacromet to boost corrosion protection.
Can you put electric brakes on a boat trailer?
Yes. This used to be taboo in the past because, logically, it won’t do to submerge anything that runs on electricity in water. But nowadays, there are lots of workarounds to this already as I’ll explain in the last question.
Surge brakes vs electric brakes: What’s the difference?
Surge brakes were once considered the simplest to use, but electric brakes easily acquired that title when they became more widely available. Basically, surge brakes are more “passive” and tend to be triggered only when the vehicle towing decelerates. They’re often installed in the trailer.
Electric brakes, on the other hand, guarantee better control and quicker stops because it integrates directly to your vehicle’s brake pedal. They need proper wiring to function properly.
Can electric trailer brakes be submerged?
As long as they’re marine-grade in portions and components that are submerged, I won’t worry about electric trailer brakes breaking down or rusting.
One other trick I learned from savvy boaters involved unplugging the trailer before backing the trailer. However, this won’t do much good if you still have portions you dip (e.g. the magnets) that are vulnerable to water.
I hope that the best boat trailer brakes I shared here will finally put a stop to all the perennial problems that’s holding your towing, boating, and fishing experience back. These selections and my tips prove that there’s always something new to learn in the topic of brakes and boat trailers.