A Comprehensive Trailer Brake Comparison


When it comes to trailer brakes, particularly in the hotshot trucking world, the choice between electric over hydraulic disc brakes and regular electric brakes can be crucial. Both systems have their advantages and drawbacks, and understanding these can save you time, money, and a lot of headaches. In this post, we’ll delve into the differences, benefits, and potential issues associated with each type of braking system, including some insights into Department of Transportation (DOT) concerns and brands like Dexter and Lippert.

The Basics of Trailer Brakes

Electric Brakes

Electric brakes have been the go-to option for trailers for many years. They are known for being cost-effective, which makes them a popular choice, especially for trailers that don’t see heavy commercial use. However, in the hotshot trucking industry, electric brakes often lead to problems and DOT violations due to their design and durability under extensive use.

Electric Over Hydraulic Brakes

Electric over hydraulic brakes offer a different approach. They combine the control of electric braking systems with the stopping power of hydraulic brakes, making them a robust option for trailers frequently used in demanding conditions. This system eliminates many of the common issues associated with traditional electric brakes, making them a superior choice for heavy-duty use.

Issues with Electric Brakes

Durability Concerns

In the hotshot trucking industry, trailers often cover extensive miles on a regular basis. The traditional electric brake axle system, though effective for occasional use, tends to wear out quickly under constant commercial use. This frequent usage can lead to numerous issues, including:

1. Magnet Wear and Tear

Electric brakes rely on an electromagnet to activate the brake pads. Over time, the constant movement and road debris can wear down the magnet and the attached wires, leading to faults and the need for replacements. These magnets are activated by an electrical signal from the truck, creating a magnetic field that pulls the brake pads against the drum.

2. Maintenance Challenges

Determining which hub is causing an issue can be challenging and often results in higher repair bills or the need to replace all magnets at once. The wires attached to the magnets can also flex and break, causing fault codes in your truck. This problem is exacerbated by the difficulty in pinpointing which hub is at fault, leading to extensive and costly repairs.

3. DOT Concerns

Hotshot truckers frequently face DOT issues with electric brakes. These brakes, due to their design, are prone to faults and malfunctions that can lead to DOT violations. This not only results in fines but also impacts the reliability and safety of the trailer on the road.

Advantages of Electric Over Hydraulic Brakes

Reduced Electrical Connections

One of the primary benefits of electric over hydraulic brakes is the significant reduction in electrical connections at the hubs. This minimizes potential issues caused by debris and corrosion. Instead, the electrical connections stop at the brake booster, reducing the risk of electrical faults at the hubs.

Superior Stopping Power

Electric over hydraulic brakes provide much stronger stopping power compared to regular electric brakes. This system uses hydraulic brake fluid, similar to what is found in cars, enhancing the overall braking efficiency. The truck sends a signal to the brake booster, which then activates the brake pump to stop the trailer.

Ease of Maintenance

On axles equipped with disk brakes, everything is visible and easily accessible, and maintenance becomes straightforward. The calipers and brake pads are easy to inspect and replace, and bleeding the system is simple if air gets into the lines. Brands like Dexter and Lippert have made significant improvements in their designs, making maintenance easier.

Cost Comparison

While electric over hydraulic brakes are more expensive upfront, the long-term savings can be substantial. For instance, upgrading from a 10,000-pound electric brake axle to an electric over hydraulic system might cost around $1,600 more. However, this difference can quickly become negligible when considering the reduced maintenance costs and fewer headaches.

Case Study: Dexter Axles

The Dexter electric over hydraulic disc brake axle is a prime example of the benefits of this system. With a 12,000-pound capacity, this axle features visible calipers and easily inspectable brake pads. The hydraulic lines are well-routed, combining hard steel lines with flexible rubber lines to accommodate suspension movement. This setup not only provides superior stopping power but also makes maintenance a breeze.


In summary, while electric brakes are cheaper initially, they can end up costing more in the long run due to maintenance issues, frequent replacements, and DOT concerns. Electric over hydraulic brakes, although more expensive upfront, offer better performance, reliability, and lower long-term costs. For those in the hotshot trucking industry or anyone using their trailers extensively, electric over hydraulic brakes are a worthy investment.

We hope this comprehensive comparison has provided you with valuable insights into the differences between these two braking systems. By choosing the right system for your needs, you can ensure better performance, safety, and peace of mind on the road. Until next time, stay safe and keep your trailers in top condition!

Contact Buckeye Trailers Today for the Electric Over Hydraulic Brake Upgrade

If you’re ready to experience the benefits of electric over hydraulic brakes and ensure the highest level of safety and performance for your trailers, now is the perfect time to upgrade. At Buckeye Trailers, we specialize in providing top-quality trailers equipped with the best braking systems to meet your needs. When you purchase a new trailer from us, you have the option to upgrade to electric over hydraulic brakes for enhanced performance and reliability. Contact us today 302-222-9285 or get a Quick Quote now to learn more about our offerings and how we can help you stay ahead in the fast lane. Don’t wait – order your new trailer with upgraded brakes from Buckeye Trailers and drive with confidence!