What is the difference between Mechanical & Electric Brakes?

A common question that often arises in the process of purchasing a trailer for your machine: Do I need electric brakes? Can I have mechanical brakes on a trailer for my XX tonne machine? It’s an open-ended question that often leaves buyers floundering, as they need to be legal, but want to be as practical as possible for their application.


Electric trailer brakes use electromagnets to activate the braking system via the drums. The brake’s electricity is controlled via the brake controller, situated in the cab of the tow vehicle, and the brake light circuit. Electric Brakes are particularly popular in hilly regions, such as the Blue Mountains, and for Owner operators who have electric brakes fitted to their tow vehicle.  Electric Brakes provide greater control of the trailer when comparing it to the mechanical alternative. With the electric brake controller fitted to the towing vehicle, you can dial the severity of the brakes up or down, to cater to the load you are carrying. For trailers over 2.2T ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass), electric brakes have been recommended. If you don’t have electric brakes, your local auto electrician will be able to fit this for you.

Sureweld has 5 models in its standard trailer range that utilize Electric Brakes.

  • SW2400EC
  • SW2400E
  • SW2400EWP
  • SW3500ER
  • SW4100ER


Mechanical trailer brakes are a relatively simple principle. The trailer moves forward with the speed of the vehicle. A sliding coupling is used so that when the car decelerates, the trailer pushes up against the coupling, applying the brakes. When the car stops braking, the coupling then eases off and slides back out, making the trailer tow as normal. Mechanical Braked trailers are hugely popular in the hire industry, where clients may not have electric brakes fitted to their tow vehicle. Utilizing the standard mechanical override system, Sureweld offers three different models:

  • SW2000C
  • SW2000
  • SW2000EWP


The European mechanical braking system utilizes an overrun dampener which acts as a shock absorber. This dampener is installed to prevent the overrun brake from immediately working when the throttle or brake is slightly released. This in turn completely removes the somewhat jerky, vibrating feeling that some standard Australian mechanical braking system possesses. The European mechanical braking system utilizes an auto-reverse mechanism which is included in the brake drums. This mechanism ensures that the overrun brake will not take effect when reversing. We have been certified to use this system here in Australia, allowing us to offer a trailer with an ATM higher than 2000kg, without the requirement of electric brakes! This is our popular Nexxgen model, the SW2600.


Give the team at Sureweld a call to discuss the best option for your application!

Contact Us.