bing tracking image
Q & A Icon

How to Convert a Trailer with Surge Brakes to Electric Over Hydraulic Brakes  


Looking at buying a trailer, but the one that has the options I want has surge brakes instead of electric or electric over hydraulic. Is there a way to convert the surge to electric over hydraulic? Thanks.


Expert Reply:

You can convert surge brakes to an electric over hydraulic braking system. To do this, you will need an electric over hydraulic actuator and a brake controller.

For an electric over hydraulic actuator, I recommend looking at the Carlisle HydraStar units. If your trailer has drum brakes, you will want part # HBA-10. If your trailer has disc brakes, then you will want part # HBA16. I have also attached a link to all of our electric over hydraulic actuators for you to check out your options.

The next item you will need is a brake controller. It is important to choose a brake controller that is compatible with electric over hydraulic brakes. The brake controller that I would recommend is the Tekonsha Prodigy P3 Trailer Brake Controller, # 90195. This is a proportional brake controller that is easy to use and competitively priced. Unfortunately, the Tekonsha PowerTrac brake controller, # 39523, that you referenced is not compatible with electric over hydraulic systems.

The last part that you will want to look at is the actuator that is currently on the trailer. If the trailer has surge brakes, then it likely has an actuating coupler. Since the coupler will no longer need to be actuated, I recommend locking out the coupler or replacing the it with a standard coupler. It may be easier to lockout the coupler if it is welded to the tongue or, depending on the age of the trailer and the style of the actuating coupler, it may be easier to unbolt the actuating coupler and install a standard coupler.

Once you have found a solution for your coupler, you will simply run the brake line that was previously going to the actuating coupler to the electric over hydraulic actuator. I recommend using a junction box like the # HS381-9000 to better organize the wiring on your trailer. You'll also need to add a breakaway kit like the Hopkins # 20400. I have attached two FAQ articles on adding electric over hydraulic disc and drum brakes for you to check out.

expert reply by:
John H

Dave F.


Can I use the HBA-16 with my current drum brakes? I plan on upgrading to disc brakes in the future and don’t want to have to buy two units. Also do I need to modify my swing away surge tongue to use this part?

Etrailer Expert

Chris R.


You cannot use the HydraStar Disc Brake Actuator # HBA16 with drum brakes. It will send far too much pressure for drum brake assemblies and could lead to damage. If you want to go with this unit you'll need to make the conversion to disc brakes at the same time.



I have a 2016 Ford F-150 with a optional electric brake controller. Is it compatible with electric over hydraulic trailer brakes.

Etrailer Expert

Chris R.


The owner's manual for your 2016 Ford F-150 does state that the factory brake controller is compatible with electric-over-hydraulic brakes.

Products Referenced in This Question

Product Page this Question was Asked From

Q & A Icon

Continue Researching

See More Q&A Expert Answers >>