To ensure that an outfit can be safely and quickly stopped, all caravans and camper trailers should have brakes fitted. In some instances brakes may not be required if the loaded mass of the trailer does not exceed 750kg. For many years caravan manufacturers have been fitting electrically operated brakes to their products. Electric brakes are generally considered to be the most suitable type for caravans and camper trailers. These systems are similar in construction to normal drum brakes but use a magnet and lever, instead of hydraulic pressure, to push the shoes against the drum. With electric brakes it is necessary to install a unit known as a controller in the towing vehicle. While this is a simple procedure, the work should only be undertaken by an experienced person. Connecting the controller into the wrong section of the car's electrical circuit can cause expensive damage to other electrical components. Particularly vulnerable are vehicle management computers.
The amount of braking done by the trailer's wheels should be adjusted so that the driver does not have to press any harder on the brake pedal than when stopping without anything in tow. Under normal conditions the caravan or trailer brakes operate automatically when the towing vehicle's brakes are applied. However the controller also has a facility which allows the caravan brakes to be applied separately. This can be a distinct advantage when the caravan is pushing against the towing vehicle while going downhill or in a situation where a caravan may tend to sway. As on any vehicle, regular checks and adjustment of the caravan or trailer brakes are a must. This is applies whether the unit is used constantly or only a couple of times per year.