The preferred electrical braking system has always been favored by the Australian consumer. But things are beginning to change as mechanically braked trailers begin to saturate the market.

There are many beliefs that are widely held by the Australian consumer on trailer brakes, both electrical braking and mechanical (overrun braking). There are both benefits and downsides to each but at the end of the day it comes down to preference, price, quality and value for money.

One of these beliefs is that a mechanical braking system is jerky, rough and doesn’t allow for a smooth trip. While this may have been true for a long time in Australia the market has since changed, the importation of the superior European overrun braking system has entered. This has come in the form of two primary brands, Alko and Knott. These braking and suspension systems are most known on trailer brands like Brian James Trailers, Variant Trailers and IFor Williams Trailers.

We begin to see more and more hire companies, tradies and personal users beginning to make the switch to higher-quality European trailers and in turn the overrun Alko or Knott braking systems.



Electric trailer brakes use a brake controller which is situated in the tow vehicle. They then use electromagnets to activate the braking system via the drums. The electricity to the brakes is controlled via the brake controller and brake light circuit.


Electrical braking systems do have several positives, such as limiting the pressure on the tow vehicle's brakes, the ability to manually adjust via the brake controller to reduce swaying which is a great advantage when traveling on hills and in areas where the wind speed is high. In general, electric brakes can work great when they are set up correctly, however, such is the case that often users don’t know how to set the brakes properly or can’t be bothered. This then leads us to the benefits of an overrun or mechanical braking system in comparison.



Mechanical (overrun) trailer brakes are also a relatively simple principle, when a trailer is moving forward it moves with the speed of the vehicle. However, in order to stop the trailer from going too fast in comparison to the car because of its weight the overrun brake exists. A sliding spring mechanism piece is mounted to the trailer’s drawbar, this spring contracts as soon as the trailers speed attempts to overrun the vehicle. When the drawbar contracts a set of Bowden brake cables are pulled and activate the brake drums to the axles, the higher the pushing force the increased the braking force. When the car stops braking the cables are deactivated and the trailer tows as normal.

The European braking system also utilises an overrun dampener (different to the Australian standard) 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 jerky, vibrating feeling that a 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.

mechanical trailer brakes



The mechanical braking system also has several positives that make it an ideal system for the Australian user. The overrun system is simple and therefore not much can really go wrong, whereas your electrical system can often have wiring faults or connector issues which in turn means shortages or the complete replacement of parts. The Knott and Alko overrun systems also utilise handbrake breakaway cables for extra on road safety, the overrun dampener is also a fantastic feature because it ensures that your trips are completely smooth.

mechanical trailer braking system

Whether your trailer utilises electric brakes or mechanical brakes it’s good to know what’s on the market and the innovations that the Australian user is beginning to adopt.


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