Below are some commonly asked questions that may help you in deciding what you need on your float
Electric Brakes vs Hydraulic Brakes
Hydraulic brakes have been around since sliced bread and would be the most common braking system on floats in the past. Electric is now the most common due to the fact that they provide a much more precise and instant braking control and have the added bonus of requiring less maintenance. But having said that it is still a personal choice so here are some things worth considering when making the decision.
Basically hydraulic brakes work on fluid pressure. This is regulated by what is called a master cylinder. There is a master cylinder at the front of your float near the coupling and is full of brake fluid. The coupling is mounted on a slide and when you apply the brakes the weight of the trailer moves forward forcing the coupling to slide backward pushing brake fluid through the brake lines causing the brakes to go on. The downside is that you need to keep an eye on your fluid levels in your master cylinder because if this runs out of fluid your brakes will not work anymore. Also if you get the slightest amount of water or moisture in your master cylinder you might end up with pistons getting rusty and sticking causing the brakes to play up. The problem with 90% of Horse Floats with Hydraulics is that they are not looked after and maintained properly and hence are not working! Electric brakes provide fast response times and precise tension control. There is a unit in the car generally under the dashboard and it controls the electrical impulses that get sent to the brakes on the trailer. Often this unit is adjustable and can make the brakes more or less sensitive. These electrical impulses activate magnets on the brake drums and this creates magnetism that causes a cam to pull against the drum wall forcing the brake pads to grab the drum slowing the trailer down. The nice thing about electric brakes is there’s no chance of them running out of break fluid and you never have to worry about seizing cylinders from condensation. Unlike hydraulic breaks that rely on pistons which can seize from moisture, electric brakes use a cam system and they will never have this problem. The downside to electric brakes is they rely on power, if you have a bad connection or a plug gets damaged your brakes won’t work. The benefit of hydraulic brakes is that the float can be towed by any car whereas electric brakes can only be towed with a car that has a brake unit under the dash installed and wired for electric brakes. For example, if you broke down on the side of the road on your way back home from an event with your horses on board, if you had hydraulic brakes fitted you could get any car to tow the float home, if you had electric brakes fitted you could only tow the float with another car that is wired accordingly to enable the brakes to work.
This question is perhaps the most discussed and argued about question in relation to Horse Floats. Rather than saying yes to one or the other here I hope to provide you with some facts to help you make the decision yourself.
Slipper springs are the most common springs you will see on horse float trailers in Australia. “Slipper” means that the springs slip and slide over each other allowing give in the spring when you go over a bump in the road. This is how they work; they slip back and forth allowing room for shock absorption. These springs are generally Australian made and have been used in trailers and horse float trailers since the start of time. They are a low maintenance spring and require no oiling or greasing. Because they have only one eye bush, you will find that they will last a lifetime and will only need a bush replaced every blue moon. Keep in mind that there are variations in the number of leafs in slipper springs we only use 7 leaf except in the 4 Horse floats which have 9. Some float companies have been known to use 5 leaf slipper springs. Rocker roller springs are the ultimate in load sharing springs. What this means is when you hit bumps in the road or brake hard the whole 4 wheels will stay firm on the road because the weight is shared or distributed equally over the axles helping to keep all 4 wheels on the road surface.For example, load sharing over rough terrain, if you run over a gutter with the RHS front wheel the RHS back wheel is still in the same position before you hit the gutter because the spring and rocker action has taken all the impact. Then once you come up over the gutter and the RHS rear wheel hits the gutter the suspension takes all the impact keeping the RHS front wheel firmly on the ground. As one spring rolls forward the other one rolls back rocking on the center hanger. The downside to these springs is that they are expensive and are a high maintenance spring. They require regular greasing and have bushes that may need replacing over time. These springs have been known to fold in on themselves due to worn bushes.
What is the benefit of 4 wheel brakes? Simply really - breaking power! Generally, you don’t really need 4 wheel brakes until you start to get larger floats that carry more than 2 horses. The maximum weight you can legally tow with 2 wheel brakes is 2000kg. Anything over 2000kg or 2 tonne requires by law that it be fitted with 4 wheel brakes with a breakaway unit. The benefit of 4 wheel brakes is if you are running a non-load sharing spring and one pair of wheels lift off the ground you have a back up pair of wheels on the second axle braking for you. The added security is enough for some people but the reality is 2 wheel brakes are sufficient for floats 2000kg or less. The downside is the extra brakes add a lot of extra weight and for those that want to keep the weight down on their floats often have to weigh up the added benefits versus the added weight. They also are more expensive and when you are on a budget the price tag might deter some.
Colorbond steel is a zinc-coated steel sheeting that has been undercoated and top coated with baked-on 2 pac paint on one side in the manufacturing process. This sheeting comes rolls and is cut to size as you order it. Colorbond is generally only available in 0.55mm and 0.75mm thickness. This is a very light sheeting which helps keep the overall weight of a float down. The colorbond is highly resistant to rust providing you don’t scratch off the zinc coating. They look good, the paint is professionally sprayed by the manufacturer, which is Bluescope Steel, and you know you are getting a product you can trust. Galvanised sheeting comes in almost any thickness. The common thickness used ranges from 0.95 through to 2mm thick. You can either leave it as straight gal sheeting or have it painted. Most manufacturers of horse floats use a primer coat followed by a 2-pac top coat when painting this type of sheeting. Downside to this type of sheeting is the expense involved in painting. You also run the risk of getting runs in your paint or the manufacturer doing a bad paint job leaving areas looking dull and rough feeling. Plus type of sheeting is heavier in weight. This type of sheeting is generally used by manufacturers that let you choose any type of colour you want in 2-pac paint, but with the added expense. Whereas the Colorbond range is available in 20 different colour choices.
Another commonly discussed point.
Without out a doubt, the most important part of any trailer is the foundation, the chassis. There are different ways to build the chassis but the 2 most common are built with either “angle iron” or “RHS”. 1. Chassis - Angle iron chassis. Angle iron is a piece of steel the shape of the letter L. It is ½ of a square, it is RHS cut into half at right angles. Angle iron is generally welded on at either end of the floor chassis by a single weld only a few inches long. The benefit of using angle iron is that it is very quick and easy to install and it keeps your floor-length lower than floors made with RHS. The downside is that it is only half as strong as RHS. RHS chassis.RHS would have to be the ultimate way to go when it comes to strength and stability in a floor structure. RHS stands for Rectangular Hollow Section, in other words, a complete square. RHS is welded into the floor chassis via at least two to four welds 25mm to 50mm long. The downside is, depending on the wood used in the floor, you lose about an inch in height compared to using angle iron
Wooden floor. There are generally 2 types of wooden floor used these days Hardwood floor or Form / Marine Ply floor. The hardwood floor is a kiln-dried hardwood. This hardwood comes in a range from F17 through to F22. The “F” rating determines the hardness of the wood. F22 tends to be a little harder and is more prone to warping and buckling than the F17. Hardwood comes in lengths, cut to size, generally about 50mm wide. The downside to this wood is that it only has 1 grain that runs 1 way and although it is a hardwood it is NOT the strongest available on the market. Also, it has to be painted with a protective covering. If it gets wet (and most eventually do) it will warp, twist and rot. Because this wood swells, warps, and bends you have to leave gaps in the floor for it to breathe, as a result water can get in weakening the glue holding down the rubber matting floor and the rubber floor starts to lift. Marine Ply flooring has a combination of wood grains running in different directions it has 4 grains running one way and 5 grains running another way. It is approximately 18mm thick and is extremely strong considering its thickness. It is stronger than F17 kiln-dried hardwood and comes with its own waterproof protective coating. Because Form Ply has been designed for marine conditions it is a much better product to use in areas where there is moisture like the floor and bay area of a horse float. Form Ply is less labor-intensive to install and offers a tighter fit making sealing a lot easier than hardwood. Steel floor. This option will never rust out, warp or rot and is certainly strong. The downside is it is labor-intensive because it is difficult to get under a float to weld in. There is often the argument as to whether a steel floor or Aluminum floor is bad for your horses because it does not have the ‘give’ that a wooden floor does.