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Old 08-11-2007, 05:17 PM   #1
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Hello all

I am new to this forum. My first post. My wife and I are newbies at Rving and have recently purchased a 1986 345 Classic. We bought it over the internet and ended up going to Dallas / Ft. Worth to pick it up and driving it back to Southeastern Ky.
I noticed that when we started out on our journey that the brake light started coming on an going off every once in a while and a buzzer would accompany it. Then It stayed on for the remainder of the trip. Unless it is a common thing that the brakes are very ineffective on these models, there seems to be something wrong. The brakes seemed to barely stop me when I had to come to a stop. Needless to say it was very nerve racking during traffic jam in Nashville, Tn. Anyway are the brakes on these Coaches pretty weak? or Is there something going on? I am going to get it serviced as soon as I can. Are these drum brakes, Calipers, Electric assisted?
Any advice is appreciated and Thanks in Advance. This forum is awesome a lot of info here!

JaG
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Old 08-11-2007, 08:54 PM   #2
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JaG,
Welcome and congratulations on your "new" RV. We're practically neighbors! I'm in Louisville and I see you're in Eastern KY.

First of all, the brake light you are seeing is likely your parking brake light. These motorhomes have a driveshaft mounted brake drum which serves as your parking brake. It is possible that yours may need attention.

Brakes on these rigs are, well truck brakes. But they should stop the rig fine with a little more planned distance than you are used to in the family car or truck. It is a common system for immediate repair as many times the brakes are not maintained by the PO (Previous Owners).

As far as the service brakes goes; you have two separate braking systems on the coach. The main braking system is part of your chassis (Chevy P30) and consist of four disc brakes (front wheels and drive wheels) and a second braking system on the tags which consists of drum brakes, magnets and a brake controller mounted under the dash (same system that comes on the trailers).

The chassis braking system differs from your car or truck in that it does not rely on a vacuum booster (not enough vacuum to assist stopping a 16,500 # vehicle) so it uses something called a hydro boost which uses hydraulic pressure generated from a belt driven pump (your power steering pump) to apply brake assist pressure when you apply the brakes.

Lucky for all of us, Chevy P30 parts are plentiful and cheap. Almost any NAPA, AutoZone, Pep Boys, etc will have almost all of it in stock. The electric brakes can be had at a trailer supply or brake shop (I found all of the parts I needed for mine at AC Brake in downtown Louisville).

I you are comfortable with working on your rig yourself you can save a lot of money as these are really just truck chassis. Everything is bigger and more heavy duty than your car or truck - but they are the same basic systems on there.

Things to consider with your brakes:

If the pedal is spongy or you have to "pump it" to build braking pressure, you should replace the brake fluid. It either has moisture or air in it. A Vacuum pump make short work of this and will replace all of the fluid in the entire system. Also, while you are doing this consider replacing the flex lines to each caliper. They get old and can expand when you press the pedal (not good). They are also cheap and something on the "just replace them list.

You could also have low brake fluid in the master cylinder or may need to replace the master cylinder ($50 rebuilt)

If you find you have to really stomp on a hard pedal then start looking at the hydro boost. Start by checking the power steering reservoir level and add power steering fluid as needed. If it's full then you might have an issue with the pump. Usually this would be accompanied by hard steering effort as they use the same pump.

Also, check the pads and rotors. Mine had three cracked pads and the front rotors needed to be turned.

On the tags this is a little different as they use a brake controller to energize drag magnets inside the drums on your tags. Again, worn shoes, magnets, etc. could be the issue. The controller and 12V continuity to the magnets is also a common failure. On mine I found the wires to the magnets were cut. I assume to disable the tag brakes.

By now you're head is probably spinning, but the braking system is designed on these coaches to work as a complete unit. Again, if you can do the work yourself you're not talking a lot of money in parts. If not then any medium duty truck shop can handle the job....just tell them it's on a P30 and they'll know what to do.
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Old 08-12-2007, 12:32 AM   #3
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Talking Wow!

@Steven
Wow!!, Some really good information. Sorry to get back to you so late, but I was out all evening trying to purge the oniony smell out of the water system with a bleach mixture. Unfortunately, I discovered a water leak under the coach at the left rear quarter panel next to where the water hook up is. Then, my father who is a retired Navy electrician helped me wire my service pole with a 30 amp plugin.. My plug was getting hot because the wires had lost its insulation and is needing replaced. Then after I flushed out the system I discovered a water leak under the bed in the back and a leak behind the commode.
I will have a lot to do to restore this coach back to shape, but I think it has a lot of life left in it.. It only has 42K on it. Now for the brakes.. I look forward to trying to figure them out.. I'm not much of a mechanic other than working on small engines and motorcycles, but I think I should be able to piddle around and get this thing back to snuff.. I hope..... I was concerned that maybe the brakes were inadequately designed for something as heavy as these coaches are and that I needed to add additional braking..
Yes I am from Southeast Ky and feel very fortunate that I am from here. I love living in a small town like this. I do like the city of Louisville. My cousin went to U of L. I also am very fond of Lexington and am an avid UK Wildcats fan and former Rick Pitino fan.. Whenever the Cats are out of contention, I root for the Cards.
I think it is great that there is such a good source of information available for people such as this forum and the people that make it up.. I appreciate your help and patience and feel free to give me a holler sometime.. I may be looking for your advice in the near future..

Thanks again!

Jag
jagcb750@yahoo.com
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Old 08-15-2007, 05:38 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forums. You live in one of my favorite parts of the country particularly since I love good bourbon.
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Old 08-15-2007, 06:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jagcb750
I am new to this forum. My first post. My wife and I are newbies at Rving and have recently purchased a 1986 345 Classic. We bought it over the internet and ended up going to Dallas / Ft. Worth to pick it up and driving it back to Southeastern Ky.
I noticed that when we started out on our journey that the brake light started coming on an going off every once in a while and a buzzer would accompany it. Then It stayed on for the remainder of the trip. Unless it is a common thing that the brakes are very ineffective on these models, there seems to be something wrong. The brakes seemed to barely stop me when I had to come to a stop. Needless to say it was very nerve racking during traffic jam in Nashville, Tn. Anyway are the brakes on these Coaches pretty weak? or Is there something going on? I am going to get it serviced as soon as I can. Are these drum brakes, Calipers, Electric assisted?
Any advice is appreciated and Thanks in Advance. This forum is awesome a lot of info here!JaG

A 345 has adequate brakes, to do a reasonable stopping job.

However, a 345 has hydraulic brakes on only 4 of it's 6 wheels.

The tag axle uses electric brakes, just like a trailer.

If the electric brakes are not functioning correctly, you would notice some difficulty in stopping properly.

Those electric brakes must be serviced just like those on a trailer. They are 12 inch brakes.

The brakes could be bad and/or the brake controller could be bad, or both.

Andy
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Old 08-15-2007, 06:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In
A 345 has adequate brakes, to do a reasonable stopping job.

However, a 345 has hydraulic brakes on only 4 of it's 6 wheels.

The tag axle uses electric brakes, just like a trailer.

If the electric brakes are not functioning correctly, you would notice some difficulty in stopping properly.

Those electric brakes must be serviced just like those on a trailer. They are 12 inch brakes.

The brakes could be bad and/or the brake controller could be bad, or both.

Andy
Andy,

Would it be difficult or practical to convert the tag axle electric brakes to disc brakes and then tie them into the existing hydraulic system?

Bill
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Old 08-15-2007, 08:11 PM   #7
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@Chaplain, Bourbon = good!
@Andy, Thanks for info I am interested in checking out the tag axle brake system when it cools down some. Is there any documentation on how to test these or to check if they are working properly?
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Old 08-15-2007, 08:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In
A 345 has adequate brakes, to do a reasonable stopping job.

However, a 345 has hydraulic brakes on only 4 of it's 6 wheels.

...

Andy
Doesn't the 345 have duals on the drive axles?
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Old 08-15-2007, 08:49 PM   #9
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8 wheels total not 6
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Old 08-16-2007, 12:26 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jagcb750
8 wheels total not 6
Exactly my point, I doubt that having less than one quarter of your total braking capacity inoperative (I say less than one quarter since the tag carries two of 8 wheels but we know that front brakes do proportionally more of the braking) would cause your symptoms.

Have you checked your fluid level?
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Old 08-16-2007, 01:47 PM   #11
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Brakes not working too well and light on.

I have seen this problem a number of times. As described above you have two chambers in the master cylinder for the two brake systems. Front wheels have dual pistons for right and left and the rear brakes are each on a separate line combined with the fronts. It sounds as if you are very low on brake fluid and only one side of the system is working. This would give you poor braking with the light on. The first thing I would check is the brake pads. If they get two low then the pistons would come out too far and you will leak fluid. It could also be just a leaky cylinder. It is a good idea to change both the left and right side if one of them is bad. You could also have a bad Master cylinder.
You should have no problem on a Classic with braking unless the system is not working correctly. The tag axle brakes do very little and could not cause the problems you are having.
If you are getting a grinding noise when you brake (especially when driving slowly) then youre pads are gone, you are metal on metal and you have lost a significant amount of brake fluid.
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Old 08-16-2007, 02:01 PM   #12
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Quote:
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Doesn't the 345 have duals on the drive axles?
The dual wheels on the rear of an Airstream motorhome, only have one brake per side.

How many wheels don't matter.

How many wheels have brakes, does matter.

A 345 has 8 tires and 8 wheels, but it only has hyraulic brakes on 4 wheels, two of which are dual, and electric brakes on two wheels.

The dual wheels have single brakes.

If the electric brakes on a 345 are working correctly, it can stop the motorhome without the hydraulic brakes functioning. Obviously not as well, but it will stop it.

Unfortunately, the brake controller in under the left side of the dash.

Andy
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Old 08-16-2007, 07:43 PM   #13
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Alright, here is an update. It finally cooled off outside enough for me to work on Nancy. I checked the Master Cylinder and indeed the chamber closest to the front of the coach is empty. It appears that it has leaked out, but I cannot see where it might have leaked out at. I'm sure I will be finding out really soon when i tear in to it this weekend. Is the front chamber for the front brakes? Oh and what kind of brake fluid should I buy? Regular old Dot 3?
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Old 08-16-2007, 10:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In
The dual wheels on the rear of an Airstream motorhome, only have one brake per side.

How many wheels don't matter.

How many wheels have brakes, does matter.

A 345 has 8 tires and 8 wheels, but it only has hyraulic brakes on 4 wheels, two of which are dual, and electric brakes on two wheels.

The dual wheels have single brakes.
....

Andy
Surely you are not suggesting that one of the dual wheels isn't stopped by the brake? So, if I could step on the hydraulic brake hard enough, six wheels would lock, correct? Therefore if the electric (tag) brakes are not working I have 6 out of 8 (3/4) of my wheels braking.

The brakes on my toad will stop the motorhome too, eventually.
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