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Old 05-27-2007, 03:12 PM   #1
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Red face Boy Do I Feel Stupid: It's the Trailer Brakes!!

Just returned from a quick 2 day outting.

Picked up our Bambi from our storage place near our campground. Had full batteries.

Trailered over to the campground, setup and low and behold a few hours later the batteries were down to 3/4!!

Fired up the generator for a few hours and later in the evening the batteries are still giving up power.

Hardly had anything on.

Decided Saturday night that the fridge must be wearing the batteries down to fast, so ended up putting the unit in 'store' mode and ran the TV off of the tow vehicle. Early evening we were down to about 12.2V.

Check on Sunday morning showed we only had 4V left on the batteries!

Now its pouring rain and we are packing up... decided we had an electrical short so we would have to take trailer all the way back home... not what we had planned.

I fiddled about trying to narrow down the problem... disconnect switch off, power to jack off, all breakers off and still found the batteries were being drained at a rate of about 2A.

Halfway home and BINGO!! I had removed the plastic emergency breakway switch when we were parked.

Quick check at home confirmed that was the problem.

Uggh!! I knew it had to be something simple.

So for any other relative 'newbies'. Remember to always leave the breakway disconnect inserted or you'll drain your batteries dry in no time!

Oops... sure won't happen again!
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Old 05-27-2007, 03:16 PM   #2
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You will want to have the brakes/magnets checked, to make sure that you don't have problems as a result of your error.
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Old 05-27-2007, 03:51 PM   #3
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Dave,

The brake "disconnect" should never be removed under normal conditions. It should not be thought of as a parking brake (which, I surmise, is the reason you removed it.)

And AlbertF is correct - your brakes may have been damaged and must be checked before you take your prize on the road again.

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Old 05-27-2007, 04:46 PM   #4
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When you towed it have you feel that the brakes were working all way long. Cause the breakaway is what is made for : breaking
If not you may have burn the magnet.
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Old 05-27-2007, 05:10 PM   #5
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The fact you could tow the trailer all the way home, with full voltage (from the tow vehicle alternator) applied to the brakes (via the battery charge line) from the disconnect switch with the pin out, without smoke pouring from the wheelwells or the tires skidding, indicates to me you completely cooked the brakes while parked long before you hooked up to go home. I believe Andy R has stated this can also detemper the axle spindles.

When parked, I always wrap the disconnect cable back over the switch, around the jack and then padlock the loop to something. There's no way a vandal can pull the pin out and cook our brakes without cutting the cable.
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Old 05-27-2007, 05:15 PM   #6
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I have never towed without the breakaway switch installed. The only time it was removed was when we were parked at the campground.

I just happened to remove it because I had looped the plastic end through the loop to attatch to one of the chain rings on my hitch for the trip over to the campground. I just wasn't thinking, and never re-inserted the switch when we parked the trailer.

On our return trip home, the brakes appeared to work fine (I always test them).

The only reason I could see to have them checked would be because I had removed the switch, and there was voltage current applied to them for about a day and a half while it was parked.

Is there some reason that I should suspect something burned out?
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Old 05-27-2007, 05:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by campadk
Halfway home and BINGO!! I had removed the plastic emergency breakway switch when we were parked.

Quick check at home confirmed that was the problem.
This is why I thought you towed it home without the pin in place, realized it halfway home, and confirmed it when you got home.

Continuous application of full voltage (bypassing the brake controller) can overheat the magnets and cause them to fail.
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Old 05-27-2007, 05:43 PM   #8
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Is it one magnet per brake drum? Or a series? Could the brakes be partially fried?

The brakes seemed to work fine.. but I did have to tweak the controller voltage.. but I figured that was because the brakes were wet (was raining).

Brakes seemed to work fine bringing tv up to about 20mph and applying just the trailer brakes to check them out.
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Old 05-27-2007, 06:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by campadk
Is it one magnet per brake drum? Or a series? Could the brakes be partially fried?

The brakes seemed to work fine.. but I did have to tweak the controller voltage.. but I figured that was because the brakes were wet (was raining).

Brakes seemed to work fine bringing tv up to about 20mph and applying just the trailer brakes to check them out.

Well if you put the pin back in before you towed it home you should be ok...when did you realize you had left it out when you were diconnecting the trailer when you got home? ..
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Old 05-27-2007, 06:50 PM   #10
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Pat and Maurice are on the right track. The purpose of the breakaway switch is that it will apply the brakes even if the trailer becomes disconnected from the umbilical/tow vehicle. So the umbilical being connected or not doesn't stop the switch from operating. The trailer's onboard batteries would actuate drum brake solenoids -- and yes, Inland Andy sez about 5 minutes later your brake solenoids could be toast. Additionally -- if anybody has a Tekonsha Prodigy they should never test the breakaway with the umbilical attached -- that is supposed to fry the Prodigy the first time!

That being said -- you can test your brakes: Go to advanced search. Put in my username and use the searchwords compass and brakes. Block the wheels because you're going to be getting under the trailer. Disconnect the umbilical. With a charged battery and the compass right up against the axle side of the brake drum, have a helper pull the breakaway switch and look to see if there's any needle swing on the compass indicating the solenoids producing a magnetic field -- I've done this and the compass went thru a 10-15 degree swing right now. I've read reports of larger swings -- guess it depends how close the compass is placed.
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Old 05-27-2007, 07:04 PM   #11
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I'll have to defer to someone else like Lewster for disk brakes, but on drums, there's one magnet per drum. If you tested the brakes before leaving, and you can hear them clicking, then they're at least partially working.

As a minimum, I'd pull the drums, do a physical inspection, disconnect one wire on each side, and ohm the magnets. IIRC, they should be 3-4 ohms, but I'd look it up to be sure.

But honestly, if I'd done that myself on a single axle trailer, I'd just proactively replace the magnets on both sides. Otherwise, it would nag me every time I headed down a steep grade.
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Old 05-27-2007, 07:14 PM   #12
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I'm with Mo on this one! I would have the brakes checked thoroughly and possibly replace the magnets as a preventive measure. It's just that ounce of prevention that could save the day if your brakes fail....which they might after having 12VDC applied to them for an extended period of time.

MO, 3-4 ohms resistance is correct for the isolated magnets.

It's not a bad idea to pull and REPLACE the break-a-way pin on a regular basis to keep the contacts clean, but BE SURE TO REPLACE IT IMMEDIATELY and also be sure to have the trailer plug disconnected from the TV.
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Old 05-27-2007, 07:23 PM   #13
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Thanks all for the excellent input...

I like to be on the safe side, so I'll schedule the brakes be checked this week.

Is this something I can have our car mechanic look at (GMC dealer) which is just down the street, or do I need to go to our Airstream dealer which is about a 45 min drive.

Also what has this done to shorten the life of my Interstate batteries.. they were down to almost nothing this morning.
Of course I have since plugged into shorepower as soon as we returned.
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Old 05-27-2007, 07:32 PM   #14
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I'm personally happy that so many 'savy' guys are on this forum. I've learned alot just by reading your responses to others problems. Keep up the good work. Karma to all.
Thanks
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