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Old 12-16-2015, 07:34 AM   #1
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New axles with drum vs disc brakes

I'm going to finally install new axles this spring/summer and am researching my options. While I like the idea of disc brakes, I don't like the additional expense, especially when we only move our Airstream about 4 times per year right now. Plus, my trailer is light (about 7000lbs loaded) and from what I can tell the 12" drum brakes work fine.

Would the conversion to disc in the future be any more difficult or costly than doing the switch when I replace the axles?
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Old 12-16-2015, 08:08 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KYAirstream View Post
I'm going to finally install new axles this spring/summer and am researching my options. While I like the idea of disc brakes, I don't like the additional expense, especially when we only move our Airstream about 4 times per year right now. Plus, my trailer is light (about 7000lbs loaded) and from what I can tell the 12" drum brakes work fine.

Would the conversion to disc in the future be any more difficult or costly than doing the switch when I replace the axles?
Yes, if you want discs, the time to do it is when you change the axle for reasons of cost.

Disc brakes have much more stopping power and do not fade as easily as drums. However, as you note they are more expensive, and much more complex. They bring a whole new set of issues like braking delay, bleeding the system, and sometimes hitch and actuator incompatibility.
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Old 12-16-2015, 08:27 AM   #3
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If you are satisfied with your current drum brakes, there is no way I would take on the complexity of electric/hydraulic discs. Replacing the brake assembly every few years on drums is pretty inexpensive and easy compared to doing anything to a disc system other than replacing pads.

Unless your tow vehicle is marginal, I can't see this as necessary.
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Old 12-16-2015, 08:35 AM   #4
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I had this same question about two years ago when I swapped axles. I didn't think it would be worth the extra expense. aggravation of putting them on and maintaining them. Traveling for us is a couple thousand miles a year, on weekends or usually within 8 hours from home (working folks). For all my years of fiddling with cars I believe that calipers and pistons are more likely to give you trouble unless they are exercised on a regular basis. Also you need to change the brake fluid every two years regardless. Just an opinion - maybe someone who has them will chime in and let us know if lack of use is a problem.
While not nearly as good as disk brakes the drums work well enough if you keep them adjusted properly.
If my travel amount ever gets to bragging levels I would go disk brakes in a heartbeat.
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Old 12-16-2015, 08:58 AM   #5
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The last trailer I had was the first I had with disc brakes, and we had been trailering since the 70's. In the period of time that I had the trailer I was never satisfied with the delay in the system, meaning the trailer brake application would lag behind the application of the tow vehicle brake application. I even spoke with the engineering people at Dexter, and was told if I got the delay down to one second, that was about as good as I could do.

Also, I had one brake actuator fail while we were in Idaho, and caused us to drive all the way home to Texas with no trailer brakes. (something I never want to do again, and would have been an impossibility without the Diesel exhaust brake) The replacement actuator was in the neighborhood of $1k, and then the replacement failed, but was replaced by Dexter under warranty. All of this was very agravating, but I have friends that have discs, have had them 15 years, and have not had the trouble I had.

Especially if I didn't tow very frequently, I would not consider discs again.
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Old 12-16-2015, 09:03 AM   #6
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I have a 2008 Classic 25fb with hydraulic disc brakes. After reading various threads about the Dexter calipers that were installed, they are difficult or almost impossible to completely bleed out all the air. Owners have complained of delay. I have experienced this when I was towing with my Tundra using a Prodigy P2 controller. However, after purchasing my new Ram 2500 with ITBC I don't experience this issue so I think it was the P2 controller causing the issue and I tried it on both electric and electric/hydraulic settings.

I had the Actibrake actuator replaced as part of the purchase deal with a Dexter actuator unit as well as the brake hose recall so my Airstream got new fluid about 2 1/2 yrs ago.

My Dexter axles are the Nevr-Lube design. Not sure if I need to have the bearings serviced now that the trailer is 8 years old but it has had light use so far. I only use the trailer once a month during the spring thru fall season and a longer two week vacation. So far the pads still have plenty of life.

I would think the newer Dexter axles with disc calipers have an better design than they did 8 years ago.

I've read several members have converted their newer electric braked Airstreams to disc.

Dexter makes self adjusting electric brakes so the yearly adjustments can be avoided but there are still the magnets and linings that have to be checked and you have to pull the drums to check that. With disc brakes you can check by looking through the rims or pulling the tire to check the pads so that is a little easier.

I guess the only fear I have is finding a shop that could work on my brakes when I need the pads and fluid replaced. Most RV shops probably never have to do this but there are Dexter dealers that service other forms of trailers that use disc brakes.

Every car pretty much has disc brakes and no one thinks about them as being exotic.

If I was renovating an Airstream I probably wouldn't go to the trouble with disc brakes if the trailer didn't have them to begin with but I would get the best electric design.

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Old 12-16-2015, 10:17 AM   #7
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It is far less money to keep the existing design than it is to make modifications. based on your towing frequency if it were me I would stick with the OEM set up with one exception. That is mountain towing. Not sure about your area and in the Rockies an additional set of non-fade disc brakes would be welcome.

Otherwise short trips for a couple times of the year you would be spending some extra money for little benefit and you would have to get used to the delay. Trust me you will have other opportunities to spend more money on the trailer.

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Old 12-16-2015, 11:06 AM   #8
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Wink kiss...."keep it stupid, simple"

When or if your OEM drums ever fail to lock up.....you might do well to consider it.

'Til then......enjoy.
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Old 12-16-2015, 11:17 AM   #9
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I run hyd/disks on a multitude of work trailers, they are great, and I don't have much trouble keeping them working well, but imo, they were not worth the money for my Airstream, the drums are more than adequate.


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Old 12-16-2015, 01:07 PM   #10
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Switched our 2014 Classic to Kodiak 12" Dacromat finish rotors with stainless steel calipers disc brakes. Bypassed the Dodge brake controller for the Tuson Direclink brake controller. Installed the Titan BrakeRite II SD pump. I also have the Nev-R-Lube bearings. I have no lag in the disc brake application because of the Tuson brake controller getting it's information from the engine data port.

The rig scales at 19,200 pounds and I am glad to have my disc brake brake system in the mountains, even with the Dodge Cummins engine brake.

Since all current production tow vehicles I see mentioned on the forum have disc brakes as standard, I question that changing of the trailer brake fluid being an issue. They work even when wet.

There are many systems on the trailer that need regular and periodic service. It is all part of the expense of this activity.

Drum brakes shoes have to be adjusted and the shoes replaced, the magnets can fail and need to be replaced. The drums often need to be ground to get the glazing off. They often do not work immediately when wet.

There is no free lunch on the brake equipment issues.

So the user has to make the choice of what brake system they would feel safer with under both normal or emergency situations.
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Old 12-16-2015, 02:34 PM   #11
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No Drum brakes ever again for regular service. I have had disc brakes as OEM for 60,000+ miles. My only problem with delay was cured by a DirectLink system that Airstream Service installed. I did have them replace the OEM elec/hyd pump with a Dexter when Actibrake went out of business so I would not get stranded.
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Old 12-16-2015, 03:50 PM   #12
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I guess an under 12,000 lb gross combination weight has its advantage....

Unless the OP has a ginormous TV, the combination weight will be nowhere near 19,000 lbs with a 79 Sovereign.


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Old 12-16-2015, 06:19 PM   #13
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At 17600 lbs , I have no problems with the drum brakes on the trailer, and we have been all through western Colorado , now them are mountains, my dodge has 98000 miles on it and I just replaced the front disc pads the rear are still like new, 20000 miles on the trailer and I haven't adjusted the brakes yet, probably do it in the spring....
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Old 12-16-2015, 06:54 PM   #14
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The key to hydraulic brake lag is to upgrade to Tuson Direct Link system. Want to go one step better? Get Tuson brake actuator as well. It's a matched setup and works better than anything I tried before including ActiBrake 1 and Actibrake 2 with a P3, and Dexter with a P3. I'll bet a Dexter would work almost as well if it was used with the Direct Link controller. You have a top of the line tow vehicle and top of the line trailer. Now your considering second best trailer brakes.
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