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Old 10-05-2015, 12:28 PM   #1
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Brakes aren't braking enough!

I believe that my brakes are not working right on my '85 Excella. Since we got the trailer, it seems like my truck is doing most all of the braking. I have never towed a travel trailer before, so I had nothing to compare. This past weekend setting off on a trip, I tested the brakes on my street. Even with setting the gain higher than I have it ( 6.5), They did not seem to help. For the first time, I decided to drive about 10 miles per hour, then squeeze the brake controller tabs together to make the trailer do all the braking, and it barely slowed at all. No noise or anything, just a whisper of slowness. Shouldn't this have locked the brakes? I had the bearings re-packed recently, and the guys at the dealer said that I have about 75-80% life left on the brakes. This should not be. According to the man I bought the trailer from, it has been since 2009 since the brakes were replaced, and it has traveled a lot since then. I was an idiot at the time by not bringing this situation up to them ( It was at an Airstream dealer having new wheels, tires and an A/C unit installed ) Is an adequate test simply getting each wheel off the ground while plugged into my truck, then rotating the wheel and stepping on the brakes?
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Old 10-05-2015, 12:41 PM   #2
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Perhaps the shoes need adjusted. They require manual adjustment thru a hole in the backing plate.
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Old 10-05-2015, 12:47 PM   #3
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Did you max out the gain during the process you described?

If not, try turning the gain all the way up (mine goes to 10), and then do a slow test on flat ground, using only the manual brake controller. You should get a distinct but not sudden stop IMO (should not lock up the trailer brakes). If the braking action seems OK, back down the gain, test a few more times with different gain settings, then fine tune using your tow vehicle brakes (and the automatic trailer brakes via the controller's brain).
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:12 PM   #4
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I tried maxing out the gain first, with the same response as squeezing the tabs together (mine goes to 10 as well). Just a slight feel of braking, but no more.
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:16 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by danjoe91 View Post
I believe that my brakes are not working right on my '85 Excella. Since we got the trailer, it seems like my truck is doing most all of the braking. I have never towed a travel trailer before, so I had nothing to compare. This past weekend setting off on a trip, I tested the brakes on my street. Even with setting the gain higher than I have it ( 6.5), They did not seem to help. For the first time, I decided to drive about 10 miles per hour, then squeeze the brake controller tabs together to make the trailer do all the braking, and it barely slowed at all. No noise or anything, just a whisper of slowness. Shouldn't this have locked the brakes? I had the bearings re-packed recently, and the guys at the dealer said that I have about 75-80% life left on the brakes. This should not be. According to the man I bought the trailer from, it has been since 2009 since the brakes were replaced, and it has traveled a lot since then. I was an idiot at the time by not bringing this situation up to them ( It was at an Airstream dealer having new wheels, tires and an A/C unit installed ) Is an adequate test simply getting each wheel off the ground while plugged into my truck, then rotating the wheel and stepping on the brakes?
Electric 12 inch brake shoes are good for ball park 40,000 to 50,000 miles on an average.

The magnets last, again ball park, 20,000 to 25,000 miles


But instead of replacing just the manets, replace the original 12 brakes with 12 inch self adjusting brakes. Everytime the trailer backs up, the brakes adjust them selves. In that way, the brakes stay at or very near to 100 percent performance.

And, the big surprise, the new complete self adjusting backing plate (brakes) cost about $ 3.00 eack, more than just the magnet.

Updating, is not always expensive.

Andy
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:25 PM   #6
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I agree you should be getting more braking action. Has the trailer been inactive recently, and may have a coating of rust on the drums? You might just need to drive it a few miles and keep applying the brakes. If no change, unfortunately it sounds to me like a trip to the shop/dealer may be in order. Is the controller from the 80's? That could be the culprit also. Or frayed wiring or a loose connection which prevents the controller's full signal from reaching the brakes. Lots of possibilities, most beyond my knowledge base.

PS -- clean the contacts on both sides of your trailer wiring harness where it plugs into your tow vehicle?

PS2 -- how old are the trailer batteries, and are they fully charged?

Good luck.
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:26 PM   #7
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Assuming the brake pad remaining statement by your service provider is accurate, and given the symptoms you report, then just raising a wheel to test as you ask is inadequate. All you will discover is if the pads make contact with the drum. There is more to the braking equation than mere contact. Read the information at this URL to better comprehend the system.

How to Check an Electric Brake Magnet

or

https://www.etrailer.com/faq-testing...-function.aspx
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:28 PM   #8
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The result of the test you conducted while moving forward at 10 mph and engaging the manual brake controller (when set at maximum gain) tells you all you need to know: your trailer brakes do not work. There is no further meaningful diagnosis that can take place on this forum (although some folks will chime in to be helpful.) Get your trailer to a RV repair facility that you trust to work on your brakes and get this resolved before you go on any trips. Make sure you stick to surface streets (i.e., no high speed driving!) on your way to the repair facility and don't go down any steep hills. If your location makes you unable to drive the trailer safely to the repair facility, get them to come to you. A lot could be at stake if you drive an unsafe trailer on public streets. Good luck and be safe!
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:31 PM   #9
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I tried maxing out the gain first, with the same response as squeezing the tabs together (mine goes to 10 as well). Just a slight feel of braking, but no more.
With the controller at maximum, measure the voltage at one of the backing plates. It should read very close to 12 volts DC, when your controller is at maximum.

If the voltage measures OK, then either the magnets are worn out, the shoes are worn out, or, the grease seals have leaked and the shoes are covered with the grease. If that's the case, you must replace the shoes as once they have grease on them, it cannot be removed successfully. When the shoes get hot again, the grease will once again appear.

Also, the drums could be glazed, in which case, they need to be deglazed again.

Andy
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:47 PM   #10
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A good test is to drive on dirt or pea gravel at about 10 mph and apply the trailer brakes at full power to a stop and look in the dirt to see which wheels are locking down.

This will help diagnose your issues.

Trailer brakes adjusted too loose wont work well or at all, and electric trailer brakes that are adjusted to "spec" don't always work well.

The shoes "self energize" by rocking forward slightly upon application, and if they are too tight they don't rock much, and as a result they don't "self energize" much.


Brevi tempore!
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Old 10-05-2015, 02:37 PM   #11
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Most of the brake controllers that I've owned tell you to go to a flat parking lot and travel about 5-10 mph. At that point use the manual control and apply the trailer brakes fully. If the trailer wheels don't lock up, adjust the gain up higher. Once you get the wheels to lock up, then you turn the gain down slightly and retest. What you want to achieve is the maximum amount of power to to brakes, short of locking them up. By doing this you will find that in a panic situation, your trailer breaks will give you the maximum braking possible short of locking up the trailer wheels.

As noted by others, you may need to get your brakes adjusted to account for wear, prior to doing this calibration. I know my dealer adjusts the brakes every time I have the wheels bearings packed.

I've used this process with every trailer and controller I've owned.

Jack
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Old 10-05-2015, 03:50 PM   #12
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I would agree with AnnArborBob in post #7. They don't work, and take the rig somewhere to get it fixed professionally.

It could be bad wiring, bad adjustment of the brakes, internal brake issues, some of the wheels brakes not working, brake controller issues on the tow vehicle, or any number of things. Unless you know enough about all of the possible issues involved a do it your self repair is probably not the best solution.
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Old 10-05-2015, 07:49 PM   #13
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I will test the power at each backing plate with the brake controller set at maximum. I just had new bearings put in and packed, and the whole brake assembly looked pretty good ( as far as rust and unwanted grease goes). The guys doing the job only seemed surprised by how good everything looked for the age of the trailer. The man I bought the trailer from said he had new magnets installed with a brake job in 2009. The wires coming out through the back are 'newer', (or at least cleaner looking) and had exposed 'new' wiring nuts ( which I wrapped in electrical tape). The brake controller on my 2012 F-150 is built in, so as far as age goes, it is not that old. I will still make sure that is working properly as well.
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Old 10-06-2015, 12:53 AM   #14
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Pull the cord to the Tow Vehicle and put an ammeter between the brake line and the +12 volt line. You should get a reading of 2.5 to 3 amps per wheel. That is 10 to 12 amps for 4 wheels. Anything less means that there are electrical issues to be looked into.

I did that once and found a total of 3 amps flowing. Three of my four brakes had electrical issues, and only one was working.
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