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Old 07-31-2010, 07:23 PM   #1
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Brakes that Break

I thought I would pass along this anecdote in case it might benefit others.

Last week on our way back from Grand Teton, we encountered some Wyoming road construction. We encountered this while avoiding some equally obnoxious construction we encountered on the way there using a different route. In both cases, rather than repair one side of highway and then do the other side, they just tore up the whole road and said "let's see if you can drive through this mess and stay in one piece". I can't believe that this the same Wyoming that runs TV ads try to encourage tourism.

However, I digress. This is not the point of this story.

A few miles after leaving the rough road, it became apparent that the trailer brakes were no longer working. This is not a nice fact to learn about as you are descending from a mountain pass. We pulled over at the next turnout and I grabbed my trusty VOM and began taking measurements. About the time I was becoming 75% sure that there was no continuity from the plug on the umbilical cord to the brakes, the VOM crapped out. I am 75% sure the problem was a dead battery. At this stage I decided that 75% of 75 % is only a little more that 50%, so rather that take out all the screws to open the case of the VOM and begin to troubleshoot it, I would let someone with more experience look at the brake problem.

We proceeded down the road exercising due caution and perhaps a little more. We called ahead to the KOA in Dubois and asked for a recommendation as to who around there might help. They sent us to the service station right in front of the KOA.

We parked along side the service station and went in and talked to the mechanics. One of them brought out his tester and determined that there was in fact no continuity from the cord to the brakes. Since he could not trace the wires and the diagram in the Airstream manual is rudimentary (translate "worthless"), he said 90% of these problems turned out to be the plug on the umbilical, and he recommended cutting it off and splicing on a new one. I was not convinced enough to let him do that. I figured that a little more than 50% of 90% was less than half.

OK, now that you have waded through all this BS; here comes the useful stuff. (interspersed with a little more BS)

I remembered that when I was under the couch upgrading the converter a few months before, I saw where the cord enters the trailer. Since the mechanic was noticeably larger than I, (most humans are), I lifted up the front of the sofa and crawled under. I spotted a black plastic box screwed into the plywood enclosure that houses the converter and power distribution panel. Now here is the amazing part: I had a , rare at my age, moment of recall. I remembered that when I was replacing the converter, I grew curious about what that box was, so I removed the screws from the cover and looked inside. Lo and behold, it turned out to be the terminal block where the umbilical cord joins the trailer wiring.

I took advantage of this rare moment by doing the logical next thing. I opened the terminal box again. Upon close inspection I found that the nut on the right most terminal seemed loose. This was truly a great coincidence because the wires connected to this terminal were blue, the exact same color as the book said the brake wires were. Acting on all these facts, the mechanic asked to look also. Upon concurring with my observation, he used my wrench to tighten the nut and the brakes once again began working. He then pronounced that even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while. I am not sure which of us was the blind squirrel in this story, but I was too happy to have the brakes working to ask.

Maybe someone will remember this story and save a lot of time when their brakes fail.

Regards,

Ken
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:08 PM   #2
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Ken,

I think we went down that same road last week, only we were so fortunate to be following two cars back from the water truck, and so got a fresh layer of Wyoming mud on the truck and trailer.

Good to know about the brake problem, and I also enjoyed your story. Well done.
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Old 07-31-2010, 10:00 PM   #3
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So, ahhh, not to be indelicate, but, since you trouble-shot your own problem in the end, but the mechanic used your tools to fix the problem you identified, did he charge you?
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Old 07-31-2010, 10:05 PM   #4
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If you haven't had enough torn up road, try Colo. 92 between Delta and Hotchkiss. They've been working on it more than a year. They tear up a couple of miles, eventually pave it, tear up some more…

Good story about the brakes and glad it worked out for you. Did the mechanic charge you for turning the nut you found with your wrench?

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Old 08-01-2010, 06:45 AM   #5
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"I had a, rare at my age, moment of recall."

Announced last week: hydraulic brake controllers made by Active Technologies should probably be checked on Classics made between 2005 - 2009.

Recall Results : ODI - Office of Defects Investigation
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Old 08-01-2010, 08:54 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by SteveH View Post
Ken,

I think we went down that same road last week, only we were so fortunate to be following two cars back from the water truck, and so got a fresh layer of Wyoming mud on the truck and trailer.

Good to know about the brake problem, and I also enjoyed your story. Well done.
Us too. Was that you blinking your lights in the Teton's?
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Old 08-01-2010, 08:58 AM   #7
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"the Rest of the Story"

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So, ahhh, not to be indelicate, but, since you trouble-shot your own problem in the end, but the mechanic used your tools to fix the problem you identified, did he charge you?
Actually, I am not sure what would have happened if I had not had someone at least confirm what I suspected. It definitely would have taken at lot longer. I suspect we would had stayed in the KOA for a night we planned to be at home.

When the job was done, we asked him what the charge was. He told us that, in the station office there was a jar labeled "Beer Money". He said, "Put what you feel the job was worth in there". Considering that he stopped whatever he was doing at the time to help us right then, and he probably saved us a night's camping fee, we provided them with beer to drink for a while.

Regards,

Ken
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Old 08-01-2010, 11:04 AM   #8
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I hate it when you gotta get a tool to make a tool to fix the tool to open the tool to repair the tool to fix what you needed to fix. Or when you have too many variables to decide if the tester is working, or giving false readings, or faulty readings half the time. Funny how often you end up using the tiny cheap VOM when the fancy precision tool bought especial seems to be awol when you need it.
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Old 08-01-2010, 12:58 PM   #9
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Us too. Was that you blinking your lights in the Teton's?
Probably so....we were driving a red GMC pickup towing our 25 footer. Blinking the lights just to say hi to another Airstreamer.
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Old 08-01-2010, 03:10 PM   #10
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Probably so....we were driving a red GMC pickup towing our 25 footer. Blinking the lights just to say hi to another Airstreamer.
I think we may have seen you Steve, we blinked at someone going the opposite way, and another time someone else waved their arm out of the window at us. We couldn't respond to that as our windows were up with A/C going.
We looked like this: (The kayak hidden by the blue one is yellow)
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Old 08-01-2010, 03:24 PM   #11
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Ken,

I think we went down that same road last week, only we were so fortunate to be following two cars back from the water truck, and so got a fresh layer of Wyoming mud on the truck and trailer.

Good to know about the brake problem, and I also enjoyed your story. Well done.
The first one (7/20) on the way to Coulter Bay, was just north of Bondurant on US 191. On that one we also were a few cars behind the water truck. When we finally reached camp, I had to get out the hose to free up the dump valve handles from caked mud. On our trailer they are immediately behind the left tires.

The second (7/25) coming home, was on US 287 somewhere near the summit of Togwotee Pass (I think) between Moran and Dubois.

Regards.
Ken
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Old 08-01-2010, 03:34 PM   #12
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Before and after

Here is a shot right after we discovered the brakes weren't working. It looks the same to me.
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Old 08-01-2010, 11:06 PM   #13
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That photo may look the same to your untrained eye, but I can definitely see brakes not working in that photo!
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Old 08-01-2010, 11:59 PM   #14
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Airstream brake recall.

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Originally Posted by mistral blue View Post
Announced last week: hydraulic brake controllers made by Active Technologies should probably be checked on Classics made between 2005 - 2009.

Recall Results : ODI - Office of Defects Investigation
Hi, I read about that; What about those who installed them by themselves or had them added on later by a shop or dealer? SOL?
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