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Old 07-29-2015, 10:53 PM   #1
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1972 23' Safari
Indian Head Park , Illinois
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 23
Bringing trailer home to do repairs - What to do about brakes

Without going into a lot of details... My 72 Airstream Safari is on a campsite in Northern WI, where it has been docked for the past 30+ years. I now want to bring it down to Chicago where I live (about a 275 mile trip) to do repairs and restoration on it.

I don't own a tow vehicle, although I still have access to the 78 Cadillac (no longer running) that was used to originally tow the trailer.

I am considering renting a Uhaul pickup truck to bring the trailer home as this seems to be a fairly economical option. However, in doing some research on this site, and talking with Uhaul, it sounds like their pickup trucks do not come with brake controllers, although they offered to sell me one.

I had the thought that I could take the original brake controller from the 78 Cadillac and use that with the Uhaul truck for the trip home? Should this work?

- Is there an easy way to test that the brake system on the AS is still functioning while the unit is sitting stationary in the campsite?

- I was planning on inspecting, and repacking the wheel bearings on the AS.

It's a 5 hour drive for me to get to the AS to inspect and work on it where it is now, so I want to do as much planning and prep here before I drive up to get it.

I have a hard deadline on October 15 this year to get the AS out of the campground as that's when they close up for the season.



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Old 07-30-2015, 05:19 AM   #2
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1954 22' Safari
Curtis Wright
Vintage Kin Owner
Linden , Michigan
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 106
Brake Controller

Take the Brake controller out of the Caddy.
Take the UHaul Truck and Brake Controller to a local RV/Trailer Shop.
Pay for them to do the install and Test. (Or just buy the controller from them, you can have it removed and use it on your new Tow Vehicle)
Go to Northern WI, jack up and replace / or repack your wheel bearings.
Hook up and Go!


Private message me with the location and the amount of cash that you would like for the Safari, and just forget about it after I send you the cashiers check.


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Old 07-30-2015, 08:46 AM   #3
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1975 27' Overlander
Mission , Texas
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 825
When we bought our 75 Overlander, down payment initially then a week later finish paying and pick it up, it had spent the previous 2 or more years stationary with the PO, and who knows doing what with the owner before him; we had a truck but no brake controller.

Picked up a brake controller and installed it. Loaded all of the moving stuff kinds of things into the truck (floor jack, bottle jack, jack stands, cargo straps, 4 way lug wrench, my tool bucket and tool box). Also a 2-1/16 hitch ball for the receiver just in case.

Went to hook up, no break away switch or tongue jack, plus the PO didn't know how to use the equalizing hitch (and neither did I).

Hooked up, got it out on the street (it was on the lawn next to the driveway of a suburban home) and checked for level. It was okay. Finished paying, shook hands and started off. For the first stop sign, I used the controller to check the trailer brakes and adjustment. Functioning ok.

Headed out of town and pulled into a gas station about 20 miles from where it was parked. The hubcaps were off so it was easy to touch the dust caps to check how hot they were. Extreme heat would indicate a wheel bearing problem. Three "warm", one "warmer" (two axles). Also to check tire pressure which had not dropped.

Stopped at another gas station about 50 miles along the way on winding mountain road - dust caps and tires no change.

Then again 2 more times at roughly 100 miles and 150 miles of continuous mountain driving (not exceeding 60 mph) - still good.

Made it home without incindent, could "feel" the trailer slowing us when applying the brakes so not overly concerned.

Further inspection once home revealed antique and vintage tires (one possibly original, one from the 90s). Repacking the bearings and adjusting the brakes none of the bearings were in lithium grease and the "warmer" one had moisture inside. Also one brake had a break in one of the wires (so only three brakes of four were functioning).

But I prefer your idea ... repack the bearings and adjust the brakes before towing. I used a 4 ton floor jack and 6 ton jack stands to get one side up in the air to work on it. A 2 ton floor jack would not lift it. Some people say they put one wheel up on boards high enough to let the other hang in the air, supposedly two pieces of 2x6 will do it. I like floor jacks with jack stands.

To check the brakes, after adjusting, with the wheel still in the air, pull the break away switch and try to turn the wheel. It should not rotate if the trailer has power either from its own battery or from the TV via the trailer cable. Re-insert the break away after checking.

Let us know when you get it home.
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Old 08-02-2015, 09:44 PM   #4
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1987 32' Excella
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Hopefully you don't intend to run on the 30+ year old tires for the trip.
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Old 08-02-2015, 10:41 PM   #5
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1975 27' Overlander
Mission , Texas
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Speaking of which (replacing tires), not sure how you feel about WalMart, but it's possible to order tires from them online, pick them up at your local store and avoid shipping costs. When you go to pick them up, take the old tires on rims with you and you can have the new tires mounted and balanced, also new valve stems. Timed just right, you could be doing brakes while a helper was doing tires if there's one nearby.
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Old 08-02-2015, 10:46 PM   #6
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1975 31' Excella 500
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Benton , Arkansas
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The brake controller will likely have a tap into the hydraulic brake line of the Cadillac that is not compatible with antilock brakes. Even if it would work, it would suck installing it especially for a temporary setup.

Buy a controller. Even then. the biggest part of the job is going to be installation of the controller, how much more difficult is going to be determined by how ready the rental truck is to receive it. (i.e. Wires already in)
The fact that I am opinionated does not presuppose that I am wrong......

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Old 08-03-2015, 08:21 AM   #7
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1972 23' Safari
Indian Head Park , Illinois
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 23
Thanks for all your replies. I do plan on replacing the tires (and possibly the wheels) before getting on the road, as the current ones are very old and have cracks in them.

Regarding the brakes - if they have been sitting outdoors for this long (~30 years), is it likely that they will be rusted and seized up? I am hoping to avoid buying new brakes if possible. What's the likelihood that the old brakes will still be serviceable?

I am looking at renting a 10' Uhaul truck as my TV - assuming that it will allow me to use my 2 5/16" hitch ball, and that it will support the electronic brakes, and the 7 pin connector to the AS (I am still trying to confirm the answers to those questions from Uhaul).
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Old 08-03-2015, 08:41 AM   #8
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Mission , Texas
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Bringing trailer home to do repairs - What to do about brakes

When you have the drums off to repack the bearings you'll be able to inspect the brakes. If its mostly been sitting the shoes are likely good. Again, once reassembled, after adjusting them you can check brake function and the break away switch at the same time - pull the break away and attempt to rotate the drum. Sometimes AutoZone, etc. have parts for trailer brakes.

I don't remember what year, but 7 pin wiring changed over the years.

Many youtubes available for much of what you're about to do ...
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Old 08-03-2015, 12:55 PM   #9
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Houston , Texas
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I recently ran the full gambit of truck rental companies and came up essentially empty handed. Double check with Uhaul, as, in my recent experience, I learned that they restrict their tow vehicles to only tow their trailers. If you hook up their vehicle to something else, then you are in violation of your rental contract, are not covered by their insurances, etc., etc..

Similarly, there does not seem to be any car rental company out there that will allow you to use their vehicles for towing. So even if you rent a pickup truck or Suburban with a factory hitch and brake controller installed, they will forbid you using it as a tow vehicle. The only exception that I found was that some of the car rental companies have a "commercial" division that rents things like F-350s, and they will allow you to use them to tow. Problem is that these outfits are typically not open on weekends, and the rental price is high.

good luck!
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:14 PM   #10
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How about winching the safari on a U-haul auto transport that you rented one way from WI to your home. None of the issues with getting the trailer to tow safely. (Tires, brakes, hitch, suspension or lights)

Strapping it down could get interesting. And you would need to find an acceptable TV. BTW U-haul is likely to say no to that idea as well.

I have hauled three full sized cars (Galaxie and Continentals) using dollys and the auto transport at some distance. A tow dolly from Kansas to AZ and 2 hauls inside AZ. Because of the cars I get, if it has an engine I get the transport. If not I use a tow dolly.

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Old 08-03-2015, 01:26 PM   #11
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Dallas Center , Iowa
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Locate a couple NEW RV dealers in the area where it is parked. This dealer from time to time will have a new RV delivered to them from Indiana or Ohio. For them to return to the manufacturer for their next run they will pass near Chicago on their way. You should be able to get it brought back to Chicago for about $.65 a mile. Yes that is low however, these guys would rather break even than loose money on an "empty" return trip. If this does not work for you then try an online service that has drivers bidding on the runs and you can get this done for a very reasonable amount. I did this from Seattle to Iowa once. I think I used UShip. The drivers bidding on the haul will dicker price with you. Good luck.
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:56 PM   #12
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Grand Junction , Colorado
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I would look into having it shipped and that way you can work on it at home. Rental outfits don't want to have you tow anything except their trailers and will have many rules about insurance, towing, etc. They do not want any liability.

You don't say whether you just bought it or you have had it for the 30 years. If the latter, you will know a lot more about it. The wheels may not turn, but you can drag it onto a vehicle flatbed if it has a winch installed. Otherwise, you will have to use one or two come alongs and figure out how to attach them to a rental truck, not something the rental company will like either.

I doubt the trailer will have the same electrical connections that are used today (7 pin). You would have to rewire the trailer cable with a new one to fit a current truck. Some trucks come with a 4 pin and a 7 pin, so you may be able to use the 4 pin, but it may not accommodate a brake controller. You will also have to check all the trailer lights (brake, turn, lights) as they may be bad by now.

The risks of towing a trailer that has sat for 30 years may not be worth trying to tow it.

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Old 08-03-2015, 02:10 PM   #13
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Superior , Colorado
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If it were me, I'd have a local RV repair place retrieve it with their tow truck, do a mechanical "roadworthy" test, and then ask a friend with a truck if he/she would like a road trip.
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Old 08-03-2015, 04:08 PM   #14
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South of the river , Minnesota
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 4,020
Hello amurfey

A couple of things to consider.

You should plan on replacing axles because the rubber torsion arms will be shot. Best way to proceed is to order the axles from Inland RV or another dealer that specializes in Airstream restorations, and arrange to have them shipped to a local welding shop as near the trailer's current location as is practicable. Then have the local shop install the axles. The axles will come with brakes, and the shop can check out the wiring.

If you are not planning on replacing the axles, then the next-best move is to install new loaded backing plates, because it is likely that at least some of the brake components will be badly rusted, and because parts compatibility with 30 year old components is poor. Loaded backing plates would include all the brake parts except for the drum, making them a cost-effective way to bring everything up to date at once.

You will need a modern brake controller.

The advice to find a friend or hauler with suitable equipment is good advice.

You may also find that it is worthwhile to purchase a (used) tow vehicle even if you end up storing it or selling it.

You will also want to be sure you have a WD hitch.

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