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Old 09-10-2009, 11:15 PM   #1
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1971 23' Safari
Portland , Oregon
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 58
New Brakes for '71 Safari

My Wife and I were on a recent trip in rural Northern California with our '71 23' Safari (tandem axle). When pulling out of the spot where we spent the night, the left rear wheel froze. I backed the trailer up and it broke loose. However, as I moved forward again, a disturbing noise could be heard. I drove the trailer about a quarter mile to the only gas station within 40 miles where l was fortunate to find a guy on duty who had been trained in the military to work on heavy vehicles and drive trains. He first thought it might be a seized bearing, but on close examination the bearing was in good shape. (I had them repacked 24 months ago and it showed no scarring or discoloration). It turns out that the brake on that wheel was disintegrating and a piece of it got loose and jammed the wheel. He removed the loose parts and cut the line to that brake. The other 3 brakes seemed to work fine and, since I tow it with a F250 Super Duty, I had plenty of weight in the truck to help with braking should the need have arose. Fortunately, on the way home to Portland, everything seemed to go smoothly and I encountered no further problems. I'm fortunate I discovered the problem when first putting it in gear that morning and not while climbing over the nearby 6,300 ft pass with steep grades on both sides.

So, given this experience and the fact that the trailer is 38 years old, I plan on replacing all the brakes on the trailer and have the bearings repacked while they are at it. I'm looking for input on what to get. I do not plan on doing the work my self and do not know much of anything about trailer brakes. There are no Airstream dealers in Portland (the nearest is 100 miles south). I called one of the local trailer supply & service outfit and, over the phone, they suggested replacing the backing plates. He asked whether the trailer had 10" or 12" drums, which I did not have the answer for. My manual says the trailer came with Kelsey Hayes Brakes. Lastly, I'm running the factory spec tire size of 7:00 x 15 6 ply tires on the original wheels. The wheels have a 6 bolt pattern and 6 x 5.5 bore size with zero offset. I've also been thinking about putting new wheels and tires on the trailer but have been told it is becoming difficult to find tires and wheels in that size.

Any input from those who are more experienced with brakes is appreciated. In addition, I'd also like to here about wheel / tire alternatives that would work for this trailer.



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Old 09-10-2009, 11:33 PM   #2
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1966 26' Overlander
Phoenix , Arizona
Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 5,788
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Likley you have 12" brakes. IN fact I would be surprised if you didn't have 12" brakes.

If you are going to replace the entire brake assembly, get loaded backing plates and new drums. It will be expensive however you will be starting with brand new everything and can start the PM clock over again.

However it may need only new friction material (linings) IE new shoes. In that case you need to have the drums machined with new shoes. You will get the wheel bearings re-packed no matter what happens.

The deciding factor for me would be the magnets. If the magnets need to be replaced, go with a loaded backing plates as your repair shop suggested. Sounds like they have your best interest at heart. Because with 38 yo parts the shop over the phone has no clue what they are going to get into. And that decision can be made when the drums are removed so the technician can see what the condition of the shoes and magnets.


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1966 Lincoln 4 door Convertible 462 4V 1971 Ford LTD Convertible 429 4V Phoenix ~ Yeah it's hot however it's a dry heat!
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Old 09-11-2009, 04:53 AM   #3
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1971 27' Overlander
Central , Ohio
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,365
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We just replaced the brakes on our 71. Full brake assemblies - Dexter 12 x 2 - 5200 lb. rated per Airstream and Dexter. Went on without a problem. Least expensive place we found for the the backing plates:

Trailer Parts Superstore - Electric Trailer Brake Assemblies

You'll need new grease seals:

Brakes-drums,Rims, Tires ect. : ODMRV , Out-of-Doors Mart

Adjustment procedure for new installation:

How to Adjust RV Trailer Brakes |

Readjustment of the brakes after 200 or so miles:
How to Adjust RV Trailer Brakes |

With individual parts costing as much as a third or more of new plates repairing the 38 year old brakes just didn't make sense to us. Good luck with whatever you decide.
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