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Old 04-14-2009, 10:24 AM   #1
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1973 31' Sovereign
alameda , California
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Time to get the brakes going...

Good morning everyone.
Have I mentioned that I got this trailer for free (thank you Craigslist!)? It's going to be quite a project, but I just couldn't let it go. It's a '73 Sovereign International rear bath (yes, the rear frame is sagging) which had been abandoned several years ago on an RV park. The new owner who had recently purchased the park had no documentation on it, nor did the previous park owner of 40 years. I checked the VIN with DMV and no records were found, and DMV started a new record on the trailer. I submitted my statement of facts and got the vehicle verification, and am looking at my new plates and reg card on my desk in front of me! Title should be here in a couple of weeks!
Now, first thing on the long list of repairs for the Sovereign is replacement/rebuild of brakes/axles so that I can more safely move it to it's restoration site - which lies 40 miles from here at the end of about a 10 mile windy road through the hills. I haven't had a moment yet to inspect either brakes or axles, but am betting that replacement of both will be necessary. I'm not sure which route to take, but I think for my situation, getting the existing brakes working first is the best option since my Sovereign is temporarily parked in a nearby parking lot, thanks to the graces of the management of that location.
Now, I know it has drum brakes, but beyond that, and being my first trailer, I know nothing about trailer brake mechanics. Where do I begin the inspection of brakes and axles and related components? What should I look out for? What types of problems are characteristic for this trailer relevant to this thread? In the interest of my budget, I would like to keep the existing brake configuration.
Ruben
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Old 04-14-2009, 10:39 AM   #2
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1993 21' Sovereign
Colfax , North Carolina
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Your trailer should have 12" electric drum brakes. The brakes are operated using an electromagnet, with power to the magnets being supplied through a wire from a brake controller in the tow vehicle. The brakes that are almost certainly on your trailer are round-magnet type. New versions have oval magnets. Your trailer should have a breakaway switch for the brakes mounted on the tongue. This is mandatory for your trailer to be towed on the road, it will apply the brakes on the trailer if it should happen to fall off the hitch on the tow vehicle.
I would first jack up the trailer, not by the axles, but on the steel flange that extends down below the axles on each side of the trailer so the tires are off the ground. When you have done this (you can jack up one side at a time), pull the pin on the breakaway switch, and attempt to spin the tires. If the tires don't spin, put the pin back in the breakaway switch, and make sure the tires rotate. Repeat this process on the other side of the trailer.
If any of the brakes don't work, you will know which ones to look closely at.
Once you have determined the brakes work, you can remove the tire/wheel assemblies, and replace the tires with something newer than 40 years old. While the tires are off, you can remove the brake drums, and repack the bearings. You can also look at the brake parts and make sure nothing is broken inside. Springs are known to come apart, so look closely at them.
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Old 04-14-2009, 10:52 AM   #3
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I agree with the above but would add you will have to install a good battery before the brake test. Another approach to testing the brakes would be to cross the terminals on the umbilical cord between the brake terminal and the 12 volt terminal with a piece of #12 wire while someone spins the wheel. I say #12 because any thing less could melt in your hands when connected. Keep in mind that you are only checking the electrical side of the brakes to see if that is working. Drums that have sat for years will have rust on the contact surface that will clean itself off after the first several application on the road.

Depending on your time schedule for rebuilding the trailer I would consider going to your tire dealer and getting used tires for the trip home. Check the identification plate on the trailer for the tire pressure.

I would remove at least one brake drum and look at the condition of the grease in the bearings. If it is not dried out you should be able to make 40 miles without repacking in the field.
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Old 04-14-2009, 11:09 AM   #4
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1973 31' Sovereign
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Thanks to you both! I hadn't even considered that there may be a chance that the existing brakes are in usable condition. I'm not sure where the battery (batteries?) are located. Behind one of the small doors on the exterior I suppose. I have no key for the locks on these access doors. Should I drill the lock out, or is there a better way to open them (sans lock-smith).
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Old 04-14-2009, 11:37 AM   #5
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I doubt that Jackson will keep records that far back but go ahead and call them and see if they can give you the key code before drilling the lock. you will have to remove both batterers but will only need one to tow her home. Just make sure you tape the positive cable on the unused battery with electrical tape to prevent it from shorting out against the door.

Just sitting would not cause the brakes to not work. Like I said they will be rusty and may lock up the first time or two or may just not have full power at first.
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Old 04-14-2009, 12:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruben J View Post
Thanks to you both! I hadn't even considered that there may be a chance that the existing brakes are in usable condition. I'm not sure where the battery (batteries?) are located. Behind one of the small doors on the exterior I suppose. I have no key for the locks on these access doors. Should I drill the lock out, or is there a better way to open them (sans lock-smith).
That key number is 1101X

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Old 04-14-2009, 12:54 PM   #7
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Here's a few links that you might find useful before you begin your journey....

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f7/t...ign-48540.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f353...eam-46866.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f438...-etc-1926.html

Good luck. Lots of fun ahead!
Laura
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Old 04-14-2009, 10:31 PM   #8
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1973 31' Sovereign
alameda , California
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Thanks!

Just walked in the door and it's nice to see the response here - thanks to everyone for all the enthusiasm! When I have a minute to sit down and respond properly (tomorrow am) I'll check out all the replies.
Thanks again and see you soon.
Ruben
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Old 04-15-2009, 10:39 AM   #9
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Thanks for the key code, Andy. I'll see if I can get one coming.
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Old 04-15-2009, 10:41 AM   #10
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Thank you Laura. The links were helpful and informative. I'd better get those tires replaced.
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Old 04-15-2009, 10:59 AM   #11
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about the axles: can worn parts be ordered and replaced, or are complete replacement axles available only?
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Old 04-15-2009, 11:08 AM   #12
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The nature of the manufacturing of the axles, frozen rubber rods inserted in the axle tube and jig mounted welding of the arm and spindle, makes it impractical to repair them.

Now given that there is a company in Indiana that do rebuild them but shipping costs from Ca. may price that option out.
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Old 04-15-2009, 11:50 AM   #13
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Thank you Laura. The links were helpful and informative. I'd better get those tires replaced.

thought you'd be able to pick out the more important issues .... good luck.

The PO of my AS found out the hard way about the tires - so mine were new when I got her. Unfortunately, the axles required my intervention. They included new brakes and I learned to pack bearings!!!!
Laura
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Old 04-17-2009, 11:24 PM   #14
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1973 31' Sovereign
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Wondering if a new/different controller will give me more braking power. I have a "draw-tite" controller now, probably pretty basic. I remember seeing "Prodigy" a few times. Is this better? Why? Any other recommendations? Will a different controller help?
Thanks folks.
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Old 04-18-2009, 09:06 AM   #15
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Wondering if a new/different controller will give me more braking power. I have a "draw-tite" controller now, probably pretty basic. I remember seeing "Prodigy" a few times. Is this better? Why? Any other recommendations? Will a different controller help?
Thanks folks.
If you question the brakes, there is a simple test you can do, to deterine if it's the brakes or the controller, or both.

When hooked up, pull the breakaway switch cable. Then see how well you can or cannot move the trailer. If the brakes are ok, the wheels should be locked.

CAUTION DO NOT LEAVE THE CABLE PULLED FOR MORE THAN 5 MINUTES.If you do, you can burn up the brake system.

Make your decision from that test as to where the lack of adequate brakes may be.

A '73, would have the old style round magnet brake system. If you find that the brakes are not holding, replace the backing plates with the newer style oval magnet system. They provided much more braking power than the round magnet brakes ever did.

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Old 04-18-2009, 10:08 AM   #16
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We've been very happy with a Tekonsha P3 that we've used since November 2008. It adjusts very easily, and performs very nicely. (Be sure to read the instructions!)

Try to get the matching plug-in harness that fits your tow vehicle - it makes installation so easy and should only cost ~$15.

I spent much more time trying to figure out where to locate the controller than it took to actually install it in our '08 F150. We finally opted to park it on top of the tray in the center of the dashboard. It was then a simple matter to remove the rubber mat from the tray, drill a hole in the corner of the tray big enough to pass the harness connector through, and then drop the harness down to the Ford factory connector. Actual install time < 15 minutes.

I've seen a lot of brake controllers hung vertically on the face of the dashboard, or below the dashboard. It makes much more sense to me to have a brake controller on top of the dash where its in your normal line of vision and reach, rather than having to look down at it, much less reaching around in front of your knees to get to it, especially in a hurry!

Travel safely!

Joseph


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Old 04-18-2009, 10:44 AM   #17
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I've seen a lot of brake controllers hung vertically on the face of the dashboard, or below the dashboard. It makes much more sense to me to have a brake controller on top of the dash where its in your normal line of vision and reach, rather than having to look down at it, much less reaching around in front of your knees to get to it, especially in a hurry!


That might make sense if you have never used a brake controller, it would be good to place it somewhere like that. But if you've towed a lot, using brake controllers a lot in a different location, it would probably be better to leave it where you are used to having it. During an emergency is not the time to be trying to remember where you have mounted the brake controller.
Also, depending on the tow vehicle, there may be air bags inside the dash. If that is the case, and you have an accident that deploys the airbag, your brake controller could turn into a missile, aimed directly at you. Do your research before mounting the controller on top of the dash.
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