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Old 05-08-2014, 01:58 PM   #1
2 Rivet Member
1984 31' Sovereign
Stockbridge , Georgia
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 28
Trailer brakes not working

Hi group.

I had my '84 Sovereign 31 hitched up to my 02 Silverado, had the RV plug in firmly, and while rolling forward slowly slid the trigger thing over and nothing happened. I assumed the brakes on the trailer would activate and stop the rig. Did this a couple times with the same results.

I've only towed this in town, and at <50 the giant disc brakes on the truck stop everything with ease. I get a green light on the controller, and everything 12v is powered up in the coach.

Am I missing something here? I didn't see an adjustment on the controller. The trailer has been sitting probably 10 years. I have no idea how many miles are on the trailer.

I have not gone out and started taking things apart, I thought I'd ask to see if there's something simple I can do or see where a good place to start is. I've got a couple books on the trailer but they don't seem to have a lot of heavy maintenance topics.

Thanks for any insight. This is my first real maintenance project!

1984 Sovereign 31
2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
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Old 05-08-2014, 02:09 PM   #2
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1975 Argosy 24
1976 Argosy 28
Alamo Heights , Texas
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How the controller might be adjustable varies with the brand and model of the controller.

A simple way to check whether or not the magnets are being energized by the brake controller takes 2 people and a compass. Hold the compass near the brake drum while the person in the truck applies the trailer brakes with the manual control. (This may require the ignition to be in the on position in the truck, but I think my brake controller is always live in my Ford.) If the compass needle deflects when the manual control is activated, the magnet at that wheel is at least getting power.

Lots of the drum brakes on trailers are *not* self-adjusting, so it may be that you simply need to adjust the brakes on the trailer. However, if this trailer has been sitting for 10 years, you should definitely take the drums off to inspect the brakes and bearings, and at least repack (if not replace) the bearings before you go far.


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Old 05-08-2014, 02:24 PM   #3
Rivet Master

Vintage Kin Owner
North central , Florida
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Adjust the controller to a higher number and see what happens, varys from trailer to trailer. Jim
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Old 05-08-2014, 02:27 PM   #4
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1972 31' Sovereign
1975 31' Excella 500
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Benton , Arkansas
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Check for electric operation first.

In most cases, (in my experience) most failures of once working electric brakes are electrical, and very often the problem is in the pigtail, usually dirty or corroded connectors that don't connect well. Modern controllers rely on precise connections capable of conveying very subtle current.

Also , make sure that the brake controller wire is connected in the fuse box under the hood. There needs to be a wire on stud 1 and stud 2 to have a trailer supply and brakes.
The fact that I am opinionated does not presuppose that I am wrong......

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Old 05-08-2014, 02:29 PM   #5
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1988 25' Excella
1987 32' Excella
Knoxville , Tennessee
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Do not know what kind of controller you have. The green light should turn another color as the trailer brakes are activated. Pushing the lever to the side should activate the trailer brakes and the color change in the indicator light There should be a knob to adjust the amount of trailer braking. When this same failure happened to me it was that the a connection in the 7 pin plug on the trailer and come apart. The green light just stayed green and the brakes did not activate. It could be as simple as a corroded onnection for some reason. I guess a clever guy could use a meter at the truck plug to see if the controller is putting out voltage but my sense is that the controllers are fairly reliable.

At 10 years you need to check everything very carefully anyway. A way to check the trailer brakes for function is to jack up or ramp up a wheel on one side, spin it, and pull the breakaway switch and see if the wheel stops. Put the breakaway switch right back in and do not leave it out for very long. One guy can do a check fairly easily that way. What I would suggest is to take the time to pull the hubs, degrease the bearings, and check the brakes one at the time. I bought a trailer that had been sitting for 18 years. Two of the brake wires had corroded connections at the wheels. We greased the bearings, cleaned and adjusted the brakes, re connected all the wires, and it is fine.

The big disc brakes on the truck are a wonderful thing. I keep my trailer brakes set reasonable lightly. I change pads 0n the truck about every 60000 or so. I worry more about breaking traction on the trailer than about stopping distance on dry pavement.
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Old 05-08-2014, 02:42 PM   #6
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2005 30' Classic
Burlington , Ontario
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I was going to suggest the same compass test that was mentioned earlier.

I have had quite a few problems with the electrical connectors in the sites feeding the brakes under the trailer failing. Sometimes I would just find a wire dangling lose. I think I have the all soldered and shrink wrapped now after several similar failures.

I now carry an old fashioned compass in the truck now, and if I ever have any reason to think there might be a problem with the brakes I do the application test with it on all wheels.

Of course it is always possible that you could get a positive test and yet thetre may be other problems such as brake adjustment.


Brian & Connie Mitchell

2005 Classic 30'
Hensley Arrow / Centramatics
2008 GMC Sierra SLT 2500HD,4x4,Crew Cab, Diesel, Leer cap.
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