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Old 10-01-2014, 08:19 PM   #1
'06 75th Winick Prototype
 
Lockport , Louisiana
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WARNING! Check your brake wiring...

Hi everyone...

I recently got home from a trip from Louisiana up to the Hocking Hills/Old Man's Cave area of Ohio. The road to the campground is just a few miles long, but staggeringly steep for Ohio (of all places); while going up and down those short steeeeep hills my brakes started acting strange on my 19ft Bambi.

The Prodigy brake controller in my SSR started to show "n.c." meaning "no connection" about 75% of the time whenever I would touch the brakes; when I would let off, it would show "c." for "connected" meaning that the controller knew it was connected, but that there was a fault in the system somewhere.

The brakes would either not work at all or would slam on like a freight train was pulling the back of the trailer.

At the campground I got my fat self under the trailer (at night of course) where I was laughingly attacked by about 100 daddy long-leg spiders (the feeling of one sheepishly walking across your face as you're holding a hot soldering iron is something to be experienced) and I was shocked to find that the curbside brake wires were crimped, but the factory heat-shrink tubing was literally never actually heat shrunk...and while merely touching the wires, the ground wire literally came apart in my hand where they were half-heartedly and clumsily crimped together. Of course, the unshrunken heat-shrink tubing fell off the wire when the wires broke in half. The positive wiring was done the same; i.e., haphazardly crimped, with the loose heat-shrink tubing loosely dangling on the wires but never actually applied to the crimped joint. So, I dug out the aforementioned soldering iron and re-connected the two wires properly on the curbside. I gladly then used the previously unused heat-shrink tubing supplied by the incompetent Airstream worker (who didn't bother to do his job) to now protect the newly properly soldered wire connections...then I wrapped both with a generous supply of black 3M electrical tape just to be safe.

But...when I checked the roadside connections, they WERE crimped satisfactorily, and the heat-shrink tubing WAS properly shrunk on the wiring protecting the crimped joints, but to my amazement I found another problem...the wiring was sheepishly kept in place by plastic tie-wraps supplied by Airstream which were still in place (on both sides), but enough play was left in the wiring by the shock so that one of the two wires on the roadside actually chafed itself enough so that it was shorting out against the metal shock housing. I was tired of being molested by spiders, so I didn't take apart and solder the roadside connections (they seemed fine and were actually properly crimped) but I did use a generous amount of the 3M electrical tape to protect the chafed area. I then promptly checked the wiring on both sides to be sure there wasn't too much play in any of the wires so that neither side could contact the shock housings and short out...but it looks SUPER easy for the wiring to do just that. There is a fine line between not enough play and too much to cause a potentially very bad problem. And, it's clear that the factory couldn't care less to check such things...

So...get out there and just check your brake wiring to be sure they are properly connected to the actual trailer brake magnets but more importantly make sure there isn't too much play in your wiring that can cause wire chafing and breaking that will immediately lead to a total loss of trailer brakes...

Even on my small trailer it was a bit of a jarring experience to suddenly lose brakes when I needed them most...

Once corrected my brakes work perfectly...

Better be safe than sorry!!!

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Old 10-01-2014, 11:22 PM   #2
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Great advice to check the brake wiring. I actually found the wires to one of my wheels disconnected last summer during a routine inspection. I chose to not solder mine and leave just the simple connectors in hopes that if I snagged a rock or stray something it would simply pull loose rather than pulling the wire out of the hub.

I do have a question. The wires coming out of the hub in my new Dexter axles are simply two black wires. Can't tell from positive and negative. Are yours clearly marked that way? Reason I ask is that I'm currently chasing a problem with my beak-away switch (brakes work, break-away is being stubborn).

Jim
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Old 10-02-2014, 02:55 AM   #3
'06 75th Winick Prototype
 
Lockport , Louisiana
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim & Susan View Post

I do have a question. The wires coming out of the hub in my new Dexter axles are simply two black wires. Can't tell from positive and negative. Are yours clearly marked that way?
Hi Jim...

No, trailer brake magnets can be wired either way; there is no defined "positive" and "negative." Just make sure they don't short together.

In my anecdote above, I merely specified the troubled wires because those were the chassis wires leading TO the brakes, and of course those ARE positive and negative. But, to which magnet wire you respectively attach each to makes no difference.

Hope this helps!
Jeff
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Old 10-02-2014, 06:13 AM   #4
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I had something similar happen on my tow dolly once - the brake wire shorted out. I discovered the problem while I was on the road, but I wasn't able to fix it on the road, even temporarily (the short was inside the frame of the dolly). So I drove home for the next 5 hours very carefully, not knowing whether I was going to have dolly brakes from one light to the next. Quite frustrating.
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Old 10-02-2014, 08:50 AM   #5
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I have had several problems with brake wiring - usually wires corroded off at the connectors, but in at least one case of a wire broken by being snagged on something or hit by road debris.

I have replaced faulty connectors with soldered joints and shrink tube - although I know that there are pros and cons to this.

Now, I regularly visually check brake wiring ay time I have reason to be poking around under the trailer.

Also, any time I have the trailer up on a jacks, I spin the free wheels and have my wife apply brakes just to confirm operation. A regular north pointing compass held against the wheel will also at least confirm that the magnet is being powered.

Just a couple of weeks ago, while doing a bearing repack, my spin test confirmed one wheel not braking, turned out to be a faulty connection at a previous wire splice

The truck brakes are large and effective and I hadn't realized that one wheel on the trailer was not braking.


Brian
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Old 10-02-2014, 07:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 75TH BAMBI View Post
Hi Jim...

No, trailer brake magnets can be wired either way; there is no defined "positive" and "negative." Just make sure they don't short together.

In my anecdote above, I merely specified the troubled wires because those were the chassis wires leading TO the brakes, and of course those ARE positive and negative. But, to which magnet wire you respectively attach each to makes no difference.

Hope this helps!
Jeff

Thanks Jeff. That's what I thought, just makin' sure I didn't miss a step somewhere.

Jim
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Old 10-03-2014, 01:33 PM   #7
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First - that sounds like a scary situation (especially the spiders). I'm glad that you nor your trailer weren't injured. It sounds like poor quality control has run amok.

You're fortunate to be so handy. This could have been an expensive surprise for a less electromechanically-inclined owner.

I'll be spending my evening checking out my brake wiring (hopefully without the spiders). Thank you so much for sharing this information.
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Old 10-03-2014, 01:49 PM   #8
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brakee

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wingeezer View Post
I have had several problems with brake wiring - usually wires corroded off at the connectors, but in at least one case of a wire broken by being snagged on something or hit by road debris.

I have replaced faulty connectors with soldered joints and shrink tube - although I know that there are pros and cons to this.

Now, I regularly visually check brake wiring ay time I have reason to be poking around under the trailer.
Also, any time I have the trailer up on a jacks, I spin the free wheels and have my wife apply brakes just to confirm operation. A regular north pointing compass held against the wheel will also at least confirm that the magnet is being powered.

Just a couple of weeks ago, while doing a bearing repack, my spin test confirmed one wheel not braking, turned out to be a faulty connection at a previous wire splice

The truck brakes are large and effective and I hadn't realized that one wheel on the trailer was not braking.
Brian
Holy Crap, I am going to check mine tomorrow. Thanks Brian.
I have a compass here somewhere. Do you have the wheel off and have to get the compass super close? Or can I just be at the back-plate?
I appreciate the information.
Have a good one,
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Old 10-04-2014, 07:43 AM   #9
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Holy Crap, I am going to check mine tomorrow. Thanks Brian.
I have a compass here somewhere. Do you have the wheel off and have to get the compass super close? Or can I just be at the back-plate?
I appreciate the information.
Have a good one,
I just hold the compass near to the location of the magnet (bottom of the brake assembly) with the wheel in place. I hold the compass at the outside face of the wheel, not the backing plate. If all is well, I get an unmistakable swing of the compass needle when the brakes are applied.

When I first tried it, I told my wife to tread on and off the brake while I checked, but found there is a slight lag before the compass needle reacts, so I found it better to have her just hold the brake down on my signal until I determined there was magnetism, and then tell her to release and I go on to the next wheel.

We do this with a pair of GMRS radios and that makes it easy. (At least it would if I could get my wife to understand that she needs to press the button on the radio before she starts to talk!)

Brian.
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Old 10-07-2014, 03:37 PM   #10
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'Nuther question. When I have Susan push the brake pedal in the truck I can hear a definite humming of the brakes at each wheel. When I pull the breakaway chord, don't hear that same sound..

Is it possible that the breakaway switch somehow uses less braking power when engaged? As in a "just enough" scenario of some kind? I have a separate thread on this subject from a month or so ago, so I don't mean to high jack this thread, but you all seemed plugged in to braking so to speak.

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Old 10-08-2014, 07:44 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim & Susan View Post
'Nuther question. When I have Susan push the brake pedal in the truck I can hear a definite humming of the brakes at each wheel. When I pull the breakaway chord, don't hear that same sound..

Is it possible that the breakaway switch somehow uses less braking power when engaged? As in a "just enough" scenario of some kind? I have a separate thread on this subject from a month or so ago, so I don't mean to high jack this thread, but you all seemed plugged in to braking so to speak.

Jim
Not 100% sure of this but I don't think the breakaway circuit would be set up to apply some minimal braking - given what it is intended for I would expect it to apply maximum braking.

Possibly your breakaway switch is defective and even when you pull the pin, the switch contacts are not closing?

Would be worth checking a wheel by spinning it after you pull the breakaway pin - or maybe just trying to move the trailer with the pin pulled to verify that the trailer brakes are on.

Interesting that you hear a humming sound from your brakes when you apply them from the tow vehicle. I have never noticed that from mine - but never really listened that closely I suppose.

I would have associated a humming sound with an AC circuit (the same way a transformer will hum) rather than the DC current that is applied to your brake magnets, so I'm not sure what would cause the noise - unless it somehow relates to the type of brake controller that you have in the two vehicle. Perhaps others know the reason for the humming?

Cheers ........ Brian.
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Old 10-08-2014, 08:00 AM   #12
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I need to check my brake lines so thanks for the heads up.

For what it's worth, I always check the operation of my brakes each time I pull the trailer by simply squeezing the brake controller buttons to manually engage the brakes as I am pulling away from the campsite. A gentle tug from the trailer brakes assures me that the trailer brakes are working (they are more noticeable during this test since the truck brakes are not engaged so all the braking effect is coming from the trailer brakes themselves.)

Of course, this test does nothing to predict that a loose wire will let go during the tow hence the need to also check the wiring periodically.
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Old 10-09-2014, 09:22 AM   #13
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I also have had brake wiring issues so badly that I lost all braking during a trip. Luckily I was in a parking lot at the time. I make a habit of carrying tools when I travel and had butt connectors to repair the wires there in the lot. The problem was that the wires looked good but were corroded inside the factory connectors as mentioned above.

When I got home, I bought all-weather shrink tubing butt connectors for a more permanent fix.
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Old 10-10-2014, 08:43 AM   #14
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When I got home, I bought all-weather shrink tubing butt connectors for a more permanent fix.

Any reference info on those all weather connectors? Can they be bought at automotive stores such as NAPA or pep Boys stores? I wouldn't mind adding some to my "Emergency repair kit!"

Thanks ............ Brian.
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