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Old 08-16-2013, 05:18 AM   #1
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What I did not know about trailer brakes

Newbies like me, beware. I had been camping for a few days in pretty steady rain. When I hooked up and departed the campground I tested my brakes and almost knocked my wife and dog off the truck seat. The normal brake controller setting of 8.2 was way too high and I ended up resetting to about 6.0 until the brakes dried out. After about 10 minutes of driving, I found my normal setting to be OK again.
Motto: I need to check my brakes and the controller setting each time I leave a campsite. I cannot assume the controller is set properly.

Larry
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Old 08-16-2013, 06:39 AM   #2
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Sounds like they just rusted - car brakes do this, too: the first time you hit them, they'll grab a bit more than usual until the rust is cleared. I always test mine and haven't had what you experience. At low speed (under 5 mph), I just casually move the slider over until I feel them engage. From then on, I know the truck will warn me if it loses the connection to the brakes.

FYI, in rain/wet conditions, you'll want to reduce that setting, too. The last thing you want is for those trailer brakes to lock up, because it can end with the trailer jackknifing.
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Old 08-16-2013, 06:50 AM   #3
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While you may be right, I think that wet had everything to do with grabbing. If it were simply rust, the brakes should have plenty of rust from sitting in storage for weeks at a time. But this has never happened under dry conditions. With car brakes I have experienced squeal when the rotors or drums have rusted a bit, but not the grab the trailer experienced. My only message is that I now intend to be rigorous about checking my controller setting each time I leave a campground. Thanks
Larry
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Old 08-16-2013, 07:23 AM   #4
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I never thought about moisture and brakes, just rust

But I do notice and think that I read about using different settings for when you are driving slow and when you are on the highway. My old brake controller had variable settings, that was adjusted by a dial. It was hard to get it just right. My new controller only has a few settings, but at least you know what you are going to get as far as how aggressive the braking will be.
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Old 08-16-2013, 08:28 AM   #5
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I do the Skater routine after every hitch-up. In a safe spot, I gently (VERY gently), move the manually trailer brake control just slightly to the right (no TV brakes) and make SURE they are working. Even though I do a walk around and make sure everything is secure, this little procedure is a confidence builder. I have a Voyager wireless camera on the back of the A/S and power to it comes from the upper clearance light on the rear of the trailer. In order to activate it I have to put the lights on...and so I know if the camera isn't working, then the lights aren't working either. You just can't be too safe...
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Old 08-16-2013, 08:50 AM   #6
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When I was in the trucking business prior to taking off I always backed up a foot or so and applied only the trailer brakes then pulled forward a foot or so and applied only the trailer brakes. This confirmed that everything was connected. Also in rainy weather in congested traffic or down long hills I would tap the brakes in an attempt to keep them dry.
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Old 08-16-2013, 06:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lsbrodsky View Post
While you may be right, I think that wet had everything to do with grabbing. If it were simply rust, the brakes should have plenty of rust from sitting in storage for weeks at a time. But this has never happened under dry conditions. With car brakes I have experienced squeal when the rotors or drums have rusted a bit, but not the grab the trailer experienced. My only message is that I now intend to be rigorous about checking my controller setting each time I leave a campground. Thanks
Larry
Another thing that just occurred to me is perhaps somehow moisture caused them to short momentarily, making them brake a lot harder than expected. I can't picture in my head how this would happen, but electricity + water can lead to all sorts of fun.
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Old 08-16-2013, 08:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lsbrodsky View Post
Newbies like me, beware. I had been camping for a few days in pretty steady rain. When I hooked up and departed the campground I tested my brakes and almost knocked my wife and dog off the truck seat. The normal brake controller setting of 8.2 was way too high and I ended up resetting to about 6.0 until the brakes dried out. After about 10 minutes of driving, I found my normal setting to be OK again.
Motto: I need to check my brakes and the controller setting each time I leave a campsite. I cannot assume the controller is set properly.

Larry
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Originally Posted by Skater View Post
I can't picture in my head how this would happen .

Here's why it "happened"

8.2 is way high unless your driving 80 or 90 mph.

I doubt very seriously it had anything to do with your brakes being "wet"...in stop and go traffic I turn mine down to 2 at highway speeds I set it on 6.

That's why there's an adjustable dial on the brake controller..... the lower number for slow speeds and a higher number for fast speeds.
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Old 08-17-2013, 12:08 AM   #9
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I have a Ford Echoboost and I have mine set at 5.0 which seems to be plenty. Also when I start the engine a display shows up telling me that I am connected and at what level the controller is set.
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Old 08-17-2013, 03:26 AM   #10
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I am a newbie but I know it did not happen because the controller is set too high, although I grant you that 8.2 does feel a bit high. But at 2, the truck is doing all of the braking. No, I would not run at 2 even in stop and go traffic. It simply had never grabbed like that before, in dry weather, highway, stop and go, hot or cold.Thanks for the thoughts.
Larry
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Old 08-17-2013, 08:13 AM   #11
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I have found that I have to continually adjust the setting - depending on speed, weather and the road surface.

The proper amount of trailer braking pressure is having it set to where the brakes are slowing the trailer, but not locking up - and the locking up depends on the amount of friction between the tires and the road surface. Going from a coarse asphalt surface to a wet asphalt surface or to a gravel road will make a big friction difference. Even the difference between a cold surface in the morning and a sun-heated road surface in the afternoon can change the trailer brakes performance.

Test and adjust as towing conditions change. There really isn't a single setting you can just leave it at for your entire trip.
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Old 08-26-2013, 06:37 AM   #12
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Exactly
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Old 08-26-2013, 06:48 AM   #13
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The rear drum brakes on my Ranger Truck will lock when it has sat for a while and the drums have rusted. You set the controller gain to where the brakes just lockup at 25 MPH and then back off a tad. The hard part is telling when they lockup. It is real easy to flat spot a tire by locking it up and not knowing it because modern radials don't squeal like the older tires did. Personally, I like the squeal so you know something is wrong. I like to know when that tire is going to break loose. Drum brakes are always going to be grabby after they have rusted. It should not take long for the rust to wear off.

Perry
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Old 08-26-2013, 08:15 AM   #14
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I pull trailers commercially and this is a phenomenon that occasionally occurs. I have had it happen on brand new trailer whether it be TT or goosenecks or utility trailers. I don't believe it is rust because it will happen while it is raining not just from sitting after it rains. It is just something experience has taught me that can and will happen so be aware and try to adjust accordingly. "Remember just because you can pull it doesn't mean you can stop it or control it."
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