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Old 06-04-2006, 05:56 PM   #1
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1978 31' Excella 500
lv , Nevada
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Hydra Vac or Hydra Electric

Fellow Streamers;
I just bought a 31' 78 excella 500 that has been sitting
for 14 years.My tv is an 05' GMC duramax.How do I use the
hydra vac brake system with a diesel.Do I need a vacuum
pump?Also,which electric actuator is best.Thanks.
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Old 06-04-2006, 07:13 PM   #2
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1998 31' Excella 1000
South Berwick , Maine
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After 14 years ya gotta wonder if the brakes are going to work at all. I bet the calipers are frozen. You need to do a thorough inspection of the rotors, calipers, and master cylinder located behind the propane tanks. We had a '77 that was in continual towing use, and in less than 10 years the brakes were converted to electric because they were no longer functioning. Today's hydraulic brakes work on an electrical input to a hydraulic actuator vice vacuum actuated. So with a diesel with no vacuum, your installed setup won't work. Your original brake system that hasn't been used... probably doesn't work either. Convert to electric brakes $$ or go with the latest disc brake technology $$$. Good luck and let us know the progress.
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Old 06-04-2006, 09:09 PM   #3
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1977 31' Sovereign
1963 26' Overlander
1989 34' Excella
Johnsburg , Illinois
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99% of the owners of that kind of braking system (including myself) have converted them to electric. You can not get parts to maintain them. I gave up after the caliper holder brackets failed due to poor welds and fatique failures. If you want some of my old parts: I have 50 pounds of rotors, calipers and vacuum to hydrallic converter. You pay for my packing and shipping.
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Old 06-06-2006, 08:12 PM   #4
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1978 31' Excella 500
lv , Nevada
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 26
Thanks for the reply.If I go with an electric actuator( if I decide to keep the
hydralic system) which one is the best.Are there after market brake parts
that will work within this system.Im trying to set this up with the best brake
controller to the best actuator.Im mean the best working combination.Im
brand new at this.I don't know were to by parts.I've been to three places
here in las vegas and it seems they have to order parts.No one has been
very helpful.I can't wait to get on the road but I want to do it right.thanks
again.
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Old 06-06-2006, 08:21 PM   #5
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1978 31' Excella 500
lv , Nevada
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Dwight would you give me your address or phone.I might take you up on that offer.My phone is 702 3681956.OR cell 7022779189(That is if you weren't
just making a point.)I really appreciate it.
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Old 06-06-2006, 08:26 PM   #6
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Curious?

Are we talking hydraulic disc or drum?

Please inform,
Henry
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Old 06-06-2006, 08:44 PM   #7
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1978 31' Excella 500
lv , Nevada
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Hydraulic disc.
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Old 06-06-2006, 08:48 PM   #8
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Go disc!

I suspected that but did not want to assume. Disc brakes are far better than electric - a bit more pricy but far far better.

I would keep the disc system if possible - if not - perhaps you want to think about converting to the Kodiak disc system.

Just two cents from a retired Axleman.

Regards,
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Old 06-06-2006, 08:57 PM   #9
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1977 27' Overlander
1954 25' Cruiser
1990 34.5' Airstream 345
VC Highlands , Nevada
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You have exactly what I was faced with. In the end I opted to replace the hyd/vac unit with an electro/hydraulic unit. I made a comparison of a few of the brands out there and published those results based on the information that was available on the net at the time. There may be more actuators out there that I don't know about.
End result - I have a Dexter unit that I am quite happy with. I documented my actuator replacement at http://overlander.archnevada.com/index.php?brakes and my caliper work at http://overlander.archnevada.com/ind...?brakecalipers.

As mentioned above you should definitely rebuild your calipers with new pistons and boots.

When it comes to actuators you should compare all features for yourself and come to your own conclusion as to what you want to have. Don't rely too much on anecdotal evidence as to which is the best. Work hard to educate yourself but don't go crazy. Just because I love my unit doesn't mean that it will be the best for your needs.

Also make sure that the brake controller you get is matched with the actuator unit you get. Most actuators get along with differing brands of controllers but be sure.

And if you get in a bind or feel hopelessly lost - always feel free to ask here on the forums.
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Old 06-06-2006, 09:00 PM   #10
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1978 31' Excella 500
lv , Nevada
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By all means my intention is to stay with the discs.However I need info on the best way to do it.Which electic actuator would work best.Where do I get it.How much $$$ are we talking about.
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Old 06-06-2006, 09:03 PM   #11
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1978 31' Excella 500
lv , Nevada
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Thanks buttercup your a real sweetie.I'll take a look at that site.Thanks.
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Old 06-06-2006, 09:54 PM   #12
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1978 31' Excella 500
lv , Nevada
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Butter cup were are you ordering parts from.
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Old 06-06-2006, 09:57 PM   #13
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1978 31' Excella 500
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I checked out your site.Thats worth a million.
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Old 06-07-2006, 12:06 AM   #14
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1977 27' Overlander
1954 25' Cruiser
1990 34.5' Airstream 345
VC Highlands , Nevada
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I'll tell my wife you called me sweetie. Fortunately Buttercup is the trailers name. However, I have been called other names by co-workers.....

I kept my calipers, electing to rebuild them. I got the pistons, seals and boots from InlandRV because they had them. One thing about pistons is that they are usually steel plated with a tougher metal by some process such as flame spraying. Once that is done the finished piece is machined down to size. Well any pitting on the pistons (even after this process) will certainly mean early failure. The ones I got from Inland had some pitting which looked like it was related to the plating process more than anything else. I do not expect failure but wherever you get the pistons inspect them carefully. Your pistons may be in good enough shape to reuse. Mine were not. I had one that was O.K. but I figured that they all should be replaced.

Installing the boots can be a challenge! I used the process from my tech manual and still went through 8 boots to do 4 calipers! I tore through or pinched a hole in them trying to get them on. But that may be a product of my inability to work delicately with my hands when I need to.

I love Disc brakes over just electric brakes for many reasons. So I kept my rotors and repacked my bearings and the whole nine yards. You can get real intimate with your wheels and axles during this process.
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Old 06-07-2006, 07:02 PM   #15
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1977 31' Excella 500
Berkeley Springs , West Virginia
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Dexter makes a nice electric over hydraulic unit. Actibrake makes a nice one too, very similar to the Dexter. Both are pump type actuators. Towbrake makes one (two actually) that I like a lot too. They use a large linear actuator (like a radio control servo but on steroids) to power a conventional automotive master cylinder. Airstream is currently using the Actibrake unit. I think any of these three would do you nicely.

As for brakes, there is a complete disk retrofit kit available from Towbrake. Dexter makes a setup that you could order on your new axles (which you'll more than likely need), and Kodiak makes a nice setup.

For brake controllers, I personally have a Tekonsha Voyager, but I will probably be changing that out. Many people on here swear by the Tekonsha Prodigy. My dad has one for his fifth wheel and loves it. I like the Jordan brake controller and will probably get one of those. It works off a different principle. Rather than a pendulum inside the controller swinging and determining how much brake to apply, the Jordan has a cable that attaches to your brake pedal arm. The more you push the pedal in the truck, the more the brakes apply. It's a more direct link. Don't know if it's real world actuation is any better than the inertial type, but I'm going to give it a try. The engineering behind it is certainly sound.

Good luck whichever route you go.
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Old 06-07-2006, 07:42 PM   #16
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1978 31' Excella 500
Venice , California
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Hydra-Vac test data

Attached are some consumer report type test results of the Airstream disc brakes when they first came ou in 1978
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Hydro-Vac disc brake tests.pdf (457.7 KB, 211 views)
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Old 06-07-2006, 08:17 PM   #17
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1978 31' Excella 500
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Thanks guys.I feel a lot better.Im sure I'll have a lot to share with you in the future.
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Old 06-07-2006, 08:42 PM   #18
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1984 31' Excella
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Brake Controller

Jim
I have used the "stupid" type and the Jordan Ultra. I have also used the older units that tap into the hydraulic system. The Jordan that ties to the brake pedal gives the same feel as the older ones that were tapped into the hydraulic system. Set it once and your done. No trouble so far.
When I called the company answer some questions for me I jot the owner of the company. His idea is to answer the phones and talk directly to his customers to keep abrest of what is going on out there
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Old 06-08-2006, 09:13 PM   #19
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Beginner, that's a pretty good endorsement. I always thought the older style that tapped into the hydraulic system were a good idea. I guess they're outlawwed now. Anyway, I'm going to get a Jordan in the near future. My Stream isn't ready for the road yet, and I'm only towing my utility trailer now and then, and the Voyager seems to work OK for that. But I'm going to have a Jordan soon.

Thanks,
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Old 06-08-2006, 09:44 PM   #20
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1978 31' Excella 500
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controller

There was a controller being sold by Hensley a couple of years ago, but they dropped the line. I'll try to remember or find the link to the mfg. This unit does tap into the hydralic line, but uses a an electronic pressure transducer to generate the braking effort input signal. Pressure in the puller's brake system seems like a good reference for a controller -pretty direct. The trouble with the old "wet" system was that the sensor was electro-mechanical and not as sophisticated, safe, or reliable as the newer type.
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