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When Should You Replace Trailer Brakes?

A properly functioning trailer brake system must never be left to chance. Every owner of a trailer needs to become comfortable with the process of checking and installing new braking systems, both to ensure the safety of the rig as well as the safety of the others on the road.

Follow the steps to learn the basics about how to take off and replace the brakes of your trailer, as well as warning signs that indicate it’s time for you to buy those trailer brakes replaced in the first place.

When Should You Replace Trailer Brakes?

There isn’t a single, exact moment when you need to install new brakes in your trailer.

In addition, brake manufacturers also recommend keeping track of certain variables in order to assess the general condition that your brakes are in. These variables, including the weight of your truck, towing frequency, distances traveled, towing terrain, and even your driving style can all impact the schedule of replacement for your trailer’s brakes.

There are couple of points to keep in mind in order to ensure the durability and integrity of the brakes on your trailer -along with recommendations straight from your brake’s manual in order to ensure the safety of your tow.

1. At 200 Miles for Manually Adjusted Brakes

It’s recommended that brand new, fresh-out-the-dealership trailers see their brakes inspected and adjusted near the 200-mile mark.

Around 200 miles is the time when brake shoes and drums both of which are the two main elements of the brake’s internal assembly, will be “seated.” Properly seated drums and shoes interact with the electromagnet of your brake system and core brake controller. Together, these components trigger the friction that stops your trailer every when you push down on the brake from the driver’s seat.

Without properly seated shoes and drums, the process of braking is slow, inefficient or — worst-case scenario — even dangerous.

Following a 200-mile brake inspection the brakes on your trailer can be reviewed roughly once a year during annual licensing inspections or however the towing frequency of your trailer calls for.

2. At 12,000 Miles

Along with annual check-ups of the brake systems, the wheel bearings must be lubricated per 12,000 miles. For frequently towed heavy-duty travel trailers as well as fifth-wheel RVs that see many miles on the road it is possible to schedule them more frequently.

It is important to note that greasing or “packing” bearings isn’t the same as replacing bearings. Both have a lot in common in that accessing the inner and outer bearings will require comparable steps in order to completely replace brakes.

3. If Your Manual Recommends

Check the brake recommendations stated in the owner’s manual for your trailer or the manual produced by your axle manufacturer. The manual must also include the general instructions, step-by step, for how to replace and install the specific brake parts of your model Adjust shoe seating, and ensure that your bearings are properly packed.

4. When Brake Performance Generally Suffers

Apply common sense when it comes to maintaining and replacing your trailer’s brakes. If you notice noisy wheel bearings, strange brake lags, or variations in braking pressures then it’s time to check the parts. If adjusting the brake shoes isn’t working, you could need an overhaul of the system.

What is the most important thing you should do to get a new set of Trailer Brakes?

Removing the trailer brake system requires a few tools to conduct the installation in a safe and efficient manner. You must have access to these prior to removing any of the trailer wheel parts.

1. Proper Tools

These essential mechanical tools will constitute the toolkit for replacing the brakes of the trailer

The tire iron is used to securely take off trailer wheels.
Grease-filled pliers Ideal for gripping a trailer brake system’s different sized components.
Flathead screwdriver: for a variety of necessary plying and screwing steps.
Mallet: For the most efficient and most efficient method to eliminate the initial dust and grease.
Wire cutters are required to cut and remove the brake’s magnetic wires and to crimp new ones.
Torque wrench: To tighten the wheel on the trailer’s trailer as well as the various brake pieces to the right position using a manual setting.
Hammer: Making sure various small seals as well as washers that you’ll be installing sit in a straight line around edges.

2. General Equipment

Alongside the tools above, make sure you keep the following items in your possession:

Hydraulic car jacks: To elevate the vehicle and then hold the trailer in place while it’s mounted off the ground.
Work gloves: These gloves are particularly important for those who are packing grease into your own replacement bearings. This is explained more in-depth below.
The most suitable grease lubricant is one that is approved by the manufacturer of the axle, for packing the outer and inner brake bearings.

How to replace with trailer brake spares

Are you thinking of changing your trailer’s brakes? Professional mechanics follow these step-by step instructions to ensure an easy, safe and, hopefully, head-ache-free electric the installation of your trailer’s brakes.

1. Conduct a Brake Controller Inspection

Before getting the hands filthy, be sure to inspect the heart of the whole trailer’s braking system, which is the brake controller.

Brake controllers are connected and communicate with the brake drum’s magnet. Many drivers put their controllers near or beneath their dashboards, which makes it easy to locate and check when braking issues occur.

To conduct the preliminary brake controller test, read the following:

Wire condition: Controller wires should look smooth and intact without visible fraying tears, bumps or marks.
Schematic included: Make sure your brake controller still has its schematic — that is, its general wiring diagram signaling how to wire the trailer according to its specs appropriately.
Correct readings of power and outputs must be sending the correct outputs to your trailer brakes, which you can check using an voltmeter or other similar equipment.

2. The Inner Brake Drum is exposed. Drum

Deconstruction of the brake drum begins with removing the outer dust or grease cap, and then removing a handful of components in the vicinity of the main spindle or axle.

Clean the cap of grease or dust Utilize large pliers with grooves, a screwdriver or -for caps that are older and worn-out, a mallet to pop off the cap. If using a mallet apply forceful, but controlled forward-facing hits while rotating the drum to loosen it gradually.
Break off the retainer nut: Then, use a large screwdriver with a flat head to pull off the retainer for the nut and the cotter pin that secures it should there be one.
Spin off the spindle nut Utilize your hands to pull the spindle’s retaining nut out of the center axle.
Remove the outer bearing At this point, the outer wheel bearing will slide off with ease. It’s usually recommended to throw away the outer bearings since these parts tend to get aged and become rusty.

3. Check the Brake Drum Assembly

With the brake drum’s inner piece exposed you are able to now examine the interior assembly, and the components that make up the magnet. The brake drum’s overall assembly for:

Cracks, scores , or loose springs on the drum assembly’s surface
A proper drum thickness, not worn down away from suggested sizes

The mechanics will then shift their attention to the unit’s center magnet. The magnet receives inputs from the controller in order to trigger the trailer brakes. They’ll determine if the magnet:

Wiggles around a bit when it’s being pushed. This is good — you don’t want a stiff or congealed magnets.
Contains four surface dots. Trailer brake magnets should contain four dots on their face-side surface. When a magnet wears down these dots fade away.

It is also a good opportunity to examine your star wheel. Star wheels are an adjustment spring that is located at the bottom of the magnet. Like the magnet itself, it’s also supposed to move when you press it but should not feel loose.

4. Take off all Brake Drum’s Inner Wheel Bearing and Seal Components

In the beginning, you’ll need wire cutters to cut off your magnet’s wires to that drum’s front plate. This is a difficult task, but is typically better left to the pros.

Important note: Make this step only if you are installing an entirely new brake system kit. If you don’t, you’ll cut off your magnet-controller connection.

Start by removing the nuts and washers holding the interior brake assembly to the central axle. It is also possible to remove the seal on the wheel bearing, which many manufacturers mark with the arrows. When the seal is unloosened it, the rest of the drum assembly should fall right off, leaving you with an unfinished axle.

5. Clean the Drum, and Axle Spindle

Use appropriate solvents to clean and spray your vehicle, taking off any dirt, grime or leftover lubricant that’s been accumulated. The same process is applied to your interior brake drum you’ve just removed.

This is also a great moment to clean and oil your unit’s filling zerk, emptying any residual grease and refilling it with fresh lubricant. Examine the bearing races you exposed in the steps 2 and 4. If any are damaged or damaged, replace them immediately. Also, put a light coat of fresh lubricant onto your spindle.

6. Repair with Inner Brake Assembly

The new drum assembly will likely come as an assortment of parts and components you’ll require for the new drum. These kits tend to include but aren’t restricted to the following:

Right- and left-side footwear
Fresh bolts, usually around 3/8-inch
Magnet unit
Inner bearings are pre-grease-packed, other times not

After it has been removed from its packaging, carefully place the new brake assembly inside the spindle that has been lubricated. Be careful to position the assembly’s right and left shoes on their respective sides. You can also coil-crimp your assembly magnet’s two wires back to where you cut the wires from the earlier ones, on the opposite side of the plate for drums. Trailer brake magnets are not polarized, so the positive and negative sides can be used interchangeably on this side.

Remember the following scenarios that can come up when replacing the inner brake drum assembly:

The drum isn’t able to fit over the right and left shoes You can expand the shoes by turning the tension adjuster, or star wheelthat is situated on the bottom of the brake assembly’s magnetic. The drum should eventually slide between the two tabs.
Overall shoe tension isn’t right The right amount of tension should be a tiny gap that is left between the drum as well as the right and left shoes. There’s too much or not enough room left between these components as well, and you’ll face difficulty applying the right pressure to your trailer brakes. While shoes and drums adjust themselves to ensure proper pressure as time passes, they should begin with a proportionate spatial arrangement to ensure that you’re operating an able-to-stop vehicle.

7. Make sure to add new wheel Bearings in Races and Wheel Bearings if Needed

Lubricate your inner bearings prior to inserting them into the hub for the outer brake drum and ensuring that they are lubricated. It is important to note that greaseing bearings is an unpleasant job. These ridged pieces must be “packed” with grease, or using a professional bearing packer tool , or by placing an ounce of grease into your fingers and wrapping it the traditional method.

Do not be overly generous when packing. You want each bearing to be slicked, even a little liquid, with lubricant and able to slide back into the hub of the drum and then onto the axle. Verify that you’re using wheels bearing grease that is high temperature.

8. Install the new Outer Brake Bearing Components

You’re now prepared to join your outer brake bearings and assembly components back over the clean and lubricated axle. It will be connected to the brake assembly’s inner components which includes your newly wired magnetic.

After positioning the drum hub before you begin the process of reinstalling the other drums and bearing components you removed in the second step. Do this in reverse order. This means that you must first reinstall the hub and its grease bearings that are packed and then the larger drum, then the outer wheel bearing as well as the bearing washers the spindle nut that holds it, the cotter pin and — last but certainly not last but not least — the grease cap.

If the grease cap on your machine is worn or damaged, and it isn’t able to fit squarely over the hub, search for an alternative. Grease caps are generally inexpensive but it’s important to seal them securely.

9. Return the Tire

Once you have all your new trailer brake pieces set, you are able to install your new trailer’s tires. Use a torque wrench or similar tool for torque the lug nuts back to their specifications from the factory.

10. Test Accuracy

Don’t forget to grab your brake controller to run a final test of actuation. This test checks whether the electric component of your system for braking your trailer has been properly set up by crimping the system wires back in the step 6.

The maximum voltage outputs that you can experience during brake actuation can vary based on the type of trailer you have and your brake kits. If the voltmeter, or any similar device isn’t able to register an output voltage of a maximum within less than five seconds or if the readings don’t align with the specifications of the manufacturer, there might be a persistent issue in the trailer brake. Wiring problems like these occur only when all the procedures and specifications have been performed by a skilled professional.

When should you have your trailer brakes Replaced by a professional

An expert mechanic will check or install your electronic trailer brakes can be a welcome relief. Many people find that the technical aspect and the importance of repairing your trailer’s brakes is too big a job to tackle on their own.

Always stay on the side of caution when doing work on your trailer, including tackling the most “minor” brake concerns. If any of these situations apply to you then you should consider scheduling a brake repair or inspection.

1. You’re Unsure About Drum Conditions

Brake drums are reuseable. But as one of the most important components of the entire system of braking You may end up needing a second opinion as to the exact nature of its condition.

Local auto shops can examine your drums to see if they have surface rust. Some have even special equipment that allow drums to undergo the process of rejuvenation known as turning, which is more cost-conscious than buying new drum kits completely.

2. If you’d like to get a second opinion on Tension in the Shoe

Correctly fitting shoes is key for generating and maintaining the best levels of friction for braking. It may also require some finesse to determine the ideal equilibrium between the gap between the drums and shoes as well as the wiggle room they allow themselves to adjust with time.

Professional mechanics can set that Goldilocks-level amount of tension in your brake system. This will eliminate any concerns your brakes might not be seated correctly or aren’t self-adjusting to healthy rates.

3. You’re Just Needing the Expert’s Touch

There are about a dozen parts of equipment involved in the installation of a brand new trailer brake kit. In addition, installing the trailer brakes usually involves an electrical actuation test and precise cutting of wires in addition to the physical mechanicsthat add another daunting layer of work.

The use of a professional to install your trailer’s brakes will ensure that it’s done fast and well. It’s a strong guarantee, putting you at peace while you carry thousands of pounds across the road.