Home » The Process For Replacing Trailer Brakes

The Process For Replacing Trailer Brakes

Correctly functioning trailer brakes must never be left to chance. Every trailer owner should grow proficient in inspecting and installing new braking systems, both to ensure the integrity of your rig as well as the safety of the others on the road.

Follow the steps to master the basics of the best way to replace and remove your trailer’s brakes. Also, learn about warning signs to find those trailer brakes replaced in the first place.

When should you replace your trailer Brakes?

There is no single, absolute point at which you have to replace your brakes in your trailer.

In addition, brake manufacturers also recommend monitoring certain variables to help inform the general state of the brakes. These variables, like your trailer’s weight, towing frequency, distances traveled, towing terrain, and even your the driving style of your vehicle will affect trailer brake replacement schedules.

There are couple of points to keep in mind in order to maintain the quality and durability of your trailer’s brakesand also the recommendations directly from the manual for your brake as well as ensuring the safety of your trailer.

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 drums and brake shoes two major components of the brake’s main assembly, will be “seated.” When properly seated, drums and shoes work together with the electromagnet in your braking system and core brake controller. Together, these two pieces create the friction that stops your trailer every time you press down on the brake on the driver’s seat.

If shoes are not properly seated and drums, braking is slow, inefficient or — in the worst-case scenario — even dangerous.

Following a 200-mile brake inspection typically, the brakes of your trailer will be reviewed approximately once a year, at the time of annual licensing inspections or however your trailer towing frequency requires.

Click here for trailer brake spares.

2. At 12,000 Miles

Along with annual brake system inspections, wheel bearings should be lubricated roughly per 12,000 miles. For regularly towed heavy-duty travel trailers as well as fifth-wheel RVs that see many miles on the road the schedules may be more frequently.

It is important to note that grease as well as “packing” bearings isn’t equivalent to replacing the bearings. However, the two are similar processes in that accessing the inner and external bearings will require comparable steps for all-out installation of new brakes.

3. If Your Manual Recommends

Check the brake recommendations stated in the owner’s manual for your trailer or the one produced by your axle manufacturer. The manual should also provide the general, step-by-step directions on how to install and replace the brakes on your specific model make adjustments to shoe seating and correctly pack your bearings.

4. When Brake Performance typically suffers

Use common sense when it comes to maintaining and replacing your trailer’s brakes. If you experience a squeaky wheel bearings, odd brake lags or variations in braking pressures you should be looking at parts. If the adjustment of your brake shoes isn’t enough, you may need replacement of your system.

What is the most important thing you should do to Replace Trailer Brakes?

Replacing trailer brake systems requires a few tools to complete the installation effectively and safely. Ensure you own or have access to these prior to removing any of the trailer wheel parts.

1. Proper Tools

These essential mechanical tools will make up the toolkit when replacing the brakes on trailers:

The tire iron is used to safely remove the trailer wheels.
Pliers with grooves: Ideal to grip a brake trailer’s disparately sized components.
Flathead screwdriver: For different plying and screwing steps.
Mallet: The quickest method of use, it is the most efficient way to eliminate the initial dust and grease.
Wire cutters: essential to cut and take out the brake’s magnet wires and then crimp the new ones.
Torque wrench: to tighten the wheel of the trailer and other brake pieces to the right position, following manual limits.
Hammer: Ensure that the various tiny seals, washers and seals you’ll install sit flush to edges.

2. General Equipment

Alongside the tools mentioned above, be sure you have these things in your arsenal:

Hydraulic car jacks: To raise the vehicle, then to support the trailer as it’s mounted off the ground.
Work gloves: These gloves are particularly important in the case of packing grease into your replacement bearings. This process is described in more detail below.
An appropriate grease lubricant should be an approved type by the axle manufacturer, to pack inner and outer brake bearings.

How to Replace the Trailer Brakes

Are you interested in replacing your trailer brakes? Expert mechanics will follow these step-bystep instructions to ensure an easy, safe and hopefully pain-free electric wheel brake installation.

1. Perform a Brake Controller Maintenance

Before you get you hands dirty first inspect the mechanical heart of the whole trailer’s braking system, which is The brake control.

Brake controllers communicate with your brake drum’s magnet. The majority of drivers place their controllers under or near their dashboards, which makes it easy to reach and examine if braking issues develop.

In order to conduct an Initial brake controller examination, read the following:

Wire conditions: Controller wires should look smooth and intact with no visible fraying tears, or bumps.
Schematic included: Make sure that your brake controller still has its schematic — that is, the general wiring diagram signaling how to wire your trailer to meet its specifications in a proper manner.
Correct power readings and outputs must have the proper outputs for the brakes on your trailer, which you can test with a voltmeter or similar device.

2. Expose the Inner Brake Drum

Brake drum deconstruction begins by taking off the dust cap or grease cap, then the removal of a few pieces surrounding the spindle or axle.

Remove the cap that is clogged with dust or grease Utilize large pliers with grooves and a screwdriver. Alternatively,when caps are older and worn-out, a mallet to pop off the cap. If you’re using a mallet apply forceful, but controlled upward-facing hits while spinning the drum to loosen it gradually.
Take off the retainer for the nut: After that, use a large flat-head screwdriver, to break off the nut retainer and then the securing cotter pin, if there is one.
Spin off the spindle nut Make use of your hands to take off the retaining spindle nut from the central axle.
Take off the outer bearing. At this point, the outer wheel bearing should fall off fairly easily. It’s recommended to remove outer bearings as these parts tend to get old and rusty.

3. Check the brake drum assembly

When you have your brake drum’s internal component exposed, you can now look at its inner assembly parts, including the magnet. Check the overall brake drum assembly for:

Cracks, marks or loose springs along an assembly’s drum surface
Properly sized drums and not worn away from recommended spec sizes

The mechanics will then shift their attention to the unit’s center magnet. The magnet is what receives outputs from the controller in order to trigger the trailer brakes. They’ll check to see if the magnet:

Wiggles around a bit when pushed. This is fine — you don’t want a stiff or congealed magnets.
Contains four surface dots. The magnets for the brakes on trailers should have four dots on its face-side surface. If a magnet is worn down these dots vanish.

It is also a good spot to inspect your star wheel. Star wheels are an adjustment spring at the bottom of your magnet. Similar to the magnet itself, it’s supposed to wiggle when you press it, but it should not feel loose.

4. Remove from the Brake Drum’s Inner Seal and Wheel Bearings.

In the beginning, you’ll need wire cutters to snip your magnet’s wires, which are located just behind that drum’s front plate. This can be a daunting step, often one that is best left to experts.

Important note: Perform this step only if you are installing the entire brake assembly kit. If you don’t, you’ll cut off your magnet-controller connection.

Begin by unscrewing the nuts as well as the washers that connect the inner brake assembly to the central axle. It may also be necessary to loosen the seal for the wheel bearing, which many manufacturers mark with Arrows. Once unscrewed, the rest of the drum assembly will slide right away, leaving a naked axle.

5. Clean the drum and Axle Spindle

Make use of solvents that are suitable to spray and clean your vehicle, taking off any dirt, grime or leftover lubricant that’s been accumulated. Do the same with the interior drum of your brake that you just cleaned.

This is also a great time to wash and make sure that your unit’s Zerk filling system, by removing any residual grease and refilling it with a new lubricant. Inspect the bearing races you have exposed in the steps 2 and 4. If any are damaged or chipped, locate replacements immediately. Add a light coat of fresh lubricant to your spindle.

6. Repair with Inner Brake Assembly

The new drum assembly could come in an assortment of parts and components you’ll require for your new drum. The kits typically include but aren’t restricted to any of the following:

Right- and left-side shoes
Fresh bolts, typically around 3/8-inch
Magnet unit
Inner bearings, often pre-grease packaged, other times not

Once removed from its packaging After that, carefully position the new brake assembly’s inner brake on the newly lubricated spindle. Make sure you place the right and left shoes on the right sideways. You may also now coil-crimp the two wires of your assembly magnet back in the same spot you cut the old ones, just in front of your drum plates. The magnets used in trailer brakes are not magnetically polarized, which means that the positive and negative sides can be used interchangeably here.

Keep in mind the following scenarios that can happen when replacing an inner brake drum assembly

The drum isn’t able to fit over the right and left shoes: Expand the shoes by turning the tension adjuster, or the star wheel, which is located on the bottom of the brake assembly’s magnet. The drum will eventually slide between the tabs.
The overall tension of the shoe isn’t correct: There should be a small gap between the drum and the right and left shoes. A lot or too little room left between these components or you’ll have difficult time applying the proper tension to your trailer’s brakes. While drums and shoes actually will adjust to the proper pressure as time passes, they should start off on a semi-appropriate spatial ratio so that you can drive in a safe and stoppable vehicle.

7. Create New Wheel Bearings or Races If Needed

Grease your inner bearings before placing them back into the outer brake drum hub, which should also be lubricated. Be aware that greaseing your bearings is an unpleasant job. The ridged parts must be “packed” using grease either employing a professional bearing packer tool or simply by placing the blob of grease in your palm and packing it in the traditional way.

Do not be overly generous when packing. You want each bearing to be slicked, even slightly flowing, with lubricant capable of sliding easily back into the hub of the drum and onto the axle. Be sure to use only premium wheel bearing grease as well.

8. Install the new Outer Brake Bearing Components

At this point, you’re in a position to connect your outer brake bearings and assembly components over the lubricated and cleaned axle. It will be connected to your inner brake assembly components, including the newly wired magnet.

After putting the drum hub in place, you can begin reinstalling the other drums and bearing parts you took out in Step 2, now by reversing the order. This means that you must first reinstall the hub, with the grease bearings packed in, then the wider drum, then the outer wheel bearing along with the bearing washers the spindle spindle retainer nut, the cotter pin and — last but not last but not least — the cap on the grease.

If your grease cap is worn or damaged, and does not fit properly over an axle, look for an alternative. Grease caps are generally inexpensive but it’s important to seal them well.

9. Return the Tire

With your brand new trailer brake pieces set, you are able to be able to reinstall your tires. Utilize a torque tool or similar tool to tighten the lug nuts back up to their specific factory specifications.

10. Test Exercise

Last but not least, take your brake controller and conduct a final actuation test. This test checks to see whether the electric component of your system for braking your trailer has been properly set up including the crimping system wires that were connected in Step 6.

The maximum voltage outputs you can expect to see during your brake actuation can vary based on the type of trailer you have as well as the brake system. If the voltmeter or similar device fails to show an output of maximum voltage in less than five minutes, or if readings don’t correspond to the manufacturer’s schematics, it could be a problem related to the brakes for your trailer. These kinds of wiring issues are not common when all instructions and steps have been handled by a trained professional.

When to Have Trailer Brakes Replaced by a professional

A professional mechanic who can examine or install the electronic brakes on your trailer can be a welcome relief. Many people find that the complexity and weight of repairing your trailer’s brakes is a too daunting task for them to handle on their own.

Always stay on the side of cautiousness when fixing your trailer, which includes dealing with some “minor” brake issues. If any of these scenarios apply to you then you should consider scheduling a brake examination or fix.

1. You’re Unsure About Drum Conditions

Brake drums are reusable. However, as one of the primary components of the entire system of braking it is possible that you will be needing a second opinion as to the real nature of its condition.

Local auto repair shops can check your drums to see if they have surface rust. Some have even special equipment that put drums through an energizing process known as turning which is less expensive than buying new drum kits in the end.

2. Do You Need a Second Opinion on the Tension of Your Shoe

Properly seating shoes is essential in establishing and maintaining optimal levels of friction that can be used for stopping. It can also take a little finesse, particularly to find that initial equilibrium between the gap between the drums and shoes as well as the wiggle room they allow themselves to adjust in time.

Professional mechanics can set the appropriate Goldilocks level of tension in your brake system. This can ease any worries your brakes might not be seated correctly or aren’t self-adjusting at the appropriate rates.

3. You Just Want the Expert’s A Touch

There are more than a dozen parts of equipment involved when installing a brand new trailer brake kit. What’s more, installing trailer brakes is usually involving electrical actuation tests and precise cutting of wires, as well as the physical mechanicsof the process, which adds another daunting layer of work.

By having a professional install your trailer’s brakes guarantees that it’s done quickly and done correctly. This is a powerful guarantee, putting your mind at ease while you carry thousands of pounds on the highway.