As a trailer owner, one of the most crucial aspects of your vehicle’s maintenance—and indeed, your personal safety—revolves around the trailer brake system. It’s an element of your vehicle that requires regular attention, for unlike other parts that might offer a grace period of inefficiency, the consequences of failing brakes can be immediate and disastrous. But fear not, maintenance and repair don’t need to be intimidating.
With a focus on prevention, detection, and resolution of common brake problems, this guide empowers you to take control of your trailer’s braking health. No longer will you have to rely on a mechanic’s word solely—you’ll gain the knowledge to understand what’s happening with your brakes, and what needs to be done to fix them. So, buckle up and prepare for a comprehensive journey through the world of trailer brake maintenance and repair.
To effectively maintain and repair your trailer’s braking system, it’s important to first understand the difference between the two common types: electric brakes and hydraulic brakes. Each type has its unique characteristics, advantages, and maintenance requirements:
1. Electric Brakes: Electric trailer brakes use electromagnets to activate the brake shoes, which then apply pressure on the brake drum to stop the trailer. They require a brake controller installed in the tow vehicle to manage the electrical current and braking force. Electric brakes are popular due to their cost-effectiveness, ease of installation, and adjustability.
2. Hydraulic Brakes: Hydraulic brake systems use brake fluid pressure from the tow vehicle’s master cylinder to activate the trailer’s brakes. Hydraulic brakes can be further classified as drum or disc brakes, offering smooth, progressive braking performance. They are commonly found on boat trailers, as they are more resistant to water and corrosion.
Identify your trailer’s braking system and consult your owner’s manual or our trailer services page for specific maintenance requirements.
Regular brake inspections are critical in identifying potential issues and maintaining optimum braking performance. Here are some essential inspection and cleaning steps:
1. Check Brake Pads and Shoes: Examine the brake pads (for disc brakes) or shoes (for drum brakes) for wear and tear. Replace them if they have reached the minimum thickness recommended by the manufacturer.
2. Inspect the Brake Rotors and Drums: Look for signs of scoring, cracks, or uneven wear on the surface of brake rotors (disc brakes) and drums (drum brakes). If you notice any abnormalities, consult a professional to determine if replacement or resurfacing is necessary.
3. Clean and Lubricate: Remove debris and brake dust using a brake cleaner and a soft brush. Lubricate moving parts of the braking system, such as brake calliper pins or adjuster screws, with high-temperature brake grease. Be cautious not to contaminate the brake pads, shoes, rotors, or drums, as this could compromise braking performance.
Adjusting your electric trailer brakes is essential for maintaining their efficiency and performance. Many modern electric brakes are self-adjusting, but here’s a general procedure for manual adjustment:
1. Jack up the trailer and securely support it with jack stands or wheel chocks.
2. Remove the rubber plug on the rear side of the brake backing plate to expose the adjustment hole.
3. Using a brake adjustment tool or flathead screwdriver, rotate the adjustment wheel (also known as the star wheel) until the brake shoes are tight against the drum.
4. Back off the adjustment wheel by 1/4 to 1/2 turn or until the wheel spins freely with minimal brake drag.
After adjusting, test your electric brakes using the brake controller in the tow vehicle to ensure they apply and release smoothly. For more information on trailer brake adjustment, consult our experts at Mountain View Trailer Rentals.
Proper brake fluid levels and quality are imperative for optimal hydraulic brake performance. Check the fluid reservoir regularly and top up the fluid if it’s below the recommended level. Use the specific brake fluid type recommended by your trailer’s manufacturer, as using the wrong type can compromise the system.
Flush the hydraulic system and replace the brake fluid periodically, as old fluid can become contaminated with moisture and debris, reducing its effectiveness and potentially causing corrosion. Refer to your owner’s manual for the recommended fluid replacement intervals, or check with a professional from our service team.
Inspect the brake lines and wiring connections regularly for signs of wear, damage, or corrosion. In hydraulic brake systems, ensure there are no leaks or kinks in the brake lines, and replace any damaged components promptly to prevent brake system failure.
For electric brake systems, examine the wiring connections between the tow vehicle’s brake controller, the trailer’s plug, and the brakes themselves. Look for loose, frayed, or damaged wires, and repair or replace them as necessary. Regularly check the brake controller’s output voltage to ensure it’s functioning within the recommended range in your owner’s manual.
Understanding and implementing proper brake maintenance and repair practices for your trailer is essential for ensuring safety, performance, and longevity. Regularly inspecting, cleaning, adjusting, and testing your braking system can keep your trailer roadworthy and dependable for your hauling needs.
As your one-stop shop for all things trailer rentals in Calgary, trust Mountain View Trailer Rentals to provide expert advice and professional service tailored to your unique requirements. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Let us help you ensure your trailer remains safe and reliable for every journey ahead.