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Old 08-25-2016, 06:42 PM   #1
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when to replace trailer brakes - how many $'s

we have as 2015 cardinal 5th wheel (16,000 lbs) and we took a long trip last year and towed it about 6,000 miles throughout the northwest. it appears to me that the trailer brakes are not as strong as they used to be, even with the gain to the max. is there any rule of thumb on when they need to be replaced? any test to tell if they are working properly or are worn out? i am still a new to this area of the trailer. i spoke to an rv service shop and they gave me a ballpark estimate of $800 to pull the wheels (4 on two axles), replace the backing plate assy, lube the bearings, and install new seals. this was based upon 12 inch backing plates, 10 inch backing plates would be somewhat less. it would be about $400 for parts and $400 for labor. what surprised me is that they said they do not repair the brakes or shoes. they said it is less expensive to buy a new pre-assembled backing plate assy which includes new shoes and magnets. does this sound reasonable? is there any option on the quality of the brake shoes like there is on car brake shoes? should the drums be turned like on car brakes? any input you can furnish is appreciated. thanks

2015 cardinal model 3825fl
2015 dodge ram 3500 dually
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Old 08-25-2016, 06:53 PM   #2
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I'd try replacing the brake controller with a Tekonsha P3 Electronic Brake Control first... You can get one with wiring for Ram for around $130 on Amazon & return it if you do not notice any changes...

My OEM Ram brake controller was garbage. On the highest setting of "10" it would just barely cause the TT wheels to skid on very loose gravel... In the hills I felt my Ram's brakes were doing too much of the stopping & getting pretty hot. After replacing it with the P3 I can get the brakes to fully lock on dry pavement without going to full setting.

I did some emergency stop testing on a vacant road & couldn't believe how well they kick-in now. Last trip out I had to do a full-on emergency stop from 65 to 0 & the P3 saved me from hitting the car in front of me. I literally came within inches of hitting the guy in front of me... At the very end of my roll the TT tires locked & I came to a stop like right NOW. I actually felt the TT pulling me to a stop which was impossible with the OEM controller.

IMO give it a try & likely you will save money since you have such a new 5er... BTW I also thought my TT brakes were bad because they felt stronger when I first brought the TT home...

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Old 08-25-2016, 06:59 PM   #3
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E-trailer has full brake assemblies (backing plate, shoes, magnets) for around $60 depending on what size (10', 12', or 14'.). So parts should be more like $240, not $400. Cut the wire or undo the splice/wire nut/suitcase connector, unbolt the old plate with the brakes on it, replace, and rewire. Good luck!
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Old 08-25-2016, 07:03 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by The_Rhino View Post
I'd try replacing the brake controller with a Prodigy P3 first... You can get one with wiring for Ram for around $125 on Amazon & return it if you do not notice any changes...

My OEM Ram brake controller was garbage. On the highest setting of "10" it would just barely cause the TT wheels to skid on very loose gravel... After replacing it with the P3 I could get the brakes to fully lock on dry pavement without going to full setting.
If I set my Ram integrated controller above eight it will lock up the TT brakes. Usually run at 5.5 setting.

My big LQ horse trailer got new brakes about every two years. Drums turned once then discarded. Very simple job to do, but solved the work issue by installing disc brakes. Less than an hour to replace four pads. The trailer gets 8-10,000 miles a year of use.
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Old 08-25-2016, 07:06 PM   #5
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First of all, there likely is nothing wrong with the brakes that an adjustment would not cure. In the off chance that you or someone has over greased and blown out the axle seals new brake assemblies are around 50 dollars a corner. For around 2000 dollars you can convert to disc brakes and go down the road happy and safe.
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Old 08-25-2016, 07:09 PM   #6
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Easy way to know the life left in your brakes is to pull the hub. There are many youtube videos to watch for the procedure, it is not difficult.
It is usually cheaper to buy preassembled backing plates. Check online at Southwest Wheel, eTrailer or other trailer parts sites. They are around $40.00 each as I recall. 4 bolts hold the entire assembly to the axle.
Your brakes may only need adjustment. Videos will show that job also, it is easiest and I would do that first. Get seals and bearings if you need them and you are done for a long time.
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Old 08-26-2016, 04:50 PM   #7
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I would certainly try to adjust the brakes on the trailer first. It made a world of difference when we had ours adjusted before our last trip.If the shoes are wearing, they have to travel farther to make contact. They may not be fully contacting and you won't have the full advantage of the trailer brakes.We got spoiled when self adjusting brakes became the norm on newer vehicles. The trailer industry has yet to catch up.
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Old 08-28-2016, 09:48 PM   #8
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6000 miles should not ruin your brakes if adjusted properly. Having said that however, I had to replace one magnet and all four wrong sized oil seals on a 2014 5th wheel just 2000 miles into ownership. 12x2" Hayes/Alco complete backing plates from are $94 each (4 of course) for my 2014 Sabre w/6k axles. $400 sounds about right for parts if the bearings are still good. Get new double lip seals at NAPA ($14) and do the job right. If you are out of the warranty period and your brake shoes are wet with grease, my bet is on the wrong size seals allowing the shoes to get wet. Use a micrometer on the spindle to get the right seal. Don't rely on the axle manufacturer to recommend the right part even if you supply the axle serial number, ask me how I know. Catch it early and you can clean 'em up with Brakleen. Good luck with the repairs.

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