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Old 06-30-2020, 11:10 PM   #1
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Shaking when braking down hill

We are at the tail end of a 40 day RV trip with about 4500 miles. Working through eastern TN in some mountains on about a 8% downhill grade for 2 miles or so, starting getting some bad shaking while braking. I have a 40 ft fifth wheel. Pulled with a 2011 chevy 3500HD

I am assuming the brakes are heating up. I pulled over, to give them a few minutes to cool and check everything out... nothing out of the ordinary. Fortunately there weren't any other steep down hills but I think I have a few more over the next few days.

Any experience with this? I spent about $1000 on a complete brake job about a year ago (10,000 miles ago)... however when I had the brakes done I didn't specify any kind of heavy duty rotors... I didn't know what (if anything) I would be towing at the time. So I don't know what they used for parts.

I've done about 8000 miles towing the trailer and haven't run in to this before and been all over including much worse down hills... so it was a little concerning.

Edit: After I let the brakes cool, everything worked fine. I have my gain set at 7.0, been like that for a year and no problems. I have tow mode on
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Old 07-01-2020, 12:24 AM   #2
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Shaking? Vibration perhaps? Something out of adjustment in the brakes? I'd take the truck to a brake shop and have them checked out. Probably just a simple adjustment. Unlikely, but the tires might be out of balance.
Most brake shops will check them out for free. You do sometimes have to go to a couple of places to make certain you're getting a true diagnosis. We had one shop try to tell us that a machined grove in the brake drum was not normal. Left there and found another shop that adjusted something that I can't recall.
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Old 07-01-2020, 12:32 AM   #3
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I assume you are talking about your tow vehicle shaking and that you had the brake job done on it. If not, I may be off base here.
Anyway, I have developed a sudden shake on vehicles before, as you describe, and it has always involved a sticking caliper. Either I had a bad caliper or more likely the rubber hose going to the caliper had deteriorated enough inside that it was partially collapsing and wouldn't let caliper release properly. Which in turn heated up the rotor and caused the shake. I've had both occurrences and developed that sudden shaking feeling. You can check this by using one of those cheap laser thermometers or whatever you call them. If a caliper is sticking it will be considerably hotter than other side. Just my experiences and hope this helps.
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Old 07-01-2020, 06:13 AM   #4
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You need new rotors for your front end breaks, I guarantee it. I had the exact same problem, they might be able to turn them but I suggest you just replace them. Been there and done that, I could hardly hold on to the steering wheel when it happens. Only use to happen going down grades.
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Old 07-01-2020, 07:16 AM   #5
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Normally I would agree with Witchdoctor, especially since you think brakes got hot on the decent.,the odd part is that in my experience warped rotors continue to shake even when cooled. I would take to brake people just for peace of mind.

I also noticed a few things in your post that might help you in the future. If you do these things already but I read wrong I apologize.

1) you really need to check trailer brake settings every time you hook up they arenít self adjusting. This is where I am bad as well because I do before I start every trip but not during the trip usually. Remember if truck brakes got hot so did trailer brakes as well.
2)Low gears an 8% grade requires low gears, from towing my Tundra with 10k pull behind threw the Rockies, Cascades,Serria ect to my current set up a Ram 3500 Dually Cummins 42ft just over 23k for everything I use low gears going down. Coming off Pikes Peak a week ago ( truck only) I used 2nd gear most of decent brakes were a cool 109. Would have been cooler but I sped up some before the check point had a line of cars behind me, wanted a good pull out to let pass.
3)you didnít state if your truck was a diesel if it is and if it has exhaust brakes you should use those in conjunction with tow haul mode and lower gears. Again long long down hill from Estes Park CO to Loveland CO and everything remained cool.

Again if you were already doing these I apologize.
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Old 07-01-2020, 07:19 AM   #6
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Warped Rotors. Sometimes they can be turned, sometimes not. I've replaced a few warped ones in my life.
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Old 07-01-2020, 07:26 AM   #7
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Warped Rotors. Sometimes they can be turned, sometimes not. I've replaced a few warped ones in my life.
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Old 07-01-2020, 08:29 AM   #8
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Vibration is probably warped rotors. If the brakes are hot, don't pull over to let them cool. The area of the rotor under the caliper will cool at a different rate than the open part of the rotor. This uneven cooling will cause warping. Keep driving, let the air cool them evenly.
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Old 07-01-2020, 08:40 AM   #9
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Vibration is probably warped rotors. If the brakes are hot, don't pull over to let them cool. The area of the rotor under the caliper will cool at a different rate than the open part of the rotor. This uneven cooling will cause warping. Keep driving, let the air cool them evenly.
Wow, that's just awesomely bad advice. If your brakes are hot you should ignore them and keep driving? Until they fade completely out or what?
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Old 07-01-2020, 09:15 AM   #10
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I assume you are talking about your tow vehicle shaking and that you had the brake job done on it. If not, I may be off base here.
Anyway, I have developed a sudden shake on vehicles before, as you describe, and it has always involved a sticking caliper. Either I had a bad caliper or more likely the rubber hose going to the caliper had deteriorated enough inside that it was partially collapsing and wouldn't let caliper release properly. Which in turn heated up the rotor and caused the shake. I've had both occurrences and developed that sudden shaking feeling. You can check this by using one of those cheap laser thermometers or whatever you call them. If a caliper is sticking it will be considerably hotter than other side. Just my experiences and hope this helps.
Yes, Tow vehicle... sorry about that. I'll keep an eye on the caliper. I wish I had thrown my laser temp gadget in my RV toolbag... will get that in there for next time. useful for checking on a stuck caliper. However if it's a stuck caliper I would think it would be more of an issue even on flat driving.

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You need new rotors for your front end breaks, I guarantee it. I had the exact same problem, they might be able to turn them but I suggest you just replace them. Been there and done that, I could hardly hold on to the steering wheel when it happens. Only use to happen going down grades.
10k miles on these rotors? Seems bad. I'm towing a 12k fifth wheel. I have no idea what they put on. If I replace the rotors, what should I be looking for? Slotted? Is doing a brake job every 10k really the going rate when towing like this?

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Originally Posted by moose074 View Post
Normally I would agree with Witchdoctor, especially since you think brakes got hot on the decent.,the odd part is that in my experience warped rotors continue to shake even when cooled. I would take to brake people just for peace of mind.

I also noticed a few things in your post that might help you in the future. If you do these things already but I read wrong I apologize.

1) you really need to check trailer brake settings every time you hook up they arenít self adjusting. This is where I am bad as well because I do before I start every trip but not during the trip usually. Remember if truck brakes got hot so did trailer brakes as well.
2)Low gears an 8% grade requires low gears, from towing my Tundra with 10k pull behind threw the Rockies, Cascades,Serria ect to my current set up a Ram 3500 Dually Cummins 42ft just over 23k for everything I use low gears going down. Coming off Pikes Peak a week ago ( truck only) I used 2nd gear most of decent brakes were a cool 109. Would have been cooler but I sped up some before the check point had a line of cars behind me, wanted a good pull out to let pass.
3)you didnít state if your truck was a diesel if it is and if it has exhaust brakes you should use those in conjunction with tow haul mode and lower gears. Again long long down hill from Estes Park CO to Loveland CO and everything remained cool.

Again if you were already doing these I apologize.
Thanks for the good advice. I haven't been checking the trailer brakes but will start. It is a diesel and I will start using the exhaust brake. It's a tuned/deleted exhaust and I haven't used the exhaust brake because of that, but after this I started reading and the thought is that even if it's a deleted exhaust, still OK to use the exhaust brake.

As far as gears, isn't that basically what the tow mode is doing? Forcing a lower gear to use the engine to help slow down?
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Old 07-01-2020, 09:39 AM   #11
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A $1000 brake job should have included quality parts and at least a 12/12 warranty. Even quality rotors will warp if they get overheated. Sometimes they will return to normal after cooling. Warped front brake rotors are most common and will make the steering wheel shake. Warped rears will usually feel like you are sliding forward in your seat. Unhook the trailer and get the truck up to highway speed. When safe quickly hit the brakes like someone cut you off, if they are still warped you will know it. After that take it to a brake shop for an inspection of the pads and rotors. I always down shift one gear going down hills, I only have four. I actually try to very slightly accelerate down hills, especially in turns. If I need to brake I try to brake on a straight away. Do not ride the brake. Brake firmly until you have slowed the vehicle to a speed lower than you want and then get off the brakes and let them cool. Rotors can be turned and usually will be all that is needed, if they are being used correctly. Turned rotors will be thinner and more prone to warp again. FYI some shops will not warranty overheated brakes or turn rotors. With the trailer connected at a slow speed slowly manually apply the trailer brakes until you can just feel them, if the drums are warped you will feel it pulse.
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Old 07-01-2020, 09:45 AM   #12
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1) you really need to check trailer brake settings every time you hook up they aren’t self adjusting. This is where I am bad as well because I do before I start every trip but not during the trip usually. Remember if truck brakes got hot so did trailer brakes as well.

My 2013 Hemisphere ARE 'self adjusting' when braking going FORWARD.... I found this out when going down the Smokie Mountains and used too much brake.... burned up both of my rear axle brakes/hub bearings because of my hard braking going down the mountain.



Most/All trailer brakes can and sometimes do adjust a small amount when backing up and hitting the brakes (backing up).


To the OP..... to much brake dust will/can cause some sticking issues. I Do Not think that you need new rotors. Pull the tires and brake calipers off (check brake pads) and clean everything up with Brake Cleaner and grease slide pins and moving parts (do not use Brake Cleaner on pads or put grease on pads). Something is just sticking when brakes are getting too hot.
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Old 07-01-2020, 09:49 AM   #13
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Wow, that's just awesomely bad advice. If your brakes are hot you should ignore them and keep driving? Until they fade completely out or what?
Kinda sorta.
Many brake people recommend driving the vehicle after the heating of a brake system... read if possible/safe. This helps keep from warping the rotors as the friction material is the hottest part and this gives it an opportunity to cool a bit.

Think turbocharger
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Old 07-01-2020, 10:05 AM   #14
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Warped rotors!
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Old 07-01-2020, 10:11 AM   #15
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A $1000 brake job should have included quality parts and at least a 12/12 warranty. Even quality rotors will warp if they get overheated. Sometimes they will return to normal after cooling. Warped front brake rotors are most common and will make the steering wheel shake. Warped rears will usually feel like you are sliding forward in your seat. Unhook the trailer and get the truck up to highway speed. When safe quickly hit the brakes like someone cut you off, if they are still warped you will know it. After that take it to a brake shop for an inspection of the pads and rotors. I always down shift one gear going down hills, I only have four. I actually try to very slightly accelerate down hills, especially in turns. If I need to brake I try to brake on a straight away. Do not ride the brake. Brake firmly until you have slowed the vehicle to a speed lower than you want and then get off the brakes and let them cool. Rotors can be turned and usually will be all that is needed, if they are being used correctly. Turned rotors will be thinner and more prone to warp again. FYI some shops will not warranty overheated brakes or turn rotors. With the trailer connected at a slow speed slowly manually apply the trailer brakes until you can just feel them, if the drums are warped you will feel it pulse.
Great advice, thank you. These were definitely front rotors. The steering wheel was shaking like crazy. When this happened it didn't feel like tow mode down shifted enough to help. My chevy has "M" mode where I can manually control the gear. Is it good advice to use that mode for long downhills to keep it in 2nd gear or whatever is needed?

Your braking advice is sound, used this technique. Firmer harder applications instead of riding it
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Old 07-01-2020, 10:53 AM   #16
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Chances are, if the rotors really are/ were warped, it is because the lug nuts were over torqued or (most likely) unevenly torqued. Warped rotors are rare. Truly warped, that is. What most folks think is a warped rotor is actually uneven friction material transfer from the pads to the rotor. Mechanics often make that mistake too.
First thing I would do is loosen each lug nut and torque to 80 lb-ft one at a time in a star pattern. Then torque to 120, then final torque (its probably in the 150-160 range). That may very well solve the problem.
BTW, if you ride the brakes that will exacerbate the problem. Slow the rig below the safe driving speed. Then let off and allow speed to build. Repeat. Riding the brakes is not good.
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Old 07-01-2020, 11:23 AM   #17
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GM HD trucks have excellent OEM brakes. I have 180k on my 2008 and still have about 50% on the original pads. Many folks go to 250k and beyond on the originals.
If the brake shop you used didn't use OEM parts, then it could cause you problems and much shorter life.
Time to check out what parts they used and also have your front end inspected.
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Old 07-01-2020, 11:37 AM   #18
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Working through eastern TN in some mountains on about a 8% downhill grade for 2 miles or so, starting getting some bad shaking while braking.

Still do not believe 'Rotors' is the cause of this occurrence/issue. Going down hill for this long and steepness while braking, could cause any front end alignment parts that are worn out or are not tight to show up and cause some bad shaking while braking. 'Pulsing' of the brakes when used on a straight and level road will indicate calipers/pads/rotor, issues.
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Old 07-01-2020, 11:47 AM   #19
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Did they replace your rotors when they did the brake job or did they resurface them on a lathe? A lot of times a shop will 'resurface' the rotors which is fine in most cases as long as they stay within the allowed thickness specifications, but in your heavy duty use application the thinner rotors would be prone to warping easier. If they replaced them, there are many many choices available as far as quality and cost is concerned. You can actually buy rotors that are rated for heavy duty towing for your truck, but expect to pay $100 to $200 a piece for them.
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Old 07-01-2020, 11:57 AM   #20
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My 2013 Hemisphere ARE 'self adjusting' when braking going FORWARD.... I found this out when going down the Smokie Mountains and used too much brake.... burned up both of my rear axle brakes/hub bearings because of my hard braking going down the mountain.



Most/All trailer brakes can and sometimes do adjust a small amount when backing up and hitting the brakes (backing up).


To the OP..... to much brake dust will/can cause some sticking issues. I Do Not think that you need new rotors. Pull the tires and brake calipers off (check brake pads) and clean everything up with Brake Cleaner and grease slide pins and moving parts (do not use Brake Cleaner on pads or put grease on pads). Something is just sticking when brakes are getting too hot.

I would question brakes that adjust going forward. My first thought is someone put the backing plates or axle on backwards. I agree that most drum brakes self adjust when coming to a COMPLETE stop. The shoes need to rock on the backing plate to twist the self adjuster lever. The lever pushes the adjuster star on its way back to normal. Cleaning and lubricating the slides is very important and often over looked. New hardware also avoids problems.
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