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Old 02-10-2024, 12:26 PM   #1
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Am I Expecting Too Much- Poor Braking Performance

Equipment-
2023 GMC Duramax AT4 2500 HD
Trailer 280 RS with upgraded 6K 12x2 brakes weight of 6700lbs

New truck shortly after replacing the axles with the 6k 12x2 axle. I am using the integrated GMC brake controller. I am just not getting much stopping power out of this setup. I can squeeze the manual activation lever to %100 at 25 mph and the rig barely slows much. Very low grabbing power with the brakes, it will slow pretty good with the gain set high but truck has good brakes.

Measurements and Wiring-
New 7 pin connector to the control box, connections clean and tight.
New wires to brake solenoid, 4 pairs of 14 ga wire, one to each magnet.
Testing the voltage and current draw. I am seeing 13 VDC at the plastic junction box the harness goes into across the gnd and brake + wire with manual squeeze of the controller to %100. Measuring the current at each brake solenoid shows 3.1 to 3.2 and 4.1 to 4.3 depending which wire is measured using a clamp on DC DVM.

It would seem that the current draw of 4 ish amps is showing I am getting all the power needed to the magnets.

Condition of brakes-
Pulled and inspect each wheel, 2 were showing some wear on the pads and drums, clean and dry. Two other ones were contaminated with grease, probably from the EZ lube being used. Cleaned everything up with carb cleaner and brake cleaner, sanded the shoes down some and sanded the brake magnet surface as well as the drums. Shot it all down very well with brake cleaner spray. Re-tested and a little bit better performance but not much. Using IR gun on the face of each drum near the outer edge shows fairly even on each wheel between 210 and 260 depending which time I tested them. About the same for each wheel regardless of if it was the one that was de-greased. To me, this shows the brakes are doing what they can but just not grabbing much.

I am sort of at a loss short of replacing the assemblies that got greased but were cleaned very thoroughly. I think 13v and 4 amp draw shows wiring is all good and whatnot. Brakes do slow the trailer down and you can feel the tuck pulling against the trailer in light stopping but I have very little HARD stopping ability in the system. I suppose one would never notice UNLESS they tried a hard stop or hit squeezed the Manual Lever to %100 and got very little more than normal braking delivers.

My 6200 lb boat with 10 brakes and hydraulic couple almost stop better than the truck itself. These brakes just are not grabbing hard enough. I have to suspect at this point two things are going on here. Orignal shoes were not much to start with and then having them contaminated did not help on two of them.

Can greased pads really be cleaned up or are they toast forever now? Am I expecting too much? When I read about how to calibrate gain it says to adjust up to a level just before lockup. These wont even lock on a gravel drive at 15mph let alone rain. I am afraid unless I find a solution I may be in a bad spot one day. Considering replacing the backing plate on contaminated assemblies and re-testing. The two wheels that have always been clean should be working/locking a wheel regardless of the other ones? Maybe as I said they were just crappy pads from the new axle on day one.

How hard should these really grab, am I expecting too much to ask them to slide at MAX on gravel or rain wet road? All my current and voltage seems in spec so must be the shoe or drum? I did burnish them in after cleaning.
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Old 02-10-2024, 12:56 PM   #2
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Have you attempted to do an initial brake adjustment and attempted to burnish the brake shoes. Can't comment on the condition of your brake shoes that were once grease soaked as I can't see them.

https://support.lci1.com/videos/elec...ake-adjustment
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Old 02-10-2024, 01:15 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TTBadDog View Post
Equipment-
2023 GMC Duramax AT4 2500 HD
Trailer 280 RS with upgraded 6K 12x2 brakes weight of 6700lbs

New truck shortly after replacing the axles with the 6k 12x2 axle. I am using the integrated GMC brake controller. I am just not getting much stopping power out of this setup. I can squeeze the manual activation lever to %100 at 25 mph and the rig barely slows much. Very low grabbing power with the brakes, it will slow pretty good with the gain set high but truck has good brakes.

Measurements and Wiring-
New 7 pin connector to the control box, connections clean and tight.
New wires to brake solenoid, 4 pairs of 14 ga wire, one to each magnet.
Testing the voltage and current draw. I am seeing 13 VDC at the plastic junction box the harness goes into across the gnd and brake + wire with manual squeeze of the controller to %100. Measuring the current at each brake solenoid shows 3.1 to 3.2 and 4.1 to 4.3 depending which wire is measured using a clamp on DC DVM.

It would seem that the current draw of 4 ish amps is showing I am getting all the power needed to the magnets.

Condition of brakes-
Pulled and inspect each wheel, 2 were showing some wear on the pads and drums, clean and dry. Two other ones were contaminated with grease, probably from the EZ lube being used. Cleaned everything up with carb cleaner and brake cleaner, sanded the shoes down some and sanded the brake magnet surface as well as the drums. Shot it all down very well with brake cleaner spray. Re-tested and a little bit better performance but not much. Using IR gun on the face of each drum near the outer edge shows fairly even on each wheel between 210 and 260 depending which time I tested them. About the same for each wheel regardless of if it was the one that was de-greased. To me, this shows the brakes are doing what they can but just not grabbing much.

I am sort of at a loss short of replacing the assemblies that got greased but were cleaned very thoroughly. I think 13v and 4 amp draw shows wiring is all good and whatnot. Brakes do slow the trailer down and you can feel the tuck pulling against the trailer in light stopping but I have very little HARD stopping ability in the system. I suppose one would never notice UNLESS they tried a hard stop or hit squeezed the Manual Lever to %100 and got very little more than normal braking delivers.

My 6200 lb boat with 10 brakes and hydraulic couple almost stop better than the truck itself. These brakes just are not grabbing hard enough. I have to suspect at this point two things are going on here. Orignal shoes were not much to start with and then having them contaminated did not help on two of them.

Can greased pads really be cleaned up or are they toast forever now? Am I expecting too much? When I read about how to calibrate gain it says to adjust up to a level just before lockup. These wont even lock on a gravel drive at 15mph let alone rain. I am afraid unless I find a solution I may be in a bad spot one day. Considering replacing the backing plate on contaminated assemblies and re-testing. The two wheels that have always been clean should be working/locking a wheel regardless of the other ones? Maybe as I said they were just crappy pads from the new axle on day one.

How hard should these really grab, am I expecting too much to ask them to slide at MAX on gravel or rain wet road? All my current and voltage seems in spec so must be the shoe or drum? I did burnish them in after cleaning.

Two items as I read, new brakes need to be burnished. Those that were cleaned would be considered as new. See videos on YouTube.

Brakes need to be mechanically adjusted so that the shoes just contact the brake drums. Again, there are YouTube videos for this. Get each wheel off of the ground and use a brake adjustment tool to adjust. Should be done for all 4 wheels.

EZ Lube.......grrrrrr! Nothing better than pulling the bearings, cleaning them, and packing them with grease by hand.
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Old 02-10-2024, 01:27 PM   #4
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What do you have the controller set at?
I believe if you are at 4, for instance, manually activating the brakes you get 100% of the 4 setting.
In my gmc 1/2 done and my 7k trailer I have mine at 7
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Old 02-10-2024, 01:32 PM   #5
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My guess.

Manual drum brakes require adjustment likely every 3-5.000 miles.

Check the backside of the drum areas. The old manually adjusted brakes have a single opening about 1/4" x 1" to insert the tool to adjust them.

If there are two of these holes in the area these are the new automatic adjusting brakes.

You jack up the wheel and turn the star device to the point the brakes grab, then back off a little.
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Old 02-10-2024, 02:01 PM   #6
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My first guess is you need to manually adjust the brake pads. the properly working magnets can only move the pads so far. and my guess is you are maxed out the available movement without getting enough pressure from the shoes to the drum.
one more thing, I don't reuse shoes that have been contaminated. This may be old thinking, but the old asbestos shoes could not be cleaned of grease or brake fluid. once they were contaminated, they were trash. if you tried to use them again the oils would come to the surface and glaze over when heated.

If it were me I would replace the shoes , adjust the free travel, and after a hundred miles or so re adjust the shoes again [ after any high spots have worn off] DR
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Old 02-10-2024, 02:33 PM   #7
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Umm...

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Originally Posted by dangerranger View Post
If it were me I would replace the shoes , adjust the free travel, and after a hundred miles or so re adjust the shoes again [ after any high spots have worn off] DR
Wouldn't the shoes be self-adjusting? After the initial install?
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Old 02-10-2024, 03:04 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Larry-NC View Post
Wouldn't the shoes be self-adjusting? After the initial install?
Well, that depends. On our TT the electric brakes are not self-adjusting. Yet on some, I understand they have self-adjusting brakes. I do however believe that the brakes need to be initially and correctly adjusted anytime the drum is removed and re-installed.

Annually I pull the drums and inspect and clean the brake assembly with brake cleaner along with cleaning the drums. I inspect the bearings, races, and spindles at the same time.

Just routine annual maintenance.

Bob
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Old 02-10-2024, 03:08 PM   #9
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These are the self adjusting shoes and I verified an ever so slight drag in maybe one spot on the drum when rotating by hand wheel off the ground. Not so much as they are dragging, I can verify this with the temp gun. Perhaps I need to replace a few shoes. If it proves fruitless I can retain them for spares.

GM controller gain set at 10 gives me 13 vdc at the junction box so it is all the controller can put out.

I am sort of leaning towards just replacing all shoes. They were "generic" axle components when I did the swap. Stuff says China on it. Faces where the magnet contacts are clean, dry and smooth. Since I am getting a good 4 amps and 13volts it must be the shoe or contact patch. Still looking for ideas so I don't overlook something.

EDIT:
After thinking what I typed perhaps what I believe to be an ever so slight drag is actually the magnets I am hearing. I am going to hold the magnet in and double check the adjustment for the shoe. They do have a good initial grab so maybe that is the issue.

Side thought, can I adjust for a little drag and it will wear in or am I asking for trouble? On my boat with surge hydraulic brakes I always adjusted until you could just hear it touching at a high spot or if you pushed on it one way while rotating and bearing play would take up.
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Old 02-10-2024, 04:15 PM   #10
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I would pick one wheel and try adjusting it.

Often drum brakes get funky about a little rubbing yet need to be adjusted.

Historically, one of the reasons the car industry went to disc brakes is the difficulty of mechanics to correctly assemble and adjust them while replacing them.
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Old 02-10-2024, 05:27 PM   #11
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Couple thoughts, my first thought is brake pads get contaminated with grease they are trash can bound. I've been taught that once brakes get contaminated the pads will never work the same. Since you state two sets where contaminated I would replace all of them with quality pads.

Second, a troubleshooting step, jack up the trailer all wheels off the ground pull the break away lanyard from the emergency switch and see if the wheels can be moved, there should be no movement at all. You will need to put some ump into it to find out. I say this since you stated you have isolated it to the drum brakes, so might provide a bit of guidance on your next steps. Just don't leave the disconnect lanyard pulled for very long.
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Old 02-10-2024, 05:28 PM   #12
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When I worked in the garage...

Quote:
Originally Posted by TTBadDog View Post
These are the self adjusting shoes and I verified an ever so slight drag in maybe one spot on the drum when rotating by hand wheel off the ground. Not so much as they are dragging, I can verify this with the temp gun. Perhaps I need to replace a few shoes. If it proves fruitless I can retain them for spares.

GM controller gain set at 10 gives me 13 vdc at the junction box so it is all the controller can put out.

I am sort of leaning towards just replacing all shoes. They were "generic" axle components when I did the swap. Stuff says China on it. Faces where the magnet contacts are clean, dry and smooth. Since I am getting a good 4 amps and 13volts it must be the shoe or contact patch. Still looking for ideas so I don't overlook something.

EDIT:
After thinking what I typed perhaps what I believe to be an ever so slight drag is actually the magnets I am hearing. I am going to hold the magnet in and double check the adjustment for the shoe. They do have a good initial grab so maybe that is the issue.

Side thought, can I adjust for a little drag and it will wear in or am I asking for trouble? On my boat with surge hydraulic brakes I always adjusted until you could just hear it touching at a high spot or if you pushed on it one way while rotating and bearing play would take up.
When I worked in the garage (early 1960s), I always adjusted drum brakes so there was drag (more than just touching) at the high spots. If I didn't do that the pedal (manual brakes) was too low. I was waiting for that miracle day when I got the perfectly round drum. It never came.
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Old 02-10-2024, 07:00 PM   #13
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DRUM brakes

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Originally Posted by Theb2b View Post
Couple thoughts, my first thought is brake pads get contaminated with grease they are trash can bound. I've been taught that once brakes get contaminated the pads will never work the same. Since you state two sets where contaminated I would replace all of them with quality pads.
These are drum brakes. The friction elements are customarily called "shoes."
Quote:
Originally Posted by Theb2b View Post
Second, a troubleshooting step, jack up the trailer all wheels off the ground pull the break away lanyard from the emergency switch and see if the wheels can be moved, there should be no movement at all. You will need to put some umph into it to find out. I say this since you stated you have isolated it to the drum brakes, so might provide a bit of guidance on your next steps. Just don't leave the disconnect lanyard pulled for very long.
Good thought. Don't forget that these are "servo" type brakes. The braking action only occurs during forward rotation. If you were to jack up the trailer, pull the breakaway plug and spin the wheel as if backing up, there would be very little drag.

WHOA! You just caused me to think of something. The OP reported that he has replaced the axles and brakes. If he put the assemblies on the wrong side, he would have very little braking, missing the servo action. See the attached picture. The unlabelled shoe at the right is the (rear) secondary shoe. It is often made of a different composition than the (front) primary shoe. It is also possible that the primary and secondary shoes are in the wrong places.

Servo braking works like this. You will notice that the assembly of shoes and springs floats. The only rigid point is the anchor pin at 12:00. There is a lot of slack in the hold-down springs at 3:30 and 8:30. When (in RVs), the magnet is energized, that big sickle shaped arm drags at the bottom, rotating a cam at the anchor pin and separating the shoes. (In cars and trucks, a hydraulic cylinder at the anchor pin expands, pushing the shoes apart.)

In former systems, the brake shoes were rigidly attached to the backing plate. The anchor pin was at the bottom and were separated at the top by a cam or hydraulic cylinder. The shoe material was the same on both shoes.

In the free-floating servo system, when the shoes are separated and the vehicle is traveling forward, the leading (primary) shoe is rotated downward by drag on the drum. This action forces the trailing (secondary) shoe against the drum with greater force. The different characteristics required of the leading and trailing shoes has led to different materials being used for each. When replacing shoes, pay attention to the imprinting on the edges of the shoes and make sure they are in the right places.

This greatly reduced the pedal force required from the driver. If I recall correctly, Bendix introduced this feature in the late 1940s.

And now you know why your car/truck doesn't seem to stop as well when rolling backward as it does going forward.

EDIT: Attached the forgotten picture.
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Old 02-10-2024, 07:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry-NC View Post
When I worked in the garage (early 1960s), I always adjusted drum brakes so there was drag (more than just touching) at the high spots. If I didn't do that the pedal (manual brakes) was too low. I was waiting for that miracle day when I got the perfectly round drum. It never came.



I agree Larry. I too turned wrenches for about 20 years, 70's to early 90's, (then I got a state job with a retirement) and had the same problem you stated until we got a brake lathe. Nothing better than resurfacing your own drums and rotors on site. I even had to clean up brand new drums and rotors. Never had a problem since then.
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Old 02-10-2024, 07:09 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry-NC View Post
When I worked in the garage (early 1960s), I always adjusted drum brakes so there was drag (more than just touching) at the high spots. If I didn't do that the pedal (manual brakes) was too low. I was waiting for that miracle day when I got the perfectly round drum. It never came.



I agree Larry. I to turned wrenches for about 20 years, 70's to early 90's, (then I got a state job with a retirement) and had the same problem you stated until we got a brake lathe. Nothing better than resurfacing your own drums and rotors on site. I even had to clean up brand new drums and rotors. Never had a problem since then.
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Old 02-10-2024, 08:29 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Bob K4TAX View Post
Well, that depends. On our TT the electric brakes are not self-adjusting. Yet on some, I understand they have self-adjusting brakes. I do however believe that the brakes need to be initially and correctly adjusted anytime the drum is removed and re-installed.

Annually I pull the drums and inspect and clean the brake assembly with brake cleaner along with cleaning the drums. I inspect the bearings, races, and spindles at the same time.

Just routine annual maintenance.

Bob
From Lippert: "With repeated use of this brake assembly, the brake shoes may move out of alignment, causing less efficient braking performance. To keep the brake shoes aligned and the brake assembly performing correctly, you should perform routine maintenance.


This brake assembly should be adjusted after installation and then as needed for the life of the brake. To adjust the brake, use a brake adjustment screw tool to turn the adjustment gear on the inside of the assembly. Continue to turn the gear until the drum surrounding the brake catches on the brake pads enough so that the hub can no longer be turned easily by hand. Then reverse the gear by about 10 clicks. A properly adjusted brake should drag slightly on the brake drum."

Bob
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Old 02-11-2024, 06:59 AM   #17
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Guys, thanks for the well-reasoned and insightful response. Sometimes having a sounding board and certain points clarified or re-iterated causes one to think again and find the problem. It's just brakes, not trying to turn a haircut into brain surgery here.

Going back to the root problem I think is my starting point. I expected camper to stop on a dime right after I swapped the axles. The initial stopping power was great and now that I think back and reason-
1. I think initially they were not installed properly. I assumed new from factory they would be correct and since they were self-adjusting not to worry. I had no experience with self-adjusting but have towed boat trailers since I was 17. No such thing as self adjusting in a marine environment.
2. I am inclined to believe that the servo mechanism is at its travel limit before the full stopping power. That makes sense since even on low gain setting the initial "bite" is strong. You can feel the TT pulling the truck down in light stopping but it goes the other way in even a medium stop.

I did verify L n R upon axle install, good catch though. I could see that being a long term head scratcher.

Going back to the driveway this morning Rinse repeat. I will set them up a little tighter and ignore the little scrapping sound I hear (magnets) and for years was the telltale they were just right. Boat trailer surge brakes have a lot of travel in the piston so just a light contact was all that was necessary for good action.
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Old 02-11-2024, 09:20 AM   #18
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There is some great insight here on this thread. One more thought. Years ago i pulled 30-32’ boats with twin big block engines. The trailer weight was similar to our travel trailer. The boat trailers had surge brakes. Our travel trailer has electric brakes and we have a 2023 Expedition with the heavy duty tow package.

When we first got the travel trailer i was questioning how well it was slowing down. Then i realized I was comparing to my boat trailers. Surge brakes have a delay then suddenly kick in so they felt stronger whereas the new electric brakes come on smoothly so it might just feel like they are not as strong.
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Old 02-11-2024, 10:31 AM   #19
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I hear all this talk about "servo"? There is no servo on electric brakes. The self adjusting electric brakes are activated by an electromagnet attracted to the drum which causes a compound action of the brake shoes. In turn, a cable is attached to the primary shoe and loops around a pulley pivot point on the secondary shoe to control the self adjusting arm's action on the adjuster.
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Old 02-11-2024, 12:13 PM   #20
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UPDATE after re-adjusting-
Went back to the garage this morning and pulled all 4 hubs. I never really had much luck using the star adjuster wheel anyway and I wanted to see the condition of the previously contaminated assemblies after running them through burnishing. Note that as I suspected they were not adjusted properly anyway but they did get to 250 F.

All 4 had a slight drag sound, as I said before my ignorance was the factor hear as it was the magnet dragging. I re-adjusted all 4 and it took about 20 to 25 clicks of the star wheel to get them snugged up. I sete them a little tight, I can feel a drag all the way around, each one had a tighter spot somewhere in the 360 rotation. I set it so that if I gave it a spin with tire on they would stop on there own in a rotation or 1.5. Rather subjective but I know they are making contact initially now.

The previously contaminated and cleaned shoes still felt a little greasy, I suspect that the grease had worked into the shoe and as it heats it works back out. I did the burnish as best I could and braking is a little better. IR gun is showing 325 to 360 on one axle and a little lower on one other wheel at 275 to 300 and one wheel never got above 250. This sort of tells me that the greasy pads are not stopping as good. Heat is the byproduct of friction but to what degree stopping power corresponds to heat over X time is a guess.

So here is where I am at. I am going to replace the Chinese contaminate backing plate with a new one and see if it helps. I am contemplating going with Dexter but wonder if they are really that much better. If the new backing plate makes a significant difference then I will replace the other axle as well. If I used new China crap and it did not help much then I would still be question if Dexter stops better. It seems the best bet is to go Dexter. I am going to assume that the drums are fine. They are round and my initial thought is it would be hard to impregnate a metal drum with grease.

This process, assuming it is a valid approach, leaves me with two questions.
1. Is the Dexter stuff going to stop better, it would have to be a better/stronger magnet and or higher friction on the shoes. Most ANYTHING I see for sale is China crap and the review are all over the place. Dexter likely has some China pieces but perhaps higher quality. Backing plarte pair from Dex is 275 and China stuff is anywhere from 100 to 150 a pair. Must be something less Q or Dex is just way overpriced.
2. Am I simply expecting too much? Squeeing the gain lever to 10 without touching the truck brake at 40 mph takes like 10 seconds to slow to 20, not much happening there. I hear others say they can skid the trailer tire on dry pavement or at least gravel. Even if X wheels are not stopping as good as the other if it were good itself at least that wheel should skid. 1 wheel skidding is not dependent on the actual rate of deceleration.

EDIT:
Found this on the Dexter brake assy L R

https://www.etrailer.com/question-536408.html

and here are my options for 6k and 7k axle, both look the same. He says not ideal but not why?
https://www.etrailer.com/question-283828.html

And here "they" say no difference in performance, I question that. I would like to believe the Dexter stop better but I have no way of knowing.
https://www.etrailer.com/question-559161.html
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