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Old 05-16-2012, 11:17 PM   #1
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Rear Brakes

Hi All,

I have a '91 Fleetwood Southwind 36'. After doing several trips of mountain driving with high inclines/declines, the brakes went out. Luckily, we didn't hit anyone and ended up driving about 2mph for the last mile to get back to our parking spot. We had a horrible experience with getting a brake job with the guy who ran the parking lot and had to get it towed out with him unable to complete it.

Next, we ended up at Maaco and they changed the estimate three times after telling me the rotors were ok, then they weren't, then they needed new calipers. So, right now I have a brand new everything on the front brakes. Maaco was unwilling to even look at the back brakes as was my normal mechanic and a good deal of other people.

We are planning to put ~1500 miles on it after not using it for a while. The RV has about 100,000 miles and I'm pretty sure the rear brakes are original. Should I be concerned about checking them? I've heard from a few people that there is an inspection port that makes them easy to check and a few other mechanics wanted to charge 4 hours for a tear-down with brand new seals just to give an estimate on the condition of the brakes and what needs to be replaced. What surprises me is that most mechanics seem unfamiliar with the job but are still willing to do it which does not leave me with a good feeling.

What would you do? Thanks for your response in advance.

--sjkted
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:44 PM   #2
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A few things come to mind...did you down shift on downhill portions? Did your brakes overheat? Did you smell burning brake pads?

You should change your rear brakes. 100K is about the limit with an exhaust brake. Without, drum brakes probably 60-70K. Disk brakes can go 100K. But again, you'd need to be down shifting or have an exhaust brake to get that many miles.

Take it to a truck brake shop or a bus repair place, no chains like Macco. You'll save money and they'll know what they're doing.

Your brake fluid is probably burnt. That needs to be changed. Might consider replacing the short hoses at the brakes too.

Last but not least...master cylinders usually need to be replaced or rebuilt around 100K.

Good luck.
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:46 PM   #3
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Mine have an inspection hole, but at the local tire shop (Les Schwab) they can't see much. After pulling the rims, we noticed a bit of 90w gear lube on the drum, so it is assumed that there is a bad seal. Thus, I am having them pulled and the brakes inspected and adjusted.

My thought is that brakes are very important on a heavy RV, so the inspection and adjustment is worth it. If they are bad, they had to pull the drums and replace the seals anyway. I'm also having the brake fluid flushed.

This is on a 11 year old rig with 19k miles.
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Old 05-17-2012, 03:25 PM   #4
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Hi sjkted. Sad to hear of your problems but glad to hear you didn't crash. No brakes is terrifying!
It would help if we had a bit more information on your chassis. Gas or diesel?
I'm guessing gas as that was more commom on the Southwind, so then is it Ford or Chevy powered?
Do you know if it has disc or drum brakes in the rear? If it has rear disc brakes they are no harder to work on than the fronts. Drums are normally slightly more work but I can see their reluctance since age and rust can turn the job into a complete rebuild with all new parts - provided parts are available.
At a minimum, a complete brake fluid flush is in order. The fronts should have been flushed when the new calipers were installed but who knows what they actually did. Master cylinder is also suspect with the age and miles on it.
The only "inspection port" I've ever seen is the small slot on the backing plate of drum brakes that provide access to the adjuster screw, but you can't see anything useful through that.
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Old 05-17-2012, 08:35 PM   #5
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Having had my brakes go out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I would strongly advise getting them checked out before doing any mountain or hill driving. An hour after losing my brakes (WH recall) my hands were still trembling. Do not kill yourself and family of the cost of a brake job. Rotors can be redone. Also when in the mountains, use your gears and stop for 15 minutes every once and a while to allow brakes and transmission to cool down.
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Old 05-17-2012, 09:42 PM   #6
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Have 120000 miles on the coach and just got it back from my local truck shop with new rear brakes. No problem getting them done there.
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Old 05-18-2012, 07:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick-B View Post
Hi sjkted. Sad to hear of your problems but glad to hear you didn't crash. No brakes is terrifying!
It would help if we had a bit more information on your chassis. Gas or diesel?
I'm guessing gas as that was more commom on the Southwind, so then is it Ford or Chevy powered?
Do you know if it has disc or drum brakes in the rear? If it has rear disc brakes they are no harder to work on than the fronts. Drums are normally slightly more work but I can see their reluctance since age and rust can turn the job into a complete rebuild with all new parts - provided parts are available.
At a minimum, a complete brake fluid flush is in order. The fronts should have been flushed when the new calipers were installed but who knows what they actually did. Master cylinder is also suspect with the age and miles on it.
The only "inspection port" I've ever seen is the small slot on the backing plate of drum brakes that provide access to the adjuster screw, but you can't see anything useful through that.
Yes, it's a gasser with disc brakes in the front and drum in the rear.

I called several truck places and most said they did not work on RVs. One had excellent reviews and a very good hourly rate ($67/hr), but they said they may have trouble acquiring parts for it.

I'm thinking about just going for it, but I would like to know what the condition is and the answers I get from some of these mechanics on the phone is unnerving.

Anyone know any places in Southern California that are competent for this job?

--sjkted
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Old 05-18-2012, 08:06 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Lindsay Richards View Post
Having had my brakes go out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I would strongly advise getting them checked out before doing any mountain or hill driving. An hour after losing my brakes (WH recall) my hands were still trembling. Do not kill yourself and family of the cost of a brake job. Rotors can be redone. Also when in the mountains, use your gears and stop for 15 minutes every once and a while to allow brakes and transmission to cool down.
Thanks for the tip. I think slowing down was the key because I did downshift and wasn't using the brakes too much but on some parts there was stop and go traffic at a 10% downgrade and there were some quick stops that needed to be made. I think the brakes just got way too hot.

--sjkted
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Old 05-19-2012, 09:08 AM   #9
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If you have brakes go out in the future, at the slowest speeds, it seems that one can feather the parking brake. (cable, so if all fluid pressure is lost, it still works). Not much help at higher speeds.
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