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Old 03-28-2011, 08:59 AM   #1
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Question 5th Wheel Trailer Brakes

I have been plagued for a long time by poor brake performance on my Kountry Star 5th Wheel with Dexter 'Self Adjusting Brakes' of 1999 vintage. I have had various brake controllers and professional inspection and maintenance of the brake internals. The self adjusters on all wheels have long ago quit working, or at least on a consistent basis, and when they did they often over adjusted on at least some of the wheels as they caused excess heat build up. I currently have a Prodigy brake controller and have tried numerous times to manually adjust the brakes which temporarily improves the performance, but not for long and still not what I think it should be when having the controller set at maximum gain. Currently the truck is doing most of the braking and for a 13,000 LB. trailer, this is unsettling.

When returning home from this trip, if we make it, I want to check the amperage to each brake at maximum braking. I think it should be in the 3 to 5 amp range. I have a volt/amp meter that I believe requires putting the hot wire in series with the meter, so I would have to cut the hot wire at each wheel to take the reading and then reconnect them. Having to cut the wires and then reconnect them has deterred me from doing this test earlier. I have two questions. Does anyone know of a 12V wire connector that is weather proof, but can be disconnected without cutting the wire? This would enable periodic readings without having to cut the wire every time. The other question is do you know of a relatively inexpensive 12V amperage clamp meter that would have acceptable accuracy in this amperage range? This could be used to measure the amperage without cutting the wires. The only I've been able to find so far is a Sterling Power Systems amp clamp for $139, but they didn't specify the accuracy of the meter. I have an inquiry into them for the accuracy in the 3 to 5 amps range.

If the amperage readings I get are OK, this should confirm that my controller is working and I'll likely replace the entire brake assemblies and have the armature surfaces turned or possibly replace the drums. This will be quite expensive, so that's why I want to verify the controller is working before proceeding.

I'd appreciate some input here. Thanks in advance.


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Old 03-28-2011, 09:05 AM   #2
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Have you thought of converting over to hydraulic disc brakes. I have them and the difference is like night and day.

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Old 03-28-2011, 06:43 PM   #3
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I can't help ya with the clamp on amp meter but it would have to be pretty darn accurate if your variable are indeed 3-5 amps. Not much leeway for error there.

I have some barrel connectors that are weather proof. The end screws off, push the wires thru, connect them and screw the barrel back together. BUT. It is much easier to get some shrink wrap, slide a piece of shrink wrap over the wire, solder the wire back together, slide the shrink wrap back down over the connection and heat it up. It is really simple and is weather tight.
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:04 PM   #4
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A bit expensive for occasional use, but inductive DC ammeters are common. AC/DC Digital Inductive Amp Clamp - OEM Pro Am Tools
If you don't want to buy one, go to any Auto Zone auto parts store and rent one. If they do not have one they go buy one; then rent/loan it to you free. What happens is, they charge the tool purchase price to your CC and when you return the tool they credit your CC the same amount. It is actually a free loan of a tool.
Inductive DC ammeters were made back in the late 1950's. I remember my Uncle had one at his service station for checking starter amp draw.
Perhaps this pdf from Dexter Axle will help with your brakes issue: http://dexteraxle.com/i/u/1080235/f/...rakes_3-11.pdf
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