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Old 03-17-2012, 11:42 AM   #1
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Electric Trailer Brakes

I have a 34' diesel pusher and have been towing a 18' big tex flatbed car hauler behind it with a 2500# car. I pulled it two years ago on a trip over 10,000 miles. I am about ready to do it again but have some questions before I leave. I need to adjust the brakes on the trailer and it only has 10" Dexter electric brakes on one axle. I was thinking of adding brakes to the back axle as well. After some research I see Dexter has a self adjusting brake now and got me thinking I can switch out both axles and use the existing brake drums on the original set up so I would need two lefts and two rights and 2 drums. My question is has anyone done this upgrade and was it a good decision. I intend to order the parts monday so if you can help me I would appreciate it.
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Old 03-17-2012, 12:10 PM   #2
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Brake Adjustment?

Electric trailer brakes adjust just like older cars did. There is an access port at the bottom of the backing plate with a rubber plug. Remove the plug and there is a star wheel inside that can be turned in either direction with a brake spoon, or in a pinch a blade screwdriver. With the wheels off the ground turn the star wheel in whichever direction makes adjuster rod longer until the tire no longer turns by hand. Then click the star wheel 8 to 10 clicks in the opposite direction or until the tire can be spun by hand with just a tiny bit of resistance.

You could probably get by with just one kit if you can find one that perfectly matches what you have on the front axle. And they probably make a self adjusting kit for what you already have. Look for part numbers on the front backing plates, shoes, magnets etc.

Are self adjusters worth it? Not in my opinion. If you tow the trailer 10,000 miles a year they might be. But if you repack your bearings when you're supposed to you're going to be messing with the brakes anyway. And with self adjusters you're probably going to have to back the star wheel off to get the drum off anyway..........

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Old 03-17-2012, 12:19 PM   #3
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more info

I have of course had self adjusting brakes on cars where you had to back up and slam on the brakes to adjust them but reading the dexter site info it says they adjust going forward down the road. Thats why I was curious if anyone had used them. I am familiar with how to adjust the brakes but do not like taking the time to jack up each corner and climb underneath and then I always forget which way to turn the star. I was just thinking it would be easier I am not getting any younger. I am also taking a long trip in a couple of weeks and don't want to deal with it on the road.
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Old 03-17-2012, 12:41 PM   #4
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Not that bad

I've done hundreds of brake adjustments - I worked in a garage as a kid. I still couldn't tell you which way to turn the star on any given vehicle. But if you've clicked it 20-30 times and nothing has happened you're probably going the wrong way.
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Old 03-18-2012, 07:40 AM   #5
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Have you checked to see if your second axle already has a brake flange installed? Many manf's install the second axle that way - for economy, and to allow quick upgrades when needed.

Not sure how you are planning on doing the upgrade to self adjusters, but many are now replacing the entire back plate assembly, which would include shoes, springs, magnets, everything - for about what you would pay for shoes and magnets bought separately.

Been buying my parts here for a while now. If you need a source, check them out:
www.easternmarine.com
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Old 03-18-2012, 12:31 PM   #6
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I have added brakes to the second axle on many trailers. I my opinion, it makes a world of difference when the trailer is towed behind a lighter vehicle such as a pick up truck. I don't know if you could feel much difference behind your RV.

You have the right idea to change the old brakes as well as installing the new. I have not seen a huge difference in the self adjusting brakes compaired to the non self adjusting. The way I see it, as the shoes wear down, the magnet just travels a little more to compensate. Although I have never seen it, I fear that foward acting self adjusting brakes will adjust too far and wear out sooner. Just my thought!

While you are working under the trailer, you may want to inspect/change the brake wiring connecters. BigTex used to use scotchlocks on all their wiring which had a tendency to lose good connection. Make sure you get new grease seals for the existing hubs and about 12' of duplex brake wire for the new brake axle.

You may allready know but Big Tex model 60CH, 70CH or 70DM usually uses a 5 on 5" lug pattern.
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Old 03-28-2012, 11:38 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the info. I ordered the kits from Eastern trailers. The price for the no adjust kits was half of the price anywhere locally. I purchased a pair of drums for the front axle. I was going to tie into the wire from the plug on the front axle and cross over to the other side with two wires inside a split flex tube and wire tie it to the axle but I ran into a wiring diagram on the internet and it showed from plug to the driver side front axle then to the driver side back axle then across inside the original back tube and connect to the other side of the back axle on the passenger side then run two wires from there to the front pass side brake eliminating the use of running a new pair of wires across the front axle. You mentioned double brake wire. I was just going to run two pieces of #12 wire to splice them together do I need a special wire to do it? I got the kits today all 4 backing plates and shoes had the star adjuster popped loose and I had to reinstall one shoe on each of them to get them set up right. UPS must have been pretty rough on them. They were well packed too. In the morning I will start cleaning and repacking the bearings. I bought some shrink tubing and plan to solder all connections. Glad you mentioned 5 on 5 as that was what they were and yes there is a plate with holes to mount the other backing plates on the front axle after I pull the hubs off. I am only worried about one thing the drums on the back existing brake axle wore into the magnets and wore a groove around the drum inside. I can't understand why it did that. I am wondering if I could get the inside of the drum turned like you would turn a rotor. It is not very thick but seems hard on the magnets without doing something.
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Old 03-29-2012, 07:17 AM   #8
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2 seperate wires will work just fine.

Drums will get grooves cut in them on the magnet and shoe surface. I don't think magnets stay very flush against the drum when they engage.

Having 10" drums turned on magnet and brake surface can be done but is usually not cost effective. Could range from $25 to $45. From what I understand, most machine shops don't like doing it because the hole that the wheel studs go in to are hard on the machine bits.
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Old 04-03-2012, 09:36 AM   #9
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Thanks Ralph
I finally finished the brake job. I was working outside and had to deal with hard rain showers for a week. I had to work between rain showers to keep parts dry. I changed out bearings, races and seals on both axles. I kept the old parts for spares because they were in good shape. Kudos to EasternMarine. I will buy from them again and recommend them to everyone. It was definately a good move. I am almost ready to hit the road thursday. Thanks to all for your comments. Ralph I did not end up turning the inside bearing wear because the wheel studs were close to the surface of the magnet wear.
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