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Old 03-04-2015, 09:17 AM   #1
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SELF-ADJUSTING vs. MANUAL ELECTRIC BRAKES




The two main types of Electric Brake Assemblies for axles 7K and below are Forward Self Adjusting (FSA) and Manual Adjusting. The difference between the two is that the forward self-adjusting brakes will adjust themselves as needed so that they are always at the optimum position. Manual brakes must be adjusted manually via the star adjuster on the back side of the brake assembly as needed. Due to the reduction of required maintenance, the FSA brakes are becoming a lot more popular.
It is important to be able to identify which type is already on your trailer so that maintenance or replacing is done correctly. This cannot simply be done by looking for a star adjuster because both types have that. The FSA brakes will have a wire that will run from about 9 o’clock to 1 o’clock. On the 1 o’clock side it will have a banjo looking fitting (shown to the left). The manual adjusting brake will not have this wire running across the inside of the assembly.

Another way to identify between the two is the bottom spring. On an FSA brake assembly (shown above) the spring will be straight and wrapped around the adjuster. On a Manual adjusted brake assembly (shown to the right) it will be a curved spring below the adjuster.
Due to the way that these brakes operate we absolutely recommend being consistent through the trailer. It is NOT SAFE to run both types of brakes on the same axle. It is NOT RECOMMENDED to run both types of brakes on the same trailer (different axles) but if the brakes on each axle match, it is operable. Problems will occur if one side of the trailer is adjusting automatically and brakes on the other side are not.
A final thought about FSA brakes assemblies. It is important to keep in mind that FSA brakes are automatically adjusted to perform at their best. This means they may not last as long as manually adjusted breaks. This is because manually adjusted brakes, if not adjusted regularly, are not being used to there
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Old 03-05-2015, 09:52 AM   #2
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Ok, after recently going through the ordeal of adjusting all 4 wheels on my flat bed, what I want to know is can you reconfigure manuals in to FSAs or is a backing plate change required?
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Old 03-06-2015, 10:11 AM   #3
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LC - I don't think a conversion kit is available so you will have to change out the backing plates
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Old 03-06-2015, 07:42 PM   #4
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E-Trailer sells the assemblies pretty cheap depending on the axle weight and brand. It is worth have the auto adjust though.
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Old 03-07-2015, 09:07 PM   #5
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You cannot buy a car that has manual adjusting drum brakes.

Only self adjusting brakes should be on recreational vehicles with tandem axles.
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Old 03-07-2015, 09:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bamaman View Post
You cannot buy a car that has manual adjusting drum brakes.

Only self adjusting brakes should be on recreational vehicles with tandem axles.
Been to a third word country and looked at new cars built there? Just kidding!! I totally agree on the self adjusting brakes on anything going down the road with drum brakes. Manufacturers will always buy low sell high
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Old 03-07-2015, 09:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EasternMarine View Post
LC - I don't think a conversion kit is available so you will have to change out the backing plates
Looks like replace shoes, add cable, lever and spring and press on. Yup done the conversion a few times and all parts available at your local parts store.
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Old 03-08-2015, 08:33 AM   #8
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Here in PA, an annual state required inspection entails pulling at least one brake drum from each axle to examine the brakes. I then need to go straight home and undo all the damage from that operation. I've had grease seals damaged, wrong grease. dirty grease, bearings not adjusted properly, too small of cotter pins, hub caps smashed, lugs stripped and lug nuts torqued to less than half the specification.
Brake adjustment is the least of my worries. Since the drums need to be pulled regularly to check the brakes, the automatic adjusters serve little purpose. Many trailer brake drums have considerable runout, and that will cause the automatic adjusters to not function properly.
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Old 02-08-2019, 06:59 PM   #9
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My TWO CENTS. Self adjusting brakes may cost 30% more then Manual adjusters...Maybe $60.00 per axle or $120 total for both axles. I travel from West to the East and back, crossing most mountain ranges in the USA. I have stopped in rest stops...RV lots and had to raise the vehicle up...to rotate the tires while adjusting the manual star wheel. You buy the whole brake assembly...assembled. loosen 5 nuts and then rewire the new backing plate complete. Cars have had these adjusters since the 60's for safety and yes they work well. I am tired of adjusting the brakes..and made the conversion. (it is best said.....when someone pulls in front of you....or some type of emergency instantly) YOU NEED BRAKES NOW! and if out of adjustment....you may try to put your brake pedal through the floor. GIMMI A BRAKE! Self Adjusting!
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Old 02-08-2019, 09:18 PM   #10
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Another way to check if ones current brake set up are self adjusting or not....
Backside of drum....two rubber plugs
Remove them and LOOK inside using a flashlight


Non-self adjusting.....
No 'lever' that engages the star wheel



Self-adjusting....
There will be a 'lever' that engages star wheel
'Lever' has to be pushed away from star wheel in order to manually adjust star wheel-----manual adjustment is needed when first setting up the shoe/drum contact
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Old 02-09-2019, 12:16 PM   #11
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Other than a little anti-seize, on the adjuster threads, I want no grease inside the drum where it can get hot and get on shoes. And as fast hot metal will rust, and bind parts together, I would worry that trailers that sit for months the self-adjusters would quit working. And would the driver know the brakes where not adjusting? I can adjust mine, and be sure.

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Originally Posted by lynnmor View Post
Many trailer brake drums have considerable runout, and that will cause the automatic adjusters to not function properly.

Many years back I ruined 4 trailer drums just using my impact to spin the lugnuts on.
BTW, on the little axles it is about as cheap to buy new backing plates when you need shoes...
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Old 02-09-2019, 05:37 PM   #12
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I knew we had the self adjusters.....decal on the side of the trailer told me!

FWIW....I'll never go back to self adjusting brakes.
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Old 02-09-2019, 06:01 PM   #13
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It's a suggested to remove the brake drums yearly or 10k miles for a inspection and bearing greasing. Even with self adjusting brakes, drum brakes should be manually adjusted at 6 month intervals to be sure they are all working at the same level. So what is the point of having self adjusting brakes when the inspection frequency is the same?
I bet I just opened up a can of worms!
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