Caravan brakes are often treated like car brakes, forgotten and never adjusted.
Danger, danger Will Robinson, expensive trouble looms on the horizon if your caravan brakes or boat maintenance is sloppy or non-existent.
I guarantee you that brake failure or cause a near miss due to lower braking capacity than expected, will cause you grave concern.
More concerning will be your wife reaction to the near miss. I also guarantee you that your wife will grossly overreact.
You can see from this photo that the caravan is not pulling the car to a stop.
The caravan brakes on this caravan are ineffective.
The car brakes have locked, and the caravan is continuing to push the car into the oncoming traffic.
Do you want to see what happens next?
Totally preventable had the owner known or seen what can happen is avoidable with some simple techniques before hitching his beautiful rig before holidaying with wife and family.
How is this totally preventable?
The car in the image is using its brake to stop the caravan. The car’s brakes are much stronger than the caravan brakes.
If the caravan brakes were adjusted well, the caravan would not have swerved and tipped over.
Caravan brakes should be easily felt by the driver. They should also cause the entire rig to brake in a straight line.
If you look at the main image above, the caravan braking is not evident. In fact, the caravan is pushing the car with the same momentum before the car commenced emergency braking.
Properly adjust brakes has only one outcome, the caravan and car brake in a straight line.
Allocate an entire afternoon to checking your caravan for the trip or book it into your local caravan shop for the once over. Service will cost you about 4 hours labour plus parts for a good job.
Your caravan does not get services like a car. It should be serviced at least once a year depending on usage. Car get serviced every 5,000lm or so but not caravans. You must keep checking little things like wheel nuts, bearing temperatures when you stop for fuel.
Watch an experienced caravanner in action; it is a pleasure to watch them check their rigs and understand the process and knowledge used during inspections.
So how do I go about checking caravan brakes? There are two ways.
- Go to your local caravan bloke and ask him for a service because you are going away on a trip. Insist on brake adjustment, wheel bearing adjustment and ask him to check every nut and bolt for tightness. Notably, your gas line connections.
- DIY or do it yourself.
DIY How to Adjust Electric Caravan brakes from Scratch.
- Jack up your wheel or use an Easy Jack to lift your wheel. (always use jacks stands in conjunction with any jack.
- Remove the drums as I will deal with bearings in another issue.
- Your electric backing plates are now exposed.
- Check the small holes in the front of your magnet. These are wear holes. If cannot see any two of these wear holes, your magnets need replacing.
- Check brake shoes for even wear. If there less than 2mm of brake pad left them you need to replace them.
- To install brake shoes, remove the old one and replace.
- Install the drum and tighten axle nut.
- To perfectly align the shoes, loosen the four nuts holding the backing plate to the weld ring.
- Adjust shoes until they are tight on the drum and you cannot turn the drum.
- Tighten the four nuts on the backing plate as the backing plate is now perfectly concentric with your drum.
- Slowly unwind the adjustment on the brake shoes, try and turn the drum as you unwind the adjustment.
- The perfect adjustment is where you can just hear the shoe touching the drum when you try and spin it. (Note: you may also hear the magnet touching the drum.
- Now adjust all brakes in the same manner.
- Finally, adjust the parking brake so that there is no cable slack.
DIY How to Adjust Disc Mechanical Brakes from Scratch.
- Adjusting mechanical disk brakes is a little easier than electric brakes.
- Replace your disk pads.
- Locate the bolt on the rear of the caliper.
- Tighten the bolt until the caliper pads are locked into position.
- Back off this bolt ½ turn and tighten the locking nut.
- Repeat on the other side, and your brakes are adjusted.
- Now go to your cable adjuster behind your override coupling. This device adjusts your cable and is not considered a brake adjuster.
Many other checks need to be done, including breakaway checks, the entire 12v system are but a few.
Finally, the best investment you can make is a pair of Jack Stands. To do a proper DIY, you must get your head under your caravan, and this means you must do it safely.
So you need at least a pair of jack stands, and you need level ground otherwise, please let someone else do the job.
Since you have your caravan all jacked up, remove your shock absorbers and pump them in either direction. Pressure should be 80% and 20%. If not, replace those shockies too.
Whilst you are checking your brake take a quick look at the lanyard on your breakaway. It may be too long and not pull the pin when chains are at full stretch.
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