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Author Topic: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!  (Read 1770 times)

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Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« on: May 07, 2017, 10:21:55 PM »
 Set out this morning with our new used 5th wheel.  Trailer brakes working fine.  Then started getting message from 2015 3500hd that the "trailer brakes need serviced" and i would have no trailer brakes.  This became more frequent and of longer duration as the 400 mile trip progressed.  The problem would come and go but became progressively worse until I had no trailer brakes at all the last 100 miles from Payson to Mesa.   Fortunately the engine brake provided excellent braking.   
Any ideas on the cause of the progressive brake disappearance?
« Last Edit: May 10, 2017, 05:43:05 PM by scottydl »
2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

Arch Hoagland

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2017, 12:58:53 AM »
I'd suggest buying an IR gun and shoot the tires and brakes periodically to see if they are dragging and overheating.

What year, make and model truck and trailer do you have?



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BoonDocker Bob

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2017, 06:31:20 AM »
Quote
Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!

Quote
Set out this morning with our new used 5th wheel.  Trailer brakes working fine


Hummmm ...   being a semi truck driver for over 36 yrs .....    all I can say is that I have seen this a LOT . Could it be possibly be driver fault ?  LOTS of people have absolutely NO idea how to go down ( or up ) hills/mountains properly . ( and yes , that includes a LOT of these "new" truck drivers out here today )
Lets here about  HOW your going down the hills  and we can go from there . Don't always be so fast  to make it equipment  failure/fault .

lynnmor

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2017, 06:47:00 AM »
Likely an intermittent electrical fault, check connector, wires, wires inside axle tube and brake magnets.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2017, 06:48:05 AM »
I would start with the electrical connections, especially the plug/receptacle where the trailer hooks to the tow vehicle.

That message isn't very helpful. Is it from a RAM built-in (MOPAR factory installed) brake controller or an add-on? If  something that was added, what brand & model?  Most Tekonsha controllers give more specific messages concerning the type of fault. If Ram (MOPAR), what does your Ram owner manual say about it? And what settings are you using on it?
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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2017, 07:43:19 AM »
I'd suggest buying an IR gun and shoot the tires and brakes periodically to see if they are dragging and overheating.

What year, make and model truck and trailer do you have?



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I shot the tires with my IR gun... all were within a couple degrees of each other..  73 to 74 degrees.

Thanks for the profIle advice ...
2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2017, 07:51:19 AM »
Likely an intermittent electrical fault, check connector, wires, wires inside axle tube and brake magnets.

I was thinking intermittent but the problem grew steadily.

This is a used trailer that hadn't seen much road use.  It had the original tires from 2004 when I bought it two months ago.  A friend bought it used , with not much use, and  he used it parked as a second home for work. 
I'm wondering if some corrosion  hasn't set in.
2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2017, 07:58:42 AM »
I would start with the electrical connections, especially the plug/receptacle where the trailer hooks to the tow vehicle.

That message isn't very helpful. Is it from a RAM built-in (MOPAR factory installed) brake controller or an add-on? If  something that was added, what brand & model?  Most Tekonsha controllers give more specific messages concerning the type of fault. If Ram (MOPAR), what does your Ram owner manual say about it? And what settings are you using on it?

Yep.  I unplugged several times in order to reset the truck info readout.  It worked at first, the truck recognized that a trailer was plugged in but when I hit the brakes it would give me the "trailer brakes need service" message.  The problem became more frequent and longer duration as the trip wore on until the truck built in brake controller would no longer interface with the trailer brakes.
2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

Rene T

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2017, 07:59:14 AM »
I was thinking intermittent but the problem grew steadily.

This is a used trailer that hadn't seen much road use.  It had the original tires from 2004 when I bought it two months ago.  A friend bought it used , with not much use, and  he used it parked as a second home for work. 
I'm wondering if some corrosion  hasn't set in.

I hope the tires your have on it now aren't the originals. If they are, you need to replace them ASAP. RV tires are typically only good for 8 or 9 years at the most even if the tread looks new.
Rene & Lucille & co-pilot Buddy
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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2017, 08:05:39 AM »
I hope the tires your have on it now aren't the originals. If they are, you need to replace them ASAP. RV tires are typically only good for 8 or 9 years at the most even if the tread looks new.

New tires were installed last week.
2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

Rene T

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2017, 08:07:03 AM »
New tires were installed last week.

WHEW!!!!
Rene & Lucille & co-pilot Buddy
AKA  Pep N Mem
2011 Chevy Duramax 2500 HD 4X4
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From the Granite State of NH
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Hammster

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2017, 08:14:54 AM »
Yep.  I unplugged several times in order to reset the truck info readout.  It worked at first, the truck recognized that a trailer was plugged in but when I hit the brakes it would give me the "trailer brakes need service" message.  The problem became more frequent and longer duration as the trip wore on until the truck built in brake controller would no longer interface with the trailer brakes.

Once the controller would no longer interface with trailer brakes, you stopped, unplugged trailer cable, replugged in and brakes still wouldn't work? Just wondering what else was tried after it got to the would no longer interface stage.

I know that road from Payson to Mesa (my dad lives in Payson). That's quite a road to go down, especially when just leaving Payson, without brakes. Fortunately there has been some good improvements made to that road to make it somewhat safer, and really glad you made it down safely.
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SargeW

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2017, 09:51:17 AM »
Although your fault sounds electrical, it doesn't hurt to check the brake pads either. Axles by Lippert tend to use extremely cheap grease seals which allow the bearing grease to heat up then blow out all over the inside of the drum, brake pads, and magnets.  I speak from experience.  You can check them with a good flashlight by crawling under the rig and peeking between the backing plate and the drum. If it is greased, you will see it everywhere. 
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xrated

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2017, 10:35:12 AM »
1down.....no disrespect intended, but if you had early warnings about the trailer brakes not working correctly, why would you continue on a 400 mile trip, especially through the mountains?  Glad you made it safely, but that could have been a story with a not so happy ending.
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Lynx0849

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2017, 10:40:51 AM »
Just for curiosity, what would inform the brake controller that the trailer brakes need servicing?

Is it just that it doesn't see a reasonable load on the brake circuit?

My Prodigy only lets me know it sees the trailer brakes are connected.

Gods Country

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2017, 10:54:21 AM »
Do you have a factory option installed controller?

If so I would suspect the controller.  Do check your wiring and and pads as suggested, but IMO if they seem to work and lock up appropriately I would look at the controller.  IMO truck manufacturers have managed to screw up everything that was once simple and reliable, like a dash mounted brake controller.

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2017, 11:46:58 AM »
IMO truck manufacturers have managed to screw up everything that was once simple and reliable, like a dash mounted brake controller.


LOL - I agree. No troubles with my factory controller so far (knock wood) but I have heard horror stories of troubled systems where the truck dealer says the controller is ok and the RV dealer says the trailer brakes are ok. Well then why don't my brakes work???
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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #17 on: May 08, 2017, 12:03:02 PM »

LOL - I agree. No troubles with my factory controller so far (knock wood) but I have heard horror stories of troubled systems where the truck dealer says the controller is ok and the RV dealer says the trailer brakes are ok. Well then why don't my brakes work???

When I was shopping around for a new controller I considered an OEM for my truck.  After laughing at the cost and reading the countless stories of the OEM controllers I purchased a Prodigy and happy I did. 


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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #18 on: May 08, 2017, 06:41:36 PM »
1down, you may already have run across this, but just in case, I thought I'd share this thread from the Duramax forum.  It may cast some light on the possible cause.
http://www.duramaxforum.com/forum/gauges-electronics-wiring/120320-itbc-service-trailer-brake-system-resolution.html
Jim
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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2017, 10:08:58 PM »
1down, you may already have run across this, but just in case, I thought I'd share this thread from the Duramax forum.  It may cast some light on the possible cause.
http://www.duramaxforum.com/forum/gauges-electronics-wiring/120320-itbc-service-trailer-brake-system-resolution.html

Now that is interesting.   

Im taking the trailer in tomorrow, bright and early, for inspection and repair.

I ordered a Tekonsha P3 with wiring kit to replace the oem brake controlder so I can bypass the on board stuff.
So hopefully everything will sort out here shortly.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2017, 05:19:15 PM by scottydl »
2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2017, 10:16:37 PM »
Once the controller would no longer interface with trailer brakes, you stopped, unplugged trailer cable, replugged in and brakes still wouldn't work? Just wondering what else was tried after it got to the would no longer interface stage.

I know that road from Payson to Mesa (my dad lives in Payson). That's quite a road to go down, especially when just leaving Payson, without brakes. Fortunately there has been some good improvements made to that road to make it somewhat safer, and really glad you made it down safely.

Coming off the Mogollon Rim at 45 mph, the truck exhaust brake kept control of the speed the entire drop.  Same with the Payson to Rye drop.
Had the load dominated the exhaust brake I would be waiting for brake repair in Show Low instead of here in Mesa.
Hopefully will get it squared away tomorrow.
2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

robertusa123

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #21 on: May 09, 2017, 09:32:18 PM »
I had my trailer brake controler smoke on me going over a mountaintop  myself....   had to drop it to 2nd gear and grind down the mt at 25mph all the way down
1996  26ft. 3 kids 2 dog and the wife too

alan6051964

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #22 on: May 09, 2017, 09:37:37 PM »
I had my trailer brake controler smoke on me going over a mountaintop  myself....   had to drop it to 2nd gear and grind down the mt at 25mph all the way down
lol, 25 mph down a mountain side sure beats the crap out of going down that mountain side at the speed of sound !..lol. I've been down that road out of Halbrook,az, 6 degree's I think it got down to ?, all the way to payson, my lord, that's a ride I don't want to see ever again pulling anything !..lol.
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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #23 on: May 10, 2017, 12:57:16 PM »
Although your fault sounds electrical, it doesn't hurt to check the brake pads either. Axles by Lippert tend to use extremely cheap grease seals which allow the bearing grease to heat up then blow out all over the inside of the drum, brake pads, and magnets.  I speak from experience.  You can check them with a good flashlight by crawling under the rig and peeking between the backing plate and the drum. If it is greased, you will see it everywhere.


Ding ding ding ... and we have a winner!!!

I was able to get the camper into Straight  Line Sus pension in Mesa az early Tuesday morning.   Mike squeezed me in even though he is extremely busy.  He found lots of evidence of unuse and he found leaking grease seals which caused the brake loss.  He got it cleaned up, repaired and adjusted the brakes.  Though it was only a few miles back to camp I stepped on the trailer brakes aggressively to see if I could get an error message.   I'm happy to report it worked fine. But I'm still gonna install the tekonsha but leave it unplugged in case I need it. 
Thanks for all the comments and suggestions.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2017, 05:43:27 PM by scottydl »
2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

Gods Country

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #24 on: May 10, 2017, 01:44:17 PM »
Good to hear.  Hopefully that was it.




kdbgoat

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #25 on: May 10, 2017, 02:16:39 PM »

Ding ding ding ... and we have a winner!!!

I was able to get the camper into Straight  Line Sus pension in Mesa az early Tuesday morning.   Mike squeezed me in even though he is extremely busy.  He found lots of evidence of unuse and he found leaking grease seals which caused the brake loss.  He got it cleaned up, repaired and adjusted the brakes.  Though it was only a few miles back to camp I stepped on the trailer brakes aggressively to see if I could get an error message.   I'm happy to report it worked fine. But I'm still gonna install the tekonsha but leave it unplugged in case I need it. 
Thanks for all the comments and suggestions.

Another case for hand packing bearings, and not using the easy lube system. I'm glad you found the problem, and got it fixed.
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SargeW

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #26 on: May 10, 2017, 05:22:03 PM »
Good to hear your guy got it handled. Hopefully your guy changed the grease seals out. Don't want a replay of that experience.
Marty--
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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #27 on: May 10, 2017, 05:36:28 PM »

Ding ding ding ... and we have a winner!!!

 ...and he found leaking grease seals which caused the brake loss.  He got it cleaned up, repaired and adjusted the brakes.  Though it was only a few miles back to camp I stepped on the trailer brakes aggressively to see if I could get an error message.   I'm happy to report it worked fine...

What great news. Glad the problem was found and fixed and brakes seem to be working as well as they should. Really great news.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2017, 05:42:44 PM by scottydl »
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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #28 on: June 06, 2017, 09:54:22 PM »
Well, I haven't posted regarding the brake issue for awhile.  The trip was 4,234.4 miles long starting at Belen, NM to Phoenix, Sacramento, Tillamook, Pendelton, Boise, Ogden, Farmington and then home and I still had "Service Trailer Brake" messages.   Sometimes a good shove of the trailer plug would remedy the situation and sometimes the truck would just resume trailer brake service.  An added wrinkle was that "Stabiltrak" would go out first and then the "Service Trailer Brakes" warning would appear - not all the time but most times. 

While in Phoenix I ordered a Tekonsha P3 and adapter wire kit for my truck and plugged it in.  The Tekonsha has never been able to detect the trailer.  So I suspect a faulty connection somewhere. 

We're due to head to Michigan in a couple weeks so I need to start taking a good look at the truck and trailer connections. 

Also, last time the trailer brakes disappeared I stopped and checked that the brake lights and running lights worked despite the trailer brake fault. 

I'll keep plugging away on it 



2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

Lou Schneider

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #29 on: June 07, 2017, 12:23:43 AM »
An easy way to troubleshoot trailer brakes is to have someone hold the brakes on while you pass a compass in front of each wheel.

Electric brakes use an electromagnet dragging against the face of the rotating brake drum to pull on the linkage and apply the brakes.  More current through the electromagnet = more pull on the brake linkage.  A functioning electromagnet will strongly deflect a compass needle as you pass the compass in front of it.

If a magnet is not activating, you either have a bad connection going to that wheel or the electromagnet is open.  Sometimes they wear down enough as they drag against the brake drum to let the electric coils rub against the drum and wear through the wire.

The brake shoes could also be far enough out of adjustment that a wheel runs out of linkage travel before the brakes engage, but I'd test the electromagnets first.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2017, 12:34:41 AM by Lou Schneider »

SkateBoard

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #30 on: June 07, 2017, 01:46:45 AM »
Even if your brakes are working fine you should be using what is called the stab method for braking. Lets say you want to maintain 55mph going down the hill. Keep yourself in a gear lower. Get up to 60mph then brake down to 50 and keep repeating. Keep an eye out for smoke. If you see some, stop and let your brakes cool off. There is a point where your brakes get so hot you can't stop anymore. Don't want to get there!!!

As a side note, you may see semi trucks flying down a hill. Chances are they are either empty or very lightly loaded. They can hit the jake and brake and stop pretty darn quick!

You DO NOT want to use a runaway ramp. You will probably total everything and possibly flip.

Bob???

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #31 on: June 07, 2017, 08:37:19 AM »
Please don't jerk your brakes on and off changing speed by 10 MPH, that makes no sense and you will be a traffic hazard.  Brakes are a heat device and you either use them or not, doing crazy things with the brake pedal will gain you nothing.

Now go fix the wiring on that trailer.  One place to look is inside the axle tubes where wires often short to ground. Only an electrical problem will bring on error messages.


SkateBoard

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #32 on: June 07, 2017, 01:14:28 PM »
Please don't jerk your brakes on and off changing speed by 10 MPH, that makes no sense and you will be a traffic hazard.  Brakes are a heat device and you either use them or not, doing crazy things with the brake pedal will gain you nothing.

Now go fix the wiring on that trailer.  One place to look is inside the axle tubes where wires often short to ground. Only an electrical problem will bring on error messages.

The stab method is the recommended braking procedure for anyone towing trailers and semi truck trailers per order of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration.


SkateBoard

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #33 on: June 07, 2017, 01:20:00 PM »
Here is the part from government on the procedure



2.16.4 Proper Braking Technique
Remember. The use of brakes on a long and/or steep downgrade is only a supplement to the braking effect of the engine. Once the vehicle is in the proper low gear, the following are the proper braking techniques:
Apply the brakes just hard enough to feel a definite slowdown.
When your speed has been reduced to approximately five mph below your "safe" speed, release the brakes. (This brake application should last for about three seconds.)
When your speed has increased to your "safe" speed, repeat steps 1 and 2.
For example, if your "safe" speed is 40 mph, you would not apply the brakes until your speed reaches 40 mph. You now apply the brakes hard enough to gradually reduce your speed to 35 mph and then release the brakes. Repeat this as often as necessary until you have reached the end of the downgrade.

Lynx0849

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #34 on: June 07, 2017, 01:23:13 PM »
Please don't jerk your brakes on and off changing speed by 10 MPH, that makes no sense and you will be a traffic hazard.  Brakes are a heat device and you either use them or not, doing crazy things with the brake pedal will gain you nothing.

Now go fix the wiring on that trailer.  One place to look is inside the axle tubes where wires often short to ground. Only an electrical problem will bring on error messages.

Never ride the brakes down a hill. Fastest way to burn them up.
Who cares what others think if you are being safe. Being safe is not a hazard.

As said, brake till below target speed, then off till a little over... rinse & repeat. It is what I was taught in tractor trailer driving school.

meternerd

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #35 on: June 08, 2017, 01:08:00 PM »
Now that is interesting.   

Im taking the trailer in tomorrow, bright and early, for inspection and repair.

I ordered a Tekonsha P3 with wiring kit to replace the oem brake controlder so I can bypass the on board stuff.
So hopefully everything will sort out here shortly.

The link has good info, but...if you use contact cleaner, make sure it says "plastic safe" before you go shooting it onto any connectors.  Some cleaners will totally destroy the plastic.  Don't ask how I know!

SkateBoard

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #36 on: June 08, 2017, 01:14:09 PM »
Don't ask how I know!

Lol.....If you chase a racoon and corner it, it will attack you. Don't ask how I know.

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #37 on: June 09, 2017, 09:38:49 AM »
Lol.....If you chase a racoon and corner it, it will attack you. Don't ask how I know.

When I was a kid I cornered a cute, harmless, cuddly, wild, bunny rabbit.  I got a life long lesson that day. 
2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #38 on: June 09, 2017, 09:53:33 AM »
I took apart the connectors on the truck yesterday - at least at the rear of the truck.  The wiring harness plugs into the 7way.  I took this apart and noticed that the pins on the wiring harness had white grease on the pins.  A few of the pins had a nice thick coating of the white grease.  I would have thought that the pins would have been wiped somewhat clean by the insertion friction of the receiver.  I scraped up some of the grease with one of my VOM leads and gently touched the leads to measure resistance to see if the grease is dielectric.  It is.  No conductivity was measured.  I cleaned off the pins with electronic cleaner/degreaser and reassembled the 7 way.

From there I crawled along the bottom of the truck following the wiring but could not find any other connectors I could identify with the possible exception of part of the harness veered off to what looks to be a brake line component.  Brake lines go into this assemble and then off to the rear brakes.  I don't know what the function of this is.  I did not unattach the wiring harness until I can find out what it is. 

From there I went to the trailer and inspected the white wire ground to the trailer pin assembly.  It is a white wire approximate 12 gauge attached to a copper lug which is in turn attached to the pin box.  The ground is a little "iffy" as I checked the resistance direct from the wire to the frame.  I plan on removing the lug and then removing paint around the lug and then reattaching the lug. 

The battery ground is the same - it is a bolt attached to the frame over paint.  I plan on doing the same here as well. 

I have yet to follow the white wire to the brakes and check their grounds which I plan on doing today.

One item of much interest in my quest to find the disappearing trailer brakes if the actual trailer plug.  Looking at it, it is a little corroded and some what "gappy".  The connectors are somewhat loose especially the connector for the brakes.  I will replace this plug when Amazon delivers it Monday. 



2004 Keystone Challenger 33' Fifth Wheel
2015 Chevrolet 3500HD SRW
Belen, NM

RVRAC

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #39 on: June 09, 2017, 01:40:45 PM »
I had the same issue a couple years ago.  I took it to the dealer and they discovered it was grease from the seal.  Manufacturer covered under warranty.  Never had the problem again.  Also, perhaps 400 miles in the mountains was too much.
2017 Leprechaun 311 FS
Toad: 2016 Jeep Patriot
American Dolly
Home: WI
Snowbird 6 months/yr.

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Re: Travelling through mountains... lost trailer brakes!!
« Reply #40 on: June 09, 2017, 02:32:48 PM »
Broken seal is the worst. You get grease and oil over the brake shoes then heat them up in the mountains and your on fire. Saw it happen twice. Once on a semi trucks trailer and once on an RV. I had to run the RV off into the breakdown lane. They thought I was trying to rob them or something. It took my extinguisher and his to put the fire out.

 

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