Troubleshooting Trailer Brakes: Symptoms, Causes and Remedies

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Duration: 8:00

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In this quick video lesson, RV repair expert Dave Solberg walks you through the process of troubleshooting trailer brakes to determine why they might not be functioning properly. As a general rule of thumb, RVs should be thoroughly inspected at least once per year, depending upon frequency of use and miles traveled. A comprehensive inspection includes the wheels, tires, and brakes.

Although you should already be checking the status of your trailer’s brakes on a regular basis, you might notice one of many issues between inspections. Dave has several suggestions to solve the problems you could encounter with your electric RV brakes. Follow along as he goes step by step through the process.

What to look for when troubleshooting trailer brakes

To help you figure out what’s wrong with your trailer’s brakes, Dave refers to Dexter’s comprehensive guide for troubleshooting. This guide lists each of the symptoms, causes and remedies to common problems you might encounter with your brakes.

Most RV braking systems vary slightly in mechanics and technical aspects, but they all tend to have similar symptoms. For instance, as far as electrical issues, the problem could lie in the connection between your brakes and the controller in your tow vehicle. You should ensure that voltage is flowing from the controller to the pigtail to each wheel’s brake magnets. If not, you might need to increase the controller’s setting (graded 1-10) or adjust the pads for better contact with the wheel well.

There are other possible electrical issues that you should look for when troubleshooting trailer brakes. Maybe you’ve noticed improper synchronization between the controller and the brakes. Easily fixed. It could also be a blown fuse inside the trailer, or a short in one or more of the wires. Wires can come loose from debris, and fuses blow all the time!

Other things to check

As far as the individual brakes, you should inspect for reduced friction on the brake pads. This process, called glazing, is the smoothing of pads due to excessive heat. You can either sand them up to regain grip or have them replaced if they’re too far gone. And most importantly, Dave always recommends having your loaded vehicle weighed for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and Gross Axle Wheel Rating. To get the smoothest ride and longest lifespan for your vehicle, you want to come in under for both of those numbers.

In addition to these tips to troubleshooting trailer brakes, Dave introduces several other possible symptoms, causes, and solutions to get your braking system fixed up. If you’re unsure what’s going on with your brakes, consider taking your vehicle in to see a certified technician. When in doubt, be safe!