Servicing brake pads
Learn how to replace brake pads
The brake pads on your caravan are just as important as those on your car. Therefore, it’s important to check them regularly, and no, it won’t take weeks.
Caravan brake pads usually last a very long time, but that doesn’t mean you can just use them indefinitely and simply believe that they’ll be fine. Your caravan’s brakes might not work as often as your car’s, but when you need them, they need to work well.
Consider a caravan with a GVM of 1 200 kg being towed at 100 km/h. If the towing vehicle would come to an immediate stop, the weight with which the caravan presses against your car will be 300 tons, says Prof. Francois Smit from the Department of Applied Mathematics at Stellenbosch University. The applied math isn’t the only consideration; the weight you tow has a huge influence on how well your vehicle can brake.
Let’s say you try to brake evenly with your load and stop in five seconds. The effective weight pressing against your car will be about 700 kg more than the weight of your caravan. If you have to stop suddenly at speed, and your caravan’s brakes are worn or not properly adjusted, there’s a lot more pressure on your car’s brakes.
And that’s where things can go wrong. Instead of taking this risk, rather take a few minutes and check your caravan’s brakes.
PAY ATTENTION IN CLASS
Service your brakes at least once a year. If you don’t go camping often, you can do it every 18 months. It isn’t difficult to service the brakes yourself. Worn brakes don’t make that grinding sound the ones on your car make when they’re old, so they don’t give you any warning. And even if you’ve serviced your caravan recently, it still gives you peace of mind to know that you checked your brakes before a trip.
If you check them and realise they need to be replaced, even someone with 10 thumbs could do it.
OPERATION BRAKE PAD
Wheel and deal Service one wheel at a time. Make sure your caravan is on a level surface. Put a rock or brick in front of and behind the other wheels for safety.
Remember to release the handbrake, otherwise you won’t be able to remove the drum. Take cover! (see the illustration on page 51) Position a flat-head screwdriver behind the ridge where the dust cap 1 and drum 3 meet.
Tap the back of the screwdriver lightly with a hammer above the dust cap. Rotate the drum as you tap the screwdriver into the gap to make sure the cover comes off evenly. Off with its head Straighten the two ends of the split pin with a pair of pliers and take it out. You should be able to remove the castellated nut 2 now. Use a monkey wrench to loosen the nut if it’s too tight. Behind it, you’ll find a loose washer that comes off with the drum. Knock-knock Tap the drum with a hammer while rotating it to loosen it up. Pull it towards you. Remember, one of the wheel bearings sits on the outside of the drum, right next to the washer. Try to keep it in place. Off the hook The two brake pads 5 are secured with a spring 8 to the drum 12 . Place your finger on the back of the plate, where the spring hooks onto the washer, 9 and press the spring so that it unhooks. Unhook the expander 4 from the Bowden cable 10.
The brake pads and expander should be loose now – remove them. Spray a bit of Q20 into the brake cable tube from the drum’s side. Just like a bicycle’s brake cable sometime’s doesn’t release when you stop braking, an overrun brake system on your caravan can get stuck if the cable isn’t well lubricated. Look closely If the brake pads have less than 3 mm of padding left, it’s time for new ones. You can buy a new set for around R350, or have the old ones retreated for about R120 per set. If the pads are worn down completely and you’ve literally been braking with steel on steel, the drum is probably damaged.
You’ll have to have the drum skimmed to get it smooth again. Most brake service centres can do this.
Remember, caravan brake drums are thinner than those of a car and if the drum is heavily damaged, skimming might not be an option. Skimming costs about R230 per drum, and a new drum costs R600 up to R700. Get a grip Sand down the new pads and the inside of the drum with coarse sandpaper (P60 grit) to ensure the new brakes grip well from the start. The new brake pads might also be too thick for the drum, in which case you’ll have to sand them down until they fit inside. Go nuts Slacken the adjuster 11 completely. The correct direction differs on each side. Look behind the back plate, next to the hole through which you make adjustments with a screwdriver. You’ll see an arrow. Turn the nut in the opposite direction until it’s screwed in completely. This disengages the brakes and makes it easier to put back the drum later on. Put it back where you found it The brake pads are the same on either side on caravans built after 1984. Caravans built in that year or earlier have a top and bottom pad. They will only fit the way you removed them. Hook the spring 6 back between the two pads and put them back as a unit into the drum. Now put back the top spring that presses against the brake pad, then the bottom one. Almost done! Hook the adjuster back into the brake cable and put it back between the brake pads. Put the drum back over the axle as far as you can push it by hand.
Make sure the bearing is still in place. Put back the washer and nut, but don’t fasten them completely yet. Tap the drum back into place from the front, making sure it’s secured around the axle.
Fasten the castellated nut more, until just before it ‘takes’. If you can now get the split pin through the hole on the side of the nut, so that it fits back into the axle, you put the pin back. If not, loosen the nut slightly until it sits well over the hole. Don’t fasten the nut completely yet. You’ll damage the bearing.
Put back the wheel and turn the adjuster through the hole at the back of the plate until the wheel won’t turn anymore. Now turn the adjuster nut loose, one click at a time, until the wheel can turn again. This
way, your brake pads are only just not making contact with the drum.
Dead end When you pull your caravan forward by hand, and you pull the handbrake up by three clicks, it should stop immediately. You should still be able to move the caravan backwarks, though. If you engage the brake with six clicks, it shouldn’t be able to move backwards either.
If this is not happening, take your caravan to a dealer so that they can adjust the brakes further. go! Drive & Camp says If you’re replacing your brakes by yourself for the first time, record everything your remove so that you can make sure you put everything back where it belongs later.
1 Dust cap 2 Castellated nut
and washer 3 Drum 4 Expander 5 Brake pad 6 Pull-off spring 7 Axle 8 T-spring 9 Washer 10 Bowden cable 11 Adjuster 12 Backing plate