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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m having an issue with my surge brakes and I need some advice.:help:

I just had my boat trailer inspected and they corrected a problem I just started having with the brakes chattering. Yesterday I trailered the boat about 200 miles yesterday and dumped it in at Solomons. The brakes worked perfectly. When I returned to the ramp and started to pull the empty trailer toward the ramp, the brakes on drivers side was locked up. It would back up, but not go forward. I ended up backing the adjustment off so could load the boat. After pulling the trailer about 300 yards the other passenger’s side started to lock up, but would roll fine in reverse. I loaded the boat and then pulled to the back of the parking lot to back the adjustment off on the brake on the passenger’s side. When I jacked it up, that wheel would now spin freely (with no adjustment), so I left it alone.

About 20 miles up the road I could feel the brakes on the trailer catching about every ¼ mile even though I was not applying the brakes. I pulled over and noticed that the brakes on the passenger’s side were hot, so I backed the adjustment off on that side w/o jacking up the trailer.

Last night I jacked up both sides and adjusted the brakes to where I thought they should be – tightened them up until they would not spin freely and then backed them off a click or two. I took it for a road test and they seem to be working, but there is a “clunk” sound when I apply the brakes. I’m guessing the brakes are engaging, causing the “clunk” and I probably need to adjust them a little more. However, I’m concerned that they may lock up again at the ramp.

The brake plates were replaced last year and there does not seem to be any leaks in the brake lines.

Anybody have any advice on what may be going on here or what I can do to get this issue corrected? Taking it back to the shop that inspected the trailer is not an option - I refuse to give those folks any more of my business.

Oh yea – we found some breakers at cove point early, but that was short lived. Found lots of small fish in the usual spots with about 5 or 6 keepers mixed in. We did manage one on topwater that was about 23 inches. Once again, we left them when they were biting! The time is now – get out there and get them!

Thanks, Dave
 

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I'm wondering if your actuator is sticking on the trailer beam. The "clunk" occurs when you pull out from a standing stop and the actuator pulls forward (and releases the brakes). When it doesn't pull forward and release brakes stay locked, right side was probably tighter than left - when you backed it off, left side then became the locked side. I think you're working at the wrong end of the trailer.
 

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Some actuators have a place to insert a pin, bolt etc. When utilized this allows one to back without having the actuator move backwards deploying the brakes. Once loaded pull the pin for normal braking operation during transit.
 

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Drum brakes generally don't hold when reversing, only when rolling forward. Not so with disc brakes which work in both directions. Thus with disc brakes and a surge actuator you need something like what KenCraft describes above. More common is a 5th trailer wire, connected to the backup light system of the pulling vehicle. When activated (vehicle in reverse) a solenoid on the trailer opens a valve which prevents the brakes lines from being pressurized.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The trailer does have a knob on the side of the hitch to disable the brakes when backing up. I never have to use it, and now that makes sense if the drum brakes do not hold in reverse.

The "clunk" happens when I start to slow down and the trailer brakes engage.

Is there an easy way to test the actuator?

The trailer is a 11 years old, so so I'm thinking it may make sense to simply replace the whole actuator coupler. If I go that far it probably not be a bad idea to replace the brake lines as well. This is sounding expensive...

Thanks, Dave
 

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The clunk can happen when you start or stop, it's the sound of the actuator hitting the front or back end of its range of travel. You don't always hear it - depending on how fast you stop or start, the system itself, and any bushings in the system to absorb the shock and mute the noise. If the actuator was frozen in the braking position, you could have the situation you originally described. Any problems since the clunking started? Could be things have loosened up, but may need to readjust the brakes since you had backed them off a bit.
 

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Hey Dave, my trailer is 10 years old with drum's, did the brakes only at 5 and everything actuator back last year.
 

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Dave: You must consider your breaks as part of a entire breaking system. One of the problems I had in the past that caused my disc breaks to lock up is explained below.

The master cylinders (MS) on most systems are cast iron (or cast whatever they use). If break fluid runs somewhat low, exposing the walls inside the MS they will start to rust. When you fill the MS back up particles of this rust becomes part of the breaking system.

These particles move inside the break tubing toward the slave cylinders (drum breaks) or calipers (disc breaks) and eventually will not let this part close fully after activation, causing the break pads or break shoes to lock in the open position.

Once this happens the breaks lock up causing the wheel(s) to heat up.

This is just one of the problems I have had with trailer breaks.

The best thing to do, is google - trouble with boat trailer brakes - and start reading and keep reading. More than likely you will have to replace the break system on your trailer. If it was just inspected there are laws to protect the buyer and I would talk with the company who inspected the trailer. Whether they like it or not they might have to replace the break system.

Please be safe. If you can't fix them yourself, find a reputable dealer to fix the problem.
 

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I'm just putting brakes on a new trailer. The Titan brake assembly recommends adjusting the brakes till they stop when spinning the wheel forward, then backing it off 10 clicks. I used to always adjust them tight, then loosen them just enough to spin. Maybe your repair shop adjusted them up too tight.
 

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I just went through all this, too. I set out to replace the drums and bought the entire assembly kit from West Marine. I took it to my mechanic to do the work. The first thing that happened was the break line fitting broke on one of the old backing plates, so the brake lines had to be replaced. I couldn't get the brake lines at West Marine, so I went to Guy Brother's Marine to get them. After this work was completed, the brakes still didn't work correctly. The mechanics did some trouble shooting and found that the actuator was bad. I had to order that through West Marine. After that was installed, everything worked great! $375 - $400 in parts and $300 in labor and I've finally got trailer brakes that are reliable! My mechanic says, "If its got tits or tires, it's gonna give you trouble!"
 

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Three years ago, I bit the $400 bullet and bought a complete tie-down disc brake system from Eastern Marine. THAT WAS A GREAT INVESTEMENT! They just WORK.

Only advice would be to spray them off when you get home to keep down on surface rust. Otherwise, I haven't had to touch them. I guess I should pull them off sometime soon, clean and lubricate, if I want them to stay perfect.

In your case, you will only need the brakes. I think it runs $100 per wheel, so for $200, you should be in great shape.

Best wishes.

-TH
 
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