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How Do You Check RV Brakes?

How Do You Check RV Brakes?

How Do You Check RV Brakes?

Proper maintenance is vital when caring for your RV, and one type of maintenance you can’t ignore is your brakes. Brake maintenance is essential if you frequently drive through winding mountain roads.

Whether you’re new to brake maintenance or simply looking for a refresher course, you came to the right place to learn everything you need to know about your RV brakes.

Let’s get started!

What Type of Brakes Are Installed on RVs?

Each kind of RV has different brake requirements. The engine and dimensions can also affect the brake system. The main differences in RV brake systems come when comparing motorhomes and RVs. Let’s take a look.

Motorhomes

Motorhomes frequently, although not always, come with two RV brake systems, a hydraulic and an air brake system. If your motorhome has a diesel engine, it’s much more likely to use air brakes. Air brakes can be an advantage because they don’t require fluid or master cylinders. That means one less thing to check. Plus, master cylinders are prone to failure.

Towable RVs

Towable RVs typically have two types of brakes: electric or hydraulic. Electric brakes are activated using an electrical connection gained through the trailer’s plug to the towing vehicle. Hydraulic or surge brakes don’t require an electrical connection and initiate automatically. The braking motion of the towing vehicle creates pressure on the hydraulic system and activates the brakes on the trailer.

How Do You Check Your RV Camper Brakes?

Because there are many kinds of RVs, there are many ways to check your brakes. Although different, each process is easy and manageable for even an amateur. 

Motorhomes

When checking your motorhome brakes, you need to know how to check both RV brake systems. For air brakes, check the cartridge used to absorb excess moisture in the system. Droplets in the air brakes reduce the air pressure, which can lead to brake failure. You need to check the cartridge at least annually and replace it every two or three years. 

Checking your hydraulic brakes includes thoroughly inspecting the rotors, brake pads, drums, and linings. Begin your check by looking at the master cylinder. Check the fluid levels. Do a complete brake fluid flush every two years.

Next, check the rotors, ensuring they’re smooth and free of any deep grooves or cracks. Finally, check and measure your brake pads to confirm they’re wearing evenly. Don’t forget to check for rust because corrosion will cause reduced braking capacity and uneven wear. 

Towable RVs

You also need to check towable RVs using an electric braking system. Begin by checking for worn shoe linings. If you see cracking, separation, oil saturation, or a lining that’s less than 1/16-inch thick, replace the shoes. Also, check for worn or missing parts and replace any missing or damaged pieces. Because electrical brakes don’t self-adjust, you’ll need to adjust them regularly to keep the appropriate spacing between the drums and shoes.   

How Often Should You Check Your RV Brakes?

Although some suggest checking your RV brakes every one or two years, most experts recommend checking your brakes annually. You may even check your brakes every 3,000 miles or three months. Because your brakes are so crucial, an annual check is a good idea.

How Long Do RV Brakes Last?

Typically, you don’t need to replace your brakes until the pads have worn down enough that they no longer make consistent contact with your tire. However, it’s difficult to determine how long your RV brakes last because so many factors affect brake wear and tear.

Factors include how often you brake, whether you brake quick or hard, how many miles you’ve driven, and the types of roads you use. For example, long stretches of highway or freeway driving would wear differently on your brakes than rough, mountain roads. Either way, the key to knowing if you need to replace your brakes is to check them regularly. 

When Should You Take Your RV in to Have the Brakes Checked?

There are many warning signs of failing brakes. These indicate that you need to take your RV to a professional for an inspection. First, and most obvious, pay attention to the dashboard. Often, faulty brakes will activate a brake light. 

Another obvious warning sign is if your RV brakes begin making loud noises. Well-functioning brakes should be silent. Overheated or worn disc brakes will make loud noises when activated and operate with significantly decreased stopping power. 

Finally, malfunctioning brakes may cause vibrations. Pay attention to your RV as you’re driving. If the RV vibrates or veers, it’s a warning sign that your brakes are due for a checkup. 

Make Checking Your RV Brakes a Regular Maintenance Task

Safety must be your primary concern when using your RV. Brake maintenance is an integral part of keeping you, your family, and others safe. Don’t forget to check your RV brakes annually. Take your rig to a certified mechanic if you see any warning signs of malfunctioning brakes. When’s the last time you checked on your brakes?

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Is It OK To Tow A Camper Without Trailer Brakes? - Drivin' & Vibin'

Monday 11th of October 2021

[…] Pro Tip: Don’t get caught with faulty brakes. If your camper comes with brakes, you’ll want to know How Do You Check RV Brakes. […]

diane vulcan

Sunday 26th of September 2021

Hi Kyle & Olivia! Hard lesson learned for us with brakes. We had a friend tow our camper home and our winnebago trailer rear brake locked on - shredded the tire, blew out the wheel bearings and damaged the spindle. The axle (made by lippert for winnebago) is all one unit and has a 6-year warranty BUT you have to have your brakes/wheels/tires officially "inspected" & documented in order for them to stand by their product. (? trailer is less than a year old) So, $1100 later - we purchased a new tire and now we are awaiting a new axle (of course they are backordered and custom made). You might have folks check out their "other" parts warranties besides the trailer manufacturer warranty. We had no idea these were not part of the general "winnebago" warranty.

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