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Old 12 February 2013, 14:11   #1
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freebacking vs standard brakes

Can someone explain the pros and cons of both styles of drum brakes?

I have a sailboat trailer with freebacking brakes and makes it easy to backup without dealing with actuating the brake release lever.

I have RIB trailer with non-freebacking brakes and a manual brake release on hitch which sucks cause if you are on a hill you can't release the actuator without blocking the wheels.

What is the downside if any to replacing my RIB trailer brakes with freebackers?

thx
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Old 12 February 2013, 16:57   #2
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I think you just answered your own question!

Over here the "freebacker" type (Auto reverse if you are looking at UK sites) have been the only type you are allowed to use over here for a while. Not so much for the "pain in the rear" reasons you quite correctly cite, but it means that in emergency situations you can back the rig up without the faff & time of getting out, possibly to be killed by the next passing vehicle.

"standard" brakes can also be accidentally left in reverse mode, the sort of mistake you only usually make once! (don't ask me how I know......)

Only "downside" (if it even counts as one) is they are a bit more of a fiddle to set up.

Another plus for you is as you have them on your sailboat trailer, it might be possible to standardise on spares...
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Old 12 February 2013, 17:22   #3
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Thank you.

Specifically I was wondering if freebacking required manual adjustment of brake shoes as they wear vs possible automatic adjustment with non-freebacking kind.

Either way, I'm going free-backing. There are enough train tracks around here I can envision getting stuck on the tracks as a 6 engine freight train is closing in on me and I can't backup. It's not a stretch, it's happened to me once with a car trailer.
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Old 12 February 2013, 20:21   #4
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FWIW Europe has a totally different standard than here in the USA.

Drum brakes suck and are ancient technology. There is a reason you do not see them used on very many vehicles today. Almost all drum brakes even auto adjusting require an adjustment once in a while to keep a firm braking system.

My recommendation would be to go to a disk brake and install a 5 flat plug or use a 7 pin adapter to 5 pins depending on tow vehicle. Disks are far superior to drum, easier to flush the out salt water of, some of the rotors are made of stainless, but most are zinc plated, they will last longer with less maintenance, and most importantly the solenoid energized by the reverse lights will allow you to back up with zero resistance. You can also insert a "key" or a nickle when reverse power isn't available. You can also flip the flat four connector around and turning the lights on will disengage the brakes. The only downfall is the initial parts needed to change it to disk will have a higher upfront cost. For instance the master cylinder will need to be changed, but your current brake system may need a new master.
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Old 12 February 2013, 20:33   #5
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Thx Peter. I would totally do that but my axles specifically say not to use disc brakes, probably because they can't handle it. So then if I want to really do things proper, we are talking...

new axles
new springs (maybe not needed)
new disc brakes
electric disc brake controller

$$$$$

I do have a proper towing vehicle (10k towing rating) with 7 pin and even a full on brake controller. My RIB weights 5k pounds + 1k trailer. Not sure worth putting that much into this trailer, might be worth selling existing and getting a new trailer.

Not sure but I think I will investigate the cost difference. If I could keep existing axles / springs then I would say yes to disc.

My existing surge brake head and cylinder is brandy new. In fact the trailer is brand new but marginal for this weight RIB.
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Old 12 February 2013, 23:37   #6
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How many braking axles do you have now?

What brand of trailer is it? I assume it is a decent galvanized trailer and worth keeping?

I have never seen a trailer axle that said "DO NOT" put disk brakes on it. Weird as we have done a few swaps on tandem axle trailers. Contacting the manufacturer might enlighten you as to their reasoning.

ONLY the axles would need replacement at the worst. You can reuse your master, but there is a pressure holder for drum brakes that needs to be removed. Also a solenoid will need to be installed so it is cut loose in reverse.

7 wire means you can either make a 5 wire connector or buy one. I made one that has both 4 and 5 wire together on the same 7 pin connector. That just means I only need one adapter not two.
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Old 13 February 2013, 04:25   #7
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Simply an observation - Wow. you relying on electrics to disengage in reverse? Based on a sizeable proportion of trailer lighting that doesn't work over here, I really hope your standard connectors are a bit better designed than ours!

....and do you want electric actuation on a trailer that is going to go swimming in salt water?
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Old 13 February 2013, 11:07   #8
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Are electric trailer brakes illegal in Europe?

Surely trailer manufacturers can design braking systems that can easily be flushed and sprayed with WD40 or similar to prevent corrosion caused by saltwater immersion.

I have only ever seen disc brakes on imported American trailers(... and the discs or rotors and mechanism were rusted almost beyond recognition) I guess that disc brakes could more easily be flushed and easily sprayed with a water repellent.
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Old 13 February 2013, 11:35   #9
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I called the manufacturer and asked their opinion. They said that yes these axles CAN take disc brakes. I was apparently looking at the wrong part#s in the catalog.

They advised a hydraulic disc brake system. I live on the border of OR and WA state. In WA apparently law says need to brake both axles, in OR only 1. I'm concerned with braking given the weight of this rig so I actually am favoring a disc setup at the moment.

The whole system including new actuator with solenoid and 4 disc brakes is just north of 1k.

I actually use the trailer 95% of the time in fresh water. The 5% of the time I hit the ocean the ramps are good enough that the actuator does not hit salt water, so thinking the solenoid should be fine. I should also be fine on the discs given the mostly fresh water use. Dumping it into a fresh water ramp gives it the best rinse possible.

I appreciate everyone's opinions on this. It's definitely not black and white.

My existing manual actuator is a POS. Definitely not user friendly.
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Old 13 February 2013, 11:43   #10
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Electric brakes are not advised for boat trailers, as they rely on a magnet to actuate, and the magnet is iron, which doesn't do well getting wet.

Peter was talking about a surge-brake coupler, with a solenoid to release pressure when the reverse lights come on. It is not an electric actuation.


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