camper trailers tech tips

adjusting camper trailer brakes



adjusting camper trailer brakes

Camper trailer brakes should be adjusted.....

1. after the first 500kms when the brake shoes and drums have 'bedded in'
2. at 5000km intervals,
3. or as use and performance requires.

This is a chore that most people with average mechanical skills should be able to handle.

The following steps are a guide to properly adjust your trailers brakes by adjusting the star wheel/hexagon nut, which in turn sets the brake shoe to brake drum clearance. This adjustment is important as the brake shoes wear down, the clearance increases. The actuating mechanism must travel further to effectively apply the brakes and a point can be reached where the mechanism is no longer able to so.


Please follow safe jacking procedure of your camper trailer at all times.

1. Park the trailer on firm level ground.

2. Block the trailer tires on the opposite side securely so that no forward or rearward movement is possible.

3. Jack up the trailer following the manufacturers instructions.

4. Secure the trailer on jack stands of adequate capacity front and rear.


        Adjusting mechanical over-rider brakes with a star wheel adjuster

1. At the back of the wheel on the brake backing plate there is a small rubber plug near the bottom of the backing plate. Pry out this plug to give you access to the star wheel adjuster.       

2. Insert the brake adjuster tool and maneuver it so that the tool engages with the teeth in the star wheel. The star wheel looks like a gear with exposed teeth on the perimeter. On most trailers you would pull down on the tool handle which levers on the bottom of the hole and turns the star wheel up (as you are looking at it from the back of the wheel).

3. Turn the adjuster until the brake "locks up" i.e. you can no longer rotate the wheel by hand. This centers the brake shoes on the brake drum so that they are in the correct position.

4. Now back off the star wheel 8 to 10 clicks or as specified by the manufacturer. The wheel should spin freely with no apparent drag to slow it down. A slight scraping noise is normal as the wheel turns.

5. Repeat this procedure for the other wheel.


Adjusting hydraulic brakes with a hexagon nut adjuster

1. Apply service brakes 3 times to centralize shoes and release.  Check that wheel and drum rotate freely.
2. If a handbrake is fitted this should be released to ensure that the brake is free to be adjusted. Any handbrake adjustment 
should be carried out after the service brake has been adjusted.
3. Using a ring spanner, turn one of the two large hexagon bolts clockwise until the wheel becomes very difficult to turn.
Back off until the wheel turns freely with a slight lining drag. Repeat for the second shoe by adjusting the second hexagon bolt.
4. Apply the service brake a second time and repeat section 3.
5. Repeat the procedure on other wheel. 
information provided by Rob

Futher to adjusting mechanical brakes please be aware the adjustment of the over-rider cable needs to be considered.

If the adjustment is too loose the car stops with the trailer as required, but is then accompanied with a load bang on driving off as the slack is taken up.

If however the clearance is too tight,  the suspension movement will trigger the brakes over rough ground. You will have high brake wear and also have a trailer tugging you backwards.

I also noticed with a load distribution hitch when it is too tightly tensioned the over-ride piston can jam in the barrel if it gets a high lifting moment.

Information by Robert Burns