I hope you can stop and read this if you can, it’s a quick blog (and reminder) about caravan brakes.
Now I’m not a mechanical expert, I’m just an average caravanner that like most of you, just loves getting out and about in this awesome country. However, I usually make regular checks on my van and gear and get my vehicles serviced regularly. So, after 5,000km since my last caravan service, I thought it odd that on my last trip I applied the brake controller (about 7 years old) as I departed the caravan park and it didn’t work.
I have to admit I can’t remember the last time I did this, my big mistake.
Next … I get home and as I tend to do, gave the van a quick wash before storing in the garage.
This time, as the water hit one of the wheels, it began to steam. The non-mechanical side of me, thought the bearings were broken or the brakes were stuck, although I didn’t feel anything strange when towing … I also thought it was time for an expert.
Step One: Let’s look at the controller.
I’d been considering changing anyway and had looked at the Redarc Tow Pro. First thing I did was ring technical support at Redarc and checked if I could simply unplug the old one and plug theirs in. Not possible and considering we are talking vehicle brakes here, I figure a good auto electrician can look at the connection and plugs and get things sorted correctly, quickly and safely.
Decision made … I get the new controller and get it wired, step one almost complete.
The other good thing about this controller is that it has a simple knob that can be mounted on the dash with the actual unit hidden away at any angle. It also has an auto mode for normal road driving, plus a manual mode for driving off-road. A push of the button in both modes applies the brakes when required. My old controller had a sliding lever that I had to fiddle around and locate, not the greatest in an emergency.
Step two: Get the brakes checked.
Hook the van up, calibrate the controller (simple instructions, both written and a video online), do a quick check and head off to my van service centre.
What do you know, they worked first time, well, as best they could.
Then I get that dreaded phone call … the brakes are well … cactus!
It was suggested that I change a few things, upgrade to a better setup that suited a bit of off-road work, not the cheapest option (I was given options), but once again this is brakes we are talking about.
Pictures attached show some of the damage, cracked pads, worn this, that and the other thing (yeah that’s the technical terms I use), one of the whatchamacallits was loose and even flapping a bit probably causing additional damage.
Here’s the wrap up.
Test your van brakes regularly, get into the practice of applying them as you first take off.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary … get it checked.
Know how to use your van brakes and controller correctly.
Service regularly … a general rule of thumb is after 10,000km or once a year.
If you have to replace anything, don’t cut corners, go for good quality products.
If you travel on a lot of dirt or through water … check or get everything checked by an expert.
Use a qualified maintenance team … particularly when it comes to brakes.
Consider what brake controller you use and how easy yours is to access and use.
By the way if your van starts to sway, you brake your van not your vehicle, so they have to work.
Don’t take anything for granted or be complacent, check and re-check.
Learn what a whatchamacallit is!