Brakes for U-Haul? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-29-2005, 11:57 PM   #1
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Trailer: 1985 U-Haul 13 ft ('Toad Hall')
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As I live in the Pacific Northwest where there are lots of mountain passes and high speed freeways, I would like to put brakes on my 13 foot 1985 U-haul. My tug is a 1989 Jeep Wrangler with a 6 cylinder and automatic transmission. It has standard disc brakes in the front and drums in the rear, heavy duty axles and a Detroit locker. The wheel set up in my trailer is different than most as my bearings are sealed and pressed rather than hand lubricated and removable by a nut. What does anybody recommend for brands of electric brakes, availability, and installation problems. The Prodigy activator sounds like a good bet, but from there back it's a mystery. As far as I know, U-haul is the only one that has my wheel/bearing set up and I've never heard of any U-haul 13's that had brakes on them. If anyone has any ideas or has made the conversion, I sure need help.

Thanks, Jim C.
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Old 11-30-2005, 12:53 PM   #2
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Hello Jim C

I'm not an expert here but I did change the axle on my trailer rebuild. Brakes can be added to an existing axle without much trouble if your axle has a square four bolt flange right behind each wheel at the base of the spindle. Then you will need to purchase hubs with electric brake drums for your size of wheel. The brake assemblies need to be purchased also and then just a matter of installing them and wireing them to a brake away switch on the tongue and a controller in the tow.

If you don't have the flange they can be welded on and then the brakes will mount. Brake parts should be available through a local rv dealer or a trailer supply distributor. There are several on line sources also.

Another option would be to purchase a new axle with the brakes already mounted. This is only if your old axle is light weight and you want to upgrade or may be damaged. You have several options on the type of axle you can buy depending on they kind you now have.

One online source I know of is WWW.northerntool.com.

I hope that helps a little. Others can jump in and give their experiences.
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Old 11-30-2005, 01:54 PM   #3
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Jim, if you want to read about Axles from the manufacturers, etc. Check out this link: Axles and Running Gear (from the Helpful-Links page)

The link is a bit hidden right now because of the new software...that's why I provided it.
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Old 11-30-2005, 03:09 PM   #4
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You might want to get a hold of Ray Horner at
http://www.geocities.com/ttlic_2000/mbody.html

He is the U-haul expert.
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Old 11-30-2005, 03:16 PM   #5
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I don't know of any brakes on a 13ft UHaul.

I 'd say:
1. drive slower
2. keep longer distance from the vehicle in front of you
3. look down the road for hazards and act

Most of the UHauls have so many miles on them that I'm sure the need for brakes would be known by now and Scamp and Casita would have them on all units if needed. My little S10 2x4 4cyl stopped me truck and UHaul every time I wanted it to. I have not had it in snow, yet. But I have run it 25,000 miles or fully overloaded.

Just be careful

A.
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Old 11-30-2005, 05:07 PM   #6
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The Jeep is a short-wheelbase vehicle (only about 93"), not particularly well suited for highway towing, especially in mountains. In my opinion, adding brakes to the trailer seems particularly appropriate in this case.

As far as I have heard, the U-Haul axles use normal running gear, and brakes should generally not be a problem. If the mounting flanges are not there, there might be a problem: since the axle is presumably a Henschel Dura-Torque or similar "rubber torsion" design, in which the suspension arms cannot be changed, but at the same time at least some U-Hauls have a special bracket at the centre of the crossmember ("axle tube") for tongue mounting, a generic replacement axle assembly may not be readily usable.

Quote:
I don't know of any brakes on a 13ft UHaul.
Brakes are uncommon on 13' trailers of any brand. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be used, nor that they would be difficult to add.

Quote:
... I 'd say:
1. drive slower
2. keep longer distance from the vehicle in front of you
3. look down the road for hazards and act
Just as soon as someone figures out how to make everyone else drive better, and stop them from doing unexpected things, then I'll feel safe without adequate brakes.

Quote:
...Most of the UHauls have so many miles on them that I'm sure the need for brakes would be known by now and Scamp and Casita would have them on all units if needed.
Many millions of miles were driven in vehicles without safety and performance features which are now common, as basic as seat belts or as advanced as anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, but those features are still worthwhile. Scamp, Casita, and every other manufacturer supplies what the market demands; in travel trailers, the market demands very little mechanically. If these companies could sell trailers without suspension, they would, but that wouldn't make wanting suspension unreasonable.

Quote:
... My little S10 2x4 4cyl stopped me truck and UHaul every time I wanted it to. I have not had it in snow, yet. But I have run it 25,000 miles or fully overloaded.
I'm glad that no emergency stopping requirement has come up in this time. I wouldn't bet on that luck continuing. I think the question is rarely whether or not the rig will stop, but if it will stop in a short enough distance.

Quote:
... Just be careful...
I would characterize adding brakes to the trailer, in recognition of the specific tow vehicle and driving conditions, as appropriately "careful".
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Old 11-30-2005, 08:04 PM   #7
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If I remember correctly, you can't buy a Casita without brakes. It's standard equipment even on the 13' model. Tom Trostel
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Old 11-30-2005, 08:05 PM   #8
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If you have to buy a new axel with electric brakes, you will get your money back when you sell the trailer. In the meantime, better safe than sorry if it is a concern for you.
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Old 11-30-2005, 09:12 PM   #9
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My Burro 13 has brakes. I recently actually had them wired up!

Tho I was in no hurry to get this done, I should have been. I do notice a big difference and don't regret spending the $$$ to have it taken care of in the least.

Gary is correct, this was a big selling point for me when I looked at the trailer, even if I didn't use them at first. This was high on my list of desirable things.

Now, If I can just figure out the controller
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Old 12-01-2005, 11:14 AM   #10
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Here's an interesting comment from the Design Considerations page in the Dexter Axle Resource Library:
Quote:
[b]Brakes Requirements
Dexter recommends that all axles be equipped with brakes. For trailers used in commerce, the trailer axle(s) must be equipped with brakes unless the GAWR of the trailer axle is less than 3000 pounds and the hitch load imposed on the towing vehicle does not exceed 40% of the towing vehicles GVWR. For other details concerning commercial applications, refer to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations published by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The recommended practice for any trailer design would be to use brakes on all axles. The use of trailer brakes can help prolong the life of the tow vehicle brakes as well as provide for safer operation.
Of course it is in Dexter's interest to sell more hardware, but the same document advises against using their Torflex axles in triple configuations, so there seems to be some genuine attempt to encourage good trailer design and construction, rather than just selling more of their product.
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Old 12-01-2005, 01:13 PM   #11
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I am a big proponent of trailer brakes, even if I'm towing with the Excursion. Your tow vehicle brakes are sized to stop the GVWR of your tow vehicle, not necessarily the tow vehicle and a loaded trailer, even if it's only a 13' trailer.

Trailer brakes are absolutely necessary to regain control once a sway situation has begun. If you don't have them (or as in my case, the pigtail pulled out of the socket) once sway begins, you'd better hope that you can slow down fast enough and that your tow vehicle is heavy enough that you can control your towed load.

Regarding the UHaul... I don't know whether or not brakes can be retrofitted. If it has the square four-bolt axle flanges that the backing plates bolt to, then it can be so equipped. Frankly I don't recall whether they came that way from the factory or not. Jack Maloney could probably tell us.

My recommendation though, would be to look at an axle replacement rather than just adding brakes. An axle replacement will net you all new hardware and new suspension in whatever height (axle angle of deflection) with standard-sized hubs for standard-sized wheels. You won't have to search for UHaul wheels if you somehow lose one or one is ruined. Although the UHaul has the sealed bearings (and I didn't know that until fairly recently... the new axles can be had with an EZ Lube option.

The cost of axle replacement (even with the custom welding/fabricating work your UHaul may require to do an axle replacement) may be nearly a wash over buying brake parts alone. There are a number of axle manufacturers out there that are excellent; Henschen, Dexter, and AL-KO being the three that I've personally had.

Good luck. Price stuff out and see where you are financially.

Roger
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Old 12-01-2005, 03:15 PM   #12
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My UHaul is away for the winter, so I can't tell you anything about the axle design. HOWEVER...if your UHaul has the original axle, 20 years of use may make it a good candidate for axle replacement. If and when my axle fails, I will certainly replace it with one with brakes - it's well worth the few extra bucks.

Personally, I don't feel any need for brakes on my UHaul at this time, and the axle seems to be still in good nick. The UHaul, fully loaded, weighs about half of my Mazda MPV's 3,000lb. tow rating. And - contrary to what Roger says - I assume that tow rating is based on total weight of vehicle and trailer, and takes safe braking into account.
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Old 12-01-2005, 03:38 PM   #13
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I agree with Gina. I pulled by Burro for two years all over, even Yellowstone and back without brakes.
One too many panic stops made me get a controller. WOW! What a difference.
I should have done it as soon as I got the trailer.
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Old 12-01-2005, 06:53 PM   #14
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Quote:
...Although the UHaul has the sealed bearings (and I didn't know that until fairly recently... the new axles can be had with an EZ Lube option...
Dexter also makes Nev-R-Lube hubs with sealed bearing cartridges, although perhaps only on the D35 (3500 lb) series and larger. Although in Dexter's case these hubs require a less common bolt pattern, I would still rather have sealed bearings. Because they use different spindles than the basic bearing, both E-Z-Lube and Nev-R-Lube are only practical to change to when replacing the complete axle assembly.

Although Al-Ko's European line uses sealed bearings, I believe that their North American products do not.
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