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Old 05-11-2012, 03:02 PM   #1
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Trailer Brakes Weak?

I have a Cougar 292RKS fifth wheel. I'm thinking I might have a brake problem. I'm towing with a 2011 3500 Silverado with the integrated trailer brake controller.

I have adjusted all the trailer brakes but I cannot seem to get the brakes to the point of lock up even with the controller at its maximum setting. The brakes definitely are engaging but don't seem to be applying hard enough.

Any thoughts about where I might look for the cause?


Morgan, UT

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Old 05-11-2012, 03:13 PM   #2
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If you pull the breakaway pin while parked (batteries hooked up), what happens if you pull forward?

I know that controllers show how much current is going to the brakes, but I’m not sure how it arrives at that number. How much current is it showing going to the brakes?

-Scott, DW, DG, DB, and DD

2011 Passport 2590BH
2009 Ford F150 SuperCrew FX4 5.4L w/Max Tow
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Old 05-11-2012, 03:14 PM   #3
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Do you have the EZ-Lube wheel bearings? If so, they might have been greased without rotating the wheel. This might cause the bearing cup in the back to fail, and thus drip grease into the brake drum. Meaning that your brake shoes would be covered in grease.

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Old 05-11-2012, 03:17 PM   #4
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Ill try pulling the breakaway pin and see what happens.

The integrated controller does not have a current indicator so I'd have to hook up an external meter to find out. What kind of current should I expect?

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Old 05-11-2012, 03:26 PM   #5
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I do have the ez lube bearings. In fact that its exactly what lead me down this path. One of the grease seals had been damaged at the factory (metal part was dented) and when I greased the bearings I contaminated the linings on that wheel.

I replaced the linings and adjusted all the brakes. I don't think any of the other wheels have any grease contamination but honestly I haven't pulled them all. I discovered the one that had leaked by seeing the grease soaked lining thorough the adjustment hole. The other the wheels look dry. This is where i'm at now.

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Old 05-11-2012, 04:00 PM   #6
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Either the Keystone manual or the Dexter Axle manual (I forget which) mentions that you may not necessarily be able to lock the wheels depending on the size of the brakes, weight of the trailer, etc., so you may not necessarily have a problem. I don't think it is lining contamination as that should affect only the contaminated wheel (unless all are, possible but unlikely.)
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Old 05-11-2012, 05:42 PM   #7
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I had the same problem and found out I was losing voltage because the wire on the trailer was too small causing a voltage drop. I replaced all the wiring from the junction box at the front all the way back to each magnet. The factory wiring was 14 ga and according to dexter axle was minimum at best for the length of trailer I had. I changed it all out to 10 ga which is a little over kill but its what I had laying around the house. I had an increase in voltage of 2 volts at each magnet. It made a tremendous difference.
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Old 05-11-2012, 07:39 PM   #8
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I just had my brakes replaced yesterday because of grease seals leaking and contaminated the brake shoes. I never knew the brakes were defective until I took the 5th wheel in to have the bearings packed. This is the first time the bearings have been serviced in over 6,000 miles or since the unit came out of the factory. I believe the seals where defective from the factory brcause I have never noticed any change in the way the camper slows down to a stop since I bought the camper. I have been told that trailer brakes should not lock up because you could loose control of your truck and trailer if the brakes lock up. In the past 12 months I have had the brakes replaced on a 20 foot car trailer and now the camper, and the brakes will not lock up on either unit.

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Old 05-11-2012, 07:57 PM   #9
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My brakes don't lock up on asphalt either with my integrated controller. I am thinking that it is due to the 12k weight of my fiver. I will say though that the brakes do work well though. I have no problem stopping and the trailer brakes are grabbing.
I would also like to hear what others are saying about how their gm integrated controller behaves with a heavy trailer.
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Old 05-11-2012, 08:26 PM   #10
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The "lock the brakes" test of a trailer and brake controller is supposed to be done on gravel, not asphalt or concrete, and at about 15 MPH. As Steve just said, the heavier trailer pretty much precludes a true lock-up at that speed on asphalt.

I could lock up the brakes on my 25' Sunline (5,500# GVWR) with no problems, even at low speed on the highway. Had turn off the boost when towing in 30 MPH zones because they would lock up so easily.

I am using the same Prodigy controller with the Cougar and so far, no lockups. But then I haven't towed it in stop and go traffic either.

I have a friend who did a very precise upgrade of the brake wiring on his trailer. He used larger gauge wire and measured it in identical lengths for each brake. He said the improvement in braking was significant. It's on my list of things to modify this summer.


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