Guide to adding brakes to a popup camper axle

Discussion in 'Tires / Brakes / Bearings / Axles' started by Dubbya, Aug 6, 2014.

  1. Dubbya

    Dubbya Wherever you go, there you are...

    Aug 2, 2011
    Steinbach, MB
    Since our camper was just under the legal weight limit of 960 kg's (2100 lbs), brakes were not legally required but having recently received a bill totaling $270 from the mechanic for new brake calipers and pads on our F-150 pickup, I decided it was time to add them to our '96 Viking 2060ST.

    It should be mentioned that I'd already converted the truck's and the camper's four pin plugs to a seven pin and that the camper's wiring was ready before the brake kit ever showed up. Your's may not require a 7 pin as a 5 pin or (better) 6 pin will suffice.

    If you're considering this project, you'll need to add a 5 pin, 6 pin or 7 pin plug and wiring to both the tow vehicle and camper. The differences between them are pretty basic and your car dealer will probably have a factory plug and wiring harness that might be reasonably priced if you're willing and able to install it yourself. Failing that, will most likely have everything you need.

    • 5 pin: signal lights, marker and stop lights with brake wire (blue)
    • 6 pin: signal lights, marker and stop lights with brake and 12v charge wire
    • 7 pin: signal lights, marker and stop lights with brake, 12v charge wire and reverse lights

    Again, if you're going to do this conversion, just follow the instructions available at eTrailer and remember that you're wiring an RV. If everything's as it should be, the colours will match up with their guide but note that it's not at all uncommon for colours to be mixed up, especially in a used camper.

    Use a test light and a marked degree of patience to determine what goes where. You can solder or use crimps, that's up to you. I use crimps, but cover them with heat-shrink tubing and protect them with wire loom. It's cheap insurance and makes securing the wires with zip ties a cinch.

    While putting together a parts list, I began perusing the Dexter Axle website and came across a complete 7" brake kit for 2000 lb axles and had a friend who owns a local trailer repair shop order it in. I've compared prices at R&P Carriages eBay store but since I needed the kit shipped to Canada, the shipping and customs fees were prohibitive.

    If you're looking for a complete brake package, here's the link to R&P Carriages eBay store. In addition to the brakes and bearings, they've got tons of useful information regarding installation and note that they do come highly recommended by several members here at the portal. Just scroll down the left menu to locate the brake kits.

    Here's the link to the Dexter Axle website with their 7" brake kits for 1" (actually 1-1/16") spindles. Just choose the kit you need be it a 4 on 4" bolt circle or 5 on 4.5" bolt circle.

    Being that my camper has the 4 on 4" bolt circle (4 studs measuring 4" center to center), here's the kit I ordered:

    K71-509-00 Complete 7" Electric Brake Kit for a 4" bolt circle (with four bolts).
    Price: $374.34
    (again, this is MSRP and NOT what I actually paid)

    Converts one idler axle to 7" electric brakes and 440 bolt circle. Includes both right and left hand brake assemblies with hub and drum.

    • (4) Bearing Cone (031-031-02)
    • (2) Grease Cap (021-003-00)
    • (8) Wheel Bolt (007-040-00)
    • (2) Spindle Nut (006-001-00)
    • (2) Cotter Key (019-002-00)
    • (8) Hex Nut (006-017-00)
    • (2) Grease Seal (010-009-00)
    • (2) Hub-Drum 4 on 4.00 Bolt Circle (008-173-16)
    • (1) 7 x 1-1/4 Electric Brake Left Hand (023-047-00)
    • (1) 7 x 1-1/4 Electric Brake Right Hand (023-048-00)
    • (1) Operation Maintenance Manual (LIT-001-00)

    The only things that were not included were the dust plugs (#046-007-00 adjuster slot plugs) and the Maintenance Manual. No sweat, here are the relevant installation instructions, service manual, and parts catalog.

    Note that while the Spindle nuts, tang washers and cages for EZ-lube axles were included, I didn't need them since my spindles don't have the flat spot that allows you to slide the tang washer or cage on.

    When the time came, I simply reused the original castle nuts. Your mileage may vary and this kit might be just the ticket if you've got EZ-lube axles but camper doesn't. No matter, I prefer to repack and inspect my wheel bearings anyway.

    Since the drums come with the bearing races factory installed, all you have to do is pack the bearings, install the seal and they're ready to go.

    To begin with, I secured the axle on jack stands then removed the wheels to access the stock idler hubs:


    I carefully removed the axle caps using a hammer with a thin, flat pry bar then removed the cotter pin.


    Then removed the castle nut to free the hub assembly from the axle spindle.


    After removing the hub assembly from each wheel, I wiped off the old grease and debris and inspected the spindles.


    The brake assemblies are easily installed in the brake flanges which you should find already welded to the axle.


    Using the 11/16" nuts are included with the kit, I mounted the brake assemblies. Note that it's a little tough to use a socket and ratchet on the nuts as one or two may be obstructed by the torsion axle. No matter, an 11/16" wrench will do the job.


    With the brake assemblies mounted, I packed the bearings using high temperature, high pressure wheel bearing grease. I've used Mobil1 Synthetic grease in the past and very much like it but the parts store didn't have any on hand.


    Here's a helpful video from demonstrating how to pack/repack bearings and install the grease seal.

    Here's another demonstrating how to pack bearings and EZ-lube axles.

    With the inner bearing packed and set inside the drum, using a piece of plywood and a few careful blows with a hammer, I installed the grease seal. If you're going to do this, be careful not to drive the seal in too far and make sure it's in straight so that it seals properly.


    With the drums placed on the spindles, I inserted the freshly packed outer bearings, castle nuts, cotter pins and axle caps before I turned my attention to wiring the brakes.


    With all the wire run and the ground wires screwed into the frame, I secured everything in place with wire loom and zip ties, careful to secure the wiring to the torsion axle prior to running it through to the frame so that in the event that a tire blows, hopefully it won't take out the brakes and so that the axle can travel without pinching the wires. Again, all connections and terminals are protected by heat-shrink tubing.


    After an initial brake adjustment, I put the wheels back on and removed the jack stands before installing a new Tekonsha Primus IQ brake controller and OEM connector cable from Easy peezie, lemon squeezie. Again, the truck was already wired up with a tow package. All I had to do was mount the brake controller and plug it into the existing wiring.

    This video from eTrailer shows how to install a brake controller:


    Here's a great guide for adding brakes and wiring to a trailer that doesn't already have them. Plenty of helpful tip in the video:

    Here's another video from eTrailer that shows how to install and adjust new electric trailer brakes.

    With the brake controller installed and the camper hooked up, I set the power level on the Primus IQ to 6.0 and headed off to warm up the brakes. Once I got everything dialed in, it was as if the camper wasn't even there. Man, what a difference.

    So totally worth doing.
  2. swordfish

    swordfish Well-Known Member

    Sep 27, 2010
    Awesome, Dubbya.
    Start taking orders?
  3. Dubbya

    Dubbya Wherever you go, there you are...

    Aug 2, 2011
    Steinbach, MB
    Yeah, with all the eTrailer references, they should put me on the payroll or at least award a bird dog fee! [;)]
  4. tsc

    tsc Member

    Aug 20, 2008
    SW Ontario, Canada
    Awesome write up. Thank you

    As to us Canuk's.

    The cheapest place to find trailer parts (if etrailer can't come through--they have a warehouse in Canada, and stock some parts) is and Princess Auto
  5. Dubbya

    Dubbya Wherever you go, there you are...

    Aug 2, 2011
    Steinbach, MB
    Yeah, I've shopped both places but the shipping costs at Cerka are what kills the deal there and it was still cheaper to buy the kit through my buddy than to buy the separate parts from Princess Auto.

    No worries, I'm a true patriot! I shop at PA whenever I can! [LOL]
  6. xshield

    xshield New Member

    Feb 11, 2011
    Thanks for the write up.
  7. unclemark

    unclemark Overland Park, KS

    May 15, 2014
    Overland Park, KS
    Great information. Thanks.
  8. Canoe2fish

    Canoe2fish Member

    Apr 14, 2014
    Perfect, just the answers I was looking for
  9. Dubbya

    Dubbya Wherever you go, there you are...

    Aug 2, 2011
    Steinbach, MB
    One thing I forgot to mention is the trailer breakaway switch.

    Be sure to check with your state or provincial highway requirements on trailers. In addition to brakes, you may require a trailer breakaway switch.

    There are a couple of basic options here but if you've already got a 12v battery on the pup, adding a breakaway switch is a cinch shouldn't cost more than $15-$20 and will only require two connections and you can have it installed in as little as a 1/2 hour.

    Breakaway switch installation:

    Installing a breakaway switch (if you already have a battery on the trailer)

    Installing a breakaway kit (switch, battery with charger) (if you don't already have a battery):

    If you don't already have a battery and don't plan on adding one, you'll need a breakaway battery to power your brakes in the event that the trailer does come uncoupled.

    Realistically, the safety chains should prevent the trailer from rolling down the freeway unescorted but nonetheless, if it's a requirement, you'll need to add the breakaway switch.

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