Are caravans braked? (+3 useful Tips)

In this article, we will answer the following question: Are caravans braked? We will explain a caravan’s braking system and its importance. 

Are caravans braked?

Most caravans are braked, which means that the caravan is equipped with a brake associated with that of the towing vehicle. The car and caravan coupling system have a direct impact on safety. It is therefore important to choose a braked caravan, especially if its weight exceeds 750kg.

Caravan brakes are essential for safety. Remember to regularly check the condition of the brake pads. Brake pads wear out faster than in the past because they are now made of fibreglass to replace asbestos, which has become banned. Less polluting, they are a little less efficient, a little noisier, but also and above all less enduring.

Checking the pads requires you to remove the wheels if your motorhome is not equipped with a warning light on the dashboard. The pads must have a minimum thickness of 2mm.

  • The brake pads last an average of 30,000 to 40,000km at the front which supports 70% of the braking power.
  • At the rear, they can hold up to 70,000km.
  • They must be checked every 15,000km.

A steel disc, no matter how strong, cannot effectively withstand the repeated friction of the pads. It is therefore just as important to also check the thickness of the discs and the condition of their surface (the slightest hollowed out groove deteriorates the pads). 

The manufacturers have defined a warning rating for each motorhome carrier from which the discs must be replaced (generally every two or three brake pad changes). A rear brake drum is subjected to the same constraints, it becomes hollow and scratched. As a general rule, it suffices to rectify it, its replacement being exceptional.

How important is brake fluid for a caravan?

The role of brake fluid is essential in the braking system of a caravan. By a simple action on the brake pedal, the brake fluid must transmit the braking force to the 4 wheels instantaneously and without loss.

The “braking force” is transmitted by fluid inside a hydraulic circuit (the brake fluid). The fluids being incompressible, the force is transmitted instantaneously and without any loss towards the pads which “tighten” on the brake disc.

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The quality of the brake fluid deteriorates depending on various factors:

  • It absorbs moisture from the air. A liquid abnormally loaded with water will boil under the effect of temperature rises. The gases mix with the brake fluid abd will then compromise the effectiveness of the braking and abnormally lengthen the stroke of the brake pedal, which can go to the floor. 

Humidity, therefore, lowers its boiling point (example: from 230 ° C to 165 ° C with only 3% water), thereby reducing its efficiency.

  • When the brakes are used often, this heat is inevitably transmitted to the entire circuit and degrades the brake fluid.

It is therefore essential to have the condition of the brake fluid checked once a year. A simple visual check of the level is insufficient. In addition to the level, the boiling temperature of the brake fluid should be measured.

To avoid any risk, it is therefore imperative to change the brake fluid regularly according to the recommendations of the carrier’s manufacturer.

Caravan brakes: discs and pads

These elements that are essential to your safety are also the ones that are observed the least often. And for good reason, hidden behind the rims, the brake discs and shoes are discreet.

The front brake pads last on average 30,000 to 40,000 km against 70,000 km for the rear discs. This lifespan will also vary depending on the type of journey and the driving of the vehicle.

In order to always know where you are with regard to these essential safety elements, it is necessary to have a regular check to avoid any unpleasant surprises on the road.

We therefore strongly recommend that you check the wear of the brake pads and discs regularly, either:

  • a check every 12,000 km -15,000 km or every two years for the Front braking system
  • a check every 50,000 km or every two years for the rear system.

In order to facilitate the manoeuvre, you will have to take care to remove the wheels beforehand (removing the rim). Another solution, if you have alloy rims with a sufficiently wide gap between the branches, is to turn the wheel as far as possible on the outside side (you will thus have good visibility on the brake pads, that on the disc remaining partial).

Checks to be carried out:

Brake discs: Check that there is no groove that will cause premature deterioration of the pad and loss of braking.

The thickness of the disc is your #1 wear indicator. Indeed, the manufacturers put an alert rating from which the discs must be replaced (see the vehicle manual). You can measure the thickness with a palmer or a calliper (an instrument allowing precise measurement).

 The inner and outer brake pads: The trim (this is the composite material that serves as a “buffer”. It is embedded on metal support) must have a minimum thickness of 5mm. Be careful, however, for long journeys, you must plan a change before reaching this limit.  Finally, be careful not to confuse the thickness of the lining with that of its metal support.

Final tips

You should always, always check the condition of the brakes before a trip:  

  • If the brake fluid is 2 years old or more, have it replaced by a specialist workshop.
  • If the front brake pads are more than 50% worn, have them replaced.
  • Pay attention to the quality of the pads, the references offered by the manufacturers are to be preferred because they have gone through draconian specifications.
  • At the same time, have the discs checked for thickness and replaced if necessary.
  • The condition of the dust cover boots around the calliper pistons should also be checked, and also replaced if they are torn.
  • If your wheel covers cover the entire rim, remove them; this will improve the ventilation of the brakes while driving and therefore their cooling.

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions on the content. 

FAQ on Are caravans braked?

How do the brakes on a caravan work?

Parking braking is ensured by this principle: Thanks to a compensating unit integral with the parking brake control brake lever, and mounted on the rod, it suffices, to immobilize the trailer, to pull the parking brake lever towards the back to the last tooth of the rack

How do you adjust the brakes on a caravan?

Here’s how you adjust the brakes on a caravan: With a screwdriver, turn the toothed wheel (light or top hole) in the direction of the arrow engraved on the flange (here clockwise) until the wheel “licks” when done. turn by hand. When she licks, come back up a notch so that it doesn’t lock anymore.

When do I need a registration card for a caravan?

What is the deadline for obtaining the registration document? After purchasing a caravan with a total permissible laden weight greater than 500 kilograms, it is necessary to obtain the registration certificate within one month of the date of purchase.


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