How does a caravan handbrake work?

In this article, we will answer the following question: How does a caravan handbrake work? We will discuss the importance of the caravan braking system, including discs and brake pads. 

How does a caravan handbrake work?

Here’s how a caravan handbrake works, explained in three simple steps: 

  1. When you pull the handbrake, the wheels of the caravan must lock. 
  2. Under the caravan, approximately at the level of the axle, this rod is connected to a lifting beam which actuates a cable per wheel. 
  3. Each of the cables spreads the brake shoes apart and thus blocks the drums.

Caravan braking system maintenance is often overlooked when your safety depends on it. The braking of a trailer is equipped with an inertia brake. The sliding barrel of the head of the yoke of the caravan is pulled back. It engages the brake jaw control when the caravan brakes. 

When backing up after putting on the brake, you may feel a little blockage. So, to cancel the residual braking force, you just need to manoeuvre a little frank acceleration while handling. The handbrake on the caravan, on the other hand, guarantees a stop when going downhill. Be aware that when releasing the brake the trailer may come loose, so be careful.

Caravan brake holder

Maintaining the braking system of caravans is important and recommended. But, be aware that you can do the maintenance yourself. Cleaning the brakes, dusting, and lubricating do not need a mechanic.

Some parts, such as the sliding barrel, are easy to access. This will facilitate its maintenance. For lubrication, it is suitable for friction surfaces and joints. To maintain the braking system of your caravan properly, it is advisable to check the brake linings for wear every 10,000 km or every 12 months. 

The wear will be increased after repeated use in the mountains. Then, if the brake linings reach a thickness of 2 mm, you must replace them. He tends to know that when you’re dragging, anticipating braking is still necessary. But, avoid sudden braking, as it is bad for the braking system of your caravan.

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.

Are all caravans braked?

Not all, but 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.

FAQ on How does a caravan handbrake work?

How do the brakes on a caravan work?

Here’s how the brakes on a caravan work: 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 back to the last tooth of the rack.

How to adjust your caravan brakes?

Adjust your caravan brakes 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.

How to adjust the electric trailer brake?

To adjust the electric trailer brakes, release the gas pedal and apply the trailer brake manually until the car stops moving and you know how you go about it.

How to check the trailer brake?

To check the trailer brake, It must be braked without hitting when braking hard. If it hits, it will be necessary to adjust the screw at the rear of the drum by a maximum of 1/4 turn or two notches depending on the assembly.


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