I was traveling down a canyon road last summer with my tent trailer in tow. We had to come to an abrupt stop on a downhill and the front brakes on my van started smoking (yikes!). With a full car with gear and family members, I was a more than nervous that our van would not help us stop if we had another close call. I started researching information about brakes and found them to be fairly straightforward to install thanks to the many videos available on YouTube and online articles.
Disclaimer: I’m not an auto mechanic. The following information does not constitute professional advice and is simply a list of steps of how I installed brakes. I recommend seeking a competent professional if you have any questions or concerns about following a similar process.
The most important part about installing brakes is getting all the right parts at first, otherwise you may end up with an endless project and a wife wishing she could park her car in the garage again.
The first step is to get information about your axle. Over the years, Livin Lite didn’t change much about the axels they used, but it’s good to double check that you are ordering all the right parts by contacting the manufacturer.
Disclosure: I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
- Electric brakes (right and left are different)
- 2x hub and drum assemblies
- 4x seals
- 4x bearings (inner and outer)
- 7-wire junction box – Example: etrailer.com or eBay
- Breakaway Kit (optional but recommended) – Example: etrailer.com
Recommended Tools and Supplies
- Crimper – Example: TICONN Crimping Tool
- Axle grease – Example: Valvoline Multi-Vehicle High Temperature Red Grease 14.1 OZ Cartridge
- Grease gun – Example: UTOOL Grease Gun
- Floor Jack
- Torque Wrench
- Heat Shrink Butt Connectors
- Heat Shrink Wire Connectors
- 10 or 12 Gauge Primary Wire – Example: etrailer.com or eBay
- Rubber mallet
- Paper towels (for wiping grease)
How to find what brakes, seals, and bearings to buy
There’s a few ways to find what kinds of parts you’ll need for the brake installation. The optimal way is to contact the manufacturer for the axel on your camper or trailer and simply ask them by providing them your serial number. The alternative way is to physically take apart the parts in the trailer and look at applicable part numbers.
Contacting the Manufacturer
You may be tempted to assume that all axels for a given model or year are the same, but that’s not always true. I highly suggest doing your homework and make sure you get the right parts.
- Take a photo of your axel serial number. It’s generally located in the rear and directly on the axel. If you can’t find that sticker, it may help to post a request on the Livin Lite facebook group and see if anyone else has your same year and model. For example, here’s what mine looks like on a 2015 10.0 model. Customer service at Dexter can look up by model or serial number.
- Call Dexter Customer Service with this information and ask them the following questions
- What part number or size are the seals?
- Mine was K71-716-00 (kit with bearings and seals)
- What part number or size are the bearings?
- Mine was K71-716-00 (kit with bearings and seals)
- What part numbers are the electric brakes (Dexter also makes brakes)?
- Mine was K23-047-00 (left) and K23-048-00 (right)
- Does the axel already have a flange to mount electric brakes onto?
- Mine does
- What type of screw pattern do the wheels use?
- 5 on 4.5in
- What part number is the hub?
- Mine was 008-257-05
- Is the bearing an EZLube?
- Mine has the EZLube connector
- What part number or size are the seals?
With this information, you should be able to do some searching online to find the appropriate part numbers for what you need to install the electric brakes.
Alternative Method for Part Identification
If you don’t know the manufacturer of your axel or there’s no serial number/model available, you could remove the tire and drum and look at the parts. The trouble with this solution is that the part numbers aren’t always on the seal and bearings so you’ll need to measure it and sometimes takes a guess. You could order a few different types and return those that don’t fit.
Buying the Parts
When purchasing parts, etrailer.com has a great selection and helpful customer service. They may not always have the best prices or all parts in stock, so I suggest shopping around. I was able to find a comparable package for brakes on ebay.com since etrailer.com did not have the hub/drum in stock.
List for my 2015 Quicksilver 10.0 from etrailer.com
|Trailer Wiring 7-Way Upgrade Kit w/ Junction Box and RV Style Connector||$50-75|
|Electric Trailer Brake Kit – 7″ – Left and Right Hand Assemblies – 2,000 lbs||$100-150|
|10 Gauge Primary Wire (~20ft)||$40-50|
|Pro Series Push-To-Test Trailer Breakaway Kit with Built-In Battery Charger||$50-75|
|Replacement Trailer Hub Bearing – L44649 (qty 4)||$20-25|
|Grease Seals (qty 2 sets)||$20-25|
|Trailer Hub and Drum Assembly – 2K E-Z Lube Axles – 7″ – 5 on 4-1/2 – L44649 – Pre-Greased (qty 2)||$150-200|
When I initially purchased items from etrailer.com, the hub/drum was backordered several months. They sent an alternative part, but it was for a different style of brakes. They were good and made things right by paying for the shipping to return the item. Since the hub/drum was backordered, I started to look elsewhere for parts and found a great eBay store that had some competitively priced parts. I ended up purchasing the following because the price was great and it included just about everything I needed. They didn’t have a breakaway kit, but that could be purchased separately.
Start by loosening the lug nuts on the tire. You’ll want to do this before jacking up the trailer because it’s easier to loosen the bolts when the trailer is chocked and lowered so there is some weight on the tire.
Next, you’ll want to jack up the trailer. I found out after I installed the brakes that it does matter where you position the jack (axel vs frame). At first I put the jack on the axel and learned that is generally not recommended. Instead, position the jack stand on the frame of the trailer next to the axel. You may be tempted just to use a hydraulic jack and not a jack stand, but that’s also not recommended for safety reasons. In some of the photos, I jacked up the trailer on the axel which is not recommended. I later changed to using the frame.
Once it’s jacked up, remove the tire by finishing removing the bolts. The kit I purchased included replacement bolts, but I used the OEM bolts because I thought they looked better.
Here’s a photo of the tire removed.
Next, remove the EZLube rubber cap.
Then remove the grease cap. I found that a rubber mallet worked really well. I just hit it in on the side and it came off after 4-5 fairly forceful taps.
The grease will be exposed at this point. I recommend grabbing a roll of paper towels and wipe it as you go.
Now you can remove the nut seal. It’s attached like a clip so a careful pry of a screwdriver should remove it quickly.
Now you can remove the nut (after a bit of grease cleanup). Note that it shouldn’t really be on that tight, but tight enough to not move too much.
With the nut removed, you can now remove the washer.
Here’s a photos of the cleaned 3 parts.
With those parts removed, you can now access the outer bearing (might need to clean some grease).
With the seal removed, the drum should be pretty loose and can be removed easily.
Removing the hub will also remove the inner seal and bearing. Finish up this part by cleaning up the remaining grease.
Now it’s time to install the electric brakes. Slide it on and screw in the 4 bolts (included in the package that I purchased, note that etrailer.com brakes don’t normally come with the bolts so be sure to buy those separately or pick them up at Home Depot). When installing the brake, make sure the magnet is on the bottom and the “C” bracket is facing the front. In the photo below, the front of the trailer on the left.
The next part can be a little confusing for first timers. First, grease the inner bearing and insert it in the hub/drum and then add the seal. I used a block of wood and a hammer to ensure that the seal was inserted without any marks. Youtube has a few videos that are helpful understanding this step.
To help illustrate which direction to put the bearing, here’s how they will look inside the hub/drum, but without the hub installed. Note that you wouldn’t install the seal and bearing like this, they need to be installed in the hub/drum first (and the bearing should be pre-greased).
Position the seal level before using a block of wood to pound it in.
Here’s what the seal should look like once it’s been inserted.
Now take the hub/drum and slide it on the axel.
Grease and insert the bearing so that it’s facing inward.
Now add the washer.
Then the axel nut. Note that you don’t need to screw it on really tight. Just get it fairly tight and then a 1/4 to 1/2 turn with a wrench.
Add the locking pin/nut lock on next.
Add the grease cap next. This part was a little tricky for me because it seemed like it wasn’t going to fit. The kit I purchased came with a replacement cap. After a few good taps with a rubber mallet, it was secure.
Now you can fill that whole area with grease with the grease gun. When using a grease gun, you may find that detaching it is difficult, but it’s easy once you loosen the bolt at the end of the grease gun. You’ll know it’s finished when you see grease coming out of the seal. Give the hub a few spins and use more grease if needed.
Then add the decorative cap and the tire and secure the nuts (you’ll finish with tightening the bolts when the trailer lowered back to the ground)
Replace the EZLube black cover and the plastic cover. Then lower the tire and tighten the bolts to the manufacturers specification (as found in the manual).
Adjusting Brakes After Installation
After the brakes have been installed, they need to be ‘adjusted’ to that the pads are up against the hub so when electricity is applied to the brakes, they will stop or slow the trailer.
Some YouTube videos require a special tool to adjust the brakes, but a flat head screwdriver worked great for me.
The best way I found to adjust the brakes is to jack up the trailer so the wheel is free to move. Then use a screwdriver to move the adjustment bit up or down depending how tight or loose the tire is. After installing the brakes, it should be very loose. I can never remember if I need to move the screw up or down, but after making a few turns it becomes apparent if the tire is getting tighter or looser.
You’ll want to adjust the tire so that there’s a ‘light drag’. I’d suggest looking at YouTube as to what that means visually.
Here is a photo of the back of the brake:
Photo of a screwdriver adjusting or moving the screw up or down.
Note that when you have adjusted both the brakes, there is a period of time they need to calibrate and ‘set’. At first, I connected the trailer and tried the brakes and noticed they didn’t really work. I contacted support and they recommended ‘burning in’ my brakes by using them heavily at high speeds (45-50 mph) until they heat up. Once they cool, then adjust again and see if they work better. For me, it worked and I can now feel the brakes ‘pull’ the car a little bit when I use them.
Another learning is that these brakes are not strong enough to really lock up and completely stop the trailer on their own. So they do help, but I don’t think they will completely replace the brakes on the pulling vehicle.
My camper came with a standard 4 pin connector. This needs to be upgraded to a 7 pin connector in order to control the brakes.
For more information about 4 pin connectors, etrailer.com has a great information page about the different types of connectors.
I started the electrical install by clipping the head of the 4-pin connector and guiding the new 7-pin cable through the aluminum guide.
Pull the cables from the lights and the new cable inside the box.
Wire up the brakes on both sides with the purchased wire. Etrailer.com has a few good diagrams of one way to do it.
For my install, I connected the two wires all the way to the box and then grounded them all together. I then mounted the box using self-tapping screws.
Here’s what the finished electrical box looks like. The box I purchased came with a diagram on the box itself to help with installation.
Got a question? Was this helpful? Please leave a comment!
When I started the project, I didn’t really fully understand the following terms and wished someone would just create a list of terms that’s common with jobs like this.
Hub/Drum – This is the heavy steel part that the brakes will rub against to cause friction and slow the trailer.
Seal – There are two seals to keep the grease in the hub/drum
Bearing – There are two of these as well that spin on the axel. They need a lot of grease and sit next to the seals.