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Hydraulic brake line failure on 5th wheel




One year ago last month, we purchased a new Lifestyle 5th wheel that came with hydraulic disc brakes. Everybody that I talked to who had hydraulic brakes on their 5th wheel, loved the system. Since hydraulic disc brakes have replaced drum brakes on all of our cars and trucks, it seemed logical to have the same type system on the trailer. I was excited to have the hydraulic brakes and still am, even though we had a problem with the brakes. But it was not a problem with the system, only with the installation.

Two months after purchasing the new rig, we departed on our summer trip which was to take us up to Jasper, AB Canada and then back down to Estes Park, Colorado. Our trip was to go through the east side of Glacier National Park, up to Banff National Park in Canada and then to Jasper. From there we would go to Edmonton to see the giant Edmonton mall and then down to Estes Park where we would spend the month of August as we usually do.

The first half of the trip went fairly well except for a number of things that we found wrong with our rig. Those items were talked about in the previous blog so I won’t go over them here. It wasn’t until we got to Douglas, WY that we had the brake failure. The day we were driving to Douglas I felt that something wasn’t quiet right with the brakes. I had to make a sudden stop to avoid a car in front of me and the trailer felt like it wanted to swerve.

When we arrived at the Douglas, WY KOA, my wife informed me that as I was backing the trailer into our site it was making some funny grinding sounds. I told her that it was normal for the trailer to creek a little as you maneuver in reverse. Her reply to me was that since she was the one always outside she didn’t think it was normal. So I had her get into the truck and pull forward and then back up so I could take a listen. It didn’t sound completely normal but I told her in my very confident way that it was okay.

We stayed in Douglas for several days waiting for our site to become available in Estes Park. On the morning of our departure, I decided to look up under the trailer to make sure nothing was coming loose. When I looked, I could see a small amount of fluid dripping down from the axle area. A closer inspection revealed brake fluid dripping from the hydraulic brake line. I went to the front of the rig to check the hydraulic reservoir. It was bone dry!

Since the reservoir was dry and there was fluid leaking out of the hose, there was no need in just filling the reservoir and hoping for the best. I went to the office and asked if there was an RV repair shop in town. There wasn’t but there was a mobile RV repairman 40 miles away in Casper, WY. I called Bob’s RV and told Bob about my problem. He came out that day and diagnosed the problem as a broken brake line. The next day he had the line replaced. He said that the line looked like it had been cut to a small degree during the construction process and just now started to leak. Sounded good to me! We completed our trip without any additional problems.

When we got home in the middle of September, we took the rig to our dealer with a list of problems for them to repair. However, one of the problems was a broken screw in the relief strip just under and in front of the bedroom slide out. When the technician looked at the relief strip, he said that there was probably a broken weld joint causing a small bulge in the side wall causing the screw to break. The rig would have to go back to the factory for repair. After some discussion, we decided that we should take the trailer back to the factory and that we would defer most of the other items and let the factory fix the problems correctly.

The earliest that we could be seen at the factory was this past April. We set the appointment for April the fourth. They had the trailer from Monday to Friday and fixed all of the problems that we had listed and found some other minor problems that we were not aware of. So we picked the rig up Friday morning and went back across the street to the Middlebury KOA. We stayed the weekend and left the following Monday morning.

As we were leaving, I didn’t think that the brakes felt just right but they seemed to be working okay. The next morning I thought that I should take a look at the hydraulic reservoir. It was bone dry again! I went to the office to ask if there was a repair shop in town. There wasn’t but the manager of the campground was a RV tech or sorts. We both looked but could not find any leak. His solution was to put fluid in the reservoir and see if it leaked again. My wife wanted me to call the factory and tell them we were coming back. I called the factory and they told me to put brake fluid in the reservoir and press on home. If we came back to them, we could be there for another week.

Our last night before getting home was in Texarkana, TX. The next morning I looked under the trailer just to check things out. I saw something hanging down from the opposite side from where I was dumping the holding tanks. I went to the other side and found that the same brake line that had the problem in Douglas, WY was broken in half.

Texarkana has several RV repair shops. I called each one and as usual, it would be at least a week before any of them could see us. I told them we were traveling and had to be home, but that didn’t matter. There was no way they could work us in!

Someone told me to call “B Truck and Trailer Parts”. I called and Billy Bob, who owned the facility, said to come on in and they would take a look. Their mechanic came out, took a look and determined that he could fix my problem. He also said that he knew why the brake line had broken again. It seems as though the factory installed brake line was too short and routed in such a way that it was rubbing between the top of the U-bolt and the frame. He looked at the other side and saw the it was also rubbing and was about to start leaking. His solution was to have a long brake line made up and then zipped tied so that it could not rub again. I told him to do both sides so I would not have to worry about the other side leaking. The whole process took about 5 hours but we were on our way home by three in the afternoon.

So what is the take away here? The same brake line breaks twice. The first mechanic fixes the brake line but doesn’t recognize the real problem. The second mechanic recognizes the problem and fixes the brake line and the problem.

I had a similar issue with my previous 5th wheel. On a trip, we had a shackle break. I found it prior to depart in Albuquerque, NM and had a mobile RV mechanic come out and replace the shackle because none of the RV repair facilities could see me in less than a week. When we got to Salt Lake City, UT, I found that the same shackle was about to break again. None of the RV repair shops could see me in less than a week. I called a Freightliner truck repair facility. They had me come in the next day. Their mechanic found that the mobile RV guy in Albuquerque had used the incorrect bolts causing the shackle to fail quickly.

This doesn’t say much for mobile RV techs. I have another story about a mobile RV tech in Loveland, CO but it will have to be another blog.

Brake line

Passenger side brake line that broke twice

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