How and When to Replace Trailer Brakes

Dexter Air Brakes

Trailer brakes play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and efficiency of your towing experience. Over time, the brake components can wear out and lose their effectiveness, necessitating replacement. In this blog post, we will discuss how and when to replace trailer brakes to maintain optimal performance and safety on the road.

Understanding Trailer Brake Components

Before diving into the replacement process, it’s important to understand the different components of trailer brakes. Electric trailer brakes are the most common type and consist of a brake controller, a battery, brake magnets, and a brake drum assembly. These components work together to provide the necessary stopping power for your trailer.

Signs it’s Time for a Replacement

Regular inspections of your trailer brakes are crucial to identify any signs of wear and tear. Some clear indicators that it may be time for a replacement include uneven braking performance, excessive noise from the brakes, longer stopping distances, or brake pulsation. If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to take immediate action and look into replacing your trailer brakes.

Determining the Right Time for Replacement

While there is no set lifespan for trailer brakes, it’s generally recommended to replace them every three to five years or after every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the condition of the brakes can deteriorate more quickly if you frequently tow heavy loads or regularly travel in mountainous regions. Regular inspections and maintenance will help you determine the precise timing for replacement based on the wear and tear of your specific trailer brakes.

Steps to Replace Trailer Brakes

Replacing your trailer brakes can be done in a few simple steps:

Step 1: Gather the necessary tools and materials, including a jack, jack stands, lug wrench, pliers, wire cutter/stripper, and a replacement brake kit.

Step 2: Park your trailer on a level surface and engage the parking brake to ensure stability during the replacement process.

Step 3: Use your jack to lift the trailer off the ground and secure it with jack stands for added safety.

Step 4: Start by disconnecting the power supply to the electric brakes, which will allow for an easier removal process.

Step 5: Loosen the lug nuts on the wheels and then remove the wheels using the lug wrench.

Step 6: Locate the brake drum assembly and remove the retaining clips or bolts holding it in place.

Step 7: Disconnect the brake wires, typically connected with a wire connector, and remove the brake drum assembly.

Step 8: Inspect the brake components for any signs of wear, such as worn brake pads or damaged brake magnets. If necessary, replace the worn components with the new ones from your brake kit.

Step 9: Install the new brake drum assembly and reconnect the brake wires utilizing the wire connector.

Step 10: Secure the brake drum assembly in place using the retaining clips or bolts, ensuring a snug fit.

Step 11: Put the wheels back into their original positions and tighten the lug nuts.

Step 12: Lower your trailer off the jack stands and onto the ground, making sure it is stable before removing the jack.

Step 13: Test the new trailer brakes by towing your trailer at a low speed and gradually applying the brakes to ensure their proper functioning.

Regular Maintenance and Inspection

Finally, it’s essential to perform regular maintenance and inspections on your trailer brakes to ensure they continue to perform optimally. This includes checking brake fluid levels, inspecting brake pads and rotors for wear, and cleaning any brake dust or debris that may accumulate. By regularly monitoring and maintaining your trailer brakes, you can maximize their lifespan and keep your towing experience safe and efficient.


Replacing trailer brakes is a necessary maintenance task to ensure the safety and effectiveness of your towing setup. By understanding the components of your trailer brakes, recognizing signs for replacement, and following the proper replacement steps, you can maintain optimal performance and safety on the road. Regular inspections and maintenance will also help extend the lifespan of your trailer brakes, ensuring you can tow with confidence in every journey.

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