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Adding brakes to your utility trailer is easy and inexpensive

I just finished adding brakes to my 5x8 utility trailer, which turned out to be surprisingly easy to do. So I thought I would post a report:


I have been thinking for years that having brakes on my trailer might be a prudent investment, even though they are not required in the states that I use the trailer in. My trailer is a 5x8 utility trailer that weighs fully loaded 2200 lbs. I recently purchased a new tow vehicle that has an integral trailer brake controller with an anti-sway feature. So I thought I should investigate how hard it would be to add brakes to my trailer.


I found a 10”drum brake kit for sale at Northern Tool for $249, and used a coupon to reduce that to $229 plus tax. No shipping charge, since I picked it up at their store.


I discovered that if you have ever repacked your trailer bearings yourself, you have enough mechanical ability to install brakes on your trailer. All I had to do was pull off the old hub, attach a backing plate with the brakes already built in using 4 bolts that attach to a mounting plate that was already on my trailer, slide on the drum (which functions as the new hub), attach it they same way I would have attached the old hub, and the brakes were installed. They even came pre-greased with new bearings. All I had to do then was to attach wires, route them to the front, cut off the old flat 4 pole connector and attach the old wires and my new wires to a new 7 pole connector. That was it! I adjusted them and tested them, and they work.


One warning: resist the temptation to figure out how the brakes work while installing them. I could not resist, and partially disassembled one of them. That did not help my understanding a bit, and it took me some time to reassemble the brakes they way they were intended to be assembled. Instead, research it on the internet! The way they work is amazingly clever and non-obvious.


I figure that this minor effort and cost significantly increased my life expectancy as well as the life expectancy of my wife, not to mention innocent bystanders …

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Comment by Christina L. Towell on December 11, 2017 at 10:07am

Great advice and information, thanks for sharing it with us, Reid.  Thanks, too, from all the innocent bystanders...

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