Your caravan brakes squealing may ruin your caravanning adventure. Squealing is the high-pitched noise you hear when you depress the brake pedal. Caravans differ from cars in use, so it’s essential to know why your caravan brakes squeal and find possible fixes.
Overloading your caravan is the primary reason the brakes squeal when you’re braking. This means you apply extra pressure on the pedal to slow down your trailer. Eventually, this pressure causes the brake pads to overwork and therefore produce heat. The pads become glazed, causing the squeal.
This article will explain why your caravan brakes squeal and suggest possible fixes. It shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
Why Your Caravan Breaks Are Squealing
Brake glazing crystallizes or hardens the brake’s friction material due to excess heat between the brake pads and the disks. The hardened surface on the pads also adheres to the brake disk, causing the frictional effect to diminish significantly.
When the hardened friction material builds unevenly on the disk, the result is:
- Reduced brake performance
- Brake shudder
- Squeal, or
This may also cause fractures on the brake pads, so you need to check them frequently.
Brakes glazing can cause your caravan brakes to squeal. Glazing occurs when you press the brakes beyond the temperature limits of their friction material. Repeated hard or sudden braking from overloading, overspeeding, or a stuck calliper can overheat the brake pads enough to cause glazing.
Common Factors That Can Affect Caravan Breaks
Modern caravans come with electric braking systems, efficient on most camper trailers and caravans.
Your caravan’s electric braking system comes equipped with an electric controller. An electric current feeds into the electric controller when you engage the towing vehicle’s brakes, which activates the stoplights.
Heavy-duty wiring passing through the caravan’s connecting plug and socket activates the brakes. This makes your trailer or caravan come to a stop automatically when you brake the towing vehicle.
In perfect working condition, an electric braking system should let you slow down both the towing car and the caravan smoothly like an uncoupled tow vehicle.
But there are reasons why even such elaborate braking systems squeal, as highlighted below.
- An old and used electric braking system
- Uneven braking pressure
- Worn-out brake pads
- Weather conditions
- Dust and other objects embedded on the brake pads and the disks
An Old or Used Electric Caravan Braking System
The electric braking system helps you comfortably brake the tow vehicle and the caravan as one unit. The system includes:
- An actuating arm
- Reactor spring
- Small front shoe
- Large rear shoe, and
- A shaft
Watch this YouTube video to understand how a caravan’s electric braking system works.
Caravans and heavy campers mostly experience problems with their braking systems when driving down mountainous regions. Overheating is often cited as one significant concern. And this can’t be truer even for regular cars as, normally, you continuously keep your foot on the braking pedal when driving downhill.
The rear brake drums in caravans are prone to overheating when lightly braking downhill.
The negative effects of overloading on caravan breaks cannot be overemphasized. It takes a great deal of pressure on the brake pads (and brake disks) to slow down or bring to a stop a heavy trailer. You’ll feel the urge to depress the pedal even further when you notice your towing vehicle isn’t slowing down as you’d expect.
Applying more pressure on the pedal means the brake pads will overheat, causing glazing. And from the previous section, you already know how glazing causes your caravan brakes to squeal.
Uneven Braking Pressure
A stuck calliper may be the reason behind an uneven braking force. When you release the brake pedal, the return spring on the callipers should pull back the brake pads to avoid contact with the drum.
However, if the spring is old, therefore with less tension, it may fail to pull back the pads, causing them to be in contact with the drum. This will lead to overheating, which often leads to squealing.
Worn-Out Brake Pads
Worn-out brake pads make a squealing noise when you press the brake pedal. Typically, manufacturers include a small soft metal piece in brake pads called a wear indicator. When the pads wear to a certain level, this metal piece is exposed and rubs against the brake rotor, effectively causing the squealing sound.
Wet or cold weather conditions may cause your caravan’s brake to squeal. A build-up of moisture on the brake pads may increase the friction between the brakes and the disk, causing a squealing sound.
Freezing conditions in winter may also freeze some of your caravan’s brake components, making them produce a loud noise.
Dust and Other Objects Embedded on the Brake Pads and the Disks
Debris and dirt trapped between the brake pads and the disks may cause vibrations that produce a high-pitched squeal. This is the same squeal you get with regular cars.
The squeal is more pronounced when driving at a slow speed and tends to disappear when you increase the speed.
How To Fix Squealing Caravan Breaks
There are several fixes available to stop your brakes’ squealing. I recommend having your caravan’s braking systems checked by a qualified technician, given the multiple reasons behind it. It would be best if you didn’t risk driving with potentially faulty brakes by misdiagnosing the problem with your braking system.
These are the common fixes for squealing brakes:
1. Replace Worn-Out Brake Pads
Regularly check the condition of your caravan’s brake pads and replace them when they are due. However, when you hear the squealing sound, have a mechanic determine its cause. If worn-out brake pads are the reason behind it, then replace them.
I’d recommend you stick with the same brake pads as the manufacturer fitted. Slight differences in the pads’ friction material composition may increase your brakes’ noise and squeal.
2. Clean Glazed Brake Rotors
There is no saving permanently hardened brake pads. The solution lies in replacing them with new ones. But you’d want to know the reasons for glazing so it doesn’t happen again.
Brake rotors rely on clean and smooth rotor surfaces to quickly engage and stop your caravan. The glaze on the rotor surfaces will diminish your caravan’s stopping ability which may topple your towing car.
Use a 1500 grit sandpaper tightly wrapped on a sanding block to remove glaze on your caravan’s rotor surfaces. Lightly sand the glaze off. As a rule, you should avoid putting too much pressure as it may scratch the surfaces.
3. Regularly Check and Replace Worn-Out Parts of Your Caravan’s Electric Braking System
Faulty electric magnets may cause your brake not to engage correctly. If the electric magnet doesn’t have sufficient power, it might not perfectly bind to the brake drum. That’s why it’s essential to have a technician check your systems regularly.
Invest in quality cabling to avoid common problems like low voltage and amperage. Low electrical current in the electric braking system may make you press the pedal aggressively to engage the trailer brakes. Pressing on the brake pedal too hard causes squealing; therefore, you’d want to avoid it.
For best outcomes, it’s best to work with one technician who’ll understand your caravan’s history and therefore make necessary recommendations or adjustments. If you find yourself in a position where you need to switch technicians, it’s best to inform the new one of all the changes made and past brake issues you might have dealt with.
4. Replace the Brake Fluid
It’s good to test the brake fluid for moisture frequently and replace it every two years or 30,000 miles (48,280 km). However, this is just a rule of thumb, so you should watch your caravan and towing car braking behaviours to determine when it’s appropriate to change the brake fluid.
Maintaining your braking system routinely depends on your driving patterns. You should flush the brake fluid if you frequent shorter routes with frequent braking. And a good mechanic will ask to flush it when replacing disks or pads unless you’ve replaced it recently.
Also, it would help if you asked your mechanic to bleed the brake system to get rid of air. Air bubbles in the system cause inconsistent braking performance. Uneven pressure by the brake pads on the drum or brake disks may cause squealing.
Maybe you can try this Comma DOT 4 Brake and Clutch Fluid (bundled with an X-Flow Type G 5W40 Fully Synthetic Motor Oil) I found on Amazon.co.uk. It’s fully synthetic and meets the standards of most automakers.