There is no single, definitive point where you must install new brakes in your trailer.
Instead, mechanics and brake manufacturers alike suggest keeping track of certain variables to help inform the general condition of your brakes. These variables, such as your trailer’s weight, towing frequency, distances traveled, towing terrain and even driving style will all affect trailer brake replacement schedules.
However, there are a few milestones to consider when maintaining the quality and integrity of your trailer’s brakes — as well as recommendations straight from your brake’s manual — and ensuring the safety of your tow.
1. At 200 Miles for Manually Adjusted Brakes
It’s recommended that brand new, fresh-out-the-dealership trailers see their brakes inspected and adjusted near the 200-mile mark.
Around 200 miles is the time when brake shoes and drums, two central components of the brake’s inner assembly, will have “seated.” Properly seated shoes and drums interact with your braking system’s electromagnet and core brake controller. Together, these pieces ultimately trigger the friction that stops your trailer every time you press down on the brake in the driver’s seat.
Without properly seated shoes and drums, the braking process will be slow, inefficient or — worst-case scenario — even dangerous.
After a 200-mile brake inspection, trailer brakes can generally be reviewed roughly once a year, during annual licensing inspections or as much as your trailer towing frequency requires.
2. At 12,000 Miles
In addition to annual brake system inspections, wheel bearings should be lubricated roughly every 12,000 miles. For regularly towed heavy-duty travel trailers and fifth-wheel RVs that see many miles on the road, those schedules could be more often.
Note, though, that greasing or “packing” bearings is not the same as replacing bearings. However, the two are similar processes in that accessing the inner and outer bearings will require comparable steps to all-out installing new brakes.
3. When Your Manual Recommends
Check the brake recommendations stated in your trailer owner’s manual or produced by your axle manufacturer. That manual should also explain the generalized, step-by-step instructions for how to install and replace your model’s specific brake components, adjust shoe seating and properly pack your bearings.
4. When Brake Performance Generally Suffers
Apply common sense when it comes to maintaining and replacing your trailer brakes. If you notice noisy wheel bearings, odd brake lags or differences in braking pressures, it’s time to inspect components. If adjusting brake shoes still doesn’t cut it, you could be due for a system replacement.