I posted this on BBC and thought I would share it here as well just in case some folks here are not on BBC.
Regardless of whether or not TX started the trailer inspections this year, I tend to be one to make sure things work right. Each time I thought I fixed them, something else would appear. What I hope to convey is the story and what I learned along the way in case someone else has the same or similar problems.
Background I picked up a 2000 Skeeter that came with an EZ Loader tandem trailer with surge brakes. I'm not completely sure of the entire lineage, but it came to me with a 4 prong plug which I knew was wrong. The master cylinder was completely dry. It also had the annoying clunk of a worn out shock in the tongue. The specifics on the brakes are they are a UFP system with the A-60 actuator. Bleeder valves on this one are 11mm. I was scared to dive into the brakes, but once I was square in the middle of it, it wasn't too bad. My background is that I'm pretty handy with a wrench and spent years while in high school as a small engine mechanic.
Chapter 1 I started with the basics. I pull the actuator apart and replace the shock to get rid of the clunking. I swapped the 4 prong for a 7 round hookup. I needed 5 of the 7 connections. I wired the reverse lights back up and connected the reverse solenoid. I filled it with brake fluid and made a feeble attempt at bleeding the brakes. After that, I had working trailer back-up lights and somewhat working trailer brakes. I didn't find this guys video on bleeding brakes until later. Wish I would have found it sooner.
Chapter 2 Now after seeing that YouTube video, I know for sure I needed to re-bleed the brakes correctly. That is when I round off the edges on one of the bleeder valves. I get the bleeder valve out with vice grips and pull one of the calipers and head to the O'Reilly near me to see if I can't find a replacement bleeder valve. I've got a guy there that is excellent in helping me find the parts that will work. Sure enough, we find a galvanized Ford/Mazda bleeder valve that will work. That saved me from having to buy two new calipers or having to go who knows were to find just the bleeder valve. While I have the calipers off, I go ahead and clean them up to make sure there is no gunk inside and polish the pistons. Brake fluid will gel if it has sat a long time. I turned down the compressor and used low air pressure to pop the piston out of each caliper. If you do the same, be very careful. Run high pressure air into the caliper and you could shoot a piston through you or the garage wall.
I get everything back together and bleed the brakes the right way this time for sure.
Chapter 3 Now that I really have the brakes working right, I find out that my reverse solenoid is not working when backing up. Vice grips get me through the pinch so I can back-up this time, but it is off to order a replacement solenoid. That comes in only to find out that I am leaking back in the tongue when in reverse from the drain tube, so the actuator is going to have to come apart again. The first time was less than a joy. Now I decide if I'm going back in, I'm going to go ahead and replace the master cylinder (it had a bunch of rust and [censored] in it anyway), the pins (the original ones had some rust and were not easy to get back in the first time, plus it looked like someone took a hammer to them and expanded one of the ends on each pin), breakaway cable (it was mysteriously missing) and wear spacers. The first time was such a pain, I was planning on going in just one more time and do everything right.
Chapter 4 I really dreaded this day. Pulling the actuator apart again was right up there with a trip to the dentist. I grudgingly start pulling it apart. I get it apart, and replace all the respective parts. Now back to re-assembly, it goes in much better than the first time. While it was not an easy slide, I get it worked in and once i get the top spacer past the hole for the master cylinder fill, it just slides right in. Woo Hoo!! Much easier than the first time. The new pins.... slide right in after I get the holes aligned. Much easier than the first time. I'm done. Well almost. I realized after I got the actuator apart that the reverse solenoid was really made to be connected directly to the master cylinder. EZ Loader had inserted a curved brake line between the master cylinder and solenoid that I removed and put the solenoid on the master cylinder as intended. What I had to do was get a standard steel brake line from O'Reilly to connect the solenoid to the main brake line, give it a little bend to shorten it and lower the output, and use a female/female coupler to connect from the actuator to the trailer brake line.
What I Learned I wish I would have found the YouTube video referenced above on bleeding trailer brakes first. I found some others initially that were not near as good as that one. For parts, went back to EZ loader for the shock until I realized I could find the parts elsewhere with better pics, availability, and prices. I found Trailer Parts - Trailer Tires & Trailer Wheels at Wholesale Prices. They have a pretty good selection of UFP parts and free shipping for over $50 plus their website was pretty good. Trailer Parts Superstore® - Shopping Index is another site you will see referenced for trailer parts. I looked at them, but didn't use them. The UFP diagrams for parts are a big help on developing your plan to pull the actuator apart and making sure you didn't miss anything you wanted to replace. If the actuator on my trailer had been a bolt on, I probably would have just replaced the entire actuator (i took a brief look, and I don't think the cost was much more than the parts to rebuild most of it). In my case, the actuator was welded on, and I really didn't want to go through cutting it off and welding a new one on. The last point is that the UFP system is a mixture of metric and standard. If you put a wrench on it and it doesn't feel right, try the closest metric option to see if that works better.
And that's my story of trailer brakes. I'm sure I left off some minor details of dealing with some minor things as they came up. Knowing what I know now and getting a trailer that was near 15 years old with suspect brakes, I would just jump to a rebuild like I did. However, the reality was that it was a learning process along the way and working through it piecemeal allowed me to come up to speed as I worked through the items. In the end, it wasn't as scary as I thought it was when I started.