Your brakes are essential to the well-being of your motorhome, without well-functioning brakes not only will you be very unlikely to get an MOT or motorhome insurance, but you’re almost certainly going to be stuck with a motorhome that’s completely unsafe to drive. When it comes to brakes there should be no shortcuts taken; a motorhome is a weighty vehicle that really does take some stopping power so proper brakes and proper brake maintenance is an area where you really should be in the know.
The Limits of your Labour
Good brake maintenance is about knowing what you can and what you can’t do and the first rule is don’t tamper unnecessarily with your brakes. Not only should you be careful of doing permanent damage to expensive discs and pads, you’re also at risk of undoing their best properties altogether. If you’re not a competent mechanic, making brake adjustments without knowing quite what you’re doing is extremely dangerous and should be avoided.
Your brakes need a degree of lubrication with a specialist fluid known as, surprisingly, brake fluid. You can usually top up brake fluid from your bonnet and it should be done around every six months or so. If you’re doing thousands of miles a week, this should obviously be much more regular. It’s good practice to use new brake fluid to top up your motorhome; it’s prone to oxidising and going black if left for a long time.
Brake Pad Replacement
Normally motorhome brakes work a little bit like your rudimentary bike brakes. Attached to a disc that operates mechanically is a, usually, black pad that actually affords most of the stopping power. In doing this, it bears the brunt of the force of your motorhome and almost its whole weight when stopping. Because of this, brake pads obviously wear extremely quickly. If you can feel your brakes a little spongier than they used to be and your stopping distances in dry weather are getting longer, this may be the problem.
Serious Braking Problems
If you think you’ve got a serious braking problem with your motorhome, you may not get too many chances to check it out, so you need to take it very seriously. If your brakes are making unruly noises, squealing or only working periodically these are signs you may have something more serious wrong. Brake discs, callipers and the mechanical system which links your pedal to the brakes themselves could all go wrong. You need to be aware of this possibility.
Though your footbrake takes most of the brunt when you’re driving, your handbrake actually does huge stints and really does take some abuse. You can detect a handbrake problem much more easily than a footbrake problem and if you have difficulties applying the handbrake (i.e. it’s too stiff or too soft) you may have a problem. Equally, small movements when your motorhome is parked are a sign that you have problems that you need to sort out.
Long Term Storage
Your handbrake will wear over time, and if you’re putting your motorhome into long-term storage you’ll need to chock it to take the pressure off the handbrake. Good chocking will keep your motorhome completely stable but you should still apply the handbrake. Chocks are there to prevent your motorhome rolling away if the handbrake does fail, not to provide a replacement.
Brake Lights, Excessive Heat and Rust
More common problems with your brakes include difficulties with lights; usually this is just a bulb that needs replacing but can be more serious. A lose connection between the pedal and the light is possible so get it checked out and it should easily be fixed by a mechanic. Excessive heat could be a sign of brakes that aren’t properly calibrated and, though brakes will get hot, they should cool after around 20 minutes.
Rust is a perpetual danger for older motorhomes and rusty brakes will affect the feel of braking. Unfortunately most rust products out there will corrode your brakes, so you should probably opt for a full replacement.
Brake problems are reasonably easy to spot for motorhome owners but shouldn’t be ignored once identified. Take care to talk to a professional mechanic about any serious problems and though a change of brake fluid and a bit of use will solve many issues, it can’t fix everything. You can never be too careful with your brakes, so don’t be: get it sorted!