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Old 10-27-2020, 10:15 PM   #1
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Towing a 1981 15 1/2 SB w/ a 2018 Toyota Sienna XLE

Hi All!

I recently picked up a 1981 Sunline 15 1/2í SB and Iíve got some questions about towing it with my 2018 Toyota Sienna XLE. Iíve read through JohnBís incredible post about towing (found here https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...ing-10775.html) and I think Iíve provided all the information requested when asking a question about the vehicle and the trailer it's towing.

I have three main questions about my set-up. 1. I know I need trailer brakes, can I install them with the axle and wheels I currently have? 2. Do I need a weight distribution hitch? 3. What about installing a sway control bar? Here is all of my information - please let me know if Iíve missed anything!

Towing Vehicle Information

2018 Toyota Sienna XLE FWD- according to this link (https://www.etrailer.com/question-321792.html) the XLE comes standard with a "towing package" which appears to be an engine oil cooler and heavy duty radiator/fan. I will need to install a brake controller. Iím considering this one (https://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Bra...rt/C51170.html). Thoughts?

GVWR - 5995lbs

GAWR - 3100lbs per axle

GCWR - 8900lbs

GTWR - 3500lbs

Unbraked TWR - 1000lbs

Curb Weight according to cars.usnews.com: 4750lbs

I installed a 2Ē Curt Class III Trailer Hitch - https://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Hit...eID=2018306404

There will be about 430lbs of passengers and about 200lbs of gear in the towing vehicle when heading out to camp.

The hitch is low to the ground (8Ē from lowest point of the hitch to the ground) when installed and drops to about 6" when the trailer is attached.

Trailer Information

1981 Sunline 15 1/2 SBDry Axle Weight - 1640lbs

Dry Hitch Weight - 150lbs

Dry Total Trailer Weight - 1790lbs

Estimated gear in the trailer: 300lbs

The trailer is level with the tongue about 11 inches off the ground.

It has one battery and one LP can up in front.

The hitch appears to have been, at one time, set up with a sway bar and weight distribution because it still has the ball welded to the trailer to attach the sway bar and then it has two hookup brackets also welded to the frame (one is bent).







The previous owner replaced the original axle and wheels about six months ago with one that was rated for 3500lbs (this is what he said, but I donít see that indicated anywhere on the axle) but it did not come with trailer brakes. Photos of the axle are below. Can trailer brakes be installed with what I currently have? In the attached photos I can see wires coming out of the axle that appear to be for electric brakes, but I also have no clue what I'm talking about.









These are the brakes and hubs I was looking at purchasing from etrailer.com. Thoughts? https://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Bra...BRK-35-SA.html (brakes) and https://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Hub.../84546UC3.html (hubs)

We are mainly planning to camp at places that are no more than 3-4 hours from home. We wonít be doing any travel over mountains anytime soon with this and mainly camp in campgrounds with full hookups but I wonít rule out state parks and more primitive camping if we can find the right places.

I've been looking at sway control and was eyeing this Curt sway bar (https://www.curtmfg.com/part/17200) in particular but I have no experience with this and would love to hear folks' thoughts.

So, to summarize, Iím asking three questions: 1. I know I need trailer brakes, can I install them with the axle and wheels I currently have? 2. Do I need a weight distribution hitch? 3. What about installing a sway control bar?

Also, here are links to high resolution photos of the above pics and more to zoom in and view details.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/190795...57716634594683

https://www.flickr.com/photos/190795...57716634609058


Thanks!
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Old 10-29-2020, 01:34 PM   #2
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Is the Toyota 4WD or just front drive?
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Old 10-29-2020, 05:31 PM   #3
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Just front wheel drive.
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Old 10-30-2020, 07:43 AM   #4
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OK the camper has no brakes so it would need everything from backing plates to brake drums and wiring to the tongue. The vehicle is probable pre wired if they call it tow package so the controller would just plug it. It's way too heavy not to have brakes. The next thing that concerns me is front drive if it had 4WD it would be heavier in the rear and make it more stable. It does appear to have the makings of a sway bar set up but that under better conditions probably is not needed. Another thing I would do is have someone weld a nice heavy plate over all the bolt holes in the tong. That's my thoughts maybe John will jump in with his ideals.
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Old 11-01-2020, 07:08 AM   #5
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Thanks Mainah!

According to the previous owner, the trailer originally came with brakes but when he had them replaced six months ago he just had them put on the current axle without brakes so I'm hoping there is wiring leading from the tongue of the trailer back underneath towards the axle. I haven't specifically looked for this yet but I will. There is a 7 way plug up there so I'm hopeful.

Also, are the backing plates for the brakes the square plate with four holes in it seen in this picture?

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Old 11-01-2020, 07:33 AM   #6
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Yes the flat plate with the holes is what the backing plate would bolt to. The brake wiring is pretty simple I kinda think the axle tube was prewired and if it once had brakes the wiring to the tong is probably still there. I don't think the hub that is bolted to the wheel will work with a brake drum dexter could tell you that.
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Old 11-01-2020, 08:50 PM   #7
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Brakes would be recommended, but may not be required depending on your state laws. In Pa, no brakes required if trailer is less than 3,000lbs and the trailer isn't more than 40% of the tv weight. So towing with my F350= no brakes. Towing with a small SUV = need brakes.
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Old 11-01-2020, 09:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mainah View Post
Yes the flat plate with the holes is what the backing plate would bolt to. The brake wiring is pretty simple I kinda think the axle tube was prewired and if it once had brakes the wiring to the tong is probably still there. I don't think the hub that is bolted to the wheel will work with a brake drum dexter could tell you that.
Thanks Mainah! I'll hit up Dexter to ask and report back.
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Old 11-01-2020, 09:35 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 264SRinPA View Post
Brakes would be recommended, but may not be required depending on your state laws. In Pa, no brakes required if trailer is less than 3,000lbs and the trailer isn't more than 40% of the tv weight. So towing with my F350= no brakes. Towing with a small SUV = need brakes.
That makes sense. When I was reading in my manual for the 2018 Toyota Sienna it said that the max I could tow with it unbraked was 1,000lbs. The trailer is going to be around 1,800lbs with gear, so I'm definitely over my limit. Maybe I'll pick up an F-350 when I'm out Christmas shopping so I don't have to worry about this anymore.
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Old 11-01-2020, 10:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 81SunlineTT View Post
Thanks Mainah! I'll hit up Dexter to ask and report back.
Hi,

I will get back to you on your tow vehicle questions, but I wanted to say this about the brake questions.

For sure, call Dexter customer service and tell them the numbers on the axle sticker.

Ask them these questions and any others you have.

1. What is the weight rating of the axle tube?

2. Is the axle spindle stub able to support a brake axle conversion? The axle spindle is the part where the bearings are and the brake drum will mount. I have not seen that sticker rating before and it needs to be confirmed the axle spindle is long enough to support a brake drum.

3. Ask Dexter, what brake part numbers do you need to get to complete a brake conversion? They will tell you all the Dexter parts needed to create a complete conversion on that size axle. Once you know the parts etc you can back into what actual brake size/capacity goes with that axle. A standard 3,500# Dexter brake axle uses a 10" x 2 1/4" brake setup, but your axle may be less capacity and a different size. Dexter can even quote you on parts direct. Once you know what to buy, you can buy from them or shop around.

Eastern Marine has good pricing on genuine Dexter parts, I use them often but I shop them around too as prices change. Just they charge freight, but sometimes it is not that much and out the door cost is cheaper.
https://www.easternmarine.com/dexter-trailer-parts

Etrailer is also good on Dexter parts, but it depends on the items. Etrailer does offer free freight when the order dollar limit is met. Use to be $99. Again it comes back to, out the door cost.

Some things to look for on your setup.

- There is a front and rear side to the axle tube. The wheel toe is set knowing which direction forward is. I cannot confirm from your pics, but the wire in the axle tube needs to come out the rear side of the axle tube. That wire hole in the tube should point to the back of the camper. If they have the wire hole to the front, you will have to turn the axle around.

- When looking at your brake wiring, look out front by the trailer tongue for an emergency brake away switch. Since the prior owner converted the system to a non brake setup, he may have removed it. Or it is a very old one and not any good. Moisture corrosion breaks them down over time. They do not cost that much, and suggest you install a new one even if there is a really old one there. The switch manufactures recommend changing that switch every 3 to 5 years. I know, that is not that long, most campers have never had them changed. They become a forgotten item.

This Bargman switch is what Sunline used on many of the campers. https://www.bargman.com/products/bre...rowqYnVlxW7q4=

Etrailer, Amazon and other places sell the switch. Curt also make the same switch. I have used both, they may even come out of the same mold other then the name. Side by side I cannot tell the difference, other then wire color, blue and black on the Curt and black and black on the Bargman.

https://www.curtmfg.com/part/52010

https://www.amazon.com/CURT-52010-Tr...4292268&sr=8-5

The pricing on either switch is all over the map. Same switch, just they are sold at different prices. Just look for the brand name that it is that brand.

Will be back on the tow vehicle.

Hope this helps

John
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Old 11-02-2020, 06:49 AM   #11
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When you have the brakes wired jack up one trailer wheel pull the pin, quickly try to turn the wheel then put the pin right back in! If left out for very long it will burn up the switch. They are meant for emergency use only if it burns up on the road no real big deal because it will be the least of you worries! The unbraked weight varies state to state here in Maine it's 1,000 lbs. Even with a big TV you would notice an unbraked trailer even your little one.
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Old 11-02-2020, 10:21 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnB View Post

For sure, call Dexter customer service and tell them the numbers on the axle sticker.

Ask them these questions and any others you have.

1. What is the weight rating of the axle tube?

2. Is the axle spindle stub able to support a brake axle conversion? The axle spindle is the part where the bearings are and the brake drum will mount. I have not seen that sticker rating before and it needs to be confirmed the axle spindle is long enough to support a brake drum.

3. Ask Dexter, what brake part numbers do you need to get to complete a brake conversion? They will tell you all the Dexter parts needed to create a complete conversion on that size axle. Once you know the parts etc you can back into what actual brake size/capacity goes with that axle. A standard 3,500# Dexter brake axle uses a 10" x 2 1/4" brake setup, but your axle may be less capacity and a different size. Dexter can even quote you on parts direct. Once you know what to buy, you can buy from them or shop around.
Thanks JohnB - I hit up Dexter this morning with all these questions and I'll let everyone know when I get a reply back.

Looking at my pics a little more closely I noticed that the wires in this photo appear to be coming out of the axle facing the front.



So does this mean the axle was installed backwards? You mentioned this matters to set the wheel toe and I think I've seen a lengthy post from you about this topic so I'll go re-visit it, but with more gusto this time.

Regarding the breakaway switch, I definitely don't have one and will purchase a kit to install once I square away the brake installation.

Thanks again for all your help!
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Old 11-02-2020, 10:22 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mainah View Post
When you have the brakes wired jack up one trailer wheel pull the pin, quickly try to turn the wheel then put the pin right back in! If left out for very long it will burn up the switch. They are meant for emergency use only if it burns up on the road no real big deal because it will be the least of you worries! The unbraked weight varies state to state here in Maine it's 1,000 lbs. Even with a big TV you would notice an unbraked trailer even your little one.
Thanks Mainah - I will definitely install the emergency break away switch and test it out this way.
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Old 11-02-2020, 07:35 PM   #14
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Measure the distance between the brake flange plates front to back I think Dexter on the smaller axles had zero tow in so it would not matter if the axle was reversed if the plates front to back measure the same it's zero toe in.
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Old 11-02-2020, 10:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 81SunlineTT View Post
snip...

Looking at my pics a little more closely I noticed that the wires in this photo appear to be coming out of the axle facing the front.


So does this mean the axle was installed backwards? You mentioned this matters to set the wheel toe and I think I've seen a lengthy post from you about this topic so I'll go re-visit it, but with more gusto this time.

Regarding the breakaway switch, I definitely don't have one and will purchase a kit to install once I square away the brake installation.
Ideally, the axle is put on the correct way. The issue is tire wear can be accelerated with an wheel alignment issue.

This is the specs Dexter and Alko told me.

Quote:
(source, Dexter tech service)
For Torflex axles: 0.00 degrees toe out to 0.31 degrees toe in
For leaf spring axles: 0.25 degrees toe out to 0.25 degrees toe in

(Source, Alko tech service)
For a loaded axle: 0.00 to 0.5 deg toe in.
Dexter bought Alko since I talked with the two companies and I'm not sure if they changed their thinking now that they are the same company.

If by chance, your wheel alignment falls into the Dexter spec with the way the axle is mounted now, tire wear can be OK.

I do not know what tools etc you have access to, but you can do a toe check with some duct tape, tape measure and we do some math on the end results to back into what angle the tires are at now.

This may be the post of mine you were referring too. https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...ics-10043.html

If you scroll down in the first post until you see me measuring across the face of the tires, you can try that method.

- Use a level and draw a caulk line or some way mark the 3:00 and the 9:00 location on the sidewalls of the tire facing the wheel. Do both wheels.

- Look at the tread pattern and duct tape the end of the tape measure at the 3:00 location on the front face of the tire. Remember the exact spot on the tread you taped the end of the tape measure too.

-Pull the tape across the camper to the opposite tire at the 3:00 location. Pull the tape tight and measure the exact same tread mark on the opposite side wheel. Try and be exact as you can in reading the tape measure. Split it into 1/32" even if you can. Record the number.

- Do the same procedure at the 9:00 location, record the number. Make sure you pick the exact same tread spot on this next measuring location as if you pick a different spot, the data will be mixed up.

- Tell us the brand and size of the tires so we can look up the OD of the tire, or you look it up and tell us.

If you are handy doing right angle trig. you can back into what the angle of the wheel and tires are pointing too. I can help do this for you if you post the raw data.

While 0 deg toe is ideal for a trailer, and it does happen sometimes, the axle has welded on spindles and there is manufacturing tolerances. You just do not know what your axle ended up as.

There is error in this method, the wheel is bent, or the tire mounted wrong, the axle bent, but you magnifying the angle by using the OD of the tire so it helps give a easy quick read. You have a new axle, new tires and wheels, so they are in your favor. If the data suggests an issue, you can put the camper on blocks or jack stands and then measure across the brake drum faces like I showed in that post, just the axle still on the camper. That is more accurate, but it takes more time and precision as the error is not as magnified.

When you get a response from Dexter, ask them what if mounting the axle backwards will do?

Hope this helps

John
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Old 11-02-2020, 11:06 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 81SunlineTT View Post

I have three main questions about my set-up.

1. I know I need trailer brakes, can I install them with the axle and wheels I currently have?

2. Do I need a weight distribution hitch?

3. What about installing a sway control bar? Here is all of my information - please let me know if Iíve missed anything!

Towing Vehicle Information

2018 Toyota Sienna XLE FWD- according to this link (https://www.etrailer.com/question-321792.html) the XLE comes standard with a "towing package" which appears to be an engine oil cooler and heavy duty radiator/fan. I will need to install a brake controller. Iím considering this one (https://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Bra...rt/C51170.html). Thoughts?

GVWR - 5995lbs

GAWR - 3100lbs per axle

GCWR - 8900lbs

GTWR - 3500lbs

Unbraked TWR - 1000lbs

Curb Weight according to cars.usnews.com: 4750lbs

I installed a 2Ē Curt Class III Trailer Hitch - https://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Hit...eID=2018306404

There will be about 430lbs of passengers and about 200lbs of gear in the towing vehicle when heading out to camp.

The hitch is low to the ground (8Ē from lowest point of the hitch to the ground) when installed and drops to about 6" when the trailer is attached.

Trailer Information

1981 Sunline 15 1/2 SBDry Axle Weight - 1640lbs

Dry Hitch Weight - 150lbs

Dry Total Trailer Weight - 1790lbs

Estimated gear in the trailer: 300lbs

The trailer is level with the tongue about 11 inches off the ground.

It has one battery and one LP can up in front.

The hitch appears to have been, at one time, set up with a sway bar and weight distribution because it still has the ball welded to the trailer to attach the sway bar and then it has two hookup brackets also welded to the frame (one is bent).
I started to look into your tow vehicle setup. You did a good job and brought a lot of good stuff to the post. You get a A+!

Getting info on your mini van is hard on the shipping weight. I'm trying to find a closer empty van weight, and the weight split between the front and rear axle.

I'm hoping Toyota may have be following other new vehicle manufactures and they post the actual cargo capacity, or payload weight that exact van has for it with all the options it shipped with. That will give us a real weight of the van subtracting the cargo capacity from the GVWR. Using the internet curb weight can be off by a fair amount pending added options.

Look on your drivers side door stickers. They may list it on the main sticker or on the tire load sticker. With some luck, that cargo weight will be there., Then all we have to do it find the axle split of the GVW. Some manufactures list the weight split in percent front and rear axle, others just list the weights on each axle. Trying to do a web search on this keeps bringing up the Toyota pickup trucks and not very much on the vans other then the van is rated for a 3,500# trailer with only a 150# driver in the van.

Let me know what you find out on the cargo weight sticker. The reason this is all important is, we need to see how much load your rear axle can handle before it reaches it's limit and then that helps answer part of the need on if you need a weight distribution hitch.

Hope this helps

John
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Old 11-04-2020, 07:56 AM   #17
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Quote:

- Use a level and draw a caulk line or some way mark the 3:00 and the 9:00 location on the sidewalls of the tire facing the wheel. Do both wheels.

- Look at the tread pattern and duct tape the end of the tape measure at the 3:00 location on the front face of the tire. Remember the exact spot on the tread you taped the end of the tape measure too.

-Pull the tape across the camper to the opposite tire at the 3:00 location. Pull the tape tight and measure the exact same tread mark on the opposite side wheel. Try and be exact as you can in reading the tape measure. Split it into 1/32" even if you can. Record the number.

- Do the same procedure at the 9:00 location, record the number. Make sure you pick the exact same tread spot on this next measuring location as if you pick a different spot, the data will be mixed up.

- Tell us the brand and size of the tires so we can look up the OD of the tire, or you look it up and tell us.

If you are handy doing right angle trig. you can back into what the angle of the wheel and tires are pointing too. I can help do this for you if you post the raw data.

While 0 deg toe is ideal for a trailer, and it does happen sometimes, the axle has welded on spindles and there is manufacturing tolerances. You just do not know what your axle ended up as.

There is error in this method, the wheel is bent, or the tire mounted wrong, the axle bent, but you magnifying the angle by using the OD of the tire so it helps give a easy quick read. You have a new axle, new tires and wheels, so they are in your favor. If the data suggests an issue, you can put the camper on blocks or jack stands and then measure across the brake drum faces like I showed in that post, just the axle still on the camper. That is more accurate, but it takes more time and precision as the error is not as magnified.

When you get a response from Dexter, ask them what if mounting the axle backwards will do?

Hope this helps

John
Thanks JohnB - I will give this a shot when I am back at the trailer. I found this picture of a tire (sorry it doesn't include the entire tire) that includes, hopefully enough, helpful information.

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Old 11-04-2020, 08:13 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnB View Post
I started to look into your tow vehicle setup. You did a good job and brought a lot of good stuff to the post. You get a A+!

Getting info on your mini van is hard on the shipping weight. I'm trying to find a closer empty van weight, and the weight split between the front and rear axle.

I'm hoping Toyota may have be following other new vehicle manufactures and they post the actual cargo capacity, or payload weight that exact van has for it with all the options it shipped with. That will give us a real weight of the van subtracting the cargo capacity from the GVWR. Using the internet curb weight can be off by a fair amount pending added options.

Look on your drivers side door stickers. They may list it on the main sticker or on the tire load sticker. With some luck, that cargo weight will be there., Then all we have to do it find the axle split of the GVW. Some manufactures list the weight split in percent front and rear axle, others just list the weights on each axle. Trying to do a web search on this keeps bringing up the Toyota pickup trucks and not very much on the vans other then the van is rated for a 3,500# trailer with only a 150# driver in the van.

Let me know what you find out on the cargo weight sticker. The reason this is all important is, we need to see how much load your rear axle can handle before it reaches it's limit and then that helps answer part of the need on if you need a weight distribution hitch.

Hope this helps

John
Thanks JohnB -

I took a look at the stickers on the driver's side pillar and here's what I've got:

Main Sticker:
GVWR: 5995lbs
GAWR: FRT 3100lbs with P235/60T17 Tires 17X7J Rims
GAWR: RR 3100lbs with P235/60R17 Tires 17X7J Rims

Tire Sticker:
Combined weight of occupants and cargo should never exceed 1290lbs

Extra Sticker:
Caution: modifications have been made to this vehicle reducing the original carrying capacity by 23lbs.

Thanks again!
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Old 11-04-2020, 04:13 PM   #19
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Just talked to Dexter - they said the serial number I gave them came back to just the idler beam and they need a little more information before giving me a complete answer, but they did tell me the following:

1. It is a 3,500lb rated axle.

2. Brakes can be installed. The left brake will be part# K23-468-00 (self adjusting) and the right brake will be part# K23-469-00 (self adjusting).

Before answering the questions about being installed backwards and which brake hub I need, they wanted the hub number found on the axle, which should start with an 8 and have three additional numbers after that (8-XXX).

When I'm at the trailer next I'll grab that information and then give them a call back to ask about hub part numbers and the backwards installation.
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1981 Sunline 15 1/2' SB
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Old 11-04-2020, 06:34 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 81SunlineTT View Post
Just talked to Dexter - they said the serial number I gave them came back to just the idler beam and they need a little more information before giving me a complete answer, but they did tell me the following:

1. It is a 3,500lb rated axle.

2. Brakes can be installed. The left brake will be part# K23-468-00 (self adjusting) and the right brake will be part# K23-469-00 (self adjusting).
The good news, you have more axle then needed. The 3500# rating is common as the brakes are to. They are the 10" x 2 1/4" brakes. Just remember, the leaf springs are still what Sunline installed and your limiting weight requirement.

The told you the self adjusting type. Here is one of them https://www.easternmarine.com/nev-r-...bly-k23-468-00

The standard manual adjust are these. $22 cheaper, https://www.easternmarine.com/electr...and-k23-026-00

The price difference when you are talking all new, is not that much more, but it all does add up. I have the self adjusting on our big T310SR. They do work well/better as a electric drum brake can and keep the brake in proper adjustment all the time. We put enough miles on over enough years, it was a good move for us with our heavier camper.

The manual adjust is what most all other campers have, for sure all other Sunlines as the self adjust was just coming out when the last Sunline was made. The manual adjust, you jack up the camper, crawl under and every 2,000 miles tweak in the adjustment. Pending ones camping miles, 2,000 mile may be 2 or more years.

This comes down to a personal choice. Both work, one takes more time/work to do. Also to note, these brakes need to be looked at on a regular basis too. While Dexter recommends inspection annually or every 12,000 miles which ever comes first. That means pulling the drums off and inspecting. If you follow that to the letter, you are jacking the camper up anyway.

Once a year or every other year pending your mileage is a need. So if your service the brakes every 1 to 2 years, again pending low miles, manual adjust is bearable. High mileage in 1 to 2 years is different.

Also to note, some folks do not know they have to adjust them, ever. So the brakes do work when out of adjustment, just not as good and over a lot of time, a lot less. So the tow vehicle starts doing more of the stopping and wearing on it.

Again, a personal choice. I only have manual adjust on all my project campers and the mileage is low, and the fact I did not need new brakes anyway.

Hope this helps

John
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