If you own a truck with a trailer brake, knowing how to reset it is important. One of the common purposes of having to reset it may be due to an error message you see on your dashboard. While seeing a message about a potential problem should always be addressed, it’s important to investigate and determine the cause.
In this article, we’re going to break down what a trailer brake is, it’s main purpose, and how to reset it when the situation warrants it. You’ll also learn how you can service your trailer brakes in the event when you actually have to.
There are two kinds of trailer brakes that exist: surge brakes and electric brakes. Let’s further dive into how each of them functions:
Surge Brakes: These brakes are part of a self-contained hydraulic braking system that will rely on the weight of the trailer and momentum to help the brakes function. Surge brakes won’t need a trailer brake controller or for that matter, anything electrical to do its job. When you step on your vehicle’s brakes and slow down, the trailer will push against the connection and the hydraulic cylinder compresses. That compression will transfer the pressure to the trailer brakes, which will in turn cause the trailer itself to stop.
Surge brakes are easy to work with and will make smooth stops when applied properly. Most of the time, they won’t require any other additional effort from the vehicle’s driver. One of the major cons of surge brakes is that the driver will have limited control over them. This may also apply to some electrical brake systems.
Electric Brakes: These brakes will use electrical power via the tow vehicle to help allow the electromagnetic brake drums to function. Electrical brake systems will produce an electrical connection to the tow vehicle itself. What this does is ensure that the brake system is programmable and allow the driver to activate the brakes at any time, if necessary. In order for these brakes to function properly, a brake controller must be installed on the tow vehicle.
If you have a message that is informing you to service your trailer brake, there’s a good chance that the brakes themselves will have a problem. Service brakes are like any other vehicle brakes, you’ll need to service them on a regular basis to ensure they function properly for as long as possible. One thing to keep in mind that trailer brakes are the same as drum brakes. In order to make adjustments, you’ll need a flat screwdriver or brake adjustment tool on hand.
As always, it’s important to follow service instructions that are outlined in the brake manufacturer’s instructions. Most of the time, these brakes will use what is known as a “star wheel” adjuster. This adjuster will require you to tighten your brakes until you are unable to turn the wheel. After that, you’ll need to back away until you are able to freely turn the wheel again.
If you’re using electric brakes, it’s important to note that the electromagnetic elements need to be replaced sometimes. Likewise, the shoes and drums of your brakes should also be replaced when needed. If the idea of servicing your trailer brakes is intimidating, you can always rely on a professional who specializes in these specific types.
Obviously, the main way to reset the “service trailer brake” message is to get the brakes serviced themselves. However, there will be times when the message will come on when the brakes appear to be functioning properly. Some owners have complained about this happening after a simple task like washing their vehicle and trailer. This may be due to a variety of issues. One of the common solutions is to check the fuse box (if necessary) to see if there is a blown fuse. You may also check to see if the wiring is working properly and is also free from frays, corrosion or any possible damage.
But what if you don’t have a trailer connected to your vehicle at all? What if you still get that “service trailer brake” error message? Some buyers of specific vehicles who have this problem have found that this is an issue in connection with the manufacturer (and not the dealer). In this case, you should contact the dealer that sold you the vehicle to notify them of the situation. Some servicing may be needed and could come at no cost to you. Once again, this issue can stem from a wide variety of issues. This can also mean checking for blown fuses or damaged wires.
Even though every vehicle is tested and pass with flying colors, anything can happen between then and the time when the vehicle itself is sold to a new owner. In the event if such an issue like a “service trailer brake” warning message appears and the vehicle is under warranty, please get in touch with the dealer so they can be able to help you solve the issue.
If you have a “service trailer brake” message, then you may have a problem. However, it would be hard to distinguish a real issue from a not so concerning issue. With that in mind, if you’re dealing with this issue (regardless if you have trailer attached or not), it is important to get it checked immediately by yourself or a professional. Be sure to inspect your fuses and if possible, the wires. If the problem persists, be sure to have it looked at by a professional that specializes in trailer brakes. Likewise, if you bought the vehicle recently, be sure to speak with your dealer. This is to make sure if there is any servicing is covered under the manufacturer’s warranty so you won’t have to deal with any expenses.