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Friday, January 6, 2017

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS *B* Brake Fluid, Brake Pads and Brake Lines

I am going to start off the new year with posting three of our motorhome modifications at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes:


Brake Line Fluid:
I think we can all agree that brakes are a pretty important thing on a huge 22,000 pound vehicle!

Motorhome brake fluid should be changed yearly, if not every two years for safety.  Because of the long length of brake lines in motorhomes, with more connectors and fittings than in a car, there is more chance of intrusion of moisture.  And, of course, moisture means brake failure if it reaches a boiling temp in much-needed braking situations.   When draining out the old fluid, it's very brown and root-beerish looking, and you can easily see that it needs to be replaced completely with fresh fluid. Not just added at the reservoir, but pulled completely through the lines.

Steveio has this nifty tool from Harbor Freight that utilizes an air compressor to remove the old brake fluid from the motorhome lines and at the same time, draw in the new fluid so there are not any air bubbles.   About $20.  We use 2-3 of the big jugs of DOT 3 brake fluid.

We do it right in our own backyard....

It means getting down on the ground and doing some grunting, but it is worth it to do the job yourself so you know it is done RIGHT.... (and save money)

My job is to pour in the new fluid as the level was sucked down through the lines.  Normally you can use the second device in the box to let the new fluid come into the reservoir on it's own, but we don't have much clearance under our Safari to do that.  So it's easier to just have a second person to pour it in while Steve uses the tool to draw it through the lines.

Starting at the back tires, each line gets refreshed with new fluid.  Then we double check that all the lines are bled and I push the brake pedal down inside while Steve does the bleeding.

Brake Pad Replacement (while on the road):
We were on vacation out in western Texas in 2013 we realized we needed to do a brake pad replacement on the front wheels.  We were camping near Del Rio, a tiny dusty border town. We called a Napa auto parts in that town and ordered the pads which were to arrive the next day. 

Steve got some of the lug nuts loose while at the campsite, but decided to drive the whole motorhome into Del Rio to a tire place to get the rest loosened. They kindly offered their empty back lot to park in for us to do the work!  The nice guy named Travistino (sp?) came around back with his service truck and loosened up the last few lug nuts for us.  Look at this Big Boy Tool!

 The charge???  $5.00.... yes.... $5.00!  
 (I gave him a $10 tip and said to buy lunch)

Then we went to work.  First we had to jack up the motorhome on the front leveling jack till the tires cleared the ground.  We stacked up heavy wooden planks under the axle in case the front jack gave way.  Never hurts to be safe.  Then Steve was able to remove the driver's side tire and get to the brake system.

He removed the top retaining plate which the bolts came out easy enough. Then he was able to remove the tensioner spring.

He tapped lightly on the "keeper" pins?  Not sure what they are really called, but that is what Steve calls them.  He used a hammer and a tip of a chisel to lightly tap them loose and slide free.

Next he used a very large C clamp to compress the caliper cups and was sure to open the top of the brake fluid reservoir to let out any excess fluid from compression.

Steve said to note in the picture on the left, his reinforced top of the shock absorber mount that he repaired after it broke last summer.  He super duper welded it and made it even better than before. Steve noticed in New Orleans on Eric's rig, his has been repaired too.  So it must be a common problem on Safari's with the Velvet Ride?

Back to the brake job-----  Now he could take out the pads from the caliper.  They almost fell out into his hands.  The caliper itself looks good, but needs some rust removal along a few edges.


Guess we needed new brake pads, eh?

The rotors appeared to be in very good shape, so we were lucky to do this pad replacement job now, and not later when they would have become more worn and damaged the rotors.

Once he got the brake pads out, he took them with him.  He hopped in the Tracker and went over to NAPA on the north side of Del Rio where our new ones had come in on the truck an hour before.  Amazing--- we ordered them at 4pm and they were on a truck ready for us to be picked up by 8am the next morning.  What good service!

Here is the part number that NAPA used after cross referencing the numbers we got from Mel, John and Ralph.   Steve was told the pads are actually the ones made by Bendix for the Ford Truck braking systems.  That is good to know too.

Steve matched them up at the store, and they were a perfect fit!   They cost $130 for both front wheels, and he also bought a bottle of Copper Never Seize for $10.   Soon he was back at the motorhome and ready to get to work.

Out came the rest of his tools and he set to work.  It was fairly warm in the low 70's so his brown overalls were needed for protection while he worked, but soon got hot in the sunshine.

Before reassembling any of the brake parts, he used the generator to power up his grinding tool.  The wire cup brush took off any excess rust and cleaned up all the parts nicely.

I was the gopher and the wheel turner and the tool hander and the picture taker! 

Then he dabbed the brush of Copper Never Sieze on each piece that needed it, including the keeper pins (if that is their name?)

When assembling the caliper unit back together, you have to be sure to get these two metal discs in the right place inside of the cups before setting the pad into place.  You need three or even four hands to do this, especially if you keep the brake line attached like Steve did.

He gently tapped the keeper pins back into place and also coated the saddle groove they rest in with the Copper Never Seize too.  Once the whole caliper assembly was together, he was able to slide it back on over the rotor disk and bolt it all into place.  He even put the Copper Never Seize on the bolts that held that retaining bracket in place too.

Now.... he did the same thing to the passenger side as the driver's side... both front brakes were serviced.  What a job!  In a parking lot in a desert city with all his tools on board. What a guy!   See why I keep him around?

It was time to put the tires back on, and lower the jack a bit till the tires were snug to the ground.

Bit by bit, he tightened up the lug nuts with the torque ratchet to 170 ft pound as high as it will go.  After we drove it around to the front, the nice guy Travistino tightened them up to spec 500 ft pounds with his torque bar on air ratchet.   Steve estimates it was about a two hour job to do both front brakes. We saved a LOT of money by doing it ourselves.

Later on that summer, he did the two rear brake pads in our own back yard, they were the same price and same pads as the front brakes.

Brake Line Failure and Replacement:
Not only do brake pads and brake fluid need replacing, but the lines that carry the fluid to the brakes sometimes need replacing too!  

On another trip, this time to New Mexico in February of 2015... Steve also noticed a big oily spot under our rig just after we leveled off in our campsite.  Rut Roh!  Breakdown again!   

The brake fluid line seems to have broken leading up to a front wheel.  Good thing we were near a large enough town to get parts.  Steve blamed me because I was driving the motorhome up on blocks to level it and he said I stomped on the brake pedal too hard!  Well, better that it breaks here in a park rather than in the middle of some mountain descent, right????

Now it was time for Steveio to get to work!  He got down and dirty to figure out the busted brake line, and take measurements and get a good idea of what parts he would need to fabricate a new line. 

With all of his notes in hand, we trooped on into town.  He dropped me at Walmart for a grocery stock up session, while he hit the autoparts store with his list of items.  Sadly. they didn't have what he needed!

Now here it where it turns into the GOOD NEWS!!!

The guy standing in line behind him says: "Hey, I own a truck repair shop down the highway and I can custom make that brake line for you, just bring the old one on over and we can set you up!"  Wowzer!!!! After some discussion, he said it would be better if we could drive the rig right over to his shop, and he can examine it firsthand before fabricating the new line. He even offered to let us stay in his lot overnight if we got over there too late in the day to get started on the job!


What are the odds that Steve would be standing next to one of the only truck repair places in 50 miles around who can custom make brake lines and has all the lines, fittings and tools to bend them!

We rushed back to the campground and Steve donned his overalls.  (yes, he takes them along on the road just in case!)   He was able to temporarily patch in a piece of line with some compression fittings to get us limped down the highway 25 miles to the truck place.  We also have our Pac Brake engine exhaust brake to help stop us, but best to patch this line in the meantime and we have brakes enough to get down there.  So here is my Mr. FixIt Guy laying on an old Thanksgiving table cloth as he works on patching the line.

He was done and out and bled the lines while I pumped from inside. Everything held and we were good to go.

On a positive note, we arrived safe and sound at Harold's truck repair place.  It is called Emergency Truck Repair right off the highway at Caballo Lake, NM.  It's comforting to see that he is working on all the local folks vehicles, the county ambulance, and even the Derry Arrey Fire and Rescue vehicle.  If the locals trust him with their things, we should be in for a good experience.

Harold came out and checked the line on our rig, and yes, he said that he can easily make that line.  Steve suggested that perhaps he should make up the other front brake line and also one of our rears.  We had already done one rear line previously on a trip to Florida, so now we will be good to go if Harold can make them.

The only problem is Harold can't do the labor himself to install them, he had recently hurt his shoulder really bad... Harold thinks he tore his rotator cuff.  His doc appt was the next afternoon.  So he said to Steve: "If I make the parts in the morning, can you do your own labor??"   YESSSS !!!!  That will save us in labor costs, and Steve is more than adequate at handling the installation of the new lines.  We even have along our power bleeding tool device that runs off our air compressor. Whew.... that is a good thing!  Silver Lining, perhaps?

See, the problem is that the brake lines are a flexible type, 36 inches long, and need to be specially fabricated for a long-defunct chassis company on our 20 year old motorhome!   (Magnum chassis manufactured by Safari when it was out in Oregon)  And he did it!  Great guy!!!!   

Here is a pic of the extra one for the passenger side:

We had a safe night sleeping in our rig in his gated shop yard. Steve got the new brake line fabricated from Harold in the morning, and Steve set to removing the old rusted fittings from the old line and installing the new line in it's place. 

In the meantime, Harold had to lock up shop and leave for a doc appt.  We were out in the parking lot working on it with our front end up on blocks and the front hydraulic leveler for added stability. Steve used all his own tools too, so Harold could lock up his shop and go.   

So once we were done testing the new line, we didn't know how much to pay.. or WHO to pay because there wasn't anyone around!   

Harold thought he would only be gone 1 or 2 hours. He said that when he came back he would make up a duplicate line for our passenger side for Steve to change out later on.  It was 5:30 before Harold got back to the shop. 

He made up the duplicate line and we were good to go for under $100.00  WHEEEEEE  Thank you Travel Gods for putting Steve in the right spot to meet with the right guy who can make up these special brake lines!!!!


We are still suffering with sub zero temps here and wind chills in the 20-30 BELOW zero range.  The big Packer Playoff game is on Sunday. Our local news program all agog with worry about how to keep the beer from freezing in the concession stands at Lambeau! LOL

The local news also reported there was going to be FREE hot chocolate available, two per person for non-imbibing folks. LOL  Gotta love them Packer Fans!   We are going to stay home and cozy warm in our livingroom, with our own beer and hot chocolate, thank you very much.

This morning Steve and I went over to the new house being built by his brother Pete and sister in law Cindy.  We were the *Painting Crew*!   The builder had sprayed all the walls and ceilings with primer and first coat of the basic color paint for throughout the house. But if they wanted custom colors, then Pete arranged to have his friends and family come in and paint.  The house is being featured by the builder in the Parade of Homes next month, so it is down to crunch time!

The southern explosure with all of the huge windows is delightful! 
The furnace did not kick on even once while we were there painting. 

It was easy to roll the paint because there will be wide crown moulding around the 
tops of the walls and wide base mop boards on the bottoms. 

We completed most of the second coats on most of the rooms and did touchups.

when all the wood trims and columns and built-in bookcases go in...
(Craftsman Style!) it is going to be stunning! 

Pete took us out for a thank you meal and then we drove home to take showers and cuddle up with our dogs for a nice afternoon nap.

The dogs hollared at us for being gone so long. They have gotten used to us being around all the time, 24/7, since Steve retired. They really were miffed that we left them alone that long.  After enough treats and pats on the belly and letting them nap up on the bed, they are happy now too.


  1. Thanks for posting this. Very interesting read!

  2. What a great painting crew you guys are!!!!
    Great job writing and photographing the mods/maintenance to the motorhome!!


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