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  1. #1
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    Default Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    SO, I had no idea when you back in the boat on the dual-axle trailer into the driveway for winter storage, you need to go forward to disengage the brakes; I tried to move the trailer today, first time since October (CT winters) and the two wheels wouldnt spin freely. I took both tires off after jacking each side up and accessed the "star" adjuster. The Star was super rusty, barely moved. I got the right side to spin (not super freely, but enough) but the left side will not budge. I sprayed WD40 into the hole where the star adjuster is, but nothing. It will not budge. I do not want to spend a ton; I barely use the trailer, just drive a mile to the marina's slip. How can I get this wheel to move freely? Any ideas? Thx...

  2. #2
    Petty Officer 1st Class tractoman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    WD40 won't cut it. Try some Break Free or PB Blaster, and try not to get it all over the place in there. Just on the threads of the adjuster.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    If the brakes are applied, then it may be even harder yet to get them free, but I've often just pried the star adjuster out of position and let it fall down to free the shoes, if you have one way style brake shoes, the type that won't grab in reverse, then this may still work.
    If your brakes are that rusty, then you most likely are in for far more than just a pair of star adjusters. I don't think CT winters is your problem, it's more likely salt exposure period on the Atlantic Coast. I've never gotten more than a season out of a set of surge brakes, drum or caliper style. No matter how much I flushed them or how rust proof they were supposed to be. (I have one trailer out back now with SS calipers that's never seen the water that's already got 3 seized calipers, and everything is SS. Apparently the caliper pistons are not SS).

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    Thank you, how do I "pry it out of position" -pop the start adjuster out? Its difficult enough to even see the star, and I cannot get any leverage with a screw driver through that tiny hole?

    Appreciate the information on the reason it is seizing up; am sure you are right- question, can't I just remove/disengage the brakes all together, and have free-flowing brakes wheels? The boat is a 21 foot sea ray sundeck and I do not tow the boat far, however I do launch the boat on the boat ramp with it.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    You can get away with it, if you allow plenty of stopping distance. How much dose the boat and trailer weigh?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    The boat is 3,500 pounds. The trailer is about 800 pounds.

    Just found the paperwork for the brakes: DICO Free Backing Brakes, 12"x 2"- With the Surge Braking System.

    On the coupler, there is no place to add Brake Fluid. The pictures online show a plastic cap on top of the coupler, I do not have any such cap, can't figure out where I would check the fluid).

    Thanks...

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    You need to get a brake spoon in there, a regular flat screwdriver doesn't work very well. I've taken a regular cheapie screwdriver and bent a 45 near tip.
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    Ayuh,... If they're frozen by rust,...
    A Good Wack with a BFHammer will many times free 'em up....
    Any Grease is Better,..... Than No Grease at All.......

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    Thanks to everyone for the advice so far. I think my course of action is as follows:

    1) Get some PB Blaster and fire it at the star adjuster, might take a small torch to it as well
    2) Get a Brake spoon or bent screwdriver and try to turn the star adjuster
    3) Hit the outside drum with a blunt force hammer

    I might even try to "wedge out" the entire star adjuster rod, just to get the wheel rolling; I really do not feel I need brakes.

    One question: I know there is brake fluid for my brake system, I see the brake lines, but for the life of me cant see where it would go; there is no cap on the coupler where you would put the fluid. any ideas?

  10. #10
    Moderator Bondo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    I see the brake lines, but for the life of me cant see where it would go; there is no cap on the coupler where you would put the fluid. any ideas?
    Ayuh,... There's Got to be a reservoir there Somewhere at the coupler...
    Follow the Line,...
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    Yeah the BF hammer is the best idea. Smack the drum as hard as you can all the way around, and try to pry/rotate the drum using the studs to free it up. Don't pry too hard, as you don't want to break/bend the studs. It's pretty common on cars with drum rear brakes up here in Canada....what with all the salt used on the roads. The shoe may seperate from the backing, but that's rare. Pull the drum to make sure everything is okay before taking off. If the shoe has seperated you may make it a few miles before the wheel locks again...and this time removing the drum will be a nightmare. Also, if you use lubricant be certain to use a good brake cleaner to get it all off again.


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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    The Dico system I had on my old Highlander trailer had one piece drum/hub assemblies, no amount of hammering would remove the drum without first removing he bearings. You may be able to pull the drum off and force the brake shoe retainers to give way, but I've had better luck just getting a stout brake adjusting spoon or thin pry bar over or under the star adjuster and popping it out of place from between the brake shoes. No matter what you do, you need to remove the drum to remove the parts that are seized or about to be knocked loose.
    Depending on the size of your tow vehicle and how far or fast you tow whether I'd consider eliminating the brakes in your case, that's a judgement call on your part. I tow my larger boats with a heavy one ton van with strong brakes so its not affected very much by a small trailer. None of my boats weigh over 2000lbs fully loaded and on the trailer.

    My Dico master cylinder had a brass or cast iron plug right on top just behind the coupler right in the master cylinder. The master cylinder fill cap is just like those found on old Chevy trucks from the 40's or so. I've seen two types, the hex shaped 1 1/4" or so in diameter cap that screws into the master cylinder top, or the stamped sheet metal type that fits directly onto the master cylinder reservoir. There are several models of DICO surge brakes, thus a few different master cylinder styles. I've never considered any of the DICO systems to be saltwater suitable. The one on my Highlander had a cast iron master cylinder with a cast iron cap that would never seal right, rain water would get into the brake fluid when it rained. I finally began taping the threads with Teflon tape but rust finally got the best of the whole coupler assembly anyhow.

    If there's a chance that the master cylinder is still applied, did you try just loosening the brake lines to release pressure? Maybe the master cylinder is just stuck?

    Simply removing the outer wheel bearing may gain enough movement to break stuck shoes loose from the drum if their not held in place by stuck wheel cylinders or hydraulic pressure.

    The star adjuster has slotted ends, it would need to be pushed up or down out of place, not side to side.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    This has been very useful, this weekend I will take another look. Thank you!

  14. #14
    Supreme Mariner bruceb58's Avatar
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    You probably just have to pry the drum off with a pry bar. If the case is that something gets bent, the whole backing plate with all the parts are available at a fairly nominal cost. That and the replacing of the master cylinder if it also happens to be bad is really not that much money and wil have you up and running again.
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  15. #15
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    I posted an update to my wrong post, so I will repost it here. JB Blaster, heat, hammer, did nothing whatsoever. Nothing budges. How do I remove the bearing? There is a cover over the tip of the axle with an oil nozzle. Do I twist that cover off with channel locks? If I want to remove the drum cover, can I do that without removing the bearing? Help! Thanks!!!

  16. #16
    Supreme Mariner bruceb58's Avatar
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    Quote Originally Posted by massimofinance View Post
    How do I remove the bearing? There is a cover over the tip of the axle with an oil nozzle. Do I twist that cover off with channel locks? If I want to remove the drum cover, can I do that without removing the bearing? Help! Thanks!!!
    Huh? I have yet to see a drum on a boat trailer that isn't integrated with the hub. No wonder you can't get it off? Curious, can you spin the drum at all right now?

    As far as the bearing protector, just get a hammer and knock it off by hitting side to side...then take outer bearing off like a normal hub.
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    Wanted to circle back and let everyone know I got it working. What I failed to do is take the hub off; once I did that (using some great videos from youtube and etrailer.com) I found the axle nut, took that off, and took the drum brake off. That was tough, completely on because the brakes were activated. Kept hammering away at the back till the drum popped off. I took the rest of the brake shoes off, (that didnt crumble off) and put it all back together. Yes, I have no brakes, but I just take it down the street to where I dry sail it. I greased everything, and back Rolling well.

    Thanks to you all for your help!!!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    Just in case you do want those brakes to work, it's not hard to pick up a set of backing plates fully assembled, Tiedown makes galvanized backing plates with an aluminum wheel cylinder and stainless steel springs. The problem with drum brakes is twofold:
    One, the dust boot on the wheel cylinder does not keep water out so sooner or later the piston seizes up
    Two, the adjuster is not stainless so they do rust up.

    What I do to make mine last more than one season is:

    Start with a new brake backing plate assembly....

    remove the wheel cylinder, take off the dust boot, pack the underside of the boot and the groove it fits into on the wheel cylinder with synthetic brake grease (this is safe for rubber parts). I also pack the area where the pushrod fits into the rubber dust boot with the same grease. The idea is to use the grease to keep water out. Next time I am going to seal around where the dust boot fits with high temp RTV.

    Next keep turing the adjuster so it's fully extended, then smear OMC triple guard grease on the threads, this the best water proof grease I have ever used and holds up to salt water.

    these to minor mods will help drum brakes last longer in salt water....

    I like drum brakes in some applications because for one they are self energizing and work better with lighter trailers than discs which require higher line pressures to provide the same braking
    and for another they have return springs so as long as the wheel cylinders do not seize up they tend to run cooler in hilly areas.

    Some time back I saw a water proof wheel cylinder made by a guy called "Live Bait Larry" and I wish I could still find them....he or whoever designed them tried to make them water proof which would eliminate most of the problems with drum brakes. Disc brakes can have the sticky piston problem too....
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  19. #19
    Lieutenant cribber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    You should rebuild the brakes on your trailer to help conserve the brakes on your tow vehicle. You've got time to fix them now that you're rolling again.


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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Frozen Drum Brakes and the star adjuster wont budge

    Quote Originally Posted by cribber View Post
    You should rebuild the brakes on your trailer to help conserve the brakes on your tow vehicle. You've got time to fix them now that you're rolling again.
    After fighting the freezing brake problema couple of times I went to our local boat supplier shop and bought aset of Stainless steel brake kit. Everything is stainess steel but the disks. Yes I went to disk brakes. I had a dual wheel load rite trailer .28 ft long. rated at 5,000 lbs. I had a friend of mine com down to the house one day and remove the drum brakes and replace them with the disc brakes. You will need to changew the tongue also for the disc brakes. total cost was$300.00 and $40 .00 for the labor. It only took an hour to change everthing. I got the brakes from Eastern Marine for$120.00 for a set of two.I never had a problem since then.

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