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Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer



 
 
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  #11  
Old February 16th 19, 11:56 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer

AL-KO brakes simple? Hahahaha! Things that can go wrong include allowing the lining to wear too much without adjusting (brake shoes can jam in full on position), rubber seal going into cable housing can leak (cable rusts and gets stiff inside housing, preventing brakes from releasing), damper strut inside tongue can lose force and/or get stiff over time (preventing brakes from releasing), bushings between inner and outer tongue can swell over time (preventing brakes from releasing), water can leak into tongue and corrode inner tube (see "bushings"), and poorly adjusted parking brake breakaway cable can actuate brakes inadvertantly. And if the front tongue mount breaks and the trailer settles on the tongue, the brake rod is actuated and the brakes are full on. I'm sure there are more, but these are just the things I've seen. I check the bearing cap temp every time I stop just in case. Also frequently after a hard stop, which is how I caught the latest brakes-jammed-on problem this summer coming back from TSA. But I left on the trip with a full set of bearings and seals...just in case.

The surge brake on the Komet/Cobra is anything but simple. And definitely not troublefree. And it requires a fair amount of attention and maintenance. And the failure mode often includes burned bearings or worse.

Europeans drive a lot of Mercedes automobiles, too, but many Americans won't put up with the maintenance costs for the privilege of driving such an exquisitely engineered machine. We just want to get in the car and go. It's a car, not a love affair. I suspect most European pilots don't trailer the miles we do. And more probably store their trailers out of the weather than here. It's a different environment. Today's running gear is better than it was in the days of Eberle and early Komet trailers but it's still not designed and built for our needs.

That said, I've continued to repair and maintain my 27-year-old Cobra. It's a hassle. It requires almost as many inspections as a car, for far few miles each year. And I worry about what could go wrong every time I head out for a contest. But I figure I'd be trading one set of problems for another if I made a change.

Chip Bearden
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  #12  
Old February 17th 19, 05:27 AM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer

And remember that most sailplane trailers in Europe are placarded for 80 kph (50 mph) maximum. Unlike the US where 75 mph freeway speeds are the norm.
  #13  
Old February 17th 19, 05:07 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer

On Saturday, February 16, 2019 at 5:21:22 AM UTC-7, Bob Youngblood wrote:
I am trying to get away from the surge brakes and has anyone converted their trailer to electric brakes?? Thanks


My Komet Trailer was converted to electric brakes before I purchased it. At first, my car didn't have a brake controller and I was really worried that I was missing out on towing nirvana. I installed it and quickly realized that it helped a little but certainly not a life-changing upgrade.

My old vehicle has been replaced this winter and I am thinking that I want a brake controller again to gain that 1% of towing happiness (ok, and safety). But I don't want to bother trying to get it installed in my nice new car. I will probably be giving this product a try: https://www.curtmfg.com/news/curt-la...-brake-control

I hope my experience helps with your decision.
  #14  
Old February 18th 19, 09:08 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer

I should add that I came back from TSA to the East Coast this summer with the brakes disconnected on my Cobra because they jammed full on during a hard stop. I didn't notice much difference pulling it without the brakes with my full-size Chevy van. I've done the same thing in the past for the same reason. It's better than trashing a set of brake shoes, burning out the bearings, and cracking a drum/hub (trust me....).

I think it says something about the engineering approach when it's less trouble to disable a feature even though it's useful. All the assurances that AL-KO brakes work great if they're maintained and adjusted properly aren't much comfort if something goes wrong so frequently that you're tempted to do without.

Indeed, I've thought about just leaving the brakes disconnected permanently.. But I like the parking brake feature. And the braking force does help slow things down in panic stops (even if I do have to climb out and verify the brakes have released afterward).

I'm sure there's a lot more I could learn about maintaining the AL-KO system. But I'm a mechanical engineer with a lot of time doing brake jobs on my vehicles of all sizes and makes. And I worked at Wagner for many years, one of the leading brake parts suppliers in the U.S., where I was very familiar with our products and interacted frequently with our engineers. And I have the manual for my trailer, which I have consulted frequently, and have also searched blogs and discussion groups here and in Europe for insights.

The AL-KO brake system works great when it's new. But I've found it to be fussy and somewhat difficult to maintain as it ages. I'd love to learn what I'm doing wrong but every time I raise a question here that isn't covered in the manual, I get a handful of different answers. And then I discover that a lot of you have had the same problems I have. We shouldn't need a separate forum just to discuss problems with AL-KO brake systems.

Chip Bearden
  #16  
Old February 19th 19, 05:58 AM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer

I don't think disabling trailer brakes is a good idea. There is stability under heavy braking to consider not just retardation. I have twice, separated by about 25 years, had the situation of having to emergency brake on a motorway, the trailer start to swing out (not just sway) and then snap straight as the trailer brake bit fully. My impression was that if the trailer had been unbraked one or both times it would have jackknifed and possibly caused a multiple vehicle incident. Thankfully I will never know for sure but I would never tow a glider trailer any distance without good brakes.
  #17  
Old February 19th 19, 01:50 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer

Off the top of my head, if I wanted to disable the surge brake but keep the parking brake, I'd drill a hole thru the tongue assembly for a bolt that would prevent the inner tube from sliding in the outer tube. Then have some rubber inserts to seal the holes if you wanted to remove the bolt to use the surge brake again. You could drill it off center so as not to damage the damper/spring or else drill behind the rear mount for said spring. Or just add a stop of some kind inside the tube to prevent the inner section from compressing under braking loads Early trailers had a lever under the tongue that you could flip up to prevent the tongue from compressing whenever you had to reverse the trailer so that approach might work. I haven't looked at my trailer so there may be a better way. The common thread is that the pparking brake handle actuates the brakes thru the brake rod but independent of the sliding tongue.

Chip Bearden
  #18  
Old February 19th 19, 01:50 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer

Off the top of my head, if I wanted to disable the surge brake but keep the parking brake, I'd drill a hole thru the tongue assembly for a bolt that would prevent the inner tube from sliding in the outer tube. Then have some rubber inserts to seal the holes if you wanted to remove the bolt to use the surge brake again. You could drill it off center so as not to damage the damper/spring or else drill behind the rear mount for said spring. Or just add a stop of some kind inside the tube to prevent the inner section from compressing under braking loads Early trailers had a lever under the tongue that you could flip up to prevent the tongue from compressing whenever you had to reverse the trailer so that approach might work. I haven't looked at my trailer so there may be a better way. The common thread is that the pparking brake handle actuates the brakes thru the brake rod but independent of the sliding tongue.

Chip Bearden
  #19  
Old February 19th 19, 01:58 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer

Drilling through the inner sliding tube is a pretty bad idea IMHO because it weakens the tube and adds an unwanted stress riser. A better solution is to make a two-piece collar that can clamp over the tube between the tongue housing and the hitch, thus preventing it from compressing.
  #20  
Old February 19th 19, 02:23 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Electric Brakes On Komet Trailer

On my trailer, the inner tongue already has horizontal slots in it to allow the tongue to slide. The outer tongue has a hole in it already where the damper strut is anchored. And the bending stress from the inner tongue is transferred into the outer tongue through the sliding bushings so any weakening/stress concentration would be in the outer tongue, and those seem to break where the bending stress is at a max where it enters the trailer. That said, the two-piece collar would work. If you're willing to disable it semi-permanently, a one-piece collar (a piece of tubing) slid over the inner tongue after the coupler is removed (two bolts) and then reattaching the coupler again would work.

All these ideas beg the question of whether it's a good idea to disable the brake system for over-the-road use. There are many trailers out there now without brakes: basically most that don't have an AL-KO system. We drove brakeless trailers for years before the early Libelles starting showing up with Eberle trailers. I've driven my Cobra without brakes a few times. I prefer not to, though, and probably won't disable my brakes even though I pull with a full-size van. But after crawling under the trailer in East Texas in the heat last summer to disconnect the actuator cables (and then reconnect and readjust them when I got home), I might devise a way to disable them quickly to deal with future problems. The problem this summer, however, was that the tongue jammed in the fully compressed position so I had to disconnect the brake actuating cables to free the brakes.

Chip Bearden
 




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