RV brake repair
RVing

The Cost of Older RV Updates: Axl’s New RV Brakes (and Rotors and More)

on
May 4, 2022
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We’ve talked about the price tag of owning an older RV before– but these two stories of our RV brakes’ replacement & repair jobs will really convince you to set aside some extra funds for older RV repairs now so they don’t surprise you in the long run!
 
DISCLAIMER: This post doesn’t include technical information or in-depth brake technology analysis – just our experience having our brake systems replaced and repaired. It has also been updated to include our experiences and receipts from 2019 and 2022.
 
When we bought Axl Roads, our 1997 Ford Four Winds Class C RV, his previous owner had only racked up 16k miles of travel and had limited his exposure to the elements by lovingly (and thankfully!) storing him in a giant barn. The previous owner had also replaced the brake shoes before we picked Axl up- for which we were even more thankful. 
 
For the next three years, Axl passed his yearly inspection with flying colors. Each time we asked how the RV brakes looked, we were given positive news- good to go!  
 
But all good things must come to an end!

RV Brakes Replacement & Repair 2019

Background

Inevitably, our circa-1997 RV was racking up some wear and tear- not only from sitting around & collecting years, but especially from braving the ups & downs of the rolling hills through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia.
 
During the last two trips in 2019, we noticed the steering wheel starting to shake when we applied the brakes- not every time, but enough that we knew something wasn’t right. We referred to the RV Owner’s Guide we keep in the rig and had an idea it might be brake-related.
 
Since it was close to our annual inspection time, we figured we’d kill two birds with one stone.  

We dropped the RV off at C. Harper Commercial Truck Center in Belle Vernon, PA. They had done our inspections and a few other minor repairs in the past, so we had faith they knew what they were doing and had the space & equipment to do it.  

They called us the following day and said the total for the front brakes would be around $900.

YIKES! But OK, I get it. It’s a huge, old RV with huge, old RV brakes.

So they got started.

First Hiccup

Seems that once the wheels came off, the wheels really came off!

When they really got down to business, there were plenty of other things besides the brakes that needed to be replaced for this repair to be a success. 

<cue “the knee bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone’s connected to the…”>
 
The new total that now included the RV brakes, rotors, calipers and wheel bearings climbed to $1,100. 

Second Hiccup

When everything had been replaced & repaired and Axl had been rolled out of the garage, they took him out for a little test drive…

Which he failed spectacularly by pulling in one direction when his brakes were applied. 

Sigh. Back to the garage!

After sitting for the weekend, the brake lines were then bled and some hoses were replaced. 

Finally, SUCCESS! Axl could now stop effectively with no pulling. 

The mechanic was even kind enough to take some photos for us: 

rv brake repair
rv brake repair
rv brake repair
rv brake repair

Cost Breakdown with Receipts

The final cost breakdown for the 2019 RV brakes replacement and repairs looked like this:

RV brake repair cost breakdown

That brought our final total to $1441.68, with the cost for labor almost equaling the cost of parts.

rv brake repair cost total

Based on my Google, chat forum, and social media research, I had expected to spend about $1,000, so this was bit higher; however, I hadn’t priced some of the parts that ended up being replaced (parts I admittedly would not have known existed, i.e., calipers). 

I was thankful that C.Harper kept us in the loop during the repair, but we did have to cancel a weekend trip – and each time we spoke to them, the job got more expensive. 

I don’t believe we got overcharged, but I do think we could have been given a better cost range at the beginning of the repair.

RV Brakes Replacement & Repair 2022

Background

Fast forward a few years, and we began to hear some mild squealing at the end of our traveling season. Knowing that we hadn’t touched the back brakes since we had purchased the RV, we had a feeling we’d be visiting C. Harper Commercial Truck Center again in the spring!

Which brings us to our most recent RV brake service. 

When the truck center mechanic inspected our RV brakes this time around, it was determined that we would need new front calipers and rotors, brake flush, rear break drums, tire rotation, and oil change. 

Do you hear that noi$e? Cha-ching.

In the Works

The people at C. Harper were nice enough to take and share photos again this time, so we have these to document our service:

rv brake service in garage
rv brakes service - rear drums 1
rv brake service - front brakes
rv brake service - front brakes 2

Cost Breakdown with Receipts

Fortunately, we keep a folder with our service details and receipts, because the front calipers had been replaced during the 2019 service and were still under warranty- so we were given a $76.80 credit. 

Here is the list of services and cost breakdown from our receipt: 

rv brake service receipt page 1
rv brake service receipt page 2

With the grand total at $1,517.63, the labor actually exceeded the cost of the parts this time due to the credit we received for the calipers under warranty. 

rv brake service receipt page 3

 

Lessons Learned

There are a few things you can do to improve your chances of being able to save time and money during your RV brake service and repair experiences.

First, make sure you keep good records! Get a plastic folder that closes securely where you can put all of your service records, along with any notes or photos that can provide more detail. Put the most recent items in the front so they are arranged chronologically. That way, if you need to prove who/what/where/when, those documents are easily accessible.

Next, when you are taking your RV in for brake replacements or repairs, make sure to tell the mechanic and/or shop: 

  • The exact problems you are experiencing, how long it’s been happening, and if there are any noises, smells, or movements associated with it
  • When the last replacement or repair related to the problem was, who performed it, and if they found anything unusual (you can reference your folder)
  • What your future travel schedule is, just in case they are able to work around it or schedule it so you don’t have to cancel any plans
  • Based on our experience, we’d also advise you to request a complete cost range for the repairs. Ask what could go wrong or what the repair might snowball into, so you have an honest idea what the final cost will be. 

Finally, we’ll end like we began: strongly suggesting to set aside a small amount every month to put towards RV service and repairs so they aren’t a shock to your budget (or, in the worst case, your debt).  

If you have an RV brakes replacement or repair experience you’d like to share, we’d like to see how our costs compare. Share below!

Want to see what happened with our RV alternator repair and service? Read up on it here.
Want to rent an RV? They can probably help. 
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