Trailer Caliper Failure

There are benefits in owning a trailer imported from the USA but there are also downfalls.  Don’t get me wrong, this is the best trailer I have ever owned and one of the best that I have ever towed.  It is dual axle, aluminium I-beam construction, 1600psi electric over hydraulic four wheel disc braking system, tows like a dream and only weighs 406kgs.  The downfall though is that although this particular trailer was built for export to Australia, it was still built to U.S. standards.

I recently had an experience where 3 out of the 4 brake calipers had seized pistons.  After closer inspection and a little research, I realised why.  These UFP brand calipers are made from aluminium, the piston made from stainless steel while the brake pad backing is made from mild steel and has no galvanised or substantial protective coating.  To add to the effect of 3 dissimilar metals reacting when regularly being submersed in saltwater, I also noticed that where the brake pad sits against the caliper piston there is only a very small clearance for any saltwater which may be trapped in the cavity to escape.  Couple this with the fact that the rubber dust boot on 3 of the calipers had been damaged and allowed saltwater to seep in between the body and piston, failure was imminant.

Typically, I stripped down the calipers to find that I would need to hone out the calipers, install new pistons and overhaul kits to repair them.  Again, I turned to the internet for these spare parts in the U.S. only to find nothing.

A little more research and it was clear why – for less than US$280 plus shipping (when the Australian dollar was at $1.05+) I bought 4 brand new calipers delivered to my door in less than 5 working days from  As far as I’m concerned it was an awesome result.  It was the ‘swap and go’ of trailer brake calipers.

My next challenge is to actually find some piston and overhaul kits (which I’m sure if I look hard enough in the U.S. somebody will have something), rebuild them and I can put them away as spares.  I can just imagine people may be asking themselves, “Why would you want to use these calipers when there is a chance may fail again?”  The answer: these UFP calipers are made from quality components and are a respected product.  They may fail again but I believe it will be more cost effective to continually change out these parts if need be than do a complete swap of two axles to locally available products.

3 responses to “Trailer Caliper Failure

  1. I agrree, I too have UFP brakes like these, The hubs are unique too, the outer bearing is bigger than the nearest Ford equivalent, and the grease/axle seal is larger, I too will be having problems eventually. So looking for parts now in attempt to ward off delays. Calipers are supposed to be the same a a 1997-2000 Kia mentor, but I haven’t confirmed that yet. There is nothing available in Aus, every trailer parts retailer do not have or do not want to stock them. ‘Na mate there imported and we get a lot of calls for them’. Makes you wonder if they get the calls there is obviously a market, so why not stock them, maybe some one in the trailer world can explain. OH well just buy them from good ol’ USA i guess.

    • Hi Matt,

      If you are just after the bearings and seals, I have had success in the past purchasing them in Aus. The bearings aren’t too expensive but the seals were, It would be better if you have a sample. Send a message through our contact page and I’ll be able to email you some information.

      • Thanks for the reply, I’m good for bearing and seals. It is the rotors and calipers I’m chasing. Fortunately I have the luxury of time. I have a single axle trailer rated at 1700kg (3750lbs) so it it is borderline going dual axle for Aus, but still OK to use, to go to dual axle expense is not cost effective, but it is an option, as you know UFP have aluminium calipers and ventilated coated rotors. Currently, the nearest I have come to obtaining replacments in Aus is a mob called Towsafe in WA, they keep Kodiak brand. I could swap to those but not sure if it swaps straight over, and it is a stainless steel caliper for approx $90 more which is attractive. There is nothing in an Aus format that matches that. To maintain current set up in an Aus format means more $ for a less quality set up. The equivelent in Aus format would likely be Landcruiser hubs which have a solid disc, either replace the stub axles or find new axle to suit, then put gal calipers on. The Aus parts alone is dearer than the US replacements including the expensive shipping costs. Most trailers need some form of customisation in my case it would have to be the axle should it become damaged from a bearing failure, gutter hit or other, I’ll have to wear that should it need repair, but unlikely if I pay attention to the maintenance requirements.

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