Wheel Brakes

                         Inexpensive Wheel Brakes                                                                                                             By Don R. Giandomenico - October 7, 2002

     Photo of  Twinstar ARF with wheel brake installed.

       Have you ever had to taxi your plane in circles to slow it down? Are you tired of rolling off the runway on a “hot” landing? I had battled this problem and wanted to make an effective friction brake for landing gear. Some modelers suggested tightening the wheel collars against the hub to solve the problem but I wanted a more constant friction so I wouldn’t be adjusting them constantly. I figured out a cheap way to set up a “disk” type brake with a constant drag to allow slow, controlled taxies and reduce roll out on landings.

       The first thing to do is solder a typical wheel collar to a 5/16 or ¼ “flat washer. Center the collar on the washer, heat the two with a propane torch and solder them together with a fillet of solder. (I use regular electronics grade rosin core solder, it seems to lay down the best.) Once the assembly has cooled, sand the flat side smooth with 400 grit sandpaper.

       After the disk has been completed, get a small piece of adhesive backed Velcro (the fuzzy side) and cut a round out of it (I use the disk as a template). This round piece should be slightly larger than the washer and have a ¼” hole cut in the middle. Once you have the friction disk made, it is time to prepare the wheel hub. (Depending on what type of wheel you use will determine how to apply your friction pad you have made).

       The center hub of your wheel must be suitable to grip the adhesive backed Velcro so choose a wheel that will work with your friction disk. DU-BRO makes a good captive air (pneumatic) wheel that has become my favorite to use with these brakes. (Not shown in article)   Use a rotary tool to remove the shouldered axle hub in the middle (if necessary) and clean the wheel with alcohol to promote adhesion of the Velcro. You can now apply the Velcro in the center of the hub to complete the wheel and you are ready to install it onto the axle.

       Take the disk (washer/collar) and install it to the inboard side of the axle (the supported side of the axle) and fit check the wheel to make sure the disk mates with the friction pad. After you are satisfied with the fit, remove the wheel and apply a dab of grease to the axle. Once the wheel is replaced, stack a small flat washer on the outboard side of the wheel and follow it with a rubber O-ring or similar. (I use 5/32 ID O-rings I get from a hardware store) Topping of the assembly with another wheel collar completes the assembly.

This is a shot of my DC-3 with the wheel brake installed.

       Set your friction rate by squeezing the O-ring between the hub washer and the collar to push the wheel against the disk. Once the amount of drag is correct, test the brakes by taxiing the plane and get a feel for the drag. After a few flights, readjust the tension and you will rarely have to touch them again. If you consider installing these brakes on a trike-gear, install the brake on the nose wheel. If a tail- dragger needs brakes, they must be installed on the mains so be sure to even out the amount of drag between the left and right wheel as to not make the plane turn when rolling out. Happy Flying!!!    

               Bill of material:

    2 - collars (sized to fit axle, typically 5/32”)

    1 – 5/16 or ¼” flat washer

    1 – Small flat washer (sized to fit axle, typically 5/32”)

    1 – 5/32 ID O-ring (or similar)

    1 – 1” x 1” piece of Velcro brand fastener w/ adhesive backing.

       (Only the fuzzy felt side will be used)

    1 – Plastic-hubbed wheel suitable for use.

  Questions or comments ? Feel free to contact me - Don Giandomenico

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