Heavy Duty Truck Brakes

Heavy Duty trucks use air-actuated brakes rather than hydraulic brakes. And on the big rigs, any loss of air pressure in the system causes the brakes to apply. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 121 requires this kind of safety backup to prevent runaway trucks from careening down the highway.

DOT says 1/4 inch or less pad needs to be replaced. On most pads there is a hash mark on the side of the pad, giving very easy visual reference as to when the pads are due to be changed

Making Replacements and Adjustments:

If the old linings are worn to minimum service specifications, or are contaminated with grease or oil, they must be replaced. This includes all shoe attaching hardware, anchor pin bushings, oil seals and cam bushings. Anchor pins, brake rollers and the bushing area of the cams should all be lubricated with high temperature brake grease.

Inspect and replace if necessary, torch damage around anchor holes, bent, damaged or cracked ears around anchor holes or cams, enlarged or worn anchor holes, bent or worn shoe table, elongated rivet holes in shoe table, or broken welds. Inspect all air hoses that lead to the brake chambers, and replace any hoses that are cracked or damaged. Check the brake chambers (brake chambers need to be replaced in pairs if needed, do not mix parts from different manufacturers, and do not mix long stroke chambers with standard stroke chambers to make sure they are fully releasing when the brakes are not applied. Inspect drums, resurfaced or replaced depending on their condition and the amount of wear. Worn or damaged brake drums can be extremely dangerous. As a rule, drums should not be returned to service if diameter wear exceeds 0.080 in., if the drum has hard spots (blue, discolored areas) or cracks across the drum braking surface. Inspect and pack wheel bearings. Inspect air dryer it takes the air from the compressor and removes most of the moisture and contaminants before the air enters the “wet tank” (a storage tank that acts as a pressure reservoir and also a secondary trap for moisture). The dryer on turbocharged engines also has an “isolation valve” to prevent loss of boost pressure if the compressor receives air under pressure from the turbo. Mounted on the wet tank are a “pop-off valve” (a safety valve that vents airif tank pressure exceeds 150 psi), a “low pressure switch” to warn the driver of low air pressure, and an automatic or manual “drain valve” to drain moisture from the wet tank.

Check S-cams for wear at the bushings, head and spline areas. Check slack adjusters for proper settings and operation. Check clevis pins and slack bushings for wear. If wear is over 0.030 in., you need to replace both. Never mix manual and automatic slack adjusters, and never use slack adjusters from different manufacturers on the same axle.

Airing It Out:

Air pressure is generated by an engine-driven compressor, which is also supplied with oil, coolant and filtered air by the engine. The compressor’s output on newer trucks (1992 models & up) is regulated by a governor. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard requires a cut-in pressure of at least 85 psi, but 105 psi is recommended to handle trailer brakes.

This part of the air brake system controls the brakes on the front steering axle of the tractor. It includes a “dry” tank for air storage (with a one-way check valve and pressure gauge), a “dual foot control valve” that allows the driver to modulate the application of the vehicle’s brakes, a “quick release valve” to release air from the service chambers in the front brakes, “service chambers” which use air pressure against a diaphragm to apply the brakes via a push rod, and slack adjusters (manual or automatic) for adjusting the brakes.

This part of the air brake system also has a separate “dry” tank (with gauge and one-way check valve) and operates through the dual foot control valve. Air is routed to the drive axle brakes via a “service relay” which modulates both application and release. The spring brakes provide both service and parking braking. Manual or automatic slack adjusters provide brake adjustment.

A yellow diamond knob “dash valve” allows the driver to release and apply the parking brakes. A “quick release valve” on 1992 and newer trucks allows the parking brakes to be fully applied in three seconds or less. The spring brakes are applied when there is no air pressure in either the parking or service chambers of the unit. When air is applied to the parking side only, the brakes are released. When air is applied to both sides, the brakes are reapplied to stopthe vehicle. A “two-way check valve” monitors the pressure in the primary and secondary system and delivers whichever pressure is higher. This devise is required by FMVSS 121 so that anytime air pressure is lost in either the primary or secondary service system, the vehicle’s parking brakes can be released at least once.

A “quick release two-way check valve” is used to prevent the parking brakes and service brakes from being applied simultaneously. Not all vehicles have this.

An “inversion valve” is required on all straight trucks es, and is optional on tractor/trailers. This system comes into play if air pressure is lost in the primary service system. It gradually releases air from the spring brake parking chambers so the vehicle can come to a safe, controlled stop.

A second knob on the dash, color coded red and shaped like an octagon, controls the application and release of the trailer’s parking brakes, plus the filling of the trailer service reservoirs with air pressure. The trailer control valve may be part of a “module dash control valve” that includes the yellow parking brake knob for the tractor. A protection valve isolates the trailer air lines from those on the tractor to prevent loss of air pressure in the tractor in case of a leak in the trailer’s system.

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Sheridan, Arkansas 72150
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