5 Common Heavy Duty Truck Braking Problems And How To Avoid Them

Semi truck with brake problems

Heavy-duty trucks and trailers employ air braking systems, which, as the name indicated, use air instead of hydraulic fluid. Because the system is based on air, you'll never run out of fluid or have major braking troubles due to a fluid leak. The vehicle may securely run in tandem with the trailer with the help of an air brake system. However, the large weight of these vehicles and their loads can cause additional safety problems with air brake systems. Heavy-duty truck brake problems are hazardous, putting operators and other drivers on the road at risk. Here are five symptoms that your heavy-duty truck's brakes are failing and require attention from a certified diesel mechanic immediately.

1. Squealing

If you hear a high-pitched screaming sound coming from your brakes, it's probably time for brake pad replacement, which should be done every 50,000 miles.

2. Grinding

Grinding in your brakes means your brake pads have disintegrated, putting your rotors in danger. You'll want to move promptly at this stage to avoid having to pay for far more costly repairs.

3. Vibrations

Warped rotors are a typical source of braking vibrations, which is a prevalent problem owing to the enormous weights that heavy-duty trucks carry.

4. Pulling

When you use the brakes, your vehicle should keep moving straight ahead. If the vehicle pulls to either side as you engage the brakes, you may have uneven brake pad wear or a problem with an air brake line. This is a safety issue that needs to be addressed as soon as feasible.

5. Soft braking

If you press down on the brake pedal and it readily falls to the floor, your brake pads are probably worn out. Another possibility is that an air brake line is leaking.

How do air brakes work?

Before looking at what might go wrong, it's essential to understand how heavy duty-truck brakes work. The braking system on most heavy-duty trucks is made up of three elements. Air brakes, parking brakes, and emergency brakes. The entire system is well-designed and, in most circumstances, works flawlessly. Friction is provided to the brake pad to compress the air inside the truck's tank, which then pushes against a piston, putting pressure on the brake pad. Another system component is parking brakes, which prevent the vehicle from rolling away when parked, thus the name. Large machinery like huge trucks, as one would expect, need emergency brakes as well. Some rigs even have emergency brakes that activate automatically, while others must be manually engaged.

Brake Problems with Heavy Duty-Trucks

Some of the most prevalent reasons for heavy-duty brake problems include:

Brake Shoes: 

Brake shoes are sold in pairs. As a result, they're designed to wear evenly. However, they may become unbalanced and wear unevenly in certain circumstances. This weakens one side and might cause braking problems. Squeaking or scraping sounds or a vehicle that is less sensitive to braking than it should be are signs of this.

Incorrect Loading: 

Properly loading a trailer is critical since improper loading may result in various complications, including increased brake ware and trouble stopping.

Servicing issues: 

Brakes, like many other parts of a heavy-duty truck, must be serviced regularly to ensure that they are operating correctly. If a massive truck can't stop, we're not talking about a trivial issue. This is quite serious. Maintenance is thus essential, particularly for the braking system and emergency backups.

Brake fade: 

Drivers do not want to overwork the braking system by braking too hard or too often. Brake Fade happens when drivers mistakenly overheat the brake drums by braking too hard or pressing the brakes too hard. The air brake system has a flaw in the form of brake fade. Instead of holding the brakes for lengthy periods, use short, forceful, intermittent brake applications to prevent this problem.

Brake Lock: 

This occurs when the truck's brake shoe gets jammed. A slow acceleration, almost as if the vehicle is being held back, is one sign. This is due to the shoe's inability to disengage after being engaged.

Damaged Air-line: 

When specific elements of the truck's airline are punctured, fractured, or broken, the brakes might be damaged due to the air system. This indicates that the air is no longer appropriately pressured, resulting in inefficient braking.

What Should You Do If Your Brakes Fail?

Heavy duty-trucks range in weight from 35,000 to 80,000 pounds. Once it starts rolling, that's a lot of weight to stop, so a heavy-duty braking system is important. Everyone on the road is at risk when a vehicle’s braking system is broken, malfunctioning, or worn out. As a result, drivers must be aware of potential braking problems and know what indications to look for to avoid them.

Nothing is more terrifying for a truck driver than being unable to stop their vehicle due to their brakes not engaging. The following are some strategies that experienced drivers may use to mitigate these concerns and keep themselves and others on the road safe:

  • Downshift to slow down
  • Stop using the emergency brake
  • Pumping the brakes (if hydraulic)
  • Look for a way out (another lane or shoulder of the road)
  • Make use of an emergency stop ramp

To ensure that the heavy-duty braking system is working effectively, keep all of the information listed above at front of mind. It is essential to seek the assistance of a heavy-duty truck repair specialist to get brake problems addressed as soon as they arise. Make sure that you do it immediately so that you can ensure the safety of yourself and your load on the road. 

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