There’s nothing like washing away road grime and shining up your truck after the latest run. It’s also the perfect time for some wheel-end care so you can roll safely along the highways. With regular inspections, basic preventive maintenance, and the right decisions in the garage, fleets and owner-operators can avert brake-related issues that can cause major headaches down the road.
The standard walk-around pre- and post-trip inspection is a valuable tool for taking notice of potential problems like loose hoses, damaged or corroded air chambers, or broken pushrods. If you have air disc brakes (ADBs), then look for cuts or tears on the protective boots.
When the truck’s in the shop, take the time to measure the chamber stroke at each drum-braked wheel-end to ensure proper brake adjustment. We typically recommend checking the distance from the chamber to the pin with the brakes released, then again after a full brake application. The difference between the two is the chamber stroke – wheel-ends beyond the maximum allowable stroke are considered out of adjustment, which impacts both performance and compliance.
Brake stroke is part of the roughly 4 million inspections conducted every year by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance roadside inspection blitzes, and vehicles that have too many wheel-ends out of adjustment can be placed out of service for the violation. It’s worth noting that air disc brakes have an internal self-adjuster that can help lower the risk of brakes being found out of adjustment during an inspection.
Get the Friction Facts
Examine your brake friction couple, the matched pad and rotor combination that’s OEM-engineered for optimal performance, too. You’re looking for good condition – no severe cracks or significant chipping, and no oil or grease contamination – and making sure the pads meet the minimum thickness required for safe operation. Check air disc brake rotors for warping, wear, or cracking, and inspect drums for leopard spotting.
If it’s time to replace any of your brake pads or shoes, then remember that not all aftermarket replacements will actually perform to the reduced stopping distance (RSD) regulatory standard, even if they’re marketed as “acceptable.” Do your homework, particularly when it comes to friction temperature ratings. We recommend replacing original equipment manufacturer (OEM) friction like-for-like in order to maintain performance and compliance.
If you’ve made the investment in air disc brakes, for instance, then you don’t want to lose their OEM stopping distance and reliability advantages with inferior friction. Check to see if there is an ADB replacement pad that’s designed for your application, as this will help support longer service life, safety, and optimal performance.
Similarly, if you’re replacing drum brake shoes, then you can either choose service new or look to remanufactured shoes that have been coined back to their OEM-engineered shape, rather than those that have simply been relined with new friction. Braking puts a lot of stress on shoes, and, over time, the extreme force and temperature changes of even normal use distorts the shoe. Putting new friction on a twisted or warped shoe can lead to reduced stopping power and uneven or premature brake wear.
You’ll also want to make sure any new friction meets the new copper regulations that took effect earlier this year. Most Bendix friction materials have been compliant with these new requirements for a long time, but some older aftermarket pads may still be out there, so be mindful.
Keeping your braking systems in good operating condition doesn’t have to be difficult – and if you do find yourself in need of some expert advice, then get in touch with the Bendix team at 1-800-AIR-BRAKE. We’re always glad to help you stay on the road and rolling safely through all seasons.
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