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Avoiding CSA Violations: Proper Inspection and Upkeep of Air Systems and Brakes

Brake performance and stopping power: They’re near the very heart of commercial vehicle and highway safety – which means they endure close scrutiny under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) initiative. This means that anything impacting their operation – from inadequate friction to air system leaks to out-of-adjustment brake stroke – can affect CSA scoring. And the right air system and brake inspection and upkeep practices can help fleets and owner-operators avoid CSA violations.

First Things First

Let’s start with preventive maintenance and inspection.

Air system leak checks should be part of any driver’s daily pre-trip routine. This includes a 90 to 100 psi brake application, followed by a walk-around vehicle inspection, with an ear open for audible leaks. Also keep a watchful eye for loose hoses, and look at the wheel-ends for any damaged or loose-hanging air chambers, pushrods, or slack adjusters.

At least a couple times per week, a more thorough air test should be conducted by parking the truck someplace level and chocking the wheels, building the system pressure until the governor cuts out, and then allowing the pressure to stabilize for a minute. For two more minutes, without the service brakes applied, watch the air reservoir gauges for any pressure drop greater than 4 psi, plus 2 psi for each additional trailer. Lastly, apply the service brakes and let the pressure stabilize, holding the pedal in position for two minutes – a block of wood or something similar can be used – and looking out for those previously noted pressure drops.

Because air seals, brake modulating valves, and brake chamber diaphragms are all susceptible to premature damage and leaks if moisture gets into the system, it’s important to open the reservoir drain valves at least once a month to check for moisture. And we highly recommend using OE, oil-coalescing dryer cartridges to keep the system dry – oil mixed with moisture is even more damaging to system components, and desiccant quality is crucial.

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