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Why the Brakes You Use Matter

Bendix (1)

Brakes. Everybody’s got them, and nobody wants to see them go out.

And when you drive for a living, it’s even more vital to keep your brakes in line.

Many drivers understand brake maintenance like the back of their hand, but plenty of others don’t—and that’s okay. At K&J, we’re focused on hiring good people, regardless of their training.

For those of you who aren’t quite as up on brake maintenance (or if you’d just like a refresher course!) we spoke with Kent Klausing of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, to get the lowdown on why the brakes you use matter.

3 Important Brake Considerations for Commercial Truck Drivers

1. Don’t Go Cheap

According to Klausing, when it comes to brakes, you get what you pay for. The companies that are building trucks often try to stay away from unnecessary bells and whistles that increase pricing, but they always use premium braking materials, for the safety and longevity of the vehicle.

Commercial trucks are either fitted with drum brakes or air disc brakes. While drum brakes are still more prevalent, air discs have been gaining a hold on the market. It's projected that 35 percent of the trucks built in 2018 will be built with air discs.

Because of the way air discs are built, they provide an estimated 20-40 percent longer lifespan than traditional drum brakes. From Klausing's perspective, that extra life is worth any additional costs.

And cost-cutting extends to parts as well. When you’re choosing brake shoes, drums, or lining, never settle for the cheapest option. As price and quality go up, so will the lifetime of your brakes.

For example, Klausing referenced a cheaper lining that drivers like to choose for their brakes, purely based on cost. What they don't realize, however, is that this lining was designed for use in drayage trailers or container chassis, which don't travel more than 90 miles at a time and spend over half their life with nothing on top of them.

 2. Don’t Adjust Your Brakes If You Don’t Need To

Regular brake maintenance (often referred to as Periodic Maintenance Intervals, or PMIs) is suggested every three to four months. However, some drivers think they need to adjust their brakes at every PMI.

While it might sound logical, making adjustments too often can actually be damaging to your brakes. Automatic slack adjustersthe adjustment system for drum brakesdo not need to be adjusted regularly. In fact, if they do, there’s probably something wrong.

“There are people out there that think they need to adjust every PMI, but you could be doing damage,” says Klausing. “If you do need to adjust that frequently, look for the reasons why. 80 percent of adjusters are being slowly destroyed when you’re adjusting them too much.”

3. Use the Right Replacement Parts

At some point, your brake systems will need replacement parts. This is a common situation where drivers think they can save money, but according to Klausing, choosing the right replacement parts is crucial to brake maintenance.

“It’s Brakes 101, but lots of people don’t think about it,” says Klausing.

Klausing emphasizes the importance of sticking with one brand. If you’re using a specific brand for parts on one side, be sure to put the same brand on the other side when you replace it. Different brands can be made with different materials, causing them to react differently.

“They’ll do the same thing, but they’ll do it a little bit differently, and a difference in your left and right wheel is called brake imbalance,” explains Klausing.

The other thing drivers need to be cognizant of when they're working on replacements is the 2011 regulation* for class A tractors' reduced stopping distance (RSD).

"That’s one thing a lot of people don’t understand," says Klausing. "We went from a 355 foot to a 250 foot stopping distance, and if you’re doing brake replacement you really need to be sure you're getting a shoe that’s certified." 

*The 2011 enactment of this new regulation affects model year class A trucks 2012 to current.

In Summary...

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do to extend the life of your brakes is ensure you're reaching that 3-4 month PMI. Additionally, when you bring your brakes in for maintenance, be sure you're visiting a qualified professional. 

Staying up-to-date on federal regulations, your company's standards (if applicable), and proper maintenance and replacement practices will greatly extend your brakes' quality and lifetime.

Now that you've got your brakes mastered, why not take a few minutes to learn about why the oil you use matters. Check out our post below!

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