A semi-truck represents much more than just a vehicle. To an owner-operator, a semi-truck also represents a key investment, a source of income, and even a home during long cross-country drives. To prevent mechanical issues from compromising all of those important roles, you must be especially vigilant about keeping your truck in tip-top shape.
Since brakes continue to be a common area in which trucks experience problems, you should familiarize yourself with the causes. If not caught in time, brake problems can put you at serious risk, while also costing you a small fortune to repair. If you would like to learn more about how to head off potential brake problems, read on.
1. BALANCE ISSUES
Your truck's braking force should be distributed evenly between the left and right wheels. In other words, each side should be exerting the exact same amount of stopping force. An unequal balance will cause your truck to pull toward one side when you apply the brakes. You may find yourself actively compensating for this pull with the steering wheel.
Such imbalance may stem from a number of causes. Brake imbalance may indicate that one or more of your brake drums have become glazed. Glazed drums are too smooth to provide the necessary friction for stopping. Drums often become glazed as the result of overheating during periods of intense use, such as when descending downhill.
Braking imbalance can also indicate problems with the hoses and/or fittings running between the brake chambers and the valves. Mismatched parts are often at the cause of hose and fitting problems. If any of the hoses have a different diameter, for instance, the hose will not exert the same amount of force, which represents a fairly common problem on trucks whose brake assemblies have had overhauls in the past.
Don't worry too much about trying to figure out the exact cause of the imbalance; an expert can take care of that for you. Instead, take note of the circumstances under which the imbalance becomes most noticeable by taking the following factors into account:
- Speed at which the imbalance manifests
- Application pressure of the load
- Pavement conditions
- Load weight
An expert can use such information to make logical deductions about the most likely source of the problem.
2. TIMING ISSUES
Safety dictates that the brakes on a tractor-trailer rig operate in a specific order. Specifically, the brakes on the trailer apply just before the brakes on the tractor itself. This order of operations prevents the tractor from bumping against the trailer - a scenario that puts a strain on the tractor's brakes and increases the instability of your rig.
The release timing of the trailer brakes is just as important as the application timing. If the trailer brakes don't release quickly enough, the rear wheels could lock up and go into a skid. And it is very scary to start losing control of your vehicle like that.
A truck suffering from brake application timing issues often results in a pushing sensation each time you engage your brakes. This feeling literally involves the trailer butting up against the back of your tractor. Problems with release timing often manifest as a feeling of resistance when you let off the brakes and give your rig some throttle.
If you have noticed that your brakes are showing any of the signs we discussed in this blog, you must contact an experienced repair technician as soon as possible. You can generally minimize both the safety risks and the repair costs by catching the issue in its early stages. For more information about common truck brake problems, please don't hesitate to contact the experts at S&T Truck Repair.