Keeping brakes in top shape reduces risk and costly downtime

Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services brakes tech
Senior Mobile Diesel Technician Cedrick Desmarchais at Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services shown above.
Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services

According to the latest International Roadcheck data among commercial motor vehicles, brake systems and brake adjustment violations accounted for nearly 39% of all vehicle out-of-service violations, outpacing all other vehicle violation categories. This astonishing number is evidence of irregular maintenance and puts both the driver and company at risk of unforeseen downtime and costs.

Fleets can avoid emergency maintenance by keeping the following advice in mind, courtesy of a few top technicians from Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services.

Preventive maintenance and repairs

Brakes are arguably the most important part of a truck and drivers should always have confidence that their brakes will stop the truck no matter the situation. This begins with preventive maintenance. If you’re a fleet manager, it’s good practice to know the customer’s preventive maintenance (PM) schedule—three months, six months, or at the bare minimum, one year—so you can get in front of the repairs before a small issue becomes an emergency. This will save an enormous amount of time and money.

When having your brakes checked, technicians should typically start by checking each of the following:

·     Check the limit (making sure they are not too low)

·      Notify about 12-30 seconds on the brake shoes

·      Ensure they are not cracked or chipped

·      Check that S-cams are all pushing but don’t have too much play as this can cause excessive brake wear—important to get these tight

·      Check slack adjusters

·      Check brake stroke lighting

·      Ensure wear limit is within its spec

·      Visual inspections including the shoes and drums

Common mistakes

There is a great amount of responsibility when servicing brakes and one should never assume something is right. Finding the right technicians who are thorough and double check their work is vital to a healthy fleet. For example, sometimes technicians only take the readings but it’s critical to do visual inspections, too. Visually inspecting the drums in particular tells you a lot about what’s going on with the brakes, but also helps technicians be proactive in identifying other problems and potential safety issues. 

Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services brake adviceStephen Nutter, mobile trailer repair technician with Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services shown above.Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet ServicesAnother common mistake is that some technicians find brakes out of adjustment and don’t look for the root cause. For example, slack adjusters are not meant to be adjusted every preventive maintenance inspection and if that’s the case, it’s likely something is worn out or damaged that’s not letting the slack adjuster do its job properly. This is a sign they need to be repaired.

An experienced technician will be able to easily spot any work that needs to be done but it’s recommended to always ask questions to ensure due diligence.

What fleets stand to lose

Truck owners often ignore replacing brake shoes or pads because they are still DOT legal and would rather wait for the next PM. While shoes and pads are cheap, having an accident is not and it’s much better to nip a small problem in the bud rather than wait until it becomes a bigger (and more expensive) issue to fix.

However, truck upkeep is the responsibility of not only the technician, considering there is sometimes oversight, but the driver as well. Drivers have a role in brake maintenance and should be constantly inspecting them visually. By adopting this habit of checking the wear mark on brake shoes, they can help save hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars.

If drivers keep driving without checking, brakes can wear low and become metal on metal. This can quickly become costly and dangerous. Encouraging drivers to take on the mindset of becoming active participants in keeping the truck safe will guarantee better results and lower the chances of an emergency. And, if a driver notices something is wrong, remind them to always speak up.

At the end of the day, the safety of your fleet and drivers should be your number one priority and while regular maintenance may add another item to your to-do list, it’s better to err on the side of caution and take the extra time to ensure your fleet is equipped for success.

Senior Mobile Diesel Technician Cedrick Desmarchais and Mobile Trailer Repair Technician Stephen Nutter, both at Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services, contributed to this blog. Desmarchais was Cox Automotive Mobility’s Top Tech Runner-Up in the Trailer category and won the Trailer Air Brake Systems station. Nutter was one of the 30 finalists at Top Tech and won the Trailer Disc Brake station competition.