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Why is Commercial Vehicle Brake Failure More Common in Winter?

Commercial vehicle braking systems are critical components. The optimal performance of braking systems are imperative for the safety of the driver, other road users, and the maintenance and flow of the highways and motorways.

Why Do Commercial Braking Systems Fail?

Commercial braking systems can and do fail for a variety of reasons. Some systems fail due to a lack of maintenance or neglect, while others fail spontaneously or under impact, strain or abnormal load requirements.

We’ve compiled four quick reasons why your braking system may fail below:

1) Faulty suspension systems

A misaligned suspension system can create serious issues with the performance and reliability of your braking system. The suspension system, if configured too harshly can lead to increased stress on the brakes which can diminish brake longevity and bring a more uncomfortable driving experience.

2) Brake imbalance

Imbalance in the braking system is one of the primary causes of jack-knifing accidents. If the components within the brake function are not in equal condition across all stress points then some brakes will be required to exert more resistance / force than others, which can lead to imbalance in the speed at which the wheels reduce their speed. This can bring hazard and danger during periods of sharp braking.

3) Hose kinking & chafing

If the commercial vehicles braking system indicates hose imperfections, there can be a near spontaneous or short-warning failure within the brakes leading to a complete cessation in brake function. The two key hose components that you must regularly check within your maintenance schedule to minimise the risk of braking system failure are your thermoplastic hoses and rubber hoses.

4) Brake overheating

If the vehicle’s braking system overheats under maximum load or overload, then the system may fail spontaneously, either temporarily or indefinitely. This will cause the vehicle to lose control over its travelling speed and can lead to collisions. The primary cause of overheating in the braking system is poor braking technique when travelling downhill over for a sustained distance.

Why Does Winter Exacerbate Brake Failure?

When winter comes, the number of accidents/collisions on the road increase, and the regularity of seeing breakdowns or stranded vehicles on the roadside multiplies. This is because winter brings the most sustained and harshest conditions to our roads. Whether it is the arrival or sleet, snow, ice, or just severely cold weather; adverse weather conditions can expose poor driving capabilities and technique.

The four reasons for brake failure that we listed above, are naturally exacerbated by winter and harsh weather conditions. However, winter brings a further issue. Lubrication.

Brakes wear harder and faster in winter due to the increased need for sharper braking as extended caution is required when driving a heavy goods or passenger vehicle. If your brake components are poorly lubricated, this will lead to a fast reduction in braking capability due to reduced function in the system. The key to maintaining your commercial vehicle braking system in the winter is ensuring that your brake components have adequate lubrication.

How To Lubricate Your Brake Components?

You should ensure that you have adequate lubrication across your braking system so that your vehicle is performing at its optimum, and in the safest manner. Ensuring that your brake back sides, caliper pins, clips and mounting tabs are lubricated at the start of the winter season, periodically throughout the season, with a maintenance check at the completion of the winter season can significantly increase the longevity of your braking system and reduce the risk of brake failure. You should ensure that your lubricant is non-melting and synthetic for optimum performance.

In addition to the lubrication of the above brake system components, there needs to be special consideration and attention made to the adequacy and quality of lubrication in the automatic slack adjusters (also known termed automatic brake adjusters). Creating a safe and satisfactory level of lubrication in the vehicle’s automatic slack adjusters can be achieved by forcing lubricant into the adjusters grease fitting, attaching the hose from the grease gun, and forcing new grease through the adjuster until the dated grease has been exhausted from the release opening. Failing to grease your automatic slack adjusters can bring incorrect brake stroke and diminish the vehicle’s control over its stopping distance; potentially increasing the likelihood / possibility of an accident.

Why Air Braking Checks Are Imperative In Winter?

Air Braking systems are incredibly hardy and resilient; however, the resilience of a vehicle’s air braking system is tested intensively during the winter. In a 2017 research done by the British Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), brakes accounted for 33% of vehicle defects during fleet compliance checks. This only emphasises to fleet owners and operators that air braking systems are critical components and cannot be afforded to fail. Truck and bus air braking systems are often exposed to significant shifts in temperature; and the winter climate can bring the induction of moisture into the air circuit which is incredibly dangerous to the vehicles safety while travelling. Moisture in the air braking circuit can lead to corrosion, which in turn can lead to partial or total braking failure. This is why air braking checks are imperative in the winter. The rigorous and meticulous checking of air chambers and circuits can help prevent air brake failure and help to keep both driver and vehicle safe while under load or on task.

The Importance of Maintenance Generally?

It is incredibly important that vehicle maintenance is not seen as a “one and done” process. Commercial vehicles such as trucks, buses or heavy goods vehicles weigh several tonnes under-load and this increased requirement on the drive, braking, and hydraulic systems should not be underestimated. To avoid vehicle breakdowns, accidents and performance failures it is imperative that you deploy a regular and comprehensive maintenance program across your fleet of vehicles. Having a healthy braking system is at the forefront of commercial vehicle safety. We work with a diverse network of manufacturers who specialise in wheel braking, air braking, and braking systems. Reputable brands such as Meritor and WABCO are just two of the many brands and original equipment manufacturers who we call upon within our supply chain network to achieve ‘next-level’ results for our clients. Please get in contact via email should you require more information.

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