Winter Brake Maintenance

Winter brake maintenance

Preventative truck maintenance is important year round, but especially so in the winter months. Brake maintenance is one of the most important areas to focus on as cold weather approaches. Freezing temperatures, inclement weather, and road salt can all affect brake performance while icy roads and slippery conditions demand maximum brake power. Appropriate maintenance can help to minimize common brake issues and maximize stopping power when it is needed most.

Winter conditions pose unique challenges to the air systems of heavy-duty trucks, with moisture being a significant concern. Moisture in the air system can lead to malfunctions in brakes and valves, especially in cold weather where condensed water may freeze. As the compressor brings in air, it also draws in moisture and pumps the mixture into the air dryer. The air dryer plays a crucial role in preventing moisture from going further into the braking system or reaching other components controlled by compressed air.

Winter Challenges for Brakes:

  • Condensed water can freeze, causing malfunctions in air systems.
  • The stress of freeze-and-thaw cycles puts additional strain on components.
  • Road chemicals used for de-icing can corrode the air dryer’s housing and pneumatic fittings.
  • Loss of stretch or recoil ability in extreme cold can lead to force on gladhands and potential separation.
  • Inflexibility causing kinking, blocking air to the brake system, and damaging air lines.
  • Over-extension leading to failure to recoil, potential damage, and sagging.

Preventative Maintenance Steps:

  • Use Severe Weather Air Lines: Opt for air lines designed for severe weather conditions to remain flexible in extreme cold.
  • Grips or Extensions: Select air lines with grips or add gladhand extension grips for better leverage during coupling and uncoupling.
  • Replace Air Dryer Cartridges: Regularly replace air dryer cartridges in order to keep moisture out of the brake system. Air dryer cartridges should be replaced in accordance with manufacturer’s maintenance intervals, or just before the winter season to ensure optimal performance. Be sure to replace with a similarly functioning cartridge (oil-coalescing instead of standard, if required).
  • Manually Drain Air Tanks: Periodically drain water trapped in the tanks. This allows you to remove moisture from the system while also indicating the air dryer’s current effectiveness. While time between drainings may vary depending on use, it is a good idea to drain tanks as cold weather begins.
  • Check Purge Valve: Inspect for corrosion or grit accumulation around the purge valve, and be sure to replace it if necessary.

Dealing with Frozen Components:

Cold temperatures combined with snow and ice mixtures can result in parts of your brake system freezing or seizing up. When freeing these parts it is important to not cause even more damage by using the right materials and procedures.

  • Avoid using alcohol or de-icing solutions to prevent damage to brake valves and seals. While some brake systems use alcohol internally with an alcohol evaporator to keep air lines and reservoirs ice-free, be sure to use manufacture recommended products or check with a mechanic.
  • If freezing occurs, identify the precise location and limit de-icing application to that area.
  • Check and replace sluggish or malfunctioning valves in the brake system.

Winter brake maintenance is crucial for ensuring the reliability and performance of heavy-duty truck braking systems during challenging weather conditions. Taking proactive steps and following recommended maintenance routines can prevent potential issues and enhance overall safety. These tips should be used to supplement your regular preventative maintenance plan including inspection, replacement, and lubrication.

Brake Parts at Iron Wing Sales

Looking for replacement brake parts to get ready for the winter? At Iron Wing Sales, we carry thousands of Heavy Duty Truck parts including air brake repair kits, compressors, air dryer cartridges, brake shoes, brake liners, brake chambers, slack adjusters, and more. We stock parts from manufacturers such as Bendix, MGM Brakes, Meritor-WABCO, Haldex, Carlisle, and more. Our parts are In-Stock & Ready-to-Ship, which helps minimize downtime. Search our inventory by part #, category, or manufacturer to find the parts you need. For further assistance, contact us at: or 216-912-9089.

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