The most important safety function of any vehicle on the road is the ability to stop. Brakes are an essential part of every truck, bus, automobile, motorcycle, and bicycle in Canada today. Since 2000, Antilock Brake System (ABS brakes) have been a mandatory part of every truck, tractor-trailer, towed unit and bus in Canada and the U.S.
Every component of the brake system is essential and must be in top working order to keep you and other people on the road safe. It really doesn’t make sense to skip maintenance, since a safe truck has superior uptime and makes more money.
Read ahead for ABS brakes maintenance tips to keep you, your cargo and other drivers safe on the road.
Proper Maintenance for Safety and Uptime
Even the best quality brake systems need regular inspection and maintenance for the longest effective life. You need your truck to have the maximum amount of uptime to earn you money. ABS brakes can’t function correctly without communication between the brakes, the electronic control, and sensors. Ignoring brake trouble can be dangerous or can take you off the road for an extended time.
ABS brake systems have a predefined interval of time or mileage for how often you should schedule maintenance. We recommend you keep to the manufacturer’s recommendation as the maximum amount of time between services. This reduces the risk of an unscheduled work stoppage.
Every driver has unique operating conditions. Only you can determine how frequently you use your brakes, under what load, and in what weather. Be aware of changes in performance, even small ones. Changes in the sound of braking or loose steering movement indicate something is wrong.
ABS Brakes Basics
An ABS braking system consists of wheel speed sensors, ABS pressure modulator valves, and the electronic control unit (ECU). The ECU monitors each individual wheel motion during braking and adjusts the brake pressure.
When wheel slip or wheel lock-up happens, the ECU automatically activates the pressure modulator valves to reduce brake pressure at one or more of the wheels. This allows the driver to steer and retain control. ABS can release and apply pressure many more times a second than a human can.
ABS brakes help maintain a truck’s lateral stability and steering during heavy braking, as well as braking on ice or slippery roads. Some systems include advanced traction control, which uses engine torque limits in combination with differential braking. The most sophisticated systems give the ECU control over the throttle as well, for enhanced vehicle stability.
ABS Maintenance to Avoid Downtime
In the event of an ABS failure or problem your ABS lamp will light up and an ABS warning message will appear on the dashboard. When power is first switched on to the ABS system, the lamp momentarily lights to confirm the lamp is working. It also conducts a self-test at this time.
If a fault is detected during the system test or a fault is stored in memory, the light stays on until the fault is corrected. It’s a problem (and a violation) if the ABS light doesn’t light up momentarily when power is first applied or cycled. It’s also trouble if the lamp turns on and stays on.
During maintenance, an ABS brakes qualified technician will visually check each component of the system. Your ECU is attached to a live stream code reader and information from the system is analyzed for faults. Each wheel sensor is calibrated and the pressure actuators adjusted.
Your brakes and wheel assembly are also visually inspected for wear or contamination.
Electronic technology has advanced a great deal in the last decade and ABS systems are no exception. Technicians need to know both mechanical and electronic troubleshooting.
Regular Mechanical Maintenance for Safety
Part of your annual CVIP visit is a brake check. Every set of brakes has a certain amount of brake lining required for safety and stopping power. Brake pads and linings should be maintained regularly to avoid downtime. Changing brake pads is much less costly and time-consuming than repairing brake damage!
ABS pressure actuators depend on working brakes. Regularly check of the air gap between the plate and the brake coil. As the brake lining starts to wear down, the air gap increases. Adjust the brakes as necessary to prevent damage to rotors and other parts.
Contamination Risks Time On the Road
Smoke coming off your brakes is not a good sign. It means that grease, oil, or debris have found a place inside your brake system. Not only will they burn in the heat generated by braking, they cause permanent damage to the surfaces.
When your brakes are contaminated with grease or moisture, the ability to drive your rig is at risk. ABS brakes can’t do their job of stopping your truck when you slip if they can’t grab and hold. Of course, you can’t drive if your truck is in the shop for repairs!
Maintain Regularly, Replace as Necessary
Keep track of time, condition and use of your brake systems. A basic visual inspection at every use and regular maintenance service keeps your rig safe, on the road, and earning you money. Your annual CVIP is in addition to your scheduled maintenance service.
Be vigilant for any excessive vibration, uneven loads or loss of control. They are threats to safety and uptime. Keep contaminants out of your brakes. Water, oil, grease or brake fluid can cause smoke and damage. Repairs are much more time-consuming and costly than regular maintenance.
Brake pads, linings, rotors and all components should be checked and/or replaced at manufacturer recommended intervals or sooner. Brake fluid should also be checked and changed as necessary.
Have a qualified technician with the right tools regularly inspect and service ABS systems. A code reader is required to diagnose faults in the system.