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Air-brake Components in

Trucks and Buses

Foundationbrakes are
the most common air-
brake systems found in
trucks and buses and
work the same way as
inrail cars. Using the
triple-valve principle,
air builds up inside the
brake pipes or air lines,
releasing the brakes.
Virtually all of the road
equipped with air
brakes have
agraduated release
systemwhere a partial
Schematic of Air Brake System increase in pressure
Components dictates a proportional
release in brakes.
Triple Valve Principle
Charging: The system must be pressurized
with air before the brakes will release. At rest,
the brakes remain engaged. Once the system
reaches its operating pressure, the brakes are
freed and ready to use.
Applying: As the brakes are applied, air
pressure decreases. As the amount of air
decreases, the valve allows air back into the
reservoir tanks, while the brakes move to the
applied position.
Releasing: Once the brakes are applied and
the air escapes after braking, the increased
pressure releases the brakes.
Air compressor: Pumps the air into storage tanks to be used in the brake system

Air compressor governor: Controls the cut-in and cut-out point of the air compressor to

maintain a set amount of air in the tank or tanks

Air reservoir tanks: Hold compressed or pressurized air to be used by the braking


Drain valves: Release valves in the air tanks used to drain the air when the vehicle isn't

in use

Foot valve (brake pedal): When depressed, air is released from the reservoir tanks

Brake chambers: Cylindrical container that houses a slack adjuster that moves a

diaphragm or cam mechanism

Push rod: A steel rod similar to a piston that connects the brake chamber to the slack

adjuster. When depressed, the brakes are released. If extended, the brakes are applied.

Slack adjusters: An arm connects the push rod to the brake s-cam to adjust the distance

between the brake shoes

Brake S-cam: An s-shaped cam that pushes brake shoes apart and against the brake


Brake shoe: Steel mechanism with a lining that causes friction against the brake drum
At idle (foot off the brake and vehicle's air system charged), air

pressure overcomes the diaphragm or the s-cam is in the closed

position, resulting in a released brake system. As soon as you

depress the brake pedal, the air pressure decreases, turning the s-

cam and spreading the brake shoes against the drum. The

compressor refills the reservoir tanks and when you allow the pedal

to retract, the air pressure increases back to the original state.

Emergency air brakescomplement standard air-brake systems and

can be activated by pulling a button on the dash (near the one with

the light that we saw in the introduction). Before you can drive a

vehicle with air brakes, you must push in the emergency brake

button to fill the system with air. As long as the emergency system

is pressurized, the emergency brake will remain free. If the system

The squeaking is the air escaping after
braking and the ppssss sound is the
automaticbypass safety valvesat work,
ensuring the air pressure remains at the
correct level. Since a main advantage of air-
brakes systems is their ability to use air to
operate, the compressor is constantly
kicking on and kicking off to refill the
reservoirs with pressurized air. When the