What Is a Jake Brake?

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A large blue truck tries to come to a stop using a jake brake.

“No Jake Brakes” signs are commonly observed in the vicinity of residential communities along freight routes that receive a lot of traffic, especially just before a traffic light. Perhaps you have seen one and wondered its significance. Due to the fact that most individuals are not familiar with the terminology used in the big rig industry, they do not understand what this means or how it relates to them.

If you were injured in an accident with a large truck in North Carolina, call Tatum & Atkinson, ‘the heavy hitters,’ for a free evaluation of your case at 800-LAW-0804.

What Is a Jake Brake?

“Jake Brakes” is the common name for engine brakes that release compression when applied. It is a feature that is used on large diesel trucks such as semi-trucks, and it swiftly slows the vehicle down while generating a loud noise. This is accomplished from pressurized air releasing from the engine through the exhaust valves. Even if you didn’t know what it was called, you’ve undoubtedly heard Jake braking quite a bit on high-speed roads in mountainous areas and on routes with traffic signals, even if you didn’t know what it was called. We are going to investigate where the term “Jake braking” came from, whether or not it is legal, why there are warning signs posted against it, and whether or not it poses any risks. 18-wheelers are required to have engine brakes with jake-brake technology.

What Is the Purpose of the Jake Brake?

Because semi-tractor-trailers have a great number of wheels, their braking systems need a great number of individual components. In addition to this, large trucks carry significant weight loads. Because of this, a big rig that is going quickly must have all of those brakes applied in order to slow it down, which causes a great deal of friction. Think about the strain that going down a mountain at a safe and controlled speed would have on the brakes of an 18-wheeler as the truck is seeking to keep its speed under control. Imagine if, in order to slow down the engine, all a driver needed to do was lift their foot off the throttle rather than having to apply the brakes, which require friction to work. A jake brake accomplishes this.

How Does a Jake Brake Work?

With the Jake brake engaged, compressed air develops with the piston at the top of the cylinder as the driver lifts their foot off the throttle. The crankshaft’s downstroke cannot be powered by the piston because of pressure, as indicated by the open exhaust vent. This implies that to slow the truck down, the engine generates drag on the wheels.

Therefore, by reducing speed without activating the brakes, the temperature of the brakes is maintained, keeping the brake pads cushioned. Additionally, it shortens the time needed to slow the truck down to the appropriate level (or a full stop). Sadly, it’s often considered too loud and annoying for anyone nearby to hear.

Are Jake Brakes Legal?

Particularly in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, local governments have begun posting signs in areas where residents are dissatisfied with the annoying exhaust noise that is caused by Jake braking. These countries include the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although there are signs posted in certain locations prohibiting Jake braking, the practice is not outright banned elsewhere. When determining their jurisdiction to implement legislation against it, local governments are required to check in with the state government. Jake braking is against the law in Chesterfield, Missouri, and anyone found guilty of the offense faces a possible jail sentence of 90 days and a fine of $500.

Truck drivers can prevent accidents in the easiest way possible by remaining vigilant and watching for warning indications. However, it is essential to show due regard for the choices made by the residents of the area. It is essential for truck drivers to avoid getting into difficulty. This is important not only for the sake of ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard but also for the safety of the roadways.

What Purpose Do No-Jake-Brake Signs Serve?

In some municipalities, the use of Jake brakes is subject to noise ordinances. Because of this, it’s probable that you’ll come across some signage while you’re in the vicinity of a certain slope or traffic light. If a local government determines that it is necessary to reduce noise pollution for whatever reason, whether it be for the good of the neighborhood or the habitat of animals, a notice will be posted to that effect. For example, when the posted speed limit on a roadway suddenly drops from 55 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour, there may be a sign nearby stating that jake brakes are not allowed. This has caused many truck drivers to lodge complaints about the signs. They are all in agreement that using standard brakes to slow down their enormously massive and heavy trucks is riskier than using other types of brakes. In spite of this, a number of different municipal administrations have voiced their concern about this inconvenience. Arguments concerning truckers’ commitment to safety are frequently successful in swaying boards. In the event that you are ever forced to choose a choice, keep in mind that each viewpoint has compelling arguments. It is important to have this discussion in order to discover a solution that will lead to a compromise.

Examples of Signage

The wording on the signage varies quite a bit since “Jake brake” is a shorthand for the compression-release engine brake. Here are a few instances of different signs you may encounter prohibiting the use of jake brakes:

  • No Jake Brakes
  • No Jake Braking
  • Prohibited: Compression Braking
  • Restricted Use of Brake Retarders
  • Engine Braking Prohibited
  • Prohibition on Unmuffled Compression Brakes

Even derivatives of these examples exist. The list of names above is intended to demonstrate how many different names there are.

Jake Brakes: Do They Harm the Engine?

Jake brakes do not affect the engine when utilized properly. Drivers should check their oil before starting their trip to make sure it is not low. When oil levels are low, using an engine brake can harm the engine. Additionally, truck drivers should wait until the engine has warmed up before applying the engine brake. When a Jake Brake is applied to a cold engine, harm may result. Additionally, it’s crucial that drivers avoid exceeding the engine’s maximum RPM limit by letting the weight of the vehicle accelerate downward.

Jake Brakes that are utilized correctly won’t affect the engine and will increase the lifespan of the service brake shoes.

Are Jake Brakes Fuel Efficient?

Many truckers argue over whether Jake Brakes utilize more fuel or not. Despite the different views, it is generally agreed that the fuel waste is worthwhile in order to prevent brake wear.

When using their Jake Brake or service brakes, drivers should avoid making unnecessary stops in order to save gasoline. Unnecessary stops cause the truck’s forward motion to be interrupted, at which point extra gasoline is required. Another simple method of fuel conservation is to coast through stop signs and red lights.

North Carolina Large Truck Accident Lawyers

If you have questions or concerns regarding the legality of using compression braking in North Carolina, do not hesitate to contact the experienced trucking attorneys at Tatum & Atkinson, ‘the Heavy Hitters.’ Call (800) 529-0804 or contact us online to schedule your case evaluation today.