Jason Johnson, the service equipment manager at Horseshead Central School District, not far from the New York-Pennsylvania border, said the biggest challenge with brake service is the winter elements. Along with snow and ice comes corrosive road salt, or sodium chloride.
Horseshead is located within the U.S. Snow Belt, so its a part of a region susceptible to severe road salt destruction. If you have seen what de-icing salt does to vehicle paint and metal on just about anything else, just imagine what ultra-fine particles of salt mist can do to brake components as it settles into all the nooks and crannies.
“It can get in anywhere,” added Johnson, who is also the president of the New York Head Mechanics Association.
This makes brake inspections a vital part of Horseshead CSD’s preventive maintenance operations. Two shop employees team up on each brake job, and they completely uninstall the brakes to follow New York Department of Transportation guidelines. This means cleaning and inspecting the drums, shoes and rollers for cracking fatigue. Then all parts must be re-greased and put back together again.
To make brake PM more efficient, Johnson said the district began purchasing new buses with Bendix disc brakes. He explained that disc calipers provide a better stop and offer more control for drivers. And shop staff no longer have to remove 80-pound drums.
“They have much (fewer) parts so less can go wrong,” he added. “Less moving parts is a win-win situation and a lot safer.”
When it comes to brake diagnostics. Johnson said getting ahead of issues is a must for today’s fleet manager. Horseshead uses Bendix system software that plugs into the vehicle and monitors all ABS sensors and faults. “If you don’t move with the technology, you’ll be left behind.”
Meanwhile, Performance Friction Brakes recommends regular washing of buses, especially in winter months, to remove corrosive salt spray from brake components.
Company representatives said traditional wash systems work, but they suggested that even better is a concentrated undercarriage wash, which can direct water directly to the most vulnerable areas. PFC Brakes also offers a brake kit consisting of anodized and powder-coated, aluminum calipers, two-piece rotors that are more heat resistant and thicker brake pads with anti-corrosion material baked in to prevent crumbling of friction material.
Webb Wheel said it refers fleets to the TMC Recommended Practices Manual, which outline PM practices. VP of Engineering Johnathon Capps called road salts “a significant concern” because the solution leads to premature replacement of rotors with ABS teeth due to signal fault as well as de-lamination of the rotor itself. “To combat this, we recently released our LifeShield technology,” he added. “This consists of a heat treatment process, which protects the entire rotor from corrosive agents.