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ANALYSIS OF TRAILER BRAKE FAILURE ON NIGERIAN ROADS

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Kunle Shonaike

In the backdrop of the recent tragic accidents caused by poorly maintained trailers or long trucks on our roads, today’s topic somewhat forced itself on this column.

Truck brakes are often blamed for causing crashes. Most commonly, this claim comes from the truck driver, who is trying to transfer blame from himself to a failure of the truck. When this claim is made, interested parties often assume that a catastrophic mechanical failure caused a complete loss of braking force. Stated differently, the assumption is that a defective component of the brake system spontaneously failed causing the brakes to no longer function. In reality, brake systems are designed so that a complete catastrophic failure is an extremely rare event.

Therefore, alleged brake failures usually are not failures at all but performance problems stemming from deficient maintenance.

Truck braking systems can usually still provide low levels of braking force even with maintenance deficiencies. This low-level braking force will allow the truck driver to adequately stop the truck for normal operations such as slowing for a stop sign.

However, when a high level of braking force is demanded in an emergency, these deficiencies will show themselves. Even though the driver is applying the brakes very hard, he will not get the expected result, which is a high level of deceleration. In this case, the brakes are slowing the truck, but not as quickly as the driver expects them to.

Most likely the driver will perceive that the brakes are not working at all. In reality, the brakes are working, but not at the level of performance expected for an emergency application.

Brake Imbalance: Another brake performance problem that results from poor maintenance is brake imbalance, which can be caused by deficiencies that affect some of the brakes in the system but not others. Brake imbalance can also happen by having mismatched brake system components that cause some brakes to work harder than others. Brake imbalances can lead to instability during braking, brake fade, and brake fires.

Good brake balance is a result of having properly matched, maintained, and adjusted brake system components, as well as a properly loaded trailer. There are two main types of brake balance; torque balance and pneumatic balance.

Proper torque balance is created by having matched mechanical components, which are working properly and adjusted correctly. If a truck has a torque imbalance, some of the brakes will work harder and lock up easier than others. When a truck has a torque imbalance problem, brakes are usually affected individually.

Proper pneumatic balance is created by having equal air pressure at all wheel ends. When a truck has a pneumatic imbalance, some of the brakes will also work harder and lock up easier than others. However, pneumatic imbalance will be manifested at one axle or one set of tandem axles, such as the tractor drive axles or the trailer axles.

Brake imbalance is one of the more common causes of loss-of-control crashes for air-braked trucks. If a truck does not have good brake balance, it will have a propensity toward either jackknifing or trailer swing out. Jackknifing occurs when the tractor’s drive axles achieve a higher level of braking force than the trailer axles. When this happens in an emergency or low traction situation, the tractor drive axles will likely lock up while the trailer axles are still rolling.

With the tractor’s drive axles locked, they will lose directional stability and the unbraked trailer load will push the tractor into a rotation around the king pin. Trailer swingout is similar to a jackknife, but occurs when the trailer axles achieve a higher level of braking force than the tractor. With the trailer brakes locked and directional stability lost, the tractor will drag the trailer, which will then begin to swing out.

As you can see, if the brake system is not balanced for any one of a number of reasons, the result will be that some of the brakes will have to work harder than others.

This imbalance can cause the hardest working brakes to become too hot, resulting in brake fade or fire. This usually happens when the truck with a brake imbalance is descending a long steep grade. As a truck is being braked, the properly working brakes will be doing more than their share of the work.

This will cause the overworked brakes to become much hotter than they should be and may eventually lead to brake fade. When the good brakes fade, the only brakes available to stop the truck will be the deficient ones. Additionally, as the brakes get hotter, they can catch on fire and/or catch the corresponding tires on fire. A brake imbalance will also affect the stopping distance. Because the deficient brakes will not be working at their peak efficiency during hard brake applications, the truck will take longer to stop.

Brake Inspection: A brake imbalance can be discovered by inspecting the brake linings. If an imbalance exists, the linings at some of the wheel ends will wear faster than others. By law, a truck driver is required to check his vehicle on a daily basis and note any problems, such as improper brake balance, on his daily log. Then, the noted problems must be fixed before operating the vehicle.

Since improper brake balance could have either caused or contributed to cause a crash, it is always a good idea to have the brakes tested after a truck collision.

This kind of inspection requires specialised equipment that can supply and regulate air pressure to a vehicle that may have a damaged air-supply system. Information gathered during this inspection can be used to calculate brake force in order to determine the efficiency of each brake. Then, this information can be used in the reconstruction of the crash to determine not only what the pre-braking speed of the truck was but also if the brake condition was a causative factor in the crash.

This piece shows the importance of proper brake maintenance. However, it must be understood that maintenance is one thing and proper maintenance is yet another. Truck brakes can be maintained or serviced in a way, ironically, that can actually create brake imbalance.

This is a very widespread problem that happens when a truck needs maintenance or service on just one brake, but not on others. When maintenance or repairs are done to that one brake, the same maintenance or repairs should at least be done to the brake on the opposite side of the axle, if not all the brakes. However, this kind of balanced maintenance is rare since truck owners are usually unwilling to work on brakes that are seemingly functioning properly. As a result, the truck is put back in service with one brake that will be working harder than the rest.

Applying this practice over time, each of the brakes on the truck will be serviced at a different time, creating a brake system that may be able to generate a high level of brake force, but one that has a severe imbalance.

As you can see, proper brake maintenance is extremely important in the prevention of crashes. Even though proper brake maintenance is so important, it is far from standard practice in Nigeria’s poorly regulated trucking industry. A large number of trucks are not regularly maintained, but the ones that are regularly maintained are most often not maintained properly. This fact is evident to the crash investigator who rarely ever sees 18 skid marks from an 18-wheel truck that locked its brakes at a crash scene.

NB: Parts of this piece are culled online.

I drive a 2006 Toyota Corolla. I changed the valve body sometimes ago because it was not engaging well. Now though it engages well, it still jerks when I put it in drive, park or when it is changing while on the move. My mechanic said the brainbox is not compatible with the car. Is that possible? Lucky

The only way to find out is to run a scan on the powertrain system. Your technician can use the result to determine if the ECU is the right one. Also the result of the scan can be used to solve the jerking problem.

I use a Toyota Highlander 2004 but got these codes PO 171, PO 174 and PO 330 knock sensor bank 2, system too lean bank 1 and bank 2. Lewis

Below is the interpretation of the codes.

P0171: System too lean bank 1

Meaning

With the air/fuel mixture ratio self-learning control, the actual mixture ratio can be brought closely to the theoretical mixture ratio based on the mixture ratio feedback signal from the heated oxygen sensors 1. The engine control module calculates the necessary compensation to correct the offset between the actual and the theoretical ratios.

In case the amount of the compensation value is extremely large (The actual mixture ratio is too lean.), the ECM judges the condition as the fuel injection system malfunction and light up the Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) (2 trip detection logic).

When is the P0171 code detected?

– Fuel injection system does not operate properly.

– The amount of mixture ratio compensation is too small. (The mixture ratio is too lean.)

Tech notes

If the P0171 is combined with the P0174 code, it’s very likely that the problem is caused by an intake leak. If there are no intake leaks, the next step is to replace the air filter and clean the air flow meter. If the problem persists the front oxygen (O2) sensor may need to be replaced.

Possible symptoms

  • Engine Light on (or Service Engine Soon Warning Light)
  • Excessive Fuel Consumption

Possible causes

  • Intake air leaks
  • Faulty front heated oxygen sensor
  • Ignition misfiring
  • Faulty fuel injectors
  • Exhaust gas leaks
  • Incorrect fuel pressure
  • Lack of fuel
  • Faulty mass air flow sensor
  • Incorrect positive crankcase ventilation hose connection

P0174 system too lean bank 2

Meaning

With the air/fuel mixture ratio self-learning control, the actual mixture ratio can be brought closely to the theoretical mixture ratio based on the mixture ratio feedback signal from the heated oxygen sensors 1. The engine control module calculates the necessary compensation to correct the offset between the actual and the theoretical ratios.

In case the amount of the compensation value is extremely large (The actual mixture ratio is too lean.), the ECM judges the condition as the fuel injection system malfunction and light up the MIL (2 trip detection logic).

When is the P0174 code detected?

– Fuel injection system does not operate properly.

– The amount of mixture ratio compensation is too small. (The mixture ratio is too lean.)

Tech notes

If the P0171 is combined with the P0174 code, it’s very likely that the problem is caused by an intake leak. If there are no intake leaks, the next step is to replace the air filter and clean the air flow meter. If the problem persists the front oxygen (O2) sensor may need to be replaced.

Possible symptoms

  • Engine light ON (or service engine soon warning light)
  • Excessive Fuel Consumption

Possible causes

  • Intake air leaks
  • Faulty front heated oxygen sensor
  • Ignition misfiring
  • Faulty fuel injectors
  • Exhaust gas leaks
  • Incorrect fuel pressure
  • Lack of fuel
  • Faulty mass air flow sensor
  • Incorrect positive crankcase ventilation hose connection

P0330 knock sensor 2 circuit malfunction bank 2

Meaning

The knock sensor is attached to the cylinder block. It senses engine knocking using a piezoelectric element. A knocking vibration from the cylinder block is sensed as vibrational pressure. This pressure is converted into a voltage signal and sent to the engine control module.

When is the P0330 code detected?

An excessively low or high voltage from the sensor is sent to engine control module

Tech notes

The P0330 code means that the knock sensor is not working properly. Problems with the knock sensor will not cause engine performance problems. Replacing the knock sensor usually takes care of the problem.

Possible symptoms

  • Engine light On (or service engine soon warning light)
  • Possible lack/loss of power

Possible causes

  • Faulty knock sensor 2 bank 2
  • Knock sensor 2 bank 2 circuit poor electrical connection
  • Knock sensor 2 Bank 2 harness is open or shorted
  • Faulty engine control module

I drive an infiniti 2002 model. My drive delay in response but it responds promptly on drive 1. What could be responsible? Anomymous

Please run a scan on the powertrain system. The results will guide you on what to do.

GENERIC CODES

P0626 generator field terminal circuit high

Meaning

The powertrain control module monitors generator load from the generator/regulator in the form of frequency. The concern indicates the input is higher than the load should be in normal operation. The load input could be high when a battery short to ground exists.

Tech notes

If the battery is okay, then the alternator is more than likely the problem.

Possible causes

  • Faulty battery
  • Generator drive belt missing or loose
  • Faulty generator
  • Generator harness is open or shorted
  • Generator circuit poor electrical connection

P0627 fuel pump ‘A’ control circuit/open

Meaning

The engine control module monitors the Fuel Pump Control circuit. The ECM sets the OBDII code when the fuel pump control circuit is out of factory specifications.

Possible causes

  • Faulty fuel pump relay
  • Faulty fuel pump
  • Fuel pump harness is open or shorted
  • Fuel pump circuit poor electrical connection
  • Faulty fuel pump control module (if applicable)

P0628 fuel pump ‘A’ control circuit low

Meaning

The engine control module monitors the fuel pump control circuit. The ECM sets the OBDII code when the fuel pump control circuit is out of factory specifications.

Possible causes

  • Faulty fuel pump relay
  • Faulty fuel pump
  • Fuel pump harness is open or shorted
  • Fuel pump circuit poor electrical connection
  • Faulty fuel pump control module (if applicable)

PUNCH.


This information is for Akwa Ibomites and lovers of Akwa Ibom state

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