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What Is Engine Braking or a Jake Brake?

A Jake Brake is the trademark name for a compression release engine braking system. Essentially, it’s an extra supplemental braking system to help stop the truck faster in addition to the traditional friction brakes on the wheels. With an air compression system, the engine will work to slow down the semi-truck.

18-wheeler truck engines are quite complicated. To put it simply, air enters the intake valve and is forced into the engine cylinders. That air is compressed, and the energy released is distributed by the pistons.

When the Jake Brake is engaged, the air is again forced into the cylinders. However, this time the pistons don’t distribute the energy to power the truck. Instead, it’s sent to the exhaust valves to stop the truck by slowing the crankshaft’s rotation.

This is similar to the mechanics in a regular gasoline car. When you take the foot off the gas, the engine is designed to slow down the vehicle in combination with the brakes. Because diesel engines aren’t designed this way, truck drivers need a way to safely slow down the vehicle along with the friction brakes.

The Pros and Cons of Engine Braking

Semi-trucks are heavy. Really, really heavy. If they are going down an incline and need to come to a stop or greatly slow down, their traditional brakes may not cut it. When too much pressure is applied, it can cause the friction brakes to overheat and, therefore, fail. Jake Brakes take much of the pressure off the traditional brakes, reducing wear and tear and at the same time increasing safety.

However, not everyone loves Jake Brakes. In fact, if you travel across the country, you may see a lot of signs that say “No Engine Braking” or, more rarely, “No Jake Brakes.” You’ll most likely see these signs in highly populated areas. Why? Because engine braking is LOUD. It may be compared to the firing of a gun or a really loud bark of an engine.

This can be a major issue at night when most people are sleeping. As such, many cities and states have outright banned the use of Jake Brakes. While this may seem great for residents trying to sleep, banning the use of engine braking can cause serious issues.

The good news is, all trucks are required to use exhaust braking systems. These are virtually silent systems, and help slow down the truck almost as efficiently as Jake Brakes. However, on steep grades, an engine braking system is necessary to come to a stop or slow down safely.

If a truck doesn’t brake properly and causes a wreck with you, you may be able to seek compensation. At Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers, we can help you get the money you deserve. Give us a call at (855) 969-5624 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our truck accident lawyers.