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Jake Brake 101

The Jacobs Engine Brake, more commonly called the Jake brake, is a compression release engine brake. It’s installed on some diesel engines, such as big rigs. When a trucker uses a Jake brake, the exhaust valves in the cylinders open up. This causes the release of the compressed air within the cylinders, which consequently slows the truck down.  Note that Jake brakes are only used to slow down trucks, not to stop them.

When to Use the Jake Brake

The Jake brake can safely be used on normal road conditions. Use it anytime you want to slow down the truck. Owner-operators tend to be very fond of the Jake brake because it can prolong the life of the brake shoes and reduce the wear and tear on the tires, especially in mountainous terrain. Some truckers recommend using it in the range of 1100 to 1400 RPMs.

What to Do Before Using the Jake Brake

Using the Jake brake can do more harm than good unless you take certain precautions. First, always make sure your truck isn’t low on oil. Using the Jake brake without enough oil can inflict damage on the engine. Additionally, make sure the engine is fully warmed up first. Give your truck extra time to warm up in cold weather.

When Not to Use the Jake Brake

Never use the Jake brake when your truck and trailer aren’t lined up. In other words, don’t use it on a corner. Some truckers swear by the use of the Jake brake in hazardous road conditions, while others wouldn’t think of using it on snowy or icy roads. You can make your own decision, but you should know that the Jake brake wasn’t designed for these conditions. And if you do use it on slippery roads, you must be certain that your truck and trailer are lined up or else you’ll risk jackknifing.

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