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What Are the Best Semi Truck Brakes?

Good semi truck brakes are essential to the success of your fleet. They have safety benefits and can also help you stay compliant with DOT-regulated inspections. We’ll go over some of the most commonly asked questions about choosing the right brake system for your business, but first, let’s have a quick look at the best brakes on the market.

Quicklook: Best Semi Truck Brakes

5 Best Semi Truck Brake Options

In this next section, we’ll take a deeper dive into the features and benefits offered by the best semi truck brake options.

Meritor EX+LS 

Meritor EX+LS 

These brakes are lightweight, heavy performance options. They offer the reliability and stability needed to dispense braking forces across brake surfaces evenly. Replacement parts are easily ordered through the Meritor Aftermarket, ensuring you can stock fewer parts for your fleet.

Best For: Linehaul and Trailer Applications

Type: ADB

Lifespan: 250,000 to 300,000 

Special Features

  • Large piston diameter
  • Piston seal protected 
  • Positive pad retraction 
  • Pad and rotor shields

Benefits: 

  • Controls taper wear to extend pad life  
  • Longer brake life 
  • Extends pad life and fuel economy
  • Protection from contaminants 

Disadvantages: 

  • Costly 
  • Moisture build-up 
  • Noise pollution 

Pricing: $1,000-$1,300 new per axle

SAF P89

SAF P89

The SAF P89 has an excellent braking performance. A fully loaded semi trailer traveling at 75 miles per hour has an improved stopping distance of 81 feet. With reduced maintenance and out-of-service adjustment violations lowered, this option is perfect for fleets making long hauls.

Best For: On-highway Tank Trailer Fleets

Type: ADB

Lifespan: 250,000 to 300,000

Special Features

  • Heavy-duty vented rotor 
  • Heavy-duty parallel spindle wheel end 
  • Dual sealed slide pins 
  • Premium brake chamber

Benefits: 

  • Large internal cooling channels 
  • Enhanced performance, reliability, and durability  
  • Simplified maintenance eliminates the need for lubrication 
  • Long-life corrosion protection

Disadvantages: 

  • Pricier than drums
  • Investment return average is 18 months 

Pricing: $700-$800 per axle

Bendix ADB22X

Bendix ADB22X

Bendix has designed an air brake that exceeds the federal government’s reduced stopping distance (RSD). They have become the standard on the Kenworth T680 truck due to their superior performance and lightweight design. 

Best For: Mountainous Terrains

Type: ADB

Lifespan: 250,000 to 300,000 

Special Features

  • New adjustment mechanism 
  • Lightweight ABD system on the market 
  • Optional dust shield 
  • Optional pad wear sensing

Benefits: 

  • Improved running clearance between friction and rotor 
  • Better fuel efficiency  
  • Keeps unnecessary debris out 
  • Reduced risk of wheel-end damage

Disadvantages: 

  • Excessive air leakage rate 
  • Slow pressure build-up

Pricing: $645-$850 per axle

Meritor Q+

Meritor Q+

The Meritor Q+ comes with a wider brake shoe package and advanced friction material. The longer lining life will help your fleet meet stopping distance regulations. Its affordable price is perfect for fleets looking to keep costs low and safety a priority.

Best For: Price

Type: Drum Brake

Lifespan: 250,000 to 300,000 

Special Features

  • Twin anchor pin design 
  • Fabricated steel shoe 
  • PlatinumShield coating technology 
  • Patented quick-change shoe

Benefits: 

  • Stabilized alignment and positive braking 
  • No shoe float  
  • Protection against rust jacking  
  • Minimizes downtime 

Disadvantages: 

  • Require periodic adjustment 
  • Components require a break-in period 
  • Poor heat dissipation

Pricing: $147 per axle

Power Stop Z36

Power Stop Z36

If you specialize in towing, this brake system is ideal for your heavy loads, especially if you’re surrounded by hilly terrain. Your drivers can be confident that the truck will stop where they want it. Replace your factory brakes with this option and give your fleet the peace of mind they deserve.

Best For: Towing

Type: Drum Brakes

Lifespan: 250,000 to 300,000

Special Features

  • Silver zinc plated rotors 
  • Thermal scorched brake pad surfaces 
  • Carbon fiber infused ceramic brake pads 
  • Calipers with high-temperature EPDM rubber

Benefits: 

  • Excellent rust resistance 
  • Faster break-in period  
  • Increased braking power 
  • Increased durability

Disadvantages: 

  • Overheating 
  • Decreased performance in wet weather

Pricing: $375-$421 per axle

How Long Do Semi Truck Brakes Last?

It’s recommended to have your semi truck brakes replaced every 250,000-300,000 miles. However, other factors contribute to the lifespan of semi brakes, such as usage, temperature, and driving habits. 

If you use the truck for heavy-duty tasks or make frequent local stops, the semi brakes will need to be replaced before reaching the 250,000-300,000 mile standard. The same is true if you’re operating in extreme temperatures or abruptly applying the brakes when driving. 

Semi-Truck Brake Checklist

There are a few things to consider when choosing the right semi truck brakes for your vehicles. Be sure to go through the following checklist of items, and you’ll be able to trust that your drivers and others on the road remain safe.

Cost

With costs for parts rising, fleet owners may look for ways to save money and minimize spending. Brakes are the most important safety feature on a semi truck, so this is not the area to cut costs and find a cheaper option. Replacing semi brakes is a big job, so the price of labor may be high, but it’s worth it in the end if it saves lives.

Remember, the brakes you choose should coincide with the usage of the truck. Heavy duty truck brakes should be strong and durable. A cheaper option will not give you the large pad widths needed for a truck going through mountainous regions. Spending the extra money gives you shorter stopping distances and longer lifespans for the semi brakes. 

Type of Brakes

Air disc brakes (ADB) have become the popular choice for heavy-duty trucks and other large commercial vehicles in the past few years. ADB systems have fewer components, making them easier to maintain and reline. Many semi trailer brakes are ADBs due to the weight of the cargo being carried. The force required to stop these vehicles increases as the weight of the truck increases. 

ADB’s reduce stopping distances at higher speeds and nearly eliminate brake fade, making them more consistent and reliable. Because their on-road performance is so efficient, the brake pads need to be changed less frequently. Compliance, safety, and accountability violations can potentially be decreased as well as most violations occur because brakes are out of adjustment. These aspects save money in the long run. 

S-Cam drum brakes have been a reliable and extremely effective option for years. The parts are inexpensive, maintenance is simple, and they operate cleanly, remaining free of dirt and road debris once enclosed. 

Maintenance

Semi trucks are often put out of service due to brake-related violations. Experts recommend having your semi truck brakes checked during each oil change. Just as fuel is viewed as cost-per-mile, brake intervals should be seen the same way. 

The air pressure, brake adjustment, air loss rate, anti-lock warning light and system operation, hardware, tubing, lining, and drums will be checked during a roadside inspection. Hose or tubing issues can adversely affect the entire brake system. Regular preventative maintenance will ensure the system is operational and able to pass a random inspection.

The brake lining thickness cannot be less than a quarter of an inch or less than an eighth of an inch for air brakes. Anything thinner may cause brake failure. Inspectors will also check for chafed rubber hoses and thermoplastic hose violations. As stated earlier, brakes out of adjustment are the most common violation, so regular preventative maintenance should be performed to ensure they are up to code. 

Lifespan

While ABDs may cost more upfront, they save money in the long run. Pads in an ABD system can last for about 500,000 to 600,000 miles. On the other hand, the rotors can withstand upwards of one million miles. These facts significantly reduce maintenance costs and the overall cost of ownership as well.  

Replacements of pads on a disc system typically take 20 minutes, while servicing drum brakes can have you waiting for an hour or more per wheel. Air brakes will have you on the road and back to serving clients in no time. 

Application

One of the biggest issues with air brake systems is water condensation. When the temperature changes, the amount of water in the tank and lines increases, causing potential problems. When the weather cools, manually drain the air tanks to keep the lines from freezing or affecting the brake calipers and drums. 

Unlike ADBs, S-cams can overheat, which increases their stopping time. A truck going 65 miles per hour needs the length of two football fields to come to a complete stop, so air brakes are probably the better choice if your vehicles are traveling highways for long periods. 

Going over difficult terrain and roads with many curves means the drivers may have to slow down or come to sudden stops. ADB systems will enable them to have better control while driving. 

If you’re looking for a less expensive option for a fleet that remains local, S-cams are a good option. It’s not likely that the brakes will overheat, and since the loads being carried are lighter, it will be easier for them to come to a quick stop. 

Choose the Right Semi Truck Brakes for Safety

Choosing the right semi truck brakes for your fleet means understanding the routes and loads your company handles. You may be inclined to go with a cheaper option to save money, but safety should be the deciding factor. Good driving habits and fully operational brakes will keep everyone safe on the road, so choose wisely.

FAQ

What Kind of Brakes Do Semi-trucks Use?

Air brakes and S-cams are the most widely used brake systems for semi trucks.

How Do I Choose the Right Brakes?

 Consider the usage, environment, frequency, and loads to choose the right brakes.

 How Much Does It Cost To Replace Semi Brakes?

 It ranges from $1000-$1600 depending on the system and age of the truck.

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