Have you ever been driving along near a tractor-trailer, when suddenly you approach a red light and it sounds as though you are under siege from a small army? Many people mistake that sound as a clutch (perhaps recalling their first time attempting to drive a five-speed), but in fact, this is the sound of the engine brake, or Jake brake.

Jake brakes, named for the Jacobs Company that invented the system, are activated when the truck driver pushes a button that is located in the cab. While drivers primarily rely on Jake brakes in hilly areas, trucks travelling through Florida may use these brakes when attempting to slow down on highways or other roads.

When used properly, Jake brakes can play an important role in keeping roads safe. Rather than relying on disc brakes, which can overheat quickly and fail, truck drivers employ the Jake brakes, which modify the typical four-stroke piston energy (intake, compression, ignition, and exhaust) to work against the truck’s forward momentum. During the compression stroke, the Jake brake opens the exhaust valve, resulting in an explosive release of power that slows the truck without wearing down the disc brakes.

Jake Brakes Sound Like a Safe Feature—How Can They Be Harmful?

Jake brakes truly can make trucks much safer, especially as one travels outside of the relatively flat Florida highways and heads north toward mountainous terrain. Unfortunately, some drivers abuse the brakes—either through negligence, fatigue, or inexperience—which can greatly affect how the truck will react.

Most Jake brakes come with warnings that they are not to be used in slippery conditions. In addition, they should not be used when the truck is traveling without a trailer or the trailer is very lightly loaded. The stopping power of Jake brakes is very strong. Without proper traction or weight on the tires, application of the brake could cause the truck to skid, resulting in loss of control or a jackknife accident.

If you have been injured in a truck accident, there is a chance that it may have been caused by improper use of the Jake brakes. Click on our live chat feature to learn more about finding liability in you truck accident, and get the answers you are looking for.

Damian Mallard, Esq.
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Board Certified Sarasota Personal Injury Attorney