Most Common Semi-Truck Brake Issues & How to Prevent Them

If you’re a professional truck operator or fleet manager, you understand better than anyone else why safety needs to be your top priority on the road. One of the most critical safety systems on a semi-truck is the braking system, and to ensure a safe driving experience while preventing costly repairs, it’s essential to recognize the most common brake issues and take appropriate preventative measures.

We’re going to dig into some of the most common brake issues on semi-trucks, and what causes them. We’ll also take a look at some tips to help you potentially prevent those issues, and show you a trusted local resource for keeping your rig on the road.


Most Common Issues With Semi-Truck Brakes

Many different issues or malfunctions can potentially pop up with your braking system, so here’s a rundown of the most common issues that are likely to afflict your brakes, and what you can do about them. 

The most common issues you’ll see are going to be related to worn brake pads, leaks in the air brake system, overheating or glazing of the braking components, or an unbalanced application of braking force. Let’s take a look at each one in detail.

1. Worn Brake Pads

Worn brake pads are undoubtedly one of the most common semi-truck brake issues, but also one of the easiest to plan for. Brake pads are designed to wear down over time, as they provide crucial stopping power to your truck and loads. However, if this wear becomes excessive and the brake pads aren’t replaced promptly, they can cause significant damage to other brake components. 

This can be easily avoided, in most cases, by having your braking system inspected regularly, measuring the pads to ensure they meet the minimum thickness requirements set by the manufacturer, and inspecting all other braking system components for wear and tear. These inspections can give you crucial visibility into the condition of your braking system, and provide an opportunity to address issues ahead of inconvenient breakdowns and costly repairs.

Prevention Tips:

  • Regularly inspect brake pads and measure their thickness with a micrometer, replacing if below manufacturer minimums.
  • Conduct a visual inspection of all brake components, arranging for repairs if anything shows signs of excessive wear.
  • Scheduling routine inspections with a professional can ensure nothing is missed during operator or ad hoc inspections.


2. Air Leaks in the Brake System

Air leaks in the brake system can reduce the efficiency of the braking system overall. This is because the air brake system relies on being able to build critical air pressure in the lines, and a leak prevents that pressure from building up. This reduces the pressure applied to the brakes, resulting in an overall reduction of braking performance and loss of stopping power. Air leaks in your braking system can occur in several different locations, including air lines, brake chambers, or valves.

Prevention Tips:

  • Regular inspections of air lines and connections for wear and tear or signs of corrosion can help identify problems before they lead to component failures. 
  • Periodic inspection of the compressor can ensure that it is putting out optimal air volume at the required pressure.
  • Scheduling routine maintenance appointments with Blaine Brothers can provide comprehensive air brake system testing to identify any potential leaks and repair them promptly.


3. Overheated Brakes

Overheated brakes can result from excessive use, such as driving down steep hills or mountains, or constantly using your brakes in heavy stop-and-go traffic. Overheating can cause issues like brake fade, which reduces the overall functionality of your brake pads, resulting in loss of stopping ability and the increased potential for accidents. 

Prevention Tips:

  • Engine braking can reduce the load put on your brakes to slow or stop your truck, providing them with crucial opportunities to cool.
  • During brake system inspections, look for signs of overheating on the brake rotors and other components. Signs of overheating can include discolored areas that may appear burnt and the development of a smooth coating on friction-creating braking components.


4. Glazed Brake Drums and Shoes

Glazed brake drums, shoes, and pads are one potential outcome of overheating the brakes during periods of intense, often prolonged use. Glazing is where the shoes, pads, or drums become excessively heated, causing the specialized friction material to “glaze”, resulting in it hardening and becoming smooth. This glazing effect dramatically lowers the overall effectiveness of the brakes, leading to longer stopping distances and potentially being unable to avoid collisions.

Prevention Tips:

  • When in heavy traffic or driving downhill, avoid excessive or hard braking, and try to regulate speed or use your engine brake.
  • Regularly inspect your brake components and look for signs of glazing. If signs of glazing are found, professional help should be sought immediately to avoid possible accidents.


5. Unbalanced Braking

Unbalanced braking may not sound common, but it happens more often than you’d think. Unbalanced braking can happen from several different causes, such as misaligned axles or damaged suspension components. When the braking power is unbalanced, it can cause your brakes to wear unevenly, and uneven wear on brake components can lead to unpredictable performance and unanticipated failure.

Prevention Tips:

  • Have your truck’s suspension and alignment checked regularly to ensure both are within specifications. 
  • Regularly inspect and compare the brake components from all areas of your truck to look for uneven wear or imbalance.


Trust Blaine Brothers’ Truck & Trailer Repair for Your Brake Maintenance Needs

Keeping your truck’s brakes in optimal condition is essential to the continued and successful operation of your rig. Blaine Brothers can provide comprehensive brake system inspections, maintenance, and repair services that are designed to keep your truck on the road and out of the repair shop. Our experienced technicians and cutting-edge equipment are able to bring you a level of service you can trust with your livelihood. Reach out today for more information, or to make an appointment for your brakes at one of our locations in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

Blaine, MN


10011 Xylite Street NE
Minneapolis, MN 55449

Cloquet, MN


1325 Hwy 45
Cloquet, MN 55720

Clearwater, MN


750 Heaton BLVD
Clearwater, MN 55320

Baldwin, WI


2500 Alreich Ave
Baldwin, WI 54002



9515 150th Avenue NE
Columbus, MN 55025