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Author Topic: OH S**** what do I do now?  (Read 3387 times)
Jerry Liebler
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« on: August 28, 2007, 06:37:46 PM »

The thread about how to descend a big hill got me thinking about what one should do after a screw up.  Let's say I misjudged the length and steepness of a big hill and started down it to fast, in the wrong gear and part way down I start smelling burning brakes.  What is the smartest thing to do now?  My answer is stop immediately while turning on the flashers and getting as far off of the roadway as I can.  If anyone disagrees please tell us why.
Regards
Jerry 4107 1120
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« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2007, 06:51:09 PM »

The thread about how to descend a big hill got me thinking about what one should do after a screw up.  Let's say I misjudged the length and steepness of a big hill and started down it to fast, in the wrong gear and part way down I start smelling burning brakes.  What is the smartest thing to do now?  My answer is stop immediately while turning on the flashers and getting as far off of the roadway as I can.  If anyone disagrees please tell us why.
Regards
Jerry 4107 1120

If you're still on a downgrade, I'm curious how you'll stop with burning brakes.
If you're on level roadway and don't need to stop, I wouldn't for 5 miles or so, in order for the drums to cool.

Jay
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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2007, 06:52:03 PM »

Jerry, I had this happen to me one time coming out of Vegas down into Death Valley. I was in an old gasoline tractor trialer with about 40 surplus gensets on the trailer. I missed a down shift in the manual tranny and was freewheeling then. With lots of smoke I finally got her stopped beside the road. I really wondered if I was ever going to get her stopped, but finally did. Then I selected the gear I wanted to run in and continued on to LA. It was a five speed tranny with a three speed Brownie (I believe) for a total of 15 gears.
Richard


The thread about how to descend a big hill got me thinking about what one should do after a screw up.  Let's say I misjudged the length and steepness of a big hill and started down it to fast, in the wrong gear and part way down I start smelling burning brakes.  What is the smartest thing to do now?  My answer is stop immediately while turning on the flashers and getting as far off of the roadway as I can.  If anyone disagrees please tell us why.
Regards
Jerry 4107 1120
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« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2007, 06:56:28 PM »

Tom,
   The smell of hot brakes long preceeds an actual fire, and there is still braking power left in hot brakes.  and if there is a fire it's even more important to get stopped, so what if it's on a hill.  Proceeding means even more heating and even more likelyhood of fire.
Regards
Jerry 4107 1120
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Dallas
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« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2007, 07:05:36 PM »

Either of two correct answers come to mind:

I would wake up Cat.

or

Remember the old drills we did in grade school? The ones about nuclear attack by the Commies?
Use the "Nuclear attack position*".

*for those of you too young to remember the nuclear attack drills, the nuclear attack position had us get under our desks and place our hands over our genitals and place our heads between our legs.
A heck of a position, but possibly useful if used in a moving 20 ton missile hurtling headlong down a hill toward
certain destruction.
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buswarrior
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« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2007, 07:13:46 PM »

I would suggest that using what brakes are left to get that thing slowed to a more appropriate downhill speed would be goal number one. Grabbing the gears on the way down, of course.

I would be wanting to continue vehicle movement in order to start cooling off the abused parts, and I don't want to be stopped on the side of a highway unneccesarily, bigger target for a collision.

The more stopping you do, the hotter they'll get, and the less effective they will be, so going all the way to stopped just adds unneccesary heat, risking further lining damage and once stopped, then what? applying the parking brake lays the linings right into the frying pan that is the brake drums, finishing the destructive job.

And this is still a moot point. How did you realize you had a problem? Smoke pouring out of the wheelwells under way in volume sufficient to notice in the mirror will be accompanied by a loss of bite by the brakes and won't slow the way you wish they would....

And when it is all done, you should be wondering: what condition the brake linings are now in? crumbly and disintegrating don't make for full braking capacity afterwards.

happy coaching!
buswarrior

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« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2007, 07:16:16 PM »

I have a lot of trips east on I70 into Denver, notorious for catching unwary drivers of all types of vehicles off guard. Makng this trip often gave me an opportunity to witness lots of these events.

Jerry asked about "burning brakes". I have several escalating classifications of 'hot' brakes.

Hot: You can smell them, and know you have dimminished braking.
Too hot: Smoke, plus the above.
Burning: Flames, plus above.
When you get to the burning stage, there is hot gas being generated that will act as a lubricant between the drum and shoe, and repeated pressing on the treadle will only make it worse. When you get to this stage, cooling is your only option to regain any braking.

Jay
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« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2007, 07:17:21 PM »

Dallas   you forgot one part of the drill . The part where you kiss your @$# goodby.   
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« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2007, 07:20:35 PM »

Jerry good question even though it is loaded! On one hand I have to agree with Tom, but as you pointed out you can actually figure out you have a problem before it becomes disaster! (some folks could as long as they pay attention, which most who pay attention wouldn't get in trouble in the first place!) Anyway if you notice the smell while you still have plenty of braking power, then by all means pull over and get out Fire extinguisher in hand, and make sure everyone else gets out and safely away from it (just in-case), go to the rear of the coach and look at both sides of the insides of the drums making sure that there is only smoke and no flames! If you see flames take the fire extinguisher and heavily spray the one on fire from the opposite side hiding behind that tire! (they rarely both catch on fire! & never get close to the one on fire! An exploding tire can/will cause a lot of damage and could kill you) Then take another look! As long as it's only smoking with no flames all is not lost! Put triangles out and then get back in and turn flashers etc. on!  If for what ever reason you can not extinguish the flames get as far away as possible, once a tire catches on fire it is almost impossible to put out! The coach and contents can be replaced human health and life can not! JMHO FWIW! Grin  BK  Grin

Oh yeah on the other hand if by the time you realize it, you don't have good braking power then turn headlights on bright and flash as possible, try to slow down to down shift, and ride it out flashing lights and blowing the horn (trust me if there are truckers around they'll be on the radio telling everybody to watch out for the "idiot in the RV who has lost his brakes") then after it levels out do not stop immediately! slow down but do not stop for at least 5-10 miles to cool off thing so it doesn't ignite as soon as you stop! Again JMHO FWIW ( I did grow up driving tow trucks!)

And if all else fails refer to Dallas's ideas! LOL! But I am serious above!
« Last Edit: August 28, 2007, 07:34:24 PM by Busted Knuckle » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2007, 07:34:20 PM »

Buswarior's input makes me want to add to my answer that as I slowed with full intention of stopping I'd downshift and see if the engine alone (no braking) would hold a constant speed if I found such a gear I'd proceed unless I saw smoke, then I'd stop and follow Bryce's wise advice.
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Jerry 4107 1120
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Jerry Liebler
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« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2007, 07:54:35 PM »

A very great THANK YOU to all who've contributed to this thread.  I'm sure all who read it will be much better prepared should the find themselves in such a mess.
Regards
Jerry 4107 1120
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maria-n-skip
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« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2007, 07:56:24 PM »

BTDT

  Some minor points.....to think about
   1. keep the RPM up With out air you'll make things worse.
   2. Even at high rates of speed the bus will handle OK but anticipate all corners
       all traffic and use all of the road you pay taxes on.
    3. A prayer never hurts and stay calm!!!!!
    4. If you feel the front end start to give way power through the corner. (at this point say a prayer again)
    5. If all else fails look for an up bank to head to. (IT's probably going to hurt)
        At that point everybody needs to be in seat belt!
    6. If your brakes won't stop you dynamiting them won't do you any good and will make matters worse.

 FWIW
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« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2007, 07:57:13 PM »

There is one very important fact that is being left out.  If you do have hot brakes and do get the bus stopped on the side of the road, there's a good chance that the build up of heat through the drums to the wheels without forward motion, will cause the tires to burst.  Since that vast majority of us have automatics, the way I would do it would be to slow down by hitting the brakes pretty hard and shift down to a lower gear.  When you get down to second or so, release the brakes and let the engine do the work of keeping your speed down.  But you should keep forward motion to keep air circulating to the brakes, and that air will cool the brakes down-as long as you slow enough where the engine will do the braking rather than the service brakes.  Good Luck, TomC
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maria-n-skip
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« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2007, 08:14:40 PM »

TomC,

 That's fine if you can get it into second. (on McDonald pass) Mine was in second shifted into third (over rev have no tach) and
 I could not slow down far enough for it to shift back into second. Loosing air trying to get it down far enough.
 almost 3 miles bad next 3 were not bad and I don't know how fast I was going at that point but
 by the time I could get it pull over there was only a slight amout of smoke rolling out.


  Just my opinion
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« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2007, 09:37:46 PM »

I don't know for sure about bus ATs but I doubt they will downshift past a certain speed.

If it is a manual the last thing you want to ever do is take it out of gear unless you are going really slow because there is a very big chance you will never get it into any gear.

That goes double for big trucks.
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« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2007, 12:00:04 AM »

If you have waited until you smell brakes you have waited way to long.  It should only take one or maybe two cycles of the bus accelerating to quickly after a brake application to recognize that you need to be in a lower gear.  This should be long before the brakes are too hot to slow you to a safe speed or stop.  But if you are seeing smoke and not seeing the bottom of the hill the only chance you have is to slow down NOW and shift down. 

Doh!!!  I gave away that I snub brake, YIKES! Huh  But it is easier for me to tell how fast the rig is accelerating between snubs than judge how hard I have been pressing on the brake treadle for the last couple miles sans application gauge.

As a side note, I would never know until seeing smoke.  Lost my sense of smell completely.  Of course my 40 something bus is so tight the smell would never get in anyway.  Grin

Don 4107
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« Reply #16 on: August 29, 2007, 05:35:20 AM »

If you are trailing smoke off the brakes and have a lot more hill ahead, you are already in big trouble. I have to agree with Tom and Gus. With an automatic trans use what brake you have left and get it into 1st gear, letting the engine do most of the work. With a manual, Don't try to downshift.More than likely in your haste to get it in a lower gear you will try to rush the shift at too high an rpm and miss it. It is best to get it stopped, slide it in 1st then proceed to keep air flowing. If you cook the grease seals and start a fire or the tires start burning it is very difficult to put the fire out with a fire extingusher.The heat usually just starts it back up again. Water works best. it cools the brakes and prevents repeated flairups. I keep a hose and spray nozzle hooked to a hose bib in my holding tank bay for just such an ocurance. The trick here is to recognize the brake fade early and slow down to where you can ease off the brakes. Getting back to stab braking or constant pressure, both are the correct method in the right circumstance. Hard won experiance is the only teacher on which to use when. For those without the experiance it is best to err on the side of caution and just slow down. You will probably find yourself going slow down the hill right beside those of us with the miles under us.  Donn

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Dallas
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« Reply #17 on: August 29, 2007, 06:34:51 AM »

I may have made light of this thread earlier, but please believe me that I take all of this VERY seriously.

Many great answers have been posted and I'm also sure there are many more answers out there.

I've had bus owners come to me for work on their buses that really had no business being behind the wheel of something bigger than an SUV or older than this mornings newspaper.
I tried to get across to one owner that he/she/they needed to learn simple things like how to change a fuel filter, adjust the brakes, run in heavy traffic and navigate in mountainous terrain.
The answer I received was that they had enough money they didn't need to learn any of that "Stuff" road service could take care of any problems they had.
I just shook my head and let it go.

Everyone needs to learn the best way to come down a hill and the best way is to learn by first reading and then by experience.
Each hill is different, each transmission is different, each brake is different.
Whether you use "stab braking", "Constant Applied Braking" or Open the door and Leap out, hoping to survive, there is a time to use each method.
The driver must learn how his/her coach operates in every possible condition and how to react to those conditions, making it as natural as breathing. Going down a hill with smoking brakes is no time to get out the manual and start reading.

My recommendations are to get in your bus, get in a parking lot, stop and start many times and see how fast you run out of air. Stab the brakes HARD and see how the coach reacts, do everything you can to learn how your unit is gonna work.
Make sure you know how to inspect/adjust your brake shoes, drums, lines, valves, relays, and systems. Find a professional driver, (NOT one of those 13 day driving school wonders) to show you what to do and how to do it. Be prepared to pay for the learning experience. His time is worth money, just as yours is.

The life you save may be that of someone you love, or it may be someone who'll never know how close they came to dieing.

Dallas
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cody
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« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2007, 07:23:36 AM »

This is a great thread, many of us are like me, we came from S&S rigs and are now into busses, I am going to go thru a course in how to work with and understand air brakes and am waiting for one up here in our area.  I read everything I can about different situations but we never know how we can react untill it's too late and we're in the middle of it, luckily, I've never had it happen yet, the key word here is "yet".  We prepare for runs carefully and make sure we pack everything we need except for the knowledge on how to get ourselves out of an emergency situation, that extra can of deodorant won't help you at that time tho it might come in handy afterwards lol.  Another thing I'd like to see addressed in a thread is what to do in the event of a runaway, A good friend of mine while driving a logging truck had a runaway and luckily he had the experience of a lifetime of driving to deal with it and get thru it, some of us don't have that bank of knowledge to draw from, but many on this board do.  I'm always willing to admit that I'm a rookie, I'd rather ask and then carefully listen, hopefully to learn, than to just rely on a false impression that I can handle anything that comes up.
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« Reply #19 on: August 29, 2007, 07:50:38 AM »

Most hills that are steep enough to cause problems usually have a runaway lane or two(or more).

Has anyone ever had to use one of those and if so what are the consequences.

Fred Mc.
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maria-n-skip
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« Reply #20 on: August 29, 2007, 07:54:09 AM »

 Runaway lanes are mostly on the Interstate. Most state highway passes don't have runaway lanes the
 ones that do are done as a safety project because the history warrents it.


 Oh...I have friends (unbelievable but true Smiley ) that have been forced to use them and they all had to have new frontends installed.

   Skip
« Last Edit: August 29, 2007, 07:56:31 AM by maria-n-skip » Logged
cody
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« Reply #21 on: August 29, 2007, 08:05:25 AM »

When you use the term "runaway", is this refering to the inability of the bus to stop because of the brakes failing or is this uncontrolled reving of the motor, dumb question, I know lol.  I could see the term being used both ways.
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Dallas
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« Reply #22 on: August 29, 2007, 08:10:37 AM »

Most hills that are steep enough to cause problems usually have a runaway lane or two(or more).

Has anyone ever had to use one of those and if so what are the consequences.

Fred Mc.

Fred,
After driving commercially for many years, along with operating wreckers and recovery vehicles, I can tell you that the results of using the runaway escape ramps are not pretty.
They are built to stop you and not gently.
I've seen front axles pushed back under the fuel tanks of trucks, fuel tanks that ended up underneath the trailer.
Cabs that became flying objects, engines pushed into the cab or back to the fifth wheel.
I can only imagine what would happen with a nice coach when it hit a 4' deep sandpit with a 3' high wall of gravel in front of it.

Those ramps are built to help the surrounding traffic survive, not exactly to let the offending vehicle survive intact.

The other thing you'll find is that using those ramps isn't free. The state will charge your insurance company or, if they won't pay, YOU for the repair of it.

The last thing I want to do is hit one of those things.

And by the way, the only thing I can think of that is stupider than having to use one of those ramps is the friggin' IDIOTS that decide to pull over in front of the entrance to one with the M/H or camper along with the wife and kids and have a picnic or stretch their legs.

Dallas
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maria-n-skip
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« Reply #23 on: August 29, 2007, 08:20:14 AM »

 As a side note to Dallas's post.

  The runaways don't always work that great.

  A friend was coming down Clarkston Hill (Id.) and at the bottom another truck had gone through the runaway lane and ended up in somebodies house. Nobody was at home at the time never heard what happened to the driver.

  FWIW
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« Last Edit: August 29, 2007, 08:31:36 AM by maria-n-skip » Logged
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« Reply #24 on: August 29, 2007, 08:24:44 AM »

I'll bet that anyone of you all that have experienced hot brakes and being close to out of control will be going alot slower on grades now! 
I don't know how many ways we old timers to truck driving can say this- GET THE JAKE BRAKE INSTALLED IF YOU DON'T HAVE IT!!  Good Luck , TomC
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« Reply #25 on: August 29, 2007, 09:13:14 PM »

If you find that the brakes are not slowing you down the way you expect, any slowing you can get down to 10 mph or slower is going to change the balance of energy being produced and dissipated at the brakes.

If you can slow down to a walk, even if your brakes are too hot, they will begin getting rid of more heat than they are producing. Going slow enough, you can ride the brakes all the way down the longest hill without them overheating.

Going slower gives you more time to make decisions and look for possible places to pull over safely. Going slower means that you will do less damage if staying on the road is unsafe. Going slower means that you will do less damage if you have to pile up the rig to stop it, and it means less change of injury when it comes to a rest, whether you stay with or leave the rig.

I think that too many people tend to think that the energy involved is proportional to the speed, but doubling the speed will require the brakes to produce four times the heat to come to a stop. If you are just stopping once, there is plenty of cast iron to absorb the heat without overheating, if the brakes are properly adjusted.

That won't work when you come down a grade too fast and have gotten the brakes hot, so the best thing is to never let them get hot. I've done it once, and don't intend to ever let it happen again.

The trouble with a runaway is that speed is already way over the safe limit of the brakes for the grade. Adding a stop under those conditions may be more than they will do, but any slowing should prolong the time and distance before you completely lose the ability to control the rig.

My first choice is to slow down; if that's not possible, start looking for the place that I will take the rig from the road. If I'm lucky, maybe the grade will run out before then. If I'm not, I intend to choose where to go off the road rather than wait until I lose control.

For what it's worth.

Tom Caffrey
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« Reply #26 on: August 29, 2007, 09:28:35 PM »

Tom kind of reminded me of the other thread about snub braking and the FACT that it will result in hotter brakes than continuous braking.   Once one realises he or she is in trouble it's no time for snub braking, hold them on as long and hard as needed to get slowed down!
Regards
Jerry 4107 1120
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« Reply #27 on: August 30, 2007, 05:35:06 AM »

Tom, Jerry and others here are absolutely correct in instructing folks to go SLOWER!!!

In all the years I have driven commercially and recreationally, I have never lost control going down a grade; I have, however been frowned at, cursed at (silently before we had radios) given different variations of the "you're number 1" sign, twice been verbally assaulted in a truck stop, and once threatened with physical harm for going too slow.

If you have not driven the grade before, in the same vehicle, in the same mechanical condition, SLOW DOWN. You can always speed up later. If you drive the same roads a lot, keep a notebook: "Rainelle, 28mph, 4th, until the last turn" Pull out your notes BEFORE you start. If you have not driven the road, ask a LOT of folks who have. Pick the most conservative answer you get and run according to that the first time down.

I know this sounds like a sissy way to drive, but, to paraphrase the military, "Truck wreck scars make better stories"; what should be added is "if you live to tell them"

My $0.02 worth.....

PS: if you prefer not to take my advice, please tell me so I can run BEHIND you..... I'll take the pics for the stories.....
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« Reply #28 on: August 30, 2007, 08:28:58 AM »

This is purely a technical question for the experts. If a bus is running down a 6% grade at 60 mph on the jake and there is a mechanical failure (jake drops out or something breaks in the drive line) will the bus brakes be capable of stopping it? Maybe the truck drivers have more info on trucks as I see them running above 70 mph on the jake and I have wondered if they could stop in an emergency.
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« Reply #29 on: August 30, 2007, 09:46:44 AM »

This is purely a technical question for the experts. If a bus is running down a 6% grade at 60 mph on the jake and there is a mechanical failure (jake drops out or something breaks in the drive line) will the bus brakes be capable of stopping it? Maybe the truck drivers have more info on trucks as I see them running above 70 mph on the jake and I have wondered if they could stop in an emergency.

In my opinion, an unequivocal yes it will stop with the brakes with absolutely no problem whatsoever.
Under this situation, the brakes are dead cold and one stop from 60 or 70 mph is a piece of cake.
Richard
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« Reply #30 on: August 30, 2007, 11:10:25 AM »

Of course, given it is going downhill the stop will just take longer as the truck/bus is fighting gravity!
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« Reply #31 on: August 30, 2007, 06:51:18 PM »

Yes, it will stop in a panic from highway speed downhill...longer than you're used to on the flat of course...

IF, the brakes are in proper condition:

linings sound, and properly adjusted.

happy coaching!
buswarrior
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« Reply #32 on: August 30, 2007, 09:38:05 PM »


This is purely a technical question for the experts. If a bus is running down a 6% grade at 60 mph on the jake and there is a mechanical failure (jake drops out or something breaks in the drive line) will the bus brakes be capable of stopping it? Maybe the truck drivers have more info on trucks as I see them running above 70 mph on the jake and I have wondered if they could stop in an emergency.


Stan -

I actually had an experience similar to your question dropping off Donner Summit on EB I-80 into Reno in an MC-9 back in my charter days.  Fully loaded, with 44 passengers and three full luggage bays.  Cooling fan belt broke, took out the wire on the Jake buffer switch as it whipped thru the engine compartment.  Never heard the noise of the belt breaking - one of the passengers in the rear of the coach came up and told me.  Knew instantly tho, that the Jake had quit.  Immediately braked sufficiently to drop from 5th to 4th (HT-754), then again braking sufficiently to drop from 4th to 3rd.  At this point, held the coach with light brake applications (snub - 5 mph window) for a couple of miles down the hill until we got to the canyon overlook, where I stopped to see what happened.  Had no problem slowing the coach down - because I immediately dealt with the problem.  Had I NOT been paying attention, it could have become a "Film at 11" story.

As for the fan belt, the company always kept a spare in a plastic bag in the battery compartment, on the HVAC filter side of the partition (those busnuts with MCIs will know what I mean).  I simply changed the belt (no tools required w/ the air tensioner), and we continued on into Reno, arriving about 20 minutes late.  While the group was enjoying the slots, I took the coach to LTR (now a name from the past, at the time a great carrier) where they repaired the jake wiring.

However, the main point is this:  Yes, the brakes will easily bring you to a stop if the jakes fail.  Just don't panic, bring your speed down so you can drop into the lower gears, take your time and stay in control.

FWIW & HTH. . .

 Wink

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RJ Long
PD4106-2784 No More
Fresno CA
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