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Do Semi Trucks Have Front Brakes? (12 Questions Answered)

Semi trucks are large vehicles and will need a massive stopping force to slow them down or bring them to a halt when in motion.

They have different braking systems in order to do this however, you may be wondering whether semi trucks have front brakes.

Read on to find out more…

Here’s a short summary to whether Semi Trucks have Front Brakes:

In general, semi truck have front-wheel brakes since they are mandatory for all medium to heavyweight trucks as per DOT regulations. Semi trucks typically have drum brakes installed on the front axle, however disk brakes are also used as the front brakes in some semi trucks.

Previously, it wasn’t mandatory that semi trucks have front brakes. However, it was decided by DOT that semi trucks of various weights would need front brakes.

This caused conflict among drivers and companies who had to pay out money to refit old systems or introduce new ones.

What are Brakes in a Semi Truck?

The brakes on a semi truck are heavy-duty brake shoes and disks that operate through a compressed air system that controls the air brakes which are the brakes we all know and love.

The Parking brake holds the vehicle still when not in use or is stationary, and the Emergency brake which is your backup for if the system loses air pressure it activates the spring brake.

The spring brake is what is used in the parking brake system.

Do All Semi Trucks have Front Brakes?

It was common for semi trucks to not have front brakes 30 or 40 years back but it is now a must and any truck that is going to be used on the public road will need to have front brakes fitted and working.

Any failure to display a working front brake system on your truck will result in the removal of your truck and a fine.

What Type of Front Brakes do Semi Trucks Have?

The front brakes are run on air pressure to make them more efficient and very reliable because of the unlimited air supply thanks to the smart design of the hydraulics running off engine power.

They can be pads or drums both of which are good and will aid you in slowing down or stopping safely. A good driver will plan the road well enough to reduce the amount they need to brake.

Are Drum Brakes in the Front of a Semi Truck Good?

They are more durable than disks and require less maintenance, provide better balance when collaborating with the trailer brakes which normally use drums.

They are cheaper to service or replace due to their popularity. They are a good choice for long-haul trucks and have a longer gap in servicing. Any brake system is only as good as the care it receives.

Regular checks will keep you and everyone else on the road safe.

Are Disk Brakes in the Front of a Semi Truck Good?

Disk brakes can reduce the stopping distance of a semi truck up to 30% more on average than a drum brake. Servicing and maintaining disk brakes takes less time and is easier.

Choosing the right system for your needs would be our best advice.

If you are a frequent stopper in your line of work then disks would be a better option for you, but you may feel that drums work better for you.

Can a Semi Truck Drive Without Front Brakes?

Before 1987 it was a truck driver’s way of life to drive without front brakes as they felt that the truck steering wheels would lock up causing them to lose control.

The tractor and trailers slow down and stop quicker as a result of front brakes and it has been proven they do this faster and have more stability.

Prior to 1987 truckers use to remove or disconnect their front brakes.

Surely it is common sense, the more brakes a vehicle has the better the braking ability and the quick the stopping or slowing process.

What Year did Semi Trucks get Front Brakes?

Some older trucks were built without front brakes and in some trucks, the front brakes were simply removed or disconnect, but when the brakes on all wheels policy came things changed.

The new rules stated that all vehicles 10,000 pounds and over, manufactured after July 24 1980 be fitted with steering axle brakes.

This also gave truckers and companies until Feb 1988 to reconnect or reinstall any that had been removed or disconnected.

All the current models are factory fitted with front brakes.

Do Front Brakes of a Semi truck Wear out Faster?

Front brakes on any vehicle will wear out faster due to the weight transfer when braking, the front brakes will take a lot more punishment than any other brakes on your truck.

Overheating them from time to time when using them down steep hills will fade them out faster but can be avoided by using the correct gear for the task.

Friction is another front brake killer and can also be avoided by good planning and not using the brakes excessively, using them in short intervals on steep downhill grades if needed.

How to know if the Front Brakes of your Semi Truck is Bad?

We can assume you have been driving the truck for a while now so you would know the feel of the brakes and would sense a change in them if they didn’t feel right.

However, if you are new to trucking or have purchased a new truck they will generally have a brake fade sensor when brakes get to the recommended use of wear.

Bad brakes can be noticed if the vehicle is pulling to either the left or right when braking or a scrapping, grinding, or squeaking noise comes from underneath you.

Soft or spongy brakes will be a sign of a leak in the system. Wobbling or vibration will occur when braking or you may sense a burning smell.

If you have any of these issues visit a workshop as early as possible.

What Maintenance is done on the Front Brakes of a Semi Truck?

Air disk brakes are slightly different to maintain.

First, make sure the caliper moves in and out freely. Check the rotors are in good shape making sure they have no cracks some have tampers for wear indication.

Check for loose mounting bolts, missing parts, and leaking air chambers. If the pads need changing it’s a simple case of sliding them out and placing new ones in.

The Drum brakes require a lot less maintenance. Check the backing plate is clean, not corroded. Again check for air leaks. Check the thickness of the brake shoe lining these usually have wear indicators.

Check the inner part of the drum for any dents, measure the under diameter of the drum for any out of round readings.

All of the above is what your local mechanic will check to make sure your truck’s front brakes are in good working order and you can use this guide yourself.

When do you need to Replace the Front Brakes of your Semi Truck?

Aside from the general maintenance checks to the brake system, a semi trucks brake fade can vary.

It is always a good idea to regularly check the conditions of the brakes and any leaks.

The front brakes will be the first of the brakes to wear out at around 30,000 miles but this can significantly change depending on the style of driving adopted by the truck driver.

30k miles can become 20k miles with bad driving or 40k miles with good driving. Either way, checking your brakes work and are at a sufficient level should be done every few days.

When it comes to safe operation, the brakes are the most important part of your vehicle.

How much does it Cost to Fix or Replace your Semi’s Front Brakes?

The repairs and replacement prices on a semi trucks front brakes vary from truck to truck and independent workshop to the main dealership, depending on what needs repairing.

An independent shop will charge on average $200 for labor and then the price of the repair for the brakes.

The price to replace the brakes can range from $400 to $800 depending on the size of the truck.

A dealership will charge a little more, their rates generally start around $170 per hour and will usually take them around 3 hours to replace a front set of brakes and repairs again depends on what is wrong.

Parts range from $150 to $600 again depending on the size of the truck.

It is our advice to plan in advance to save time and avoid disappointment by booking in your truck early and predicting the brake fade.

Happy Trucking!