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Air Brakes Free CDL Practice Tests

Prepare For The Air Brakes Portion Of Your CDL Written Exams

Our free Air Brakes cdl practice questions are designed to help test your knowledge of the CDL Manual and sharpen your skills for taking the CDL permit and endorsement exams. They are not designed to teach you the knowledge necessary to pass the exams. Please do not try to memorize these questions in order to get your cdl. There's a better way.

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About The Air Brakes CDL Exam

The Air Brakes CDL Exam is required if you want to drive a truck or bus with air brakes, or pull a trailer with air brakes. If you want to pull a trailer with air brakes, you also need to study Combination Vehicles.

Air brakes are really three different braking systems: service brake, parking brake and emergency brake.

  • The service brake system applies and releases the brakes when you use the brake pedal during normal driving.
  • The parking brake system applies and releases the parking brakes when you use the parking brake control.
  • The emergency brake system uses parts of the service and parking brake systems to stop the vehicle in a brake system failure.

Main Components Of Air Brake Systems

Air brakes are simple in theory but rather complex in the way they're implemented for safety and reliability. Here are some of the major components:

Air Compressor:

The air compressor pumps air into the air storage tanks (reservoirs). The air compressor is connected to the engine through gears or a V-belt. The compressor may be air cooled or may be cooled by the engine cooling system. It may have its own oil supply or be lubricated by engine oil. If the compressor has its own oil supply, check the oil level before driving.

Air Storage Tanks:

Air storage tanks are used to hold compressed air. The number and size of air tanks varies among vehicles. The tanks will hold enough air to allow the brakes to be used several times, even if the compressor stops working.

Brake Drums, Shoes, And Linings:

Brake Drums, Shoes and Linings: Brake drums are located on each end of the vehicle's axles. The wheels are bolted to the drums. The braking mechanism is inside the drum. To stop, the brake shoes and linings are pushed against the inside of the drum. This causes friction, which slows the vehicle (and creates heat). The heat a drum can take without damage depends on how hard and how long the brakes are used. Too much heat can make the brakes stop working.

Spring Brakes

All trucks, truck tractors and buses must be equipped with emergency brakes and parking brakes. They must be held on by mechanical force (because air pressure can eventually leak away). Spring brakes are usually used to meet these needs.

When driving, powerful springs are held back by air pressure. If the air pressure is removed, the springs put on the brakes. A parking brake control in the cab allows the driver to let the air out of the spring brakes. This lets the springs put the brakes on. A leak in the air brake system, which causes all the air to be lost, will also cause the springs to put on the brakes.

Tractor and straight truck spring brakes will come fully on when air pressure drops to a range of 20 to 45 psi (typically 20 to 30 psi). Do not wait for the brakes to come on automatically. When the low air pressure warning light and buzzer first come on, bring the vehicle to a safe stop right away while you can still control the brakes. The braking power of spring brakes depends on the brakes being in adjustment. If the brakes are not adjusted properly, neither the regular brakes nor the emergency/parking brakes will work right.

Parking Brake Controls

In newer vehicles with air brakes, you put on the parking brakes using a diamond-shaped, yellow, push-pull control knob. You pull the knob out to put the parking brakes (spring brakes) on and push it in to release them. On older vehicles, the parking brakes may be controlled by a lever. Use the parking brakes whenever you park.

Antilock Braking Systems

Antilock Braking Systems are a computerized system that keeps your wheels from locking up during hard brake applications. Some important notes about ABS:

  • Vehicles with ABS have yellow malfunction lamps to tell you if something is not working.
  • Tractors, trucks and buses will have yellow ABS malfunction lamps on the instrument panel.
  • Trailers will have yellow ABS malfunction lamps on the left side, either on the front or rear corner.
  • ABS is an addition to your normal brakes. It does not decrease or increase your normal braking capability. ABS only activates when wheels are about to lock up.
  • ABS does not necessarily shorten your stopping distance, but it does help you keep the vehicle under control during hard braking.

Questions You Should Be Able To Answer For The Air Brakes Test

  • 1. Why must air tanks be drained?
  • 2. What is a supply pressure gauge used for?
  • 3. All vehicles with air brakes must have a low air pressure warning signal. True or False?
  • 4. What are spring brakes?
  • 5. Front wheel brakes are good under all conditions. True or False?
  • 6. How do you know if your vehicle is equipped with antilock brakes?

Inspecting Air Brakes

There is a long list of items that must be inspected regularly with air brake systems. We won't go into the specifics of each inspection but we'll give you a list of items that regularly must be checked:

  • Air compressor belt
  • Slack adjusters
  • Brake drum linings
  • Low pressure warning signal
  • Spring rate actuation
  • Air pressure rate of buildup
  • Air leakage rate
  • Governor cut-in and cut-out level
  • Parking brake
  • Service brakes

More questions you should be able to answer about Air Brakes

  • 1. What is a dual air brake system?
  • 2. What are the slack adjusters?
  • 3. How can you check slack adjusters?
  • 4. How can you test the low pressure warning signal?
  • 5. How can you check that the spring brakes come on automatically?
  • 6. What are the maximum leakage rates?

Emergency Stops

If somebody suddenly pulls out in front of you, your natural response is to hit the brakes. This is a good response if there is enough distance to stop and you use the brakes correctly.

You should brake in a way that will keep your vehicle in a straight line and allow you to turn if it becomes necessary. You can use the "controlled braking" method or the "stab braking" method.

Controlled Braking:

With this method, you apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking the wheels. Keep steering wheel movements very small while doing this. If you need to make a larger steering adjustment or if the wheels lock, release the brakes. Re-apply the brakes as soon as you can.

Stab Braking:

Apply your brakes all the way. Release brakes when wheels lock up. As soon as the wheels start rolling, apply the brakes fully again. (It can take up to one second for the wheels to start rolling after you release the brakes. If you re-apply the brakes before the wheels start rolling, the vehicle won't straighten out.)

Stopping Distance

With air brakes there is an added delay, —“Brake Lag.” This is the time required for the brakes to work after the brake pedal is pushed. With hydraulic brakes (used on cars and light/medium trucks), the brakes work instantly. However, with air brakes, it takes a little time (onehalf second or more) for the air to flow through the lines to the brakes. Thus, the total stopping distance for vehicles with air brake systems is made up of four different factors.

Perception Distance + Reaction Distance + Brake Lag Distance + Braking Distance = Total Stopping Distance

The air brake lag distance at 55 mph on dry pavement adds about 32 feet. So at 55 mph for an average driver under good traction and brake conditions, the total stopping distance is over 450 feet.

Brake Fading Or Failure

Brakes are designed so brake shoes or pads rub against the brake drum or disks to slow the vehicle. Braking creates heat, but brakes are designed to take a lot of heat. However, brakes can fade or fail from excessive heat caused by using them too much and not relying on the engine braking effect.

Excessive use of the service brakes results in overheating and leads to brake fade. Brake fade results from excessive heat causing chemical changes in the brake lining, which reduce friction and also causing expansion of the brake drums. As the overheated drums expand, the brake shoes and linings have to move farther to contact the drums, and the force of this contact is reduced. Continued overuse may increase brake fade until the vehicle cannot be slowed down or stopped.

Brake fade is also affected by adjustment. To safely control a vehicle, every brake must do its share of the work. Brakes out of adjustment will stop doing their share before those that are in adjustment. The other brakes can then overheat and fade, and there will not be enough braking available to control the vehicle(s). Brakes can get out of adjustment quickly, especially when they are hot. Therefore, check brake adjustment often.

Proper Braking Technique

Remember, the use of brakes on a long and/or steep downgrade is only a supplement to the braking effect of the engine. Once the vehicle is in the proper low gear, the following is the proper braking technique:

  • Apply the brakes just hard enough to feel a definite slowdown.
  • When your speed has been reduced to approximately 5 mph below your "safe" speed, release the brakes. (This application should last for about three seconds.)
  • When your speed has increased to your "safe" speed, repeat Steps 1 and 2.

For example, if your "safe" speed is 40 mph, you would not apply the brakes until your speed reaches 40 mph. You now apply the brakes hard enough to gradually reduce your speed to 35 mph and then release the brakes. Repeat this as often as necessary until you have reached the end of the downgrade.

Low Air Pressure

If the low air pressure warning comes on, stop and safely park your vehicle as soon as possible. There might be an air leak in the system. Controlled braking is possible only while enough air remains in the air tanks.

The spring brakes will come on when the air pressure drops into the range of 20 to 45 psi. A heavily loaded vehicle will take a long distance to stop because the spring brakes do not work on all axles. Lightly loaded vehicles or vehicles on slippery roads may skid out of control when the spring brakes come on. It is much safer to stop while there is enough air in the tanks to use the foot brakes.

Parking Brakes

Any time you park, use the parking brakes, except as noted below. Pull the parking brake control knob out to apply the parking brakes, push it in to release. The control will be a yellow, diamond-shaped knob labeled "parking brakes" on newer vehicles. On older vehicles, it may be a round blue knob or some other shape (including a lever that swings from side to side or up and down).

Do not use the parking brakes if the brakes are very hot (from just having come down a steep grade) or if the brakes are very wet in freezing temperatures. If they are used while they are very hot, they can be damaged by the heat. If they are used in freezing temperatures when the brakes are very wet, they can freeze so the vehicle cannot move. Use wheel chocks on a level surface to hold the vehicle. Let hot brakes cool before using the parking brakes. If the brakes are wet, use the brakes lightly while driving in a low gear to heat and dry them.

If your vehicle does not have automatic air tank drains, drain your air tanks at the end of each working day to remove moisture and oil. Otherwise, the brakes could fail. Never leave your vehicle unattended without applying the parking brakes or chocking the wheels. Your vehicle might roll away and cause injury and damage.

More questions for the Air Brakes exam

  • 1. Why should you be in the proper gear before starting down a hill?
  • 2. What factors can cause brakes to fade or fail?
  • 3. The use of brakes on a long, steep downgrade is only a supplement to the braking effect of the engine. True or False?
  • 4. If you are away from your vehicle only a short time, you do not need to use the parking brake. True or False?
  • 5. How often should you drain air tanks?
  • 6. How do you brake when you drive a tractor-trailer combination with ABS?
  • 7. You still have normal brake functions if your ABS is not working. True or False?

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