Frozen trailer brakes: Avoiding them, and dealing with them.

tires in thesnow and brakes frozen
Frozen brakes and Tires of a truck in the snow. Snowing on the road. Dangerous weather conditions for driving

Frozen brakes are never a lot of fun. On the truck, they’re not too bad, but on the trailer, they can be a nightmare. The best way to avoid dealing with frozen brakes is, obviously, to prevent them in the first place. Many jurisdictions use various chemicals to treat the road surface in the winter to inhibit the buildup of snow and ice, with road salt being the most common. The salt melts the snow and ice, and traffic flow kicks up the salt water and disperses it, leaving the road relatively clean and dry. That spray hits the underside of the truck and trailer, and will eventually refreeze, and accumulate. As you drive and use the brakes, the water tends to evaporate. But when you park and the brakes cool down, it will refreeze, and prevent your brakes from releasing. To avoid frozen brakes, when you pull into the yard, customer or truck stop, spend 2 or 3 minutes just driving around slowly to allow the brakes to cool off a bit. Personally, I never set the trailer brakes when I park,’except when I’m dropping the trailer. If the brakes aren’t applied, they can’t freeze. If you DO wake up to frozen brakes, there are a few things you can do to get them rolling again.  Repeatedly applying and exhausting air to the system will fill the chambers with warm air, and might free them up. Doubtful, but worth a try. Adding some air line antifreeze (methyl hydrate) to the supply airline and waiting a few moment might also work. If these 2 attempts fail, then it’s “Hammer Time!”  Gram your hammer, and dress warm – you’re going to need to, as you have to get under the trailer, and hammer on the brakes to free them up. You can’t “wimp out”, and hammer the rims from the outside, unless you have a 20 lb sledge hammer. Make sure the brakes are “released”, and start hitting the brake drums. If the sound is a dull “thud”, the brake is frozen. If it has a slight ring when hit, then it is free, and you can move into the next tire. Anyone who has ever had to do this will never again forget to properly cool the brakes before setting them. It’s dirty, uncomfortable work in a very awkward position.