Proper Gladhand Maintenance
We all know that gladhands are a very important component of a vehicle’s air brake system. Failure to maintain them properly will prevent proper coupling, which will allow air to leak and leave the brake systems susceptible to the ingress of moisture and debris. That is why it is important that gladhands be a part of your regular preventive maintenance inspection schedule.
Corrosion is the enemy
If your gladhands are made of aluminum — most standard gladhand bodies are — they are likely to be subjected to corrosion. During your PM inspection look for corrosion on the gladhand body. It will be relatively easy to spot on the outside of the body, but it also can build up in the gladhand’s interior cavity. If the corrosion buildup beings to chip away, it can enter the air lines which will damage the system.
If your vehicles operate in highly corrosive environments, consider switching to powder coated or anodized gladhands. However, be aware that the coating on the powder coated gladhands will chip away over time. This will leave the gladhand susceptible to corrosion. During your PM inspection make sure to check the integrity of the coating if you are using powder coated gladhands.
Also examine the detent plate and rivets for signs of corrosion. Corroded rivets will cause the plate to loosen and eventually break off. This will make it impossible to couple the tractor and the trailer. After many coupling/uncoupling cycles, the metal will start to shave off the plate and create grooves. When you notice those grooves, replace the gladhands.
At the first sign of substantial corrosion anywhere on the gladhand, replace them. Another option is to replace them when the air lines are replaced.
Watch for wear
The small dimple of the connector plate can wear over time. The dimple is critical to maintaining a secure connection. When the dimple begins to wear, it causes the gladhand to lose its ability to seal properly when coupled. If you notice the dimple is beginning to wear, replace the gladhands. Also make sure to check the tightness of the connector plate. If it is loose, replace the gladhands.
Another place to look for wear is on the gladhand seals. As a result of the turning action during coupling and uncoupling, seals will wear over time. Inspect seals regularly and replace them at least once a year or more often based on use. If your gladhand seals have flaps, inspect the flaps and replace the seals if the flaps are torn or otherwise damaged. For added insurance, place extra gladhand seals in the truck so they can be replaced if the driver notices them leaking or sees signs of damage.
If your drivers notice a loss of tension when coupling and uncoupling gladhands, this is a sign they need to be replaced. Remind drivers to store gladhands when dropping a trailer as this will keep the air lines sealed and keep moisture and debris out.