Find Out How to Prevent Engine Brake Damage, Functions, and Benefits!

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Engine Brake

Engine brake, also known as a “compression release brake” or “jake brake,” is a system used in motorized vehicles, especially large trucks and buses, to help reduce vehicle speed by harnessing compression pressure in the engine. This is an alternative method of reducing vehicle speed rather than relying solely on mechanical or hydraulic brakes.

Jake brakes are typically used on heavy vehicles, especially when descending from steep slopes or in situations where relying on the mechanical brakes alone can result in overheating of the brake system. Check out more explanations with TransTRACK!

Engine Brake Function

Engine brake has several main functions in vehicles, especially large trucks and buses. Here are some of the main functions of the engine brake:

Descent Protection

One of the main functions of the jake brake is to help control the speed of the vehicle when sliding down a steep slope. In this situation, the mechanical or hydraulic brakes may not be effective enough to prevent the vehicle from becoming too fast and difficult to control. The jake brake assists in converting the vehicle’s kinetic energy into compression energy within the engine, helping to decelerate more efficiently.

Brake Maintenance

Relying on mechanical or hydraulic brakes excessively in intensive braking situations can cause overheating of the brake system, which in turn can cause wear and even failure of the brake system. By using the jake brake to help reduce speed, it is possible to reduce the load on the brake system, extending brake life and reducing maintenance costs.

Reduces Brake Wear

Jake brake helps in reducing physical friction on the brake components, such as brake pads and discs. This helps reduce wear and tear on these components, increasing service life and reducing the need for more frequent replacements.

Better Vehicle Control

Jake brake also helps in providing better control over the vehicle in braking situations. When the jake brake is used properly, the vehicle tends to be more stable and easier to control than relying solely on mechanical or hydraulic brakes.

Fuel Efficiency

Although in certain situations the jacket brake requires additional fuel to produce the braking effect, in some cases the use of the engine brake can help reduce fuel consumption. When the vehicle slides down a slope, the engine brake can help maintain vehicle speed without the need to use more fuel acceleration.

Engine Sound Reduction

Although jacket brakes can produce quite a distinctive sound, in some cases their use can also help reduce engine noise when the vehicle is going down a slope, because the engine does not need to operate at high revs.

It is important to note that the use of a jacket brake must be adjusted to the situation and road conditions. Some areas may have rules or regulations governing the use of jacket brakes, especially in residential areas that are sensitive to noise pollution.

How to Do Engine Brake

Engine brake can be done both in cars with manual or automatic transmission (matic). However, keep in mind that the steps required may vary slightly between manual and automatic cars. Here’s how to do a jake brake on both types of cars:

Engine Brake on Manual Cars

  • Lower the Transmission Gear: When you want to use the jacket brake on a manual car, the first step is to lower the transmission gear. You will have to shift the gear lever to a lower gear (usually 3, 2, or 1) depending on the vehicle speed and the steepness of the road. This will help in increasing the compression pressure and help slow the vehicle.
  • Release the Gas: After you shift the transmission to a lower gear, slowly release the gas pedal. This will reduce the supply of fuel to the engine and assist in exploiting the braking effect created by the compression pressure in the cylinders.
  • Speed Control: When the vehicle starts to slow down, you can use the brake pedal if needed for further speed control. However, don’t rely too much on the brake pedal so it doesn’t heat up.

Engine Brake on Automatic Cars

  • Switch to Manual Mode (If Available): Some automatic cars are equipped with manual mode or sport mode which allows you to select gears manually. If your car has this feature, please activate manual mode.
  • Use Paddle Shift or Shift Shift: If your car has paddle shifts or a shift lever with a manual option, you can select a lower gear in a similar way to a manual car.
  • Release the Gas: Once you have selected a lower gear, slowly release the gas pedal as in a manual car. This will reduce fuel supply and assist in engine braking.
  • Speed Control: As with a manual car, you will still need to use the brake pedal if needed for further speed control.

Benefits of Using Engine Brake

Here is a further explanation of each benefit:

The Brake Load will be Reduced

Engine brake assists in reducing the load on the mechanical or hydraulic brake system. By using a jacket brake to assist in reducing vehicle speed, you reduce the friction and heat generated by traditional brakes. This can help in extending the service life of brake components and reducing the need for frequent maintenance and replacement.

Gearshift will be Smoother

When you use the jake brake with the transmission downshifted, gear shifting becomes smoother than relying solely on mechanical brakes. This helps in maintaining stability and comfort when the vehicle slows down.

The Deceleration will Happen Faster

Engine brake allows deceleration (speed reduction) to occur more quickly than relying solely on the brakes. This is useful in situations where you need to respond quickly, such as going around a sharp turn or avoiding a sudden obstacle.

The Appearance of Spontaneous Acceleration

When you release the gas pedal while using the jacket brake, the engine experiences a braking effect. However, when you want to accelerate again, the engine is already at a lower revs, which can result in more responsive spontaneous acceleration than if you had to upshift from a higher revs.

Braking Can Be Faster

Engine brakes, especially on heavy vehicles, can assist in more efficient braking when sliding down steep slopes. By taking advantage of the compression pressure in the engine, the vehicle can reduce speed without relying too much on mechanical or hydraulic brakes.

Does Engine Brake Damage the Engine?

Use of the jacket brake judiciously and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions will generally not damage the engine. Engine brakes are designed to be used in certain situations and have the useful function of reducing vehicle speed and helping to reduce load on the brake system. However, there are some things that need to be considered to prevent damage to the machine:


Excessive or frequent use of the jacket brake in situations where it is not required can cause stress to engine components such as valves and the combustion system. Therefore, use the engine brake only when necessary and not too frequently.

Engine Speed Too High

Using a jacket brake with an engine speed that is too high or close to the maximum speed allowed by the manufacturer can cause excessive pressure and heat on engine components, which in turn can damage the engine.

The engine is not yet overheated

On some engines, it is better to warm up the engine before applying the engine brake. Using a jacket brake on an engine that is not too hot can increase the risk of damage.

Proper Maintenance

Make sure your vehicle’s engine is in good condition and routinely undergoes maintenance. A healthy engine tends to be more resistant to the effects of using the engine brake.

Follow Manufacturer’s Directions

Always follow the instructions given by your vehicle manufacturer regarding the use of the engine brake. The guide can provide further information about limitations and recommendations for use.

Use of Too-Steep Derivatives

Using the engine brake on too steep a slope for a long time can cause the engine to overwork and increase stress on components. Be sure to combine engine braking with brake use for better speed control.

It is important to strike a balance between the benefits and risks of using the engine brake. If used properly, the engine brake should not significantly damage the engine. However, if you have further doubts or questions, we recommend taking advantage of the Vehicle Maintenance System from TransTRACK.

By using the Vehicle Maintenance System, you can easily manage and track your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. This system will help you remember when is the right time to check and maintain the engine, including important points related to using the engine brake. By following the maintenance recommendations provided by TransTRACK, you can ensure that your engine remains at its best performance and avoids the risk of damage from overuse of the engine brake.

Don’t hesitate to explore the Vehicle Maintenance System services from TransTRACK and enjoy the benefits of keeping your vehicle running smoothly, safely and long lasting. Take care of your vehicle, and your vehicle will take care of you.


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