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Old 01-06-2015, 10:28 PM   #1
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Mountain driving without supplemental brakes

I plan on driving a 40' RE bus through mountains. I'm curious what sort of experience you all have in doing so with or without transmission retarders or exhaust brakes.

It seems exhaust brakes are easy enough to add after the fact. Retarders, not so much (and woof, expensive). When navigating a skoolie though the mountains, is some sort of supplemental braking a requirement or a nice to have? Will dropping down a gear and braking intelligently suffice?
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Old 01-07-2015, 07:46 AM   #2
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is some sort of supplemental braking a requirement or a nice to have?
Nice to have.

Generally, pick your desired downhill speed. Hit the brakes hard to 5mph under that speed (about 3 seconds) and get off the brakes. Repeat. This method gives the brakes longer to cool off. Be very conservative on picking that downhill speed. No one ever got killed by going down a hill too slow. Don't pay any attention to how fast everyone is passing you. If you see smoke, pull over and let them cool off, it takes a while. (fix a sandwich, walk the dog, take a nap)
It used to be said to not go down any faster than you can go up but, with todays engines, that is no longer true. My last truck would go up pretty much any hill as fast as I wanted.
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Old 01-07-2015, 11:53 AM   #3
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Exhaust brakes are a nice way to lighten the load off your regular brakes for long descents, well worth the money. If you can stay off your main brakes as much as possible through gearing you'll have them with no fade should you ever really need them in an emergency.
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Old 01-07-2015, 04:26 PM   #4
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I think you'll be fine without a Jake or retarder. They are nice, but not necessary at all.
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Old 01-07-2015, 11:06 PM   #5
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Pre-trip checking the brake adjustment on air brakes is critical.

If the air canisters are using all their travel just to make the shoes reach the drums, you might be in trouble. Stopping might be fine in the parking lot and at red lights. But as the drums heat up on a long descent, they can expand away from the shoes, and if you don't have some shoe travel left over, you may have no brakes.

Learn how to inspect the linkage before you head for the hills.
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Old 01-09-2015, 06:27 AM   #6
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Red bear nailed it also THIS where are these mountains you speak of?

We have 8% plus here in TN, NC and VA they are normally 6 to 8 miles long, I have a lot of respect for them (airbrakes/A545 and NO add-on goodies)

My safe speed is 30 mph, as I crest said hill I already have hazards and strobe/hazards on, right lane and 1st gear doing 10 mph

Ignore everyone else and maintain your speed, do not drag/ride brakes

I can "drive" down the hill (a little throttle actually increases my line pressure in my tranny and it helps to hold it make,

On steep short hills (421 out of Boone,NC towards Villas NC it is 24%+ for a mile or so, I use both feet
1st gear and throttle at 2100 rpm when speed creeps up, I apply brake with left foot to slow down about 500 rpm drop this done 4 or5 times and then it flattens out and I start to shift up

Seems weird to throttle and brake! If I let up off throttle it will take off and **** gets scary fast, with no resistance from tranny

Damn that's long

If its mountains over 4000 ft and more than 8 mile of grade.....I'm not doing it in my bus without a brake vehicle and probably a push vehicle to get to 10000 ft

Stay safe and go slow
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Old 01-09-2015, 06:53 AM   #7
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Bansil- I did 40+ up and down Monteagle in the Ward with dt466 and the 643 trans. Was pretty worried but we took it nice and easy. Got a little warm towards the end of the climb, so we gladly pulled in to that rest stop on top. Some of the semi's were going FAST!
What's that one, 6%?
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Old 01-09-2015, 08:31 AM   #8
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Bansil- I did 40+ up and down Monteagle in the Ward with dt466 and the 643 trans. Was pretty worried but we took it nice and easy. Got a little warm towards the end of the climb, so we gladly pulled in to that rest stop on top. Some of the semi's were going FAST!
What's that one, 6%?
I don't know, what is monteagle? VA?
Your tranny is a lot better than 545, that is for sure.
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Old 01-09-2015, 08:32 AM   #9
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OP has a RE which thank fully does not included one off the non lockup slip-a-matics from Allison, that's a good thing
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Old 01-09-2015, 08:58 AM   #10
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I don't know, what is monteagle? VA?
Your tranny is a lot better than 545, that is for sure.
Monteagle is in TN. In infamous stretch of I24 between Nashville and Chattanooga. I can't believe you've never heard of it. Johnny Cash even wrote a song about it, and its mentioned in Jerry Reed's "The Legend" from Smokey and The Bandit.
http://youtu.be/aNgeu7i6eOk
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Old 01-09-2015, 08:58 AM   #11
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Old 01-09-2015, 09:57 AM   #12
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Ahhh Monteagle... Where you see the semi's parked at the Walmart in Jasper with the brakes smoking... Engines overheat going up, brakes overheat coming down. And the runaway truck ramps are on the left side of the road! But a beautiful section of highway. You can easily find that stretch of I-24 on any map. The lanes are widely seperated. Northbound lane is on one side of the mountain and the Southbound lane is on the other side. And no good way around it unless you take TN 111 and then switch to 128 at Dunlap. TN 111 (Corridor J) into the north side of Chattanooga has a steep grade as well but I rarely seen evidence that anyone took the runaway truck ramp. I drove Corridor J often as I used it to go to Chatt about once a week for many years. My bank was in Hixson. I used to live in Whitwell.

From Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inters...ee_and_Georgia
One of the more hazardous stretches of Interstate highway in the United States[citation needed] is located approximately 40 miles (64 km) west of Chattanooga on I-24 in Monteagle, where the highway crosses the Cumberland Plateau. Compared to grades elsewhere, Monteagle's 4–6% grade does not come close to the steepest (Interstate 40 between Nashville and Knoxville features 5% grades in each direction as well as a 5% grade north of Nashville on 24, near Joelton), but the slope is protracted over a distance of several miles. While all motorists need to exercise caution, truckers are particularly vexed by Monteagle, and many have died going through this area.[citation needed] As runaway trucks had been a regular and deadly occurrence, in part of the failure or inability of truckers to slow down to the 35 mph (56 km/h) truck speed limit once on the slope, the eastbound lanes were rebuilt in the late 1980s. This work reduced the grade, widened the road, added a required stopping area with traffic lights for trucks prior to descending the mountain, and added two runaway truck ramps where a truck whose brakes have failed due to overheating can exit into a long pit full of loose gravel to safely stop. Owing to geography, these two ramps are on the left side of the grade. This stretch of highway inspired Johnny Cash to write a song about Monteagle Mountain...
... Also of interest on Monteagle Mountain is the steep grade on I-24 north of Monteagle. This steep grade occurs for westbound traffic and features a sharp 45 mph (72 km/h) curve to the right while descending steeply at the same time. This downhill curve also features off-ramp approach style lane dividers, in order to slow both motorists and truckers. Also in Chattanooga is the "Ridge Cut", a 1/4 mile section of Missionary Ridge, between the 4th Avenue exit and the Germantown/Belvoir exit. Accidents and severe congestion are common here.


The Ridge Cut south of Moccasin Bend is a PITA due to traffic. Adding to the mess is the fact that the I-24/I-75 split is just south of the Ridge Cut and far too many peple try to cross multiple lanes of traffic at the last minute because they want to go South on I-75 into GA rather than Northeast on I-75 towards Knoxville.
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:27 AM   #13
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Yep, I see you know your roads, Lorna!
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Old 01-09-2015, 01:54 PM   #14
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too far west for me lol

now the fictional Wolf creek pass, I know
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:03 PM   #15
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I did Monteagle at close to midnight bringing my bus home from TX. Needless to say I didn't know what I was getting into when I hit it but (being a truck drivers kid) knew better than to assume anything. I took it slow and used the stab to slow down program. Not allowing a vehicle to get going fast in the first place is the key to managing in the mountains. Was sure glad when I got out of there. It was nice to big wide roads though. Not nearly as crazy as bringing it over the "Pig Trail" in Arkansas. Now that was an experience. Narrow (no shoulder) hairpin 5mph turns that felt like you were going in tight circles down the mountain. M wife called me just as I was driving it. When I mentioned it was not a good time to talk, I told here to get online and look up "Pig Trail". When she saw what it was, she told me to get off the phone and call her back when I get parked. Driving these things can be fun for sure.
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:25 PM   #16
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now the fictional Wolf creek pass, I know
Nothing fictional about it, Hwy 160 in Colorado, first time I did it was at night in the rain, much of it was gravel and only one lane. I was way over hours and couldn't find a place to pull off. I was so tired I finally pulled into a construction area, figured they'd wake me up when they wanted to go to work.
However, I never saw the tunnel or the feed store in Pagosa Springs
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Old 01-09-2015, 11:41 PM   #17
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To whoever asked "which mountains", I'll be driving through the Canadian Rockies and the Brooks/Alaska Ranges. Should be a wild and crazy few thousand miles.

And I'll be doing it in a DT466, DT530, or Cat 3126 with an MD3060.
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Old 01-10-2015, 12:19 AM   #18
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To whoever asked "which mountains", I'll be driving through the Canadian Rockies and the Brooks/Alaska Ranges. Should be a wild and crazy few thousand miles.

And I'll be doing it in a DT466, DT530, or Cat 3126 with an MD3060.
Theres a Thomas in Md gonna go for cheap at GovDeals.
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Old 01-10-2015, 12:22 AM   #19
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This bad boy? http://www.govdeals.com/index.cfm?fa...67&acctid=2489

That'll be a great deal for someone. I'm set on a 84 passenger, rust free unit. 72 just won't do.
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Old 01-10-2015, 12:43 AM   #20
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Maryland buses aren't too rusty.Usually top notch units. But yeah you'd be two rows shy of a 40.
I think this one is only one row short-http://www.govdeals.com/index.cfm?fa...47&acctid=1428
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