Do RVs Have Air Brakes? [Solved]

In most cases, RVs do not have air brakes. If you do find air brakes on an RV, then it is likely to be a Class A RV with a minimum length of 35 feet. This isn’t to say that other RVs do not have air brakes. They do. It is just a lot rarer to find them. 

Let’s go into a bit of depth on this. 

Are Diesel RVs The Only Ones With Air Brakes?

Air brakes tend to only be installed on RVs that require a huge amount of stopping power. This means RVs that are lengthy and weigh quite a bit. Most RVs that weigh more than 20,000lbs will have air brakes installed on them.

It just so happens that the vast majority of the RVs that appear in this sort of weight class will be diesel RVs. However, not all of them will be diesel. Some will just run on standard gas.

So, no. Diesel RVs are not the only RVs with air brakes. However, they are the type of RV that is more likely to have air brakes, mostly because the vast majority of vehicles that require air brakes will be in the upper weight class, and those vehicles tend to be diesel-powered.

How To Drive An RV With Air Brakes

While the principles are the same, you may find that driving an RV with air brakes will feel a little bit different. You should bear in mind that, in some states, you may require additional certification to drive an RV with air brakes.

The major difference between air brakes and hydraulic brakes is how they work. We will discuss this a bit more shortly. All you really need to know right now is two things:

  • It takes a while for the airflow to travel through the brakes to reach the brake pads.
  • Hydraulic brakes work instantly. The pressure that you place on hydraulic brakes is the same pressure that the brakes will be pushed at.

Because of the way that air brakes work, it can be difficult to smoothly stop the vehicle if you are inexperienced. This is because it doesn’t really feel like you are slowing down right away, although, we can assure you that you are. Because of this, a lot of people push down on the air brakes too hard, causing janky stops.

The best way to learn how to drive an RV with air brakes is to just practice. The way in which the RV stops will vary based on the model. Learn that you don’t need to put too much pressure down on the brakes.

How Does An Air Brake System Work?

Air brakes work in a very similar way to hydraulic systems. Although, of course, with an air brake system, the entire process works using air as opposed to a brake fluid.

With an air brake system, compressed air will be stored in an air chamber. When the brake is engaged, the air will be released from the air chamber and sent to the brake chambers. As the brake chambers start to fill up, pressure is placed on the various mechanical components. This pushes the brake pads or discs against the wheels, slowing the vehicle down.

As soon as the brake is deactivated, the air is released, and that air chamber will start to fill up again, ready for the next brake.

Obviously, the process is slightly more complicated than that. However, you don’t really need to know too much more in order to use an air brake system. 

The Differences Between Air Brakes And Hydraulic Brakes

As you will know by now, the main difference between air brakes and hydraulic brakes is the way that they will be putting pressure on the brake pads. Air brakes will use air, and hydraulic brakes will use fluid.

Air brakes take a lot less effort to use. Even the slightest amount of pressure on a brake can deliver a fast stop.

Air brakes tend to be a lot better at stopping hefty vehicles quickly too, this is why you will often find them installed in the largest of RVs. In fact, at some point, you have no choice but to use air brakes in a vehicle.

Hydraulic brakes do tend to be a lot simpler than air braking systems, though. This means that the cost of them is often considerably lower than the air brake counterparts. That being said, there is a lot more that can go wrong with hydraulic braking systems. In fact, air brake systems require very little in the way of maintenance. 

If you are opting for a larger RV, then you will almost certainly want to pick up something with air brakes. The system is a lot more difficult to get used to. However, once you are used to it, it is so much easier to brake quickly. 

How Do Air Brakes Work On A Motorhome?

Air brakes use compressed air to stop the vehicle. It works by sending air into the braking system lines when you push the brake pedal. A pneumatic valve that sends air pressure to the air chamber at each wheel.  

This air pushes the brake pads against the rotor and brings the vehicle to a stop.

Final Thoughts

Unless you have a large Class A RV that’s at least 35 feet then you probably won’t have air brakes. Air brakes are a type of braking system used on vehicles to stop them quickly, which is why it’s necessary on the larger RVs.

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