1. #1

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    Default Ambulance Brakes

    Hi, I am a newbie so take it easy on me. Our county has two GMC ambulances that are wearing out rear brake pads at a very fast rate. We have one unit with 21,000 miles that has had the rear pads replaced three times so far. Our Fleet Manager says that we ordered a box that was too large for the truck and that the weight is causing the pads to fail quickly.

    Does anyone know if there is an upgrade kit available to beef up the rear brakes?

  2. #2
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    We were going through fronts real bad on our E350s, to the tune of one set every 3,000 miles. Our new rigs are all E450s and we put Telma retarders on them from new. One of the 7 units has 58,000 miles on it and is on the original brakes. Well worth the money.

    http://www.telmausa.com/telma_htm/default.htm

    Good luck. Though I find the fact you are going through rear brakes a bit odd, I am not a mechanic.

    Regards, Craig
    The opinions are mine alone, and do not represent the department I am with, or any firefighters I work with.

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    I would be curious as to how much weight you are carrying compared to the GVWR of the truck. Do you have any scales nearby that you could weigh the vehicle on? The GVWR should be listed on the drivers door post. Also, make sure each axle is within its rating.

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    Default Dodge 4500-5500

    We use Ford E-450, I see that in the new dodge 4500-5500 chasis that you can get a factory exhaust break. I wonder if it will be worth it, to bad it only comes in a truck chasis and not a van chasis.

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    Quote Originally Posted by firebill911 View Post
    We use Ford E-450, I see that in the new dodge 4500-5500 chasis that you can get a factory exhaust break. I wonder if it will be worth it, to bad it only comes in a truck chasis and not a van chasis.
    Exhaust brakes do a fair job but nothing compared to a compression brake. Unfortunately, the toy engines used in meat wagons don't have compression brakes available. A Telma would definitely be the way to go. A little more $$ up front but you can really tell the difference.

    One of the larger cities in Texas (I'm old, can't remember which one) started using Telmas on all wagons in the early to mid '90s and claimed to save big bucks on brake repairs as well as lowering the number and severity of accidents. They made such a big deal about it in magazines I just figured they were a regular thing on most ambulances by now.

    Personally, I do my best to avoid ambulances so I have never kept up on them. As I get older, my aversion to them gets worse for some reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by firepundit View Post
    Exhaust brakes do a fair job but nothing compared to a compression brake. Unfortunately, the toy engines used in meat wagons don't have compression brakes available. A Telma would definitely be the way to go. A little more $$ up front but you can really tell the difference.

    One of the larger cities in Texas (I'm old, can't remember which one) started using Telmas on all wagons in the early to mid '90s and claimed to save big bucks on brake repairs as well as lowering the number and severity of accidents. They made such a big deal about it in magazines I just figured they were a regular thing on most ambulances by now.

    Personally, I do my best to avoid ambulances so I have never kept up on them. As I get older, my aversion to them gets worse for some reason.
    We all know that Telma retarders use massive amounts of power. The 2 ambulances that CE11 and I are familiar with constantly have electrical issues- especially in the summertime when the box A/C is on. More often than not, it seems like if you dont have the high idle engaged when parked, it's asking for trouble. Seems like we could never get big enough alternators. Nowadays, with the advent of LED lighting, I wonder if this will be a problem in the future. Our company just ordered a new ambulance (CE11 is on the committee, I was not, thank god) I am sure he insisted on LED lighting. That being said, I am wondering if these departments in Texas are having any electrical issues due to the Telma retarders.

    Additionally, I have driven several pumpers with the kiddy engines (one was a C block Cummapart, the other was a 40 Series Detroit), equipped with exhaust brakes. I agree that a compression brake is the way to go, but I was more than happy with the exhaust brakes, even on a pumper with 1000 gallons of water. I would have to venture a guess and say that I would expect an exhaust brake to be more than suitable for an EMS unit (especially given the electrical issues they are prone to have.)
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Default Ambulance Brakes

    We have 2 - F-350 Ambulances (03 & 06) and a 08 F-450. We have not had the brake problem you are describing. We put about 10,000 miles a year on each unit. Last year (08) we didn't have to replace the brakes on any of the units. With that said, we are 30 to 40 mins. from the hospital. If your in the city, you will be using your brakes more the we would.
    I agree with dakotafireguy, get your vehicles weighted first, then go from there.
    Now I'm not pushing for one chassis over the other, and I don't know about GM Chassis - Ford has an "Ambulance Package" chassis that is specially made for the use by EMS / Fire service. It is suppose to have heavier equipment (brakes, trans. cooler, springs, etc) built into it.

    nc
    Last edited by nc1130; 02-04-2009 at 12:02 PM.

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    A vehicle that won't start is a problem.
    A vehicle that won't stop is a liability.

    The previous posts hit things pretty well....
    1. Get it weighed, and make sure it's got adequate reserve for personnel & patients.
    2. Get a Telma retarder. For smaller vehicles, they're the way to go.
    3. Look into some cross-drilled brake rotors. They allow faster cooling, which will help the brake pads last longer. You'll likely have to contact a specialty company for something like this, and your shop mechanic may think it's nuts. All race cars use them, and with good reason. A few dollars in an upgrade may save a life.
    4. If you want avoid some electrical problems, look into an overdrive pulley for the alternator. It's just a simple pulley that's slightly smaller than your stock one, making your alternator turn faster, giving it higher output at all engine speeds. ASP Racing makes them, call or e-mail them with specifics on the vehicle. You may have to take some detailed notes on the alternator if the ambulance builder upgraded from an OEM one.
    5. Also consider going with Optima Red Top batteries next time you need some. They cost more up front, but tend to outlast everything else, making them cheaper in the long run. I've used them before on emergency vehicles and they really last, so much so that I now use them in my personal vehicles too.
    The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened. --Norman Mattoon Thomas, 6 time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America

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    Default Ford Brakes

    I have worked in the automotive parts business basically all of my life and this is not that uncommon of a problem. I serviced a fleet of utility company F-450 and F-550 that were going through brakes about that fast. The suggestion that I recieved was two fold. The first is to make sure to service the calipers as well as the pads. All to often the mechanic yanks the old pads and throws new ones on with out checking the caliper. They are a heavily abused part on a vehicle. Make sure they are greased and all parts are functioning as per manufactors specs. The second solution was to put a pair of severe duty pads as well as vented rotors to help with cooling. If the pads are super hot they will not stop you. Also try to avoid ceramic pads on this type of application. They WILL NOT handle the heat. Just a little thought from somebody who has a little experience on the whole subjuect matter.

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    What size GMC's do you have, 3500 (1-ton chassis) or the larger 45 or 5500? We have a 3500 and it's at it's GVWR limit, it doen't get a lot of use so no brake problems yet, but you have to stand on the brakes to stop it in a hurry. Not the best....

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    I don't do ambulances but there is a Texas builder, Frazier, that runs the entire package excluding what it left the OEM build line with on an Onan generator. The A/C for the box, all of the electrical inside the box, and the entire warning light system is powered by the Onan. Houston F D as well as several other departments run Frazier exclusively. With the load off the chassis alternator and three or four Optima batteries there is no reason not to have a Telma Retarder on an ambulance. That is unless you like working on brakes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    We all know that Telma retarders use massive amounts of power. The 2 ambulances that CE11 and I are familiar with constantly have electrical issues- especially in the summertime when the box A/C is on. More often than not, it seems like if you dont have the high idle engaged when parked, it's asking for trouble. Seems like we could never get big enough alternators. Nowadays, with the advent of LED lighting, I wonder if this will be a problem in the future. Our company just ordered a new ambulance (CE11 is on the committee, I was not, thank god) I am sure he insisted on LED lighting. That being said, I am wondering if these departments in Texas are having any electrical issues due to the Telma retarders.

    Additionally, I have driven several pumpers with the kiddy engines (one was a C block Cummapart, the other was a 40 Series Detroit), equipped with exhaust brakes. I agree that a compression brake is the way to go, but I was more than happy with the exhaust brakes, even on a pumper with 1000 gallons of water. I would have to venture a guess and say that I would expect an exhaust brake to be more than suitable for an EMS unit (especially given the electrical issues they are prone to have.)
    I am unaware of any electrical problem in 7 Telma equipped units we have. While most of the half dozen ambulance builders we talked to said if there were going to be a problem down the road, it generally shows up in electrical issues. We have lost a turbo, and something else mechanical, but nothing electrical yet. All of the warning lights but 4 rotators are LED, as are the brake and turn indicators. I do not see us EVER running a ambulance/medic unit without the retarders. All units are built by the same company. Braun Northwest

    When we were doing brakes all the time, parts were replaced as needed, rotors, calipers and such.
    The opinions are mine alone, and do not represent the department I am with, or any firefighters I work with.

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    if you have the c4500 i think you can swap out the calipers and rotors of the 5500 relativity easily
    ~Big O~

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