Gladhands Unveiled: The Essential Link in Your Air Brake System

By: Megan B 

Gladhands: aren’t you glad you have ‘em? If not, you should be — these clever little couplers play an essential role in your air brake system! But what exactly are they, and what about their design makes them so (glad)handy? We’re going to break it down for you so you can better understand your air brake system and, in extension, your rig.

    What Are Gladhands?

    Gladhands are couplers (or connectors) that allow hoses that supply air to interlock. A tractor/trailer typically has two gladhands – one for service brakes (blue), and one for emergency brakes (red). The green line is for electrical and is not connected by a gladhand.

    The gladhand itself has a metal body that, when coupled with another gladhand, resembles two clasped hands—hence, the name. It also has a rubber “O” ring that assists with maintaining a tight seal.

    Gladhands’ simple but elegant design allows the air lines to be securely fastened while also being generally easy to manually connect and disconnect by the driver, if need be. 


    Angled Gladhand

    Angles gladhands are used when location of the gladhand unusual and may add some unwanted tension onto the air lines.

    Gladhand with Shutoff

    When the air connection is not isolated by a tractor protection valve or if it can lose air when disconnected, a gladhand with a shutoff is useful.

    Source: Saskatchewan Government Insurance

    When to Replace Your Gladhands

    As a rule of thumb, gladhands should be replaced every time air lines are replaced, or once a year.

    However, you’ll also want to replace them if you see any of these signs of wear:

    • Cracks to the body, or rubber seal
    • Damage to filter screen, if it has one
    • Corrosion on the body, connector and plate (be sure to use anodized or corrosion-resistant gladhands in climates where corrosion is more likely to occur)
    • Corroded or loose rivets

    If it’s time to place the gladhands on your rig, you’re in luck — gladhands are on special for the month of July.

    We carry regular, angled, and shutoff gladhands, so be sure to stop by your local Parts for Trucks store or Express online to get yours!