The 10 Best Air Horns For Trucks
Some circumstances don’t allow for subtlety or nuance. While traveling at high velocities or sitting still locked in traffic, a shout will not always suffice. And if you are going to honk anyway, why not go big? Whether a single trumpet or the whole brass section, air horns do not equivocate, and with something from our selection, neither will you. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best air horn for trucks on Amazon.
Air Horns: Honking Under Pressure
While this is certainly useful for the typical consumer automobile, it's equally important that trucks be equipped with similar types of horns due to their size.
We live in a pretty noisy world, which is true both in figurative and literal terms. When loud sounds are purposefully-emitted, they convey many different meanings to those around them. Music, for example, is a collection of seemingly-random sounds put together in a particular way so as to form a harmony that is pleasing to the ears and used to express feelings and emotions of the composer or listener. That said, sound plays an important psychological role in the way the world is perceived. Sound can also be used as a tool to alert people to potential danger or to just let someone know you're there. For example, anyone who's been stuck in traffic at rush hour knows that drivers love to honk their horns as a way of expressing the anger and frustration associated with their predicament. Horns can also be used to help prevent potential accidents from occurring on the road. While this is certainly useful for the typical consumer automobile, it's equally important that trucks be equipped with similar types of horns due to their size.
While an accessory like an underbody underglow kit is used to draw attention to a vehicle in the stylish sense, the air horn serves a more practical function in terms of improving road safety. The air horn is a pneumatic device designed to emit an extremely loud sound for the purposes of signaling and alerting other drivers to a vehicle's presence. Similar in shape to a trumpet, the air horn uses compressed air to vibrate a diaphragm located inside a compression chamber within the device. This combination of components ensures instant sound when the horn is activated by a switch or button inside a truck. Once activated, a valve inside the horn's compression chamber opens, allowing compressed air to escape from the base (or throat). As this occurs, the diaphragm also begins to vibrate, resulting in the production of high-pressure sound waves. These sound waves travel from the narrow portion of the throat to the wide, flared mouth of the device where they are ultimately amplified and passed through and out of the horn's bell.
Many of the air horn kits on our list are equipped with multiple "trumpet" pieces capable of emitting loud sounds of varying frequencies. The term "trumpet" is used loosely to describe a horn's resemblance to the musical instrument, but I wouldn't recommend installing a trumpet on top of your truck. Being that not every large truck has a built-in air compressor on board, a truck's air horn will instead operate via the vehicle's air brake system. This means that a truck driver can run a ceiling-mounted cord inside the vehicle, which can be pulled to open a valve on the truck's airline leading to its roof-mounted horns outside. Anyone who's ever taken a family road trip has probably experienced the fun of watching their children motion to a nearby truck driver in the hopes that he'll pull the sound cord attached to his roof-mounted horns to make that iconic noise.
Most air horns for trucks operate in the range of between 110 to over 150 decibels. Given that the quietest sounds detected by the human ear reach as low as 10 decibels, 150 is pretty darn loud! Depending on their overall length, air horns produce sound waves at either high or low frequencies (also known as pitch). High-frequency audio waves are more compressed and travel shorter distances, resulting in a higher pitched sound. By contrast, low-frequency waves travel greater distances and deliver a deep, low-pitched sound.
Tooting Your Own Horn
Superior sound projection and appropriate volume are among the most important considerations for a truck's air horn. To get the necessary attention, you'll want a well-defined sound that anyone within earshot can quickly recognize. The length and shape of a horn's bell will determine its level of acoustic resonance upon sound amplification. Consider a kit that comes equipped with two or more bells, allowing your horn to produce a harmony of different frequencies. Aside from making it easy to hear, a horn with multiple bells sets your truck apart from others on the road with its unique tones.
An air horn's level of air pressure is directly proportional to its volume output.
Always be aware of the maximum amount of pressure that a horn's air compressor is capable of producing. An air horn's level of air pressure is directly proportional to its volume output. The compressor should be able to generate pressure upwards of 120 pounds per square inch. That said, if you anticipate being on the road during times of extremely heavy traffic, a loud horn will prove beneficial when trying to get the attention of other motorists.
You should determine the necessary compressor duty cycle, which defines how often the horn can be used before the compressor needs to rest. A compressor duty cycle of ten percent delivers up to six minutes of sustained honking per hour. Depending on the type of situations in which you find yourself, a higher duty cycle may be warranted.
While pressure and volume output are important, you'll also want to keep overall air capacity in mind. The larger the air tank, the longer a horn's sound can be sustained. Many air horn kits come with tanks that store up to half a gallon of air for continuous honking.
A Very Brief History Of Air Horns
Noted for its ahooga sound, the Klaxon was one of the earliest automobile horns first patented in 1908 by Miller Reese Hutchison, an avid inventor who later became chief engineer for Thomas Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey.
When diesel locomotives replaced steam-powered trains by the middle of the 20th century, they were equipped with some of the earliest truck-made air horns as an alternative to the steam whistle. The first freon-powered, dual-trumpet air horns appeared by 1945, thanks to boating enthusiast Harold Hadley.
Modern air horns for trucks offer filters to keep out dirt and humidity, corrosion-resistant designs that help extend their operating lives, and very power-efficient operation without the electromagnetic interference found in their predecessors.
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