Most commercial vehicles such as buses and trucks use an air brake system, often equipped with an S-cam drum brake, to reduce their speed and/or to stop. With a drum brake system, the clearance between the brake shoe/pad and the brake drum may increase because of various reasons such as wearing of the brake shoe and/or brake drum and drum expansion caused by high heat generation during the braking process. Hence, to ensure proper functioning of the brake system, it is essential that the clearance between the brake shoe and the brake drum is monitored. In this paper, we present a mathematical model for the mechanical subsystem of the air brake system that can be used to monitor this clearance. This mathematical model correlates the push rod stroke transients and the brake chamber pressure transients. A kinematic analysis and a dynamic analysis of the mechanical subsystem of the air brake system were performed, and the results are corroborated with experimental data. © 2011 The Korean Society of Automotive Engineers and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.