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What is ABS and how does it work?

What is ABS?

ABS (Anti-lock braking system) is a system. A safety device called anti-lock brakes is intended to stop your car's wheels from locking up. You would typically lose traction if the car continued to move on the same relatively small section of rubber.

This means the car would skid, regardless of where the wheels are facing.

What ABS does is prevent the wheels locking-up, meaning you still have some control of the car.

It also means the wheels will continue to rotate, and the car can move in whatever direction they’re facing.

The system itself was initially used back in the 1950s, where it was applied as an anti-skid solution for aircraft. It first appeared in cars 2 decades later thanks to Ford and Chrysler.

  • ABS can stop your brakes from locking. YES

  • ABS isn't designed to shorten stopping distances. NO

  • Having ABS should reduce your chances of skidding. YES

  • The ABS system isn't as effective on surfaces like mud, snow or gravel. NO

  • Cars with anti-lock braking are less likely to be involved in a crash. YES

  • If your ABS light stays on while you're driving, go to the garage. NO

How do anti-lock braking systems work?

The electronic stability control of the car includes the anti-lock braking system (ESC).

The engine control unit (ECU), which is essentially the car's brain, is connected to the ESC, which also aids in preventing issues like oversteer or understeer.

The ABS continuously monitors the sensors on each wheel of the vehicle.

The ABS intermittently relaxes the brakes if it notices a sudden, considerable increase in pressure on the brakes to prevent the wheels from locking.

The car is kept from skidding by this series of computer-controlled maneuvers, ensuring the driver retains control of the vehicle.

How effective are anti-lock brakes?

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that ABS is probably a good thing if the aviation industry and automakers support it. Its inclusion as a requirement on every new automobile sold demonstrates the confidence that the government and other regulators have in the system.

Here are 4 benefits of anti-lock braking systems:

  • Cars fitted with ABS are less likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

  • ABS decreases the chance of frontal collision on wet and dry roads.

  • Cars with ABS rarely stray from the road ahead.

  • In an emergency, a car with ABS tends to stop in a far shorter distance than one would without ABS.

The main components of the system are:


Control unit

Pressure modulator

Problems with ABS

The optimum surfaces for anti-lock brake systems to operate on are smooth ones like a regular asphalt road. It's important to bear this in mind when driving in the winter when there is loose gravel, mud, or snow on the road.

This is due to the possibility that the ABS system will read sensor data erroneously and not react appropriately. Your stopping or braking distance will likely increase in these circumstances.

This means that the answer to the frequently posed question "does ABS function on ice?" is "not to the level that you would want to rely on it alone."

By the way, the reason off-road vehicles frequently turn off the ABS is due to the problem of loose or slippery road surfaces.

When being raced off-road, a locked wheel is likely to sink in to the road's surface, thus anchoring itself.

Will ABS reduce the braking distance in an emergency stop?

A frequent misperception is that ABS shortens stopping distance.

It's not intended to work that way. Instead, even while making severe evasive maneuvers, it reduces the likelihood of skidding.

The ABS should ensure that steering control will be retained, but do not assume that a vehicle with ABS will stop in a shorter distance.

If anything, the brakes' sporadic application and relaxation could lengthen the braking distance.

Due to this, it's crucial to maintain a safe distance from the cars in front of you and go at the posted speed limit.

How do you know if your car has ABS?

Turning the ignition key until all of the dashboard lights come on is the simplest way to determine whether your automobile has ABS installed.

You have anti-lock brakes if a light has "ABS" printed in the centre of it.

Is it safe to drive a car with ABS light on?

The ABS light will turn on as soon as you turn on your car's ignition to check that everything is operating as it should.

Then the light ought to turn off. If it stays on, the ABS isn't operating properly.

When the light turns on while you're driving, you can keep going to your destination, but you might want to proceed with a little extra caution since a hard braking won't cause the system to respond.

You should stop as soon as it is safe to do so and dial a breakdown service if the brake warning light also illuminates.

What might cause the ABS light to come on?

Avoid ignoring the ABS light because it won't go away on its own, no matter what the issue is.

Your insurer can refuse to pay out if you file a car insurance claim after a collision and the risk assessor finds that your ABS was malfunctioning.

Check your brake fluid level and replenish it off if necessary if the ABS light appears or remains on.

If it's not that or the light continues to illuminate, there may be an issue with the ABS sensors or the electronic control unit (ECU).

This type of issue requires the attention of a qualified mechanic; you can compare garages and get quotations for repairs through us.

What if my car doesn’t have ABS?

If your vehicle was first registered before 2004, it is not legally required to have anti-lock brakes installed. Additionally, retrofitting ABS might be costly.

After attempting a hard stop, if your automobile starts to skid, pump the brakes as quickly and frequently as you can.

The term for this is cadence braking. Your efforts won't be as effective as the computer-controlled ABS, but it might aid in maintaining control of your vehicle.

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