Despite being around for more than twenty five years and being a standard safety feature on nearly every new car, ABS brakes remain largely misunderstood.

 

 

Believe it or not, anti-lock braking systems were first developed for aircraft as far back as 1929, but they are now best known as an automotive safety feature.  ABS or anti-lock braking systems are designed to prevent the wheels from locking under heavy braking.

 

 

The key benefit of ABS is that it can help to reduce the car’s stopping distance compared to when the wheels are locked.

 

 

The other major benefit is that the driver retains the ability to steer the car during the stop.

 

 

The system uses wheel speed sensors to detect if the wheels have locked in an emergency stop. If a brake lock-up occurs the ABS will momentarily release the brake on locked wheels and then re-apply braking pressure.

 

 

This means the brakes may relock and therefore the system will release the brake again. This process happens in milliseconds and may occur several times during the stop.

 

 

The driver may feel the activation of the ABS via a pulsing of the brake pedal under their foot.  They may also hear some strange sounds apparently coming from under the bonnet as the system works. In earlier versions these sensations were much more pronounced.

 

 

However modern systems have evolved considerably and the activation is much less intrusive.

 

 

Modern systems are much more subtle and operate more efficiently than their earlier counterparts.  However, you will still feel and hear when the ABS is called into action.

 

 

When ABS activates it isimportant to keep applying pressure to the brake pedal.

 

 

It’s also important to remember that the system is designed to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle during emergency braking situations.  It does not necessarily make the car stop more quickly.

 

 

Compared to locked wheels ABS may shorten stopping distances on wet or slippery roads but on very soft surfaces, such as loose gravel, ABS may actually lengthen stopping distances.

 

 

You need to always keep in mind the fact that brakes alone do not stop the car.

 

 

The brakes need the grip from tyres to actually stop the vehicle.

 

 

The ABS will do its best to stop the car in the shortest distance but it can’t perform miracles or beat the laws of physics.

 

 

Therefore, you should make sure that you drive to suit the road conditions and always keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front.

 

 

Drive Safely – Russell White CARMA Road Safety Ambassador