How to properly use Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
Jason · Aug 6, 2020 10:00 AM
You're driving in traffic, minding your own business when suddenly a box falls out of the lorry in front of you. Reflexes take over, you brake hard, but realise you can't stop in time. You then swerve to avoid the rogue box.
That evasive action wouldn't have been possible if your car wasn't equipped with Anti-lock Braking System, (ABS). Even though many, if not most new cars are now equipped with ABS, most car owners don't know how it works or how it benefits them.
I've had friends come to me and tell me that there's something wrong with their brakes (not 'break'), that the pedal judders when the brakes are applied. When asked to simulate the situation, I've had to politely point out to them that their brake system is fine, that it's just the ABS working.
To simplify it, ABS works by pulsing your brakes when the car detects that your wheels are locking up under hard braking. And yes, the brake pedal judders when ABS is activated. By pulsing your brakes, your tyres keep rotating. Why is that important? If your wheels are locked under hard braking, you have no steering control of the car, no matter how hard you turn the steering wheel.
By keeping the wheels rotating (even under hard braking), you are able to steer the car away from the obstacle, in case you cannot stop in time. Watch the video below to see how ABS helps a driver in an emergency situation.
Also, do bear in mind that, in emergency situations, you should always apply maximum brake pressure. Whilst conducting advanced driving courses, I always find that participants do not brake hard enough, If you don't brake hard enough, you won't activate ABS, and as such it can't be of much help.
So, always keep in mind. If you see an emergency situation unfolding before you, brake as hard as you can, as soon as you can. If you don't have room to stop in time, steer away from the obstacle whilst maintaining maximum braking pressure. It's normal to feel a pulsing sensation on the brake pedal when ABS is activated so do not reduce braking pressure when it happens. ABS will help you in situations like these.
Road Test Editor
Jason's foremost passion is all things automotive, where he spent his formative working years as a Product Planner and Trainer. An Advanced Driving Instructor by training and an all-round enthusiast, Jason loves going into intricate details about driving dynamics. Will drive anything with 4 wheels and a steering.