What are anti-lock brakes?

Published: 10/18/2010 by AutoShopit

What are anti-lock brakes?

Trying to stop a vehicle on a slippery road can be very difficult, and with regular brakes the wheels can lock up causing your car to skid out of control. An Anti-lock braking system (ABS) works to help drivers quickly and safely bring their vehicles to a stop in an emergency situation.  Here’s how:

When faced with an unexpected event, drivers often go into panic mode wanting to stop the vehicle as quickly as possible.  Their first instinct will be to step down on their brakes, hard, to try and regain control. However, this can make the wheels lock, resulting in a longer stopping distance, a loss of steering control, and when road friction is uneven, a loss of stability in the vehicle if it goes into a spin. 

Anti-lock brakes are a four-wheeled system that works by modulating the brake pressure during unexpected stops, much like “pumping the brakes” with a traditional braking system.  The anti-lock system monitors and automatically adjusts the brake fluid pressure in each wheel, ensuring the best brake performance just short of locking the wheels. The system senses and responds to changes in road conditions or impending lock-up, so that during an emergency the system takes over pumping, and the driver’s foot can remain firmly on the brake pedal as they focus on steering.

Most new vehicles will offer some form of anti-lock brakes as either a standard or optional feature, and a driver can find out the specifics on their system by checking their owner’s manual.  Although they are widely known for their ability to allow drivers to stop more quickly than with traditional brakes, the main purpose of the anti-lock system is to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle so they can safely navigate through a potentially dangerous situation.

Anti-lock brakes will feel just like regular brakes during normal road conditions and braking, but during an emergency stop there will be a noticeable vibration felt in the brake pedal, along with a movement in the pedal height and a clicking sound.  It’s important for drivers to remember to keep their foot firmly on the pedal as they steer to safety. When the vehicle slows to below 20 km/h the ABS will turn off.

Properly working brakes are essential for the safety of your vehicle, and should be checked regularly in order to ensure they are still functioning in top shape. If you feel like your brakes are in need of a tune-up or repair, you should consult with a mechanic as soon as possible so that you can continue to drive with confidence. By browsing through our index of local mechanics at autoshopit.com, you will be able to find several local options ready to meet your needs, and help you get the best performance out of your vehicle. You can also read through customer reviews from drivers just like you who have already benefitted from the services of these local garages. 

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