RAC Cars News


How To Use ABS

By raccars Published

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Anti-lock braking systems have become ubiquitous on modern cars. They're a very handy little safety feature when used correctly but many drivers do not know how they work.

ABS is designed to prevent wheels from locking up under the pressure of heavy braking. If the system senses a wheel locking when the brakes are applied, it automatically applies a set of hydraulic valves to open and close the braking pressure, simulating the action of 'pumping the brakes.' This should help to prevent a skid from starting by maintaining traction. It works at a faster rate than can be done manually.

However, it's not a good idea to be complacent about using ABS - the system is not an excuse for late braking, speeding in hazardous conditions or tailgating. It will not save you from a crash on sheet ice, for example. Even if you know your car is fitted with anti-lock brakes, maintain a safe speed and distance from the car in front.

ABS works best on stable surfaces. It is designed to help maintain control of the car rather than bring it to a stop. On unstable surfaces, such as snow or gravel, it can actually increase the braking distance.

If your car is an older model, it may not have ABS but you can replicate the action manually. If you are driving on a slippery surface and brake hard, your wheels could lock and send the car into a skid. If this happens, release the brake pedal and gently but firmly pump it up and down. This will apply and release the brake a number of times, which should unlock the wheels. Make sure you remember to drive normally and steer at the same time and don't freeze in panic.

If you do have ABS and know how to use it, it can be a very effective safety aid in emergencies. ABS allows you to apply the maximum braking pressure while still steering and maintaining control of the car. The problem occurs when people panic and freeze, letting the car carry on in a straight line, to crash into an obstacle ahead. When an emergency situation occurs, repeat the mantra 'brake and steer' as you navigate away from the trouble spot. Keep calm and focused as you take evasive action.

A modern evolution of ABS uses electronic control to adjust the bias of front to rear braking power. This is variously called EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution), ESC (electronic stability control), emergency brake assist or a traction control system, each of which usually has individual accompanying functions.

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