You learned the benefits of anti-lock brakes when you were a kid. Do you remember running down the hallway in your socks and sliding on the hardwood floors when you tried to turn into the next room? You would book down the hall as fast as you could, calculate in your mind the length of your slide, put on the brakes at just the right moment, and turn your shoulders toward the doorway. Then, at the last second, you would scurry around the corner, your feet moving as fast as they could to gain traction while your mom yelled from the kitchen to stop running in the house. You were applying the principles used with anti-lock brakes without even knowing it.
What is ABS?
The anti-lock brake system, or ABS, is a safety system that prevents the wheels on your vehicle from locking up when you suddenly slam on the brake pedal or when you are on a slick surface. If you are sliding down the hallway in your socks and you try to change directions, your momentum keeps you sliding the way you were headed. In the same way, your tires lose traction in a skid. It takes longer to stop and your ability to steer your car is lost. ABS stops your car from skidding.
The idea behind ABS is simply this: a skidding wheel has less traction than a wheel that is not skidding. If you can keep your tires from breaking traction or sliding on the road surface when you hit the brakes, you can slow down sooner and maintain better control of your vehicle.
There are four main components to the ABS on your vehicle. Special sensors detect the rate of speed of each wheel. The sensors relay that information to a computer controller, the ABS Module, that analyzes and monitors the data to determine when a wheel is about to lock up, to stop rotating. When the module senses a wheel locking up, it signals a pump (the actuator) and series of valves that rapidly cause the brake calipers to squeeze and release the brake pads for that wheel. The result is a wheel that refuses to stop turning. Instead, the brakes squeeze and release in rapid fire succession – up to 15 times per second – to slow the wheel down quickly but gradually. Because of ABS, your tires will not skid.
The benefits of ABS
The advantages of ABS eclipse any disadvantages, if truly there are any. Some people suggest that the safety feature can make it harder to stop on time, that ABS can lengthen the amount of space needed to stop. And they would be right. There are some conditions, such as on gravel roads, where it might actually take longer for your car to come to a stop when the ABS engages. Others contend that ABS is more costly – at the time of purchase and at the time of brake repair. They would also be correct. ABS is standard on many vehicles, an option on others. It does come with a price tag both in terms of initial cost and brake service.
On the other hand, most of the time (because ABS maximizes the amount of friction used to convert the kinetic energy of your vehicle-in-motion to thermal energy for stopping power), ABS will help you stop sooner. And as for the price, not only are the brakes the most important safety system on your car and worthy of the best service, but the ABS is a significant feature alongside the brakes. The security of such a safety feature is worth the cost. The greatest strength of ABS anyway is not its ability to stop you sooner, but rather its ability to allow you to keep control of your steering.
So, in a nutshell, what are the benefits?
- ABS helps you to stop sooner when you panic brake in many driving conditions
- Even when stopping distances are increased, ABS allows you to maintain steering control of your vehicle
- Many insurance companies offer premium discounts when your vehicle(s) are fitted with ABS
- The resale value on a vehicle is higher with ABS included
- You have the peace of mind that your car is equipped with an advanced safety system that, at a minimum, allows you to steer effectively even when hard braking
What do you need to do to use your ABS? Nothing really. Just like you did not need to be told how to run on a slick floor (although your mom felt the need to tell you to stop), you do not need to do anything special. The system is working in the background, waiting for you to brake suddenly. When you do, you will feel a slight vibration in the brake pedal and hear a growling or buzzing sound. That is normal. What you want to avoid doing is pumping the brake pedal yourself like some drivers did in the past when most vehicles did not have ABS. Just press the pedal firmly and let the system do the rest. You have been practicing since you were young. You’ve got this.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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