This is the first in the series of automotive articles and howtos I am going to post.

Our local car manufacturers have begun equipping their higher end models with ABS. What is ABS? I know some of you think ABS stands for Air Bag System. No, it doesn’t okay. Heheh :P ABS stands for Anti-lock Braking System. What is ABS? Let me explain how it works and what is the proper way to use them.

Most of us have been taught that during heavy braking such as emergency braking to avoid an accident, you have to pump the brakes on and off to prevent skidding due to loss of grip when you brake too fast. When you slam on the brakes hard on a car without ABS, the wheels will jam, especially if you have crappy tyres. Once the wheels are skidding you have loss of car steering control because the wheels do not grip the road, and no matter what amount of steering you do, the car will continue moving in the direction it’s inertia is bringing it. Thus, the pumping action we have been taught to do during heavy braking. It involves stepping on the brakes then releasing them when they lock up and doing it repeatedly so that the wheels do not remain locked.

However because of this mindset of braking without ABS technique that we are used to, most of the time ABS causes more accidents than it prevents.

How does ABS work? In a car with an ABS system, there are sensors to measure each wheel’s rotation speed. Under heavy braking, if the sensors detect that any of the wheel’s rotation speed is about to lock, it will send a signal to a computer telling the brakes to relieve braking pressure on that wheel to prevent it from locking. This computerized brake pumping action can happen up to 15 times per second. The result is a smooth and steady slowdown to a halt, shorter braking distance and maintaining steering control during heavy braking.

The proper way to brake during ABS is just to slam on the brakes hard and keep your feet stepping hard. If the ABS is working, you will feel your brake pedals vibrating and making some noise. Alot of people misunderpret this feeling and take their feet off the brakes instead of keeping it slammed down. This is what causes some of the ABS-related accidents. Do not panic if you feel the vibrations, and do not let go of the brake pedals! When braking the proper way, you will find that your wheels will not lock and you still maintain excellent steering control over your vehicle so you can steer yourself around the obstacle that you have to avoid.

Remember that there is only a difference in braking technique between ABS brakes and normal brakes during emergency braking situations. Normal braking situations like slowing down before a speed bump should be done as usual. ABS also does not activate below a certain speed limit. ABS works best on wet road conditions because it is more likely for wheels with normal brakes to lock on wet surfaces. You can really feel the difference.

So remember, in emergency braking situations, never pump your ABS brakes. Learn how to get used to how it works and how it feels. Go to some deserted parking lot or something and practice. It will let you familiarize yourself with how your ABS will feel under heavy braking situations and you can train yourself to maintain control over the car during such situations.

Oh yes, ABS brakes primary function is to allow you to maintain steering control over the vehicle while under heavy braking. Don’t use it as an excuse to brake very very late and tail people closely.