HOWTO: Learn to brake properly using ABS Brakes

HOWTO: Learn to brake properly using ABS Brakes

What is ABS? I know some of you think ABS stands for Air Bag System. No, it doesn’t. ABS stands for Anti-lock Braking System.

Most of us from the older generation before ABS was a common feature on cars 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.

This is a technique called cadence braking. 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.

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Paul Tan

After dabbling for years in the IT industry, Paul Tan initially began this site as a general blog covering various topics of personal interest. With an increasing number of readers paying rapt attention to the motoring stories, one thing led to another and the rest, as they say, is history.



  • i alwiz thought ABS stood for "Absolutely Blur and Stoned" hehehehe

    silly me :P

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  • I thought it was air bags…

    Thanks Paul, your blog is very informative :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3
  • NSDS3 on May 29, 2005 at 3:17 am

    Never know when this will come in handy (or footy).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  • tsewei on May 29, 2005 at 6:44 am

    wow i seriously never knew that. in fact, i didn't even know abt the brake-pumping thing! 0_o Okay, I'm a road hazard.

    Anywayz, this informative bit of info might just save me some day (actually, I do hope i never have to brake like that).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2
  • Great stuff. I have driven about 10 vehicles in my 3 year driving history, yet they all do not have ABS. thanks Paul for the info.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  • shireen on May 29, 2005 at 11:22 pm

    u sure? i'll take it as a useful info.. :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  • lilian on May 30, 2005 at 1:07 am

    Wah, Paul is now the driving guru. How about giving lessons to women drivers on 'how to not road hog'?

    Anyway, interesting posting, much easier to digest than car magazines.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  • lilian: cannot lah, if women misinterpret it i'm going to be flame-grilled

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  • Dear Paul…

    ABS do not help you to stop in a shorter distance.

    In fact, cars with ABS, in a stright line heavy braking, it will come to a stop in a longer distance than cars withOUT ABS.

    BUT ABS help to have "steering control" in heavy braking.

    keep up the great work… I like your forum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6
  • edw: i mentioned ABS can shorten braking distance because most people dont know how to brake properly without skidding. the skidding wastes distance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • Leong on Jun 05, 2005 at 12:38 am

    Yo Paul!

    I read the Perodua Website few days ago. They claim that the Perodua Myvi have ABS with EDB systems. Now they removed the EDB words. What's wrong? Does it have EDB?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • wa sea hokkien lang on Jun 05, 2005 at 8:53 am

    walau I now know more about ABS. you know last time time ABS i thought stan for Anti-Brake System funny right? (ha! you all laugh right now)

    then my brother tell me it was wrong.

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  • i know a lot about Anti-lock braking systems. what i don't know is how to threshold brake using a car without abs. or do cadence braking? ABS is good, but let's go back to basics when driving a sports car.. no ABS

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  • Who said the ABS wont reduce ur stopping distance?Normally the ABS will help u to reduce 25-40% of the stopping will also help to saving the 25% of the tyre cost specially for the cormercial vehicles.In M'sia,there are only 2 companies installing & supplying the ABS for the commercial vehicle.

    There are 2 type of ABS – computerize ABS & pneumatic ABS. The computerize ABS is including the sensor,exciter ring,ECU & the ABS valve.For pneumatic ABS,there is only consist by 2 ABS valve that control the air/hydraulic pumping – fast apply,slow apply,dump & hold without sensing the wheel rotation.

    I work at the brake department for one of the ABS supplier.I was installed a lot for the HINO(M),Scania,ACM & those petronas/shell/mobil contractor.Nowaday,all of the petrol tanker are compulsary to fix the ABS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • You should allow for a longer stopping distance with ABS than for conventional brakes when driving on gravel, slush, and snow. This is because the rotating tire will stay on top of this low traction road surface covering, and effectively “float” on this boundary layer.

      A non ABS braked vehicle can lock its tires and create a snow plow effect in front of the tires which helps slow the vehicle. These locked tires can often find more traction below this boundary layer.

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  • pendek on Nov 25, 2005 at 8:43 pm

    well breaking normal cars with no ABS in a ABS style is bad to your disc brake.

    especially if you jammed it at high speed and do it regularly…

    well i've experienced it myself, wasting money to change/skim the disc.

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  • Akazamabamaboo (Member) on Jul 13, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    This is good. Very good indeed. This article should be published as leaflets and distributed to all motorists as a safety advice.

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  • Roy Khoo on Sep 11, 2022 at 12:42 pm

    Please inform people that pulsating pedal and steering could be badly warped discs too! Happened to my friend, insisted his Camry brakes were fine, pulsating is caused by the ABS, actually, it was caused by badly warped discs!

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  • Zul Ismail on Jun 20, 2023 at 2:19 pm

    Very useful advice. Thank u.

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