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Home / Don’t B.S. your A.B.S.
An Anti-lock braking system (or ‘ABS’) is a supplemental system to the standard braking components that help prevent a vehicle’s brakes from locking up during a hard stopping event. In a panic situation when the brakes are applied at or near full force, one or more wheels (most likely the front wheels) will lock up or stop rotating, causing a vehicle to enter into a skid.
In a skid, a vehicle will lose traction which, in turn, causes an increase in required stopping distance and, possibly, loss of driver control. This is where the ABS ‘kicks in’ by trying to assist a driver in gaining traction, which would then allow him or her to maintain control.
An ABS is really quite simple. An on-board computer constantly monitors individual wheel speeds and compares that to the vehicle speed. When an abrupt wheel speed change is detected, brake fluid pressure to that wheel is decreased by dumping excess pressure away from the brake caliper into an accumulator. The accumulator will temporarily store the extra volume of brake fluid in order to correct the wheel speed issue. When this occurs, it is completely normal to feel the brake pedal pulsate and to hear what can be described as a grinding noise. You are feeling and hearing the hydraulic anti-lock braking system working.
Not every vehicle is equipped with an ABS and those that are equipped can suffer from system issues. If the ABS light is illuminated on the vehicle dashboard and stays on, the on-board computer has detected an issue with the system and is alerting you to have it checked by a mechanic at an auto repair shop. Will the ABS work when the light is on? Our answer is: maybe, maybe not. It will depend on the actual reason why the ABS light was illuminated. Have a mechanic run some thorough tests, including a diagnostic check on the vehicle. Some ABS repairs are as simple as changing out a faulty wire, while others require extensive overhaul.
Vehicle air bag systems, tire pressure monitors and anti-lock braking systems are all added safety items that have greatly increased vehicle and life safety.