If you’ve ever driven an older car, stomped on the brake pedal, trying to get the car to stop quickly, only to feel the cart slide and swerve, you know how scary it can be not to have full control over your vehicle. ABS – anti-lock braking system – is designed to give you more control in more situations.
The concept of anti-lock brakes actually started almost 100 years ago. Engineers were looking for an override system for aircraft, and ABS technology became the standard to prevent the wheels from sticking as the plane rapidly decelerated.
In the 1950s, ABS technology moved to motorcycles to improve safety and handling. And slowly, it was introduced into vehicles over the course of the next few decades. By the 1990s, anti-lock brakes were standard issue on most production line vehicles.
How do anti-lock brakes work?
Let’s talk a bit about how anti-lock brakes work. If you think back to your lessons in drivers ed, you might remember how they taught you to take control over your car if you hit a patch of ice. If the brakes won’t work and you slide, pump the brakes instead by pressing down on the brake pedal and letting go, over and over again. This helps your tires look for traction instead of continuing to slide.
That same concept explains how ABS is designed to work. If you suddenly want to come to a stop and apply a lot of pressure to fast-moving wheels, that intense pressure can cause your wheels to lockup. This will typically cause them to lose traction, and you’ll slide and skid uncontrollably.
ABS is designed to prevent this. Anti-lock brakes use sensors to determine the motion of your wheels. When you press down on the brake pedal, these sensors activate and monitor the wheel movement to determine the action. If it senses lockup, it turns on the ABS, which pumps your brakes instead of locking them up. The timing of it occurs with precision, thanks to technology, a vast improvement over what you could do simply by tapping your brake pedal over and over again.
Why are my anti-lock brakes coming on?
Your vehicle is technology-driven, with every part working together to keep you safe. Every new year brings new technology to light, meaning if you have the latest production car, technically, it will have the safest features on the market.
If you’ve ever stepped on your brake pedal and had the ABS turn on, you might have felt a vibration. Depending on your car, you may have a small dashboard light turn on as well, telling you your anti-lock brake system has been activated.
Based on road conditions, the vehicle’s technology has determined it needs ABS to keep the car safe. In some cases, the pulsing of the brake system may not stop the car as quickly as it normally does. But it has determined that this action is better to bring your car to a stop, and risk sliding or skidding out of control.
Where is the anti-lock brake?
The good news is most new cars on the road today have anti-lock brakes. If you’re driving an older car or truck and wish to determine if you have ABS, there are several ways you can go about it.
The easiest is to check your owner’s manual.
If you don’t have access to your owner’s manual, you can check your dashboard instrument panel. As you turn your car on, yet before you turn it to start, all lights will flash on. Think of this as “test” mode. If your car has ABS, it will be illuminated at this time. Look for a light that either says “anti-lock” or “ABS.”
If you have a basic understanding of the parts of the car, you can also pop the hood and take a look inside. The anti-lock brake pump will sit near the brake master cylinder, and be connected to several different lines.
The final way is to physically look at the setup of the wheel. You’ll have to get into position to be able to see the brakes on the front wheels. If your car has anti-lock brakes, you’ll see a flexible hose attached to the brake caliper, with a wire attached to a speed sensor in the hub of the wheel. This sensor will be missing if your car doesn’t have ABS.
How do you test anti-lock brakes?
The best way to ensure your anti-lock brakes are working is to check that the warning light illuminates on your dashboard during test mode every time you turn your vehicle on. If you don’t see the icon light up, it’s best to let your mechanic check it out and ensure everything is working correctly.
Likewise, if your ABS light turns on at any point while you’re driving your vehicle, schedule a maintenance visit as soon as possible to ensure your braking system is working the way it should.
How long do ABS controls last?
ABS is designed to work in all kinds of conditions, and be there for you no matter when you need it. It’s not something you turn on, or that you have to change out the fluid for on a regular basis. But like any other part, it can wear out over time.
As anti-lock brakes initiate, you’ll feel a slight pulsating mechanism underneath your foot. It clicks, and then it creates rise and fall in the system, which you can feel by having your foot on the brake pedal. This is known as the ABS control module.
The brakes are one of the essential systems in your vehicle. You use them every day, dozens of times, as you move in and out of traffic to accomplish all you do on your drive. The anti-lock brake system is separate from your brakes. That means even if the ABS fails, you’ll still have your braking system to rely on.
Under most conditions, ABS will last the life of your car. But because it is electronic, it can suffer from several things, including an electrical overload, or overheating due to high temperatures. If the ABS light comes on, one of our professional mechanics will replace the control panel.
Is your ABS working correctly? Is your braking system keeping you safe? We can ensure everything on your vehicle is working correctly, to ensure the safety of you and your family.