Many safety systems built into today’s vehicles are ever-present, always working to keep you safe.
Yet over time, small changes become noticeable, and you start to wonder if these safety features will work when an emergency presents itself.
Your anti-lock brake system may be one you think little about. But when you use it while braking hard or skidding on ice, you know just how valuable the technology is.
How do you know if it’s malfunctioning?
How anti-lock brake system works
An anti-lock brake system (ABS) comprises several key components, including wheel speed sensors, an electronic control unit (ECU), and solenoid valves. The wheel speed sensors are located at each wheel and are responsible for sending information about the speed of each rotation to the ABS control module. The ECU, or brain of the system, receives this information and uses it to determine whether the wheels are about to lock up.
When the driver applies the brakes, the ABS begins to monitor the speed of each wheel. If the ECU detects that one or more wheels are about to lock up, it sends a signal to the solenoid valves. These valves are located at each brake caliper and are responsible for controlling the pressure of the brake fluid. The solenoid valves will rapidly open and close, releasing and reapplying pressure to the brake fluid. This helps to prevent the wheels from locking up, allowing the driver to maintain steering control.
The process of the ABS releasing and reapplying brake pressure is called “pumping” and it happens very quickly, within milliseconds. This rapid pumping action causes a pulsation in the brake pedal, which the driver can feel. This is normal and a sign that the ABS is working correctly.
ABS systems also have an indicator light on the dashboard that will illuminate if there is an issue. This light will typically come on when the vehicle is started and will go off shortly after. If the light stays on, it may indicate a malfunction in the system. This gives you advanced warning that it’s time to take your car to a mechanic for inspection.
Is the ABS always in use?
Think of the anti-lock brake system as a separate component of your vehicle’s brakes. Anti-lock brake systems are designed to help drivers maintain steering control during hard braking by preventing the wheels from locking up. This technology has been around since the late 1970s and is now a standard feature on most vehicles.
The anti-lock brake system is designed for emergency braking situations, where the driver needs to maintain steering control while braking hard. However, ABS is only sometimes in use.
When the driver is braking normally, the ABS is not active. The brake system works as it would in a vehicle without ABS. The brake pads make contact with the rotors, slowing the vehicle down. The driver controls the brake pedal pressure and can adjust it as needed.
The ABS only becomes active when the driver applies the brakes hard, and the system detects that one or more wheels are about to lock up. When this happens, the ABS rapidly pumps the brakes, releasing and reapplying pressure to the brake fluid in order to prevent the wheels from locking up. This allows the driver to maintain steering control while braking hard. The ABS is active only for a short period of time, typically a few seconds, and then the system goes back to normal braking mode.
It’s worth noting that ABS is not only active when the driver applies the brakes hard. The system also monitors the speed of each wheel even when the driver is not braking. In some cases, if the system detects any abnormal behavior, it will act accordingly.
In addition, some newer vehicles may have an advanced version of the ABS, called Electronic Stability Control (ESC). This system uses sensors to detect when a vehicle is about to lose control and applies brakes to individual wheels to help the driver regain control. ESC is always active, even when the vehicle is not braking.
3 reasons why your car’s anti-lock brake system may be malfunctioning
There are safety systems built into your braking system to alert you when you have a potential problem with ABS.
Worn brake pads
Over time, brake pads wear down, becoming thinner and less effective at stopping the vehicle. This can cause the ABS to work harder and can also lead to decreased braking performance. If the pads are worn to the point where they are no longer effective, the ABS may not be able to function properly, and the ABS warning light may come on. It is important to have the brake pads inspected and replaced as needed to ensure that the ABS is working properly.
Failed wheel speed sensors
The wheel speed sensors are responsible for sending information about the speed of each wheel to the ABS control module. If one of these sensors fails, the ABS may not be able to control the brakes. This can cause the ABS warning light to come on and can also lead to decreased braking performance. In some cases, a failed wheel speed sensor may also cause the vehicle’s traction control system to malfunction. Symptoms of a failed wheel speed sensor include the ABS warning light coming on, the traction control light coming on, and decreased braking performance.
The ABS is controlled by an electronic control unit (ECU) which receives input from the wheel speed sensors and the brake pedal. If there is an issue with the wiring or the ECU itself, the ABS may not function properly. This can cause the ABS warning light to come on and can also lead to decreased braking performance. Electrical issues can be caused by a variety of things, including a faulty ABS control module, damaged wiring, or a problem with the vehicle’s computer. Symptoms of an electrical issue with the ABS include the ABS warning light coming on and decreased braking performance.
Is there a problem with your anti-lock brakes?
While very few car accidents are caused by total brake failure, it still can be a scary experience to lose control for even a moment. By keeping your entire braking system functioning well throughout its life, you’re less likely to experience problems.
It’s essential to have your vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic if you notice any issues with your brakes to ensure that your vehicle is safe to drive.