ABS – is it effective on any surface?

The system, commonly known as ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System), which is part of the braking system, has been installed in every new car for many years. Its primary function is to prevent the wheels from locking when braking. Despite the prevalence of ABS, still many users are not quite able to use it in practice. Not everyone is also aware of the fact that its operation on dry and wet surfaces is different than on sandy or covered with snow.

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For the first time the anti-lock braking system was used as standard in 1985 at Ford Scorpio. ABS consists of two systems: electronic and hydraulic. The basic elements of the system are speed sensors (separate for each wheel), ABS controller, pressure modulators and a brake pedal with an auxiliary device and a master cylinder. To prevent slipping of individual vehicle wheels when braking, the aforementioned speed sensors constantly monitor the speed of individual wheels. In case one of them starts to rotate more slowly than the other ones or stops rotating at all (due to blockage), the valve in the ABS pump channel is opened. Consequently, the brake fluid pressure decreases and the brake blocking the specified wheel will be released. After a while, the fluid pressure increases again, which causes the brake to react.


To make the most of your ABS, you must consciously use the brake pedal. First of all, we must forget about the so-called pulsating braking, which allows you to brake effectively and safely without this system. In a car with ABS, get used to pressing the brake pedal as far as it will go and not removing your foot from it. Operation of the system will confirm a sound similar to hitting a wheel with a hammer, we will also feel pulsing under the brake pedal. Sometimes it is so strong that it strongly resists. Despite this, the pressure on the brake pedal must not be released, as the car will not stop.

The ABS system mounted in newer vehicle constructions looks slightly different. In the latter, it is additionally enriched with a system that, based on the force with which the driver applies the brake, registers the need for rapid braking and “presses” the pedal for him. In addition, the braking force of both axles brakes changes smoothly to maximize system performance and tire grip.


Attention! Knowingly using ABS also requires knowledge of how it works on different surfaces. On dry and wet works flawlessly, effectively reducing the braking distance. On the other hand, it works much worse on sandy or snowy surfaces. For the latter, remember that ABS can even extend the braking distance. Why? The answer is simple – “letting go” and braking the locking wheels again is disturbed by the loose road surface. However, despite these difficulties, the system allows you to maintain the car’s steerability and with appropriate (read – calm) steering wheel operation, change the direction of travel while braking.

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