What Are Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)?

What Are Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)?

Even if you are an experienced driver, there can be moments where unexpected trouble can sometimes get in the way. In an attempt to avoid a hazard or danger on the road ahead, you may find yourself braking harder and faster than usual. This is where ABS, the anti-lock braking system, will come into play.

What is ABS?

An anti-locking braking system is one of the most important developments in car safety. Anti-lock brakes prevent the wheels from locking up during heavy braking, allowing for maintained contact with the road surface and extra grip. The anti-lock brakes help the driver remain in control of the vehicle rather than bringing the car to a stop, as you can still steer the vehicle when ABS is engaged. Anti-lock brakes are used on cars, motorcycles, trucks and even aircrafts and has been a mandatory addition in all cars built since 2004 under EU law, including All New MG HS and MG ZS EV.

How do anti-lock brakes work?

ABS sits as part of the overall vehicle stability system, which monitors the activity of the wheels under heavy braking. Typically, each wheel will have a small sensor attached to it. If the sensor detects that a wheel is about to lock up, it will release the brake for a split section to allow for continued movement. The ABS system will then continuously and repeatedly apply the optimum amount of braking pressure to each wheel to maintain control of the vehicle.

In other words, anti-lock brakes can detect when one wheel is rotating at a different rate to the others. If the sensor picks up that one wheel is turning more slowly under braking, that is a sign that the wheel is locking or is about to lock up, which can be dangerous and can cause the driver to lose control. The ABS system will then reduce the brake pressure on that wheel only, until it is rotating at the same rate as the other wheels.

How do I know if my ABS is working?

One of the first things to know about a working anti-lock braking system is that it feels different from regular braking. You’ll most likely be able to feel the ABS working when you brake harder than normal. When anti-lock brakes are active, you may feel a pulsating or juddering sensation through the brake pedal as you are pressing down on it. This is normal, and should not be a cause for concern. Alternatively, you might also be able to actually hear your anti-lock brakes kicking in.

What are the benefits of anti-lock brakes?

The main benefits of ABS systems include:

● Reduction of skidding, even on ice and slippery surfaces. As mentioned previously, anti-lock brakes prevent the wheels locking up, even on ice. This gives the driver greater control of the vehicle in tricky conditions. Skidding is also reduced when undertaking evasive manoeuvres such as emergency braking and swerving hazards.

● Improved safety. Because of the above, cars fitted with ABS have reduced accident rates on wet and slippery roads.

● Lower insurance costs. As anti-lock brakes are a thoroughly tested and approved safety system that has proved to be effective, it will likely reduce your insurance costs in comparison to a vehicle without and ABS system.

Do my anti-lock brakes help me to stop faster?

The main purpose of ABS is not to help cars stop faster, but to help drivers maintain control of their vehicle in heavy braking situations or in difficult conditions. In ideal and normal driving conditions, vehicles equipped with anti-lock brakes generally experience shorter stopping distances than those without. However, a decreased stopping distance is not guaranteed by ABS and is a secondary effect.

How to use anti-lock brakes in winter

On roads that are totally or partially covered by ice, ABS can help the driver come to a gradual stop without skidding whilst still maintaining steering control of the vehicle. It is worth bearing in mind that in snowy or icy conditions, stopping distances can be increased with ABS. Caution should still be exercised in all circumstances.

To find out more useful information on our safety features, take a look at our full list of car safety feature articles.

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