ABS vs Normal Brakes: Differences Explained

ABS vs Normal Brakes: Differences Explained

In one of our previous pposts, we outlined exactly what ABS is and how if affects the ability of your vehicle to stop quickly and safely.

Cars will either come fitted with ABS as a standard, or your vehicle will have regular brake systems fitted. While regular brake systems are generally being phased out, there are some vehicles that rely on regular braking systems. Brake systems cannot be converted unfortunately, so we provide tips for those who have regular brake systems to make use of them as efficiently as possible:

How Do I Know if my Car Has ABS?

“While ABS brakes are very common now, not all cars and trucks are equipped with them. You can determine if your car has an ABS system in four ways.

The easiest method is to read your owner’s manual.

The next method is to look at your dash’s instrument panel when turning the ignition key to the “ON” position, but not all the way to the start position. All of the warning and informational lights will be illuminated and any car equipped with an ABS system should display an “ABS” or “Anti Lock” light at this point.

If you do not see a light for the ABS system, two methods remain to determine if your vehicle has ABS brakes.

The first visual check is to look for an ABS pump under the vehicle hood. This pump is located near the brake master cylinder and will be connected to the master cylinder by one or two metal brake lines. Additionally, the pump itself will have several other brake lines attached.

The final method for determining the presence of ABS brakes is to get in a position from which you can see the back of one of the front wheels. Turning the steering wheel all the way to one direction or the other will make it easier to see behind the wheel. If the car has ABS brakes, there will be a flexible rubber brake hose attached to the brake caliper and a wire attached to the speed sensor in the hub area. Cars without ABS brakes will only have the flexible brake line”

h/t to itstillruns.com for this info!


What Limitations Does ABS Have?

“Anti-lock braking system (ABS) is a system that helps prevent the wheels of your car from locking, thus preventing your car from skidding out of control. ABS also allows you to steer your car while breaking strongly. In wet or icy conditions, where your car has less traction, ABS prevents your car from sliding and crashing as well as maintaining traction and allowing you to steer out of the way of obstacles. ABS has all of these many benefits however many car owners prefer braking without ABS.

ABS also has many limitations. On gravel or snow, hard breaking which causes the wheels to lock up is very effective as the locked wheels easily dig into the snow and gravel, stopping the vehicle. With ABS braking, however, the brakes don’t lock up and stopping distance is therefore increased, causing the likelihood of a collision to increase. Some experienced drivers also dislike ABS as they know how to stop in an emergency without locking the wheels in an even shorter distance than with ABS. Some drivers complain that ABS sometimes activates when the brakes are applied very lightly if the car is on a bumpy surface. As most cars equipped with ABS do not have a function that turns ABS off, the people who prefer normal braking to ABS braking do not have the option of turning the function off.”

h/t to carsafetyphysics for this info!


How Do Cars Without ABS Work?

“Without an anti-lock brake system, the wheels of your car stop spinning and the car will begin to skid. In fact, on slippery surfaces, even professional drivers can’t stop as quickly without ABS as an average driver can with ABS.”

Here are some useful tips for emergency braking without ABS:

“First, don’t “hit” or “slam” on the brakes. “Squeeze” on the brakes. It doesn’t matter how fast you need to stop, squeeze the brake pedal – firmly. You will stop quicker by squeezing the pedal down than by slamming or hitting the brakes.

Then, squeeze the pedal down to the point just before the tires begin to skid – right at the limit of the tires’s traction or grip. Never forget that if you lock-up the brakes and begin to skid, you have lost all directional control of the car. No matter what you do with the steering wheel, the car will continue straight ahead. Plus, a skidding car takes more distance to stop.

You need to pay attention to the feel in the steering when braking. If the steering suddenly starts to feel light or insensitive, the front brakes are probably locked up. You should also notice that the car is not responding to the direction you’ve turned the steering wheel. And, of course, if you’re driving on dry pavement you may notice the screeching of tires.

Actually, when you’re braking right at the limit just before the brakes lock-up, a faint howl may be heard from the tires. Braking at this limit is called “threshold braking”, and is the fastest and safest way to stop a car.

If you exceed the limit for threshold braking and begin to lock-up, ease up slightly on the pedal – curling your toes back should release enough pressure – and then smoothly reapply again. In other words, you may have to modulate the pedal pressure slightly using the tire noise, the forces on your body and the balance of the car for feedback. Abrupt, hard braking will cause the car to nose-dive, putting most of the braking effort on the front brakes, increasing your stopping distance.

This does not mean “pumping” the brakes, which is definitely the least effective way of stopping a vehicle – and unfortunately, over-used. Perhaps years ago, when vehicles didn’t have the sophisticated and durable braking systems we enjoy now, pumping was a useful technique. But not anymore.

The single biggest reason drivers lock up and skid is that they focus their eyes on what they are about to hit. Once you have locked your vision onto something in front of you, it is difficult to threshold brake and steer to avoid.”

h/t to candiandirect.com for this info!


If you need some expert advice on how to make the most of your cars braking systems, or have them checked up or replaced – click here to get in touch with us at Astro Brake today!


Cover Image Credit: ThoughtCo



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