ABS Brakes, how does it work?

Most experienced drivers learned to drive on an older vehicle, one that didn’t have the modern technology that we have today. Over time these technologies have been slowly introduced to the vehicles we drive, but have we adapted to the technology with effective education?  

Even commercial vehicles that have become so popular in Australia adopted the basic safety measures. These technologies become mandatory through the Australian Design Rules (ADR) that all manufacturers must adhere too. As new safety features become available and are proven to be beneficial, they are then mandated through legislation to be the minimum standard on new vehicles.

In 1978: Mercedes-Benz W116 became the first production car to use an electronic four-wheel multi-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS) from Bosch. Since then the technology has improved and ABS became mandatory in Australian in 2003. The challenge with new technologies like ABS that only became compulsory some 17 years ago is that many drivers never learned how to use them. Indeed, new drivers, today don’t learn how they should be used. They are often taught to drive by family members that perhaps don’t know how to use ABS or don’t understand the functionality as well.

Unless you have completed a defensive driving program, you would not have been in a position to practice how to use the ABS braking system in your modern vehicle. It’s not like you can pull out onto your local main road and safely slam the brakes on with your new learner driver to demonstrate best practice, can you?

This blog and the video we created that you can see on our YouTube channel helps dispel some of the myths around ABS brakes. The biggest thing you need to understand about the use of ABS and why we have them on our vehicles is to understand what they are designed for.

Check our video on YouTube

Say you are driving along and are confronted by a scenario out of the blue that requires you to slow your vehicle in a rapid response then this is where the ABS system kicks in. Your brake pressure, perhaps an overreaction to the situation causes your front suspension to dive down and this, in turn, makes the rear suspension lighter, causing the rear tyres to lock.

Without ABS the vehicle then follows the slope of the road (camber) and slides out of control. The alternate to this is the front tyres lock and you try to turn the wheel to steer away from the danger and because the tyres aren’t rotating (locked) then your vehicle continues straight and hits the object you are trying to avoid.

So the two main aspects to ABS brakes are to maintain control and give you the best possible braking efficiency. Conversely, the ABS system rapidly at about 13 times per second pulsates each tyres that have lost grip independently to keep the vehicle straight and you as the driver in control.

There is no way you can stop your vehicle as efficiently as the ABS system can while maintaining control.

The technique you should use with your ABS braking system when confronted by an emergency stop scenario hit your brakes as hard as you possibly can and hold this down until you stop. There are many mitigating factors though with this instruction and we couldn’t possibly list them all in a blog, this is why one of our training programs would be more beneficial for you or your employees to get the whole picture.

Understanding the functionality is one factor in safe driving, but the prevention, the execution, and knowhow come from training.

We hope you liked this summary of the ABS braking function, please go to YouTube and watch our video, like the video and subscribe to the channel to get more content as we create this for your benefit.

Safe driving.

Stewart Nicholls

Managing Director

STC Education.

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