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How Do Antilock Brakes Work?

Driving on ice and snow is not fun and can be extremely dangerous. When winter weather strikes, you want to stay as safe as possible, which could mean choosing a vehicle with antilock brakes.

Antilock brakes are a huge step forward in safe stopping technology, and they have been around for quite some time. Over time, antilock brakes have improved markedly, but their basic concept has remained much the same.

How do antilock brakes work, and why are they so important? How can this ABS technology protect you and your passengers in cold and snowy weather? Here are the basic facts you need to know about antilock brakes and how they work.

Antilock Brakes Do the Pumping For You

If you learned to drive in times before antilock brakes, your driving instructor (or your dad) probably told you to pump the brakes in icy, wet, or snowy weather. Back then, pumping the brakes was the best stopping strategy, but now antilock brakes do the pumping for you.

You do not have to do any pumping when you drive a vehicle equipped with antilock brakes. Instead, you can simply step on the brake pedal and let the ABS system pump them for you. Since the antilock braking system can pump the brakes far faster than a human driver, this technology can enhance safety and greatly improve stopping power.

Antilock Brakes Can Sense and Respond to a Skid

Another big benefit of antilock brakes is their ability to sense and instantly respond to a skid. When the wheels begin to slip, the ABS kicks in, making it easier for the driver to regain control.

The presence of ABS does not mean that a skid will not happen. It remains important for drivers to drive defensively and pay close attention to road conditions. Even so, having antilock brakes can reduce the risk of losing control and make it easier to regain control if a skid does happen.

There are Sensors at All Four Wheels

In order to function properly, antilock braking systems use a series of sensors, including specialized ones on all four wheels. Those sophisticated sensors tell the brakes what to do and when to do it, keeping the human occupants safer and making driving easier on snowy roads.

Having those sensors checked regularly is important, preferably as part of your annual vehicle safety inspection. If the sensors are not working properly, your antilock brakes may not work right, which could risk your safety and other drivers’ safety.

If your vehicle was manufactured in the last few decades, it likely came equipped with antilock brakes. Now that you know how these systems work and what to look for, you can drive with greater confidence, even when Mother Nature does not cooperate.

Photo by Андрей Клеменков from Getty Images via Canva Pro