How to Activate Your ABS

When your wheels lock up on wet and slippery roads or during a “panic stop”, you may lose traction and control, causing your vehicle to spin. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) keep your wheels from locking up, so your car maintains directional control around hazards if you can’t make a complete stop in time.

ABS is designed to help you maintain control of the vehicle during emergency braking situations, not make the vehicle stop more quickly. Although ABS will shorten stopping distances on wet or slippery roads, on very soft surfaces, such as unpacked snow or loose gravel, an ABS system may actually lengthen stopping distances.

Effectively using brakes on a vehicle equipped with ABS requires a different technique than used on a vehicle that doesn’t have ABS. To take full advantage of the safety benefits with anti-lock brakes, drivers must learn how to operate their anti-lock brake systems correctly.

Empty parking lots or other open areas are excellent places to practice emergency stops. One way to familiarize yourself with the operation of ABS is to test drive the vehicle at a speed above which the ABS activates – typically just over 20km per hour.

Tips for Driving with ABS

  • Don’t take your foot off of the brake pedal!

If your car has four-wheel ABS, then you should always keep firm pressure on the brake pedal during an emergency stop. Pumping the brake pedal in that situation may feel natural, but it will actually disengage the ABS so that it stops working. Since the anti-lock brake system in your car is capable of pulsing the brakes much faster than you can pump, allow it to do its job.

  • Don’t forget to steer

While you have your foot placed firmly on the brake pedal, don’t forget that you can still steer during a panic stop. The ABS may not be able to stop you in time to avoid a collision, so do your best to steer around any vehicles or other objects that you find in your path.

  • Familiarize yourself with the ABS in your car

When an anti-lock brake system engages, you will feel a peculiar buzzing or vibrating sensation in your foot. That just means the system has activated, but it can be jarring the first time. If you want to see what it feels like, you can try some panic stops in an empty parking lot or another area where you are absolutely certain that there are no pedestrians or other cars around.

  • Know when your ABS isn’t going to work

ABS systems are at their best on hard surfaces, which includes roads that are slick due to rain, ice, or hard-packed snow. However, ABS doesn’t work as well on loose surfaces like gravel and sand. If you get into a panic stop situation in loose snow, gravel, or sand, don’t expect your ABS to stop you in time, and do your best to steer around any objects in your path. 

How to Tell if Your Vehicles ABS Is Working

When you are driving normally, you will not notice any difference between traditional braking and ABS. It is only during hard braking that the system will be activated. At that point, you may notice a change in the way that the brakes feel. They may vibrate and press back against your foot, or the pedal could drop to the floor. You may hear a grinding sound as you depress the brakes; this is a sign the system is working properly.

Anti-lock braking systems help to make driving safer and to provide you with more effective braking with less manual effort when you are on the road. If you suspect any issues with the anti-lock braking system in your vehicle, have a mechanic inspect it at your home or office as soon as you’re able to.

Lastly, to activate ABS is as simple as applying the brake in a sudden and slightly harder manner than usual. You may feel the car “jumping” – which I simply the engagement and release of the braking system at work. This is the mechanical variation of the human equivalent of pumping the brake pedal.

If you need your ABS system checked or worked on, click here to get in touch with us today!