Driving on the express lane can be a truly exciting experience, unlike driving on roads that are in neighborhoods and often times ridden with bumps. When you are uninhibited when driving, you can get caught up in the thrill of the moment and not pay attention until there is an urgent requirement for emergency brake. That sudden need to hit the brake might become a catastrophe if a vehicle does not have an Anti-Lock Braking System.

As the name implies, Anti-Lock Braking System is a safety system installed in vehicles to aid the driver in maintaining the steering control of their vehicle and also prevent the wheels from locking up. When a vehicle is on dry or slippery surfaces, the ABS helps it to maintain stability and avoid uncontrolled skidding. Developed in 1929 for use on aircraft, motorists first experienced the benefits of ABS in the Jensen Ferguson Formula, a four-wheel-drive car unveiled in 1966. Further development was slow and most motorists had to wait until the mid-1980s, most notably when an anti lock braking system was fitted as standard to the Ford Scorpio. ABS is now fitted to just about every new car and is used to help stability while cornering and as a crude aid to traction too as engineers start to think laterally about its benefits in situations other than braking.


Maximum braking effort, such as that required in an emergency stop, is developed at the point at which the wheel has just started to lock up and skid. Knowing this, it is a relatively simple matter to use an ABS sensor on each wheel to detect the moment a wheel starts to stop moving, or lock. At this point the retardation is now much lower than it was and the car cannot be steered, the driver is now effectively a passenger and has no control over the car whatsoever. However, if the brake is momentarily released, the brakes are freed and the car’s wheels and tires can revolve again. By releasing and reapplying the brakes, the car’s ABS prevents it going into a brake-induced skid, enabling the driver to continue to steer.


  • Speed sensors: The anti-lock braking system needs some way of knowing when a wheel is about to lock up. The speed sensors, which are located at each wheel, or in some cases in the differential, provide this information.
  • Pump: Since the valve is able to release pressure from the brakes, there has to be some way to put that pressure back. That is what the pump does; when a valve reduces the pressure in a line, the pump is there to get the pressure back up.
  • Valves: There is a valve in the brake line of each brake controlled by the ABS. On some systems, the valve has three positions:
    • In position one, the valve is open; pressure from the master cylinder is passed right through to the brake.
    • In position two, the valve blocks the line, isolating that brake from the master cylinder. This prevents the pressure from rising further should the driver push the brake pedal harder.
    • In position three, the valve releases some of the pressure from the brake.
  • Controller: The controller is a computer in the car. It watches the speed sensors and controls the valves.

Most new cars now come equipped with ABS, as it is considered one of the most important safety features in cars. Not forgetting that the Anti-Lock Braking System indicator light on a vehicle’s dashboard should not stay on while you are driving, if it comes on for a few seconds, which is ideal, and it refuses to go off, it simply means there is a fault and it needs to be checked. When the ABS becomes faulty, you are likely to experience decreased stopping time and less stability on slippery or sloppy roads.

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