These days, anti-lock braking or ABS is offered as standard equipment on most new cars. It can help to give you more control by preventing the wheels from locking up, so you can steer and brake heavily at the same time, and avoid skidding. But for it to work properly, you have to know how to use it.
ABS works by releasing the brakes very briefly at the moment of wheel lock up. This happens many times a second, so you’ll feel a pulsation in the brake pedal, and hear a rattling sound. This is normal, so you shouldn’t remove your foot from the pedal. For ABS to work properly you need to keep constant firm pressure on the pedal – think Stomp and Steer.
Using ABS is very different to using conventional brakes. If you’re braking normally for stop signs, red lights or vehicles slowing ahead of you in ABS equipped vehicles, the ABS system will not activate. Early braking is always best in any situation, but if you need to brake quickly and suddenly, ABS will activate.
If you need to activate ABS for an emergency stop, hit the brake pedal as fast and as hard as you can. You’ll feel a pulsation under your foot from the brake pedal. This is quite normal, so you should not remove your foot from the pedal. You may also hear a rattling sound. This too is quite normal.
Seating position is vital for control of your vehicle. Sit in an upright position with your left leg out in front of you, not tucked under your right leg, and both hands on the steering wheel. In an emergency, your left leg will press hard against the firewall or “dead pedal”, which pushes you back in your seat. This will allow your right foot to press harder on the brake pedal so the ABS can be fully activated.
The reality of ABS is that it allows the driver to maintain control over the vehicle while braking. It keeps the wheels rotating, which gives the driver steering control. If wheels lock, they lose that all-important steering ability. That’s why ABS is so useful in emergencies.
Remember, ABS on wet, slippery or dry roads can allow the driver to steer away from danger as well. If you look at the problem while braking, you’ll drive right into it. This is referred to as “target fixation”. With ABS, you’ll need to brake and look into your escape to give yourself a chance to avoid it.