Anti-Lock Brakes Vs. Power Brakes

The engine and transmission are the main components in making sure your vehicle moves but what about stopping? Being able to move your vehicle from point A to point B is important but so is the ability to stop moving, and that’s where your brakes come in to play. Most vehicles today are equipped with anti-lock (ABS) brake systems and power, better known as conventional brakes, are becoming a thing of the past.

What is the difference?

Conventional Brakes

Conventional brakes consist of a basic hydraulic system which sends fluid to each wheel when the brake pedal is applied. This system utilizes a combination of mechanical components to increase the force on the drums or rotors when you press the brake pedal to activate the brakes, bringing the vehicle to a stop.  In the event of a sudden stop requiring fast, hard, continued pressure on the brake pedal, conventional brakes can allow the wheels to lock up, causing loss of traction and contact with the road.

Anti-Lock Brake Systems

ABS systems consist of a hydraulic system similar to the conventional system but also have wheel speed sensors, hydraulic actuator, pressure release valves, and the ABS control module or computer.

ABS systems come in three and four channel systems. Three channel systems control the braking pressure on both front wheels independently and controls the rear wheels together as one.  Four channel systems are often found on most modern-day vehicles and control all four wheels independently, providing a better level of control.

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ABS - How it works

When you activate your brakes by pressing the brake pedal, internally, it pressurizes the hydraulic system, while the brake pads squeeze down on the rotors. This system reacts very quickly and compares wheel speeds many times per second. A sensor within the system may sense that one wheel is slowing down faster than the others and communicates to the vehicle’s computer, which sends a signal to the ABS module to open a pressure release valve in the hydraulic system, reducing the pressure of the pads against the rotor on the wheel(s) that are losing traction. Then, closes the valve in the hydraulic system to resume pressure.

ABS safety systems help allow vehicles to maintain directional stability under many driving situations including rainy, snowy, or icy conditions. ABS brakes reduce skidding when braking heavily or quickly. When pressing the brake pedal, the amount of the tires contact with the road will affect how quickly the car will stop. In conventional braking, pressing hard on the brake pedal causes the wheels to lock up sending the vehicle into a skid. ABS, by pulsating, keeps the vehicle in control by sensing wheel skid and adjusts accordingly. While anti-lock brake systems work well in any condition, contrary to popular belief, they are not intended for just ice or snowy conditions. They’re designed to ensure the most effectual braking to prevent accidents and reduce serious or fatal accidents.

Your safety and others around you are the most important thing on the road. Vehicle manufacturers continue to find ways to protect drivers and passengers from hazardous driving conditions and correcting human errors. ABS Systems are designed to improve the way drivers stop their vehicle in normal driving conditions as well as panic braking situations. If your ABS system is activated while braking hard, you will begin to feel your brakes pulsating. Remember to remain calm and keep the steering wheel as straight as possible. Your vehicle is doing what it is designed to do—keep you safe!

Skidding and Loss of Control

Skidding is a form of losing control of your vehicle. When vehicles skid, they can slide uncontrollably causing severe and dangerous accidents. When vehicle skidding occurs and the wheels have locked, attempting to turn the steering is of no use, as the wheels are unable to respond. Additionally, when the wheels are locked, the tire loses traction with the road.

If the ABS light on your dashboard illuminates, find a safe area and pull to the side of the road. There may be an issue within the system that needs to be identified by a certified technician. While it is possible to drive with the ABS light on, you will not have your ABS capabilities to prevent skidding, your vehicle will still be able to brake normally. An ASE Certified Technician at Sun Auto Service can help diagnose and repair your ABS system from brake pads to rotors and even more complicated tasks such as replacing the ABS module and other brake components. Visit our locations page to find a Sun Auto Service near you.