Antilock Brakes


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  • Image 1 shows a red car with ABS able to steer around a black car that had stopped suddenly in front of it to avoid hitting an object on an icy road. Image 2 shows a red car without ABS unable to avoid the same situation, locking its brakes.

ISO symbot for ABS

Anti-lock Brake Systems (ABS) help drivers maintain steering control and avoid skidding under emergency braking. They adjust brake pressure to prevent wheel lock-up. ABS uses wheel speed sensors to determine if one or more wheels are about to lock up during braking. If a wheel is about to lock up, a series of hydraulic valves limit or reduce the braking on that wheel. This prevents skidding and allows you to maintain steering control.




The ABS signal lights up on the instrument panel for a few seconds when you start your vehicle. If the light stays on, it means the ABS is not working. However, the standard brakes are still working. It is recommended that you take your vehicle in to the dealer for servicing.

Things to keep in mind

Apply firm and constant pressure - do not take your foot off the brake pedal until the vehicle has stopped. Do not pump the brake pedal.

Different ABS sound or feel different, such as:

  • a groaning noise
  • a rapid pulsing of the brake pedal
  • a periodic dropping of the brake pedal
  • a hard (non compliant) brake pedal
  • a light that displays "low traction".

Remember that stopping distance when braking on dry or wet roads will be about the same as or a bit shorter than with standard brakes.

Allow for a longer stopping distance with ABS than for standard brakes when you drive on gravel, slush, and snow.

Get to know how your ABS operates, because some ABS equipped vehicles perform differently than others.

Use good winter tires to reduce the stopping distance of an ABS equipped vehicle in winter conditions.

Gravel, sand, ice, snow, mud, railway tracks, potholes, manhole covers, and even wet road markings can cause the ABS to function unexpectedly.

ABS cannot make up for road conditions or bad judgment. It is still your responsibility to drive at reasonable speeds for weather and traffic conditions. Always leave a margin of safety.

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