It’s been 40 years this month since Mercedes-Benz and Bosch introduced the anti-locking braking (ABS). It’s been named the single greatest safety advance in the history of motoring, and is arguably car technology’s first step into the digital world. Four decades on, most of us have ABS brakes in our car, although many of us don’t know how to use them effectively. It’s still an extremely important safety feature, so it’s worth getting clued up.
ABS stands for anti-locking braking system. The brochure 40 years ago explains how it works: “The anti-lock braking system uses a computer to monitor the change in rotational speed of each wheel during braking. If the speed slows too quickly (such as when braking on a slippery surface) and the wheel risks locking, the computer automatically reduces the brake pressure. The wheel accelerates again and the brake pressure is increased again, thereby braking the wheel. This process is repeated several times in a matter of seconds”.
Basically, when you brake hard enough for the wheels to lock, the system will take over and pulse the brakes of each wheel, maintaining traction and allowing you to steer around obstacles.
How to use ABS
In an emergency, you need to know to push the brake pedal hard enough to make the wheels lock, then maintain the pressure long enough to allow the ABS to kick in. Sounds simple, right? Actually, in a panic it’s natural for us to push hard, then release to regain control. You’ll also hear a grinding noise from underneath the car when the ABS activates.
Safe seating position for ABS
It’s also important to sit correctly, which will allow you to push the brakes with enough pressure if required. Ensure your seat base is positioned so you can lift your bottom up with your right foot against the brake pedal, knees slightly bent.
How to know if your car has ABS
ABS is a standard safety feature in cars today, and has been for some years. It’s likely your current car does have ABS, but it’s easy to check. When you turn your ignition key, look for the alert lights which will illuminate. If your car has ABS brakes, a yellow alert displaying “ABS” or “anti-lock” will light up.
What other safety features should I look for?
Safety should be a top priority in a car, regardless of your budget. Standard safety features your car should have as a minimum are ABS brakes, electronic stability control, airbags and rear seat three point seat belts. When buying a car, it can be a good idea to have a professional inspection. They’ll check for anyproblems with rust, brakes, shock absorbers and tyres.
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