What is ABS?

Have you ever had one of those days that trouble seemed not to evade you? Well, I guess you have.

Even if you are a pro driver, you may encounter trouble as you are driving and you are forced to jump on the brakes when encountered with an emergency.

At first, ABS was introduced as antiskid systems for the aircraft usage in the 1950s. In the wake of 1970s, Chrysler and Ford provided it to be used in vehicles.

Currently, ABS brakes are now available in all modern vehicles in the US, Europe, and many other countries.

ABS also allows the vehicle in maintaining the steering control when you are braking in the slippery conditions which definitely helps the wheels from locking.

Now, what prevents the wheel from breaking up is what we call anti-locking systems. Which brings us to find out what exactly is ABS.

What is ABS?

ABS is an abbreviation of the word anti-lock braking system.

It is specifically designed to help drivers maintain steering ability when encountered with an emergency while driving or when driving on skidding surface.

When your vehicle is encountered with such situations that is where the ABS (Anti-Locking System) comes to play.

The ABS prevents your car wheels from locking up and it maintains them in maintaining a grip on the road.

ABS is standard equipment on many vehicles which are sold in Canada and Europe. Most multi purposes vehicles and truck have anti-lock braking systems installed on them.

This helps to promote directional stability and help in steering while you are maximizing on the braking.

ABS working principles

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ABS is parts and parcel of the overalls stability system which is known as the electronics stability controls monitoring the wheels which come under heavy braking.

All of the wheels comes with sensors attached to them. So, in case the intelligent sensor get wind or sense that the wheel is just about to lock, or the wheel suddenly stops to move, the system releases the brake.

However, the break lasts for short period.

The anti-locking braking system then repeatedly applies the optimum braking pressure to all the wheels which means the system brakes just enough so as not to lock up the wheels.

The driver feels the pulsation when the ABS brakes are active through the brake pedal and you are trying to press it. Meaning, when the wheels lock up, the driver will automatically tell.

The braking system is important in the essence that it helps most drivers to remain in control of the vehicle rather than just bringing the vehicle to a stop.

The system helps to reduce the risks which might have been encountered when the driver is taking evasive manoeuvers so as to avoid hitting something.

It is important to note that the braking distance can somehow increase.

So, in case you keep on driving straight on for instance into an obstacle, the vehicle lacks to stop in time.

A common misconception with many drivers is that the ABS brakes help top reduce the stopping distance. No, it does not. It only helps to lock the wheels.

ABS components

The ABS functions and purpose of the major anti-locking braking systems and components include:

  • Electrical Control unit
  • Modular Valves.
  • Wheel speed sensors
  • ABS malfunction indicator lamp
  • Diagnostics
  • Traction Control Systems
  • Electrical Control Unit
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Known as the ECU. It processes the ABS brakes signal functions and information.

It receives, then interprets the voltage pulse which is generated by a sensor pick up as all the exciters teeth pass by.

The processed information is used to determine the impending wheel lock up and how and when you need to activate the ABS modular valves.

The ECU connect to the ABS components such as:

  • Wheel speed sensors
  • Power source.
  • Warning lamps
  • ABS modulator valves
  • Blink code switch
  • Retarder control device and the J1587* diagnostic connector

The ECU still makes the self-diagnostic check during normal operations.

Modulator Valves

The ABS modulator valve regulates the air pressure going to the brakes in the action of the ABS.

When it is not receiving the commands from the ECU, the modulators valve allow the air to flow freely.

Therefore it has no effect on the brake pressure.

The ECU will command the modulator to:

  • Change the pressure of the air o the chambers of the brake.
  • Hold on to the existing pressure.

However, it will not apply the brakes automatically, or increase the application of the brakes pressure above what the driver has applied.

Wheel speed sensors

The speed sensor is into main component: The pickup and the exciter.

The exciter

This is the ring that has notched teeth. The most commonly used exciter has over evenly teeth. It is also known by several names like the tone ring, the sensor ring and the exciter.

The pickup

The pickup is known by the name of the sensor. It has a magnet/ wire which normally generates the pulse of electricity as the teeth of exciter pass by in front of it.

The ECU uses the pulse in determining the speed of the wheel and the rate of the deceleration/ acceleration.

The strength of the electrical pulses, however, decreases rapidly with the slight increase in gaps which are between the exciter and the pickup.

ABS malfunction indicator lamp

Vehicles that are required to have the ABS brakes mostly have the ABS malfunction indicator lamps.

The lights are yellow and they light up any time the ABS has a malfunction which affects the generation of the control signals or the response.

The malfunction indicator is not required to show the light every time a malfunction happens.

But, they are supposed to light for a few seconds for the bulb check when the ABS will start to receive the electrical power.

The warning lights in dollies and trailers are not necessarily required to light up for the bulb checks not unless the vehicle is stopped.

However, all the dollies and trailers built after 1998, feature an external ABS malfunctions indicator light which is part of the ABS

ABS diagnostics

All the air brakes ABS have the self-diagnostic capability, although it is not required by law.

On the single units and the truck tractors, the ABS brakes will provide the information to the technicians via the malfunction indicators lamp or the electronic diagnostic tool.

The connector is located in the tractor underneath the left ends of the instruments panel. You can use this connector to troubleshoot electronic engines.

Bonus: Bluedriver: ABS SRS Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Review

Traction control systems

The traction controls systems are specially designed in preventing the spinning of the wheel in powers mode.

The traction control tends to regain the traction by trying to break the spinning wheel and at times it will throttle back the engine’s power.

Unlike the ABS, traction controls can at times automatically apply your car’s brakes. It helps since the driver is not required to depress the brakes pedal for the traction controls to engage.

ABS in operation

So, how does the ABS operate? The sensor detects the ABS brakes, coming under heavy braking, the car’s wheels start to decelerate rapidly and unusually, indicating a possible lockup.

This likely happens when there is an emergency stop when the driver has all over a sudden stamped on the brakes. When the vehicle detects the skid the vehicles computer acts by reducing the pressure of the brakes.

At this point, it will increase the pressure again in the form of pulsing’s or what drivers term as cadence braking. The process will continue until the car comes to a complete halt.

Important notes

You absolutely need an ABS brakes. Reason? It is mandatory to have an ABS on all vehicle nowadays. Proper maintenance is required to help the ABS system work as it’s supposed to. Components like brake pads should be replaced every 25,000-60,000 miles and inspected regularly to make sure that your car is ready to drive.

ABS is a compulsory requirement in all cars in Europe. The first car to be fitted with the ABS was Chrysler in the year 1971. Since then, it is a requirement for all car owners to have the system fitted.

Lastly, when you are looking for a vehicle, remember the one that comes with the ABS since there is no driver who can brake faster than the cadence system.

Remember the ABS main function is to help you remain in control during emergency braking or when driving on skidding surfaces.

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