Car Parts Explained: How Anti-Lock Brakes Work

brakeCars are complex machines with tens of thousands of part. However, it is important to understand some systems, including anti-lock brakes. We’ve put together a post on how anti-lock brakes work, helping you to understand one of the most important automotive innovations in recent years.

According to How Stuff Works, anti-lock brakes or the anti-lock braking system (ABS) was actually developed as early as 1929 by Frenchman Gabriel Voisin; however, it did not really hit the automotive market until the 1970s, and it wasn’t until the early 1990s that it became standard on virtually all new cars.

Anti-lock brakes work by rapidly pulsing the brakes, a method used in order to prevent locking. When the wheels lock-up, this means that they stop spinning. Although this might seem good, it often causes cars to skid or slide, eliminating control. Anti-lock brakes stop and start at the blink of an eye—so fast, in fact, that you can’t see it. This actually allows you to stop faster, especially when slamming on the brakes.

ABS consists of a computer controller, wheel sensors, and hydraulics. Basically, a computer and sensors determine when wheels lock (or may lock) and then activate calipers with a hydraulic system to “pulse” the brakes. Again, this all happens so fast you probably won’t be able to see it.

ABS may also be used with systems like traction control to increase stopping power. ABS reduces the risk of multiple vehicle crashes by 18 percent. In the US, ABS is required by law in all models that have electronic stability control, a regulation that began in 2011.

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