Anti-lock braking systems, better known as ABS, are fitted on almost all new cars for several years. For many Wisconsin drivers, ABS remains one of these acronyms that litter modern cars with electronic and mechanical gadgetry of which both the functioning and the usefulness remain obscure.

ABS is however something you should know more about, because it is a life-saving device that works effectively only if properly understood and used. ABS has been proven to reduce the serious crash rate in Wisconsin.

How does ABS work?

ABS prevents the wheels from locking during emergency braking situations. When you slam the brakes of a vehicle not fitted with ABS, the wheels lock and start sliding on the road surface. From that moment you lose control of the steering because, no matter how you turn the front wheels, the vehicle keeps sliding forward. With ABS, the electronic system increases or decrease the brake power of every wheel independently to prevent any wheel from locking and to force all wheels to reduce their rotation speed to the maximum extent, without locking.

How do you know when ABS takes over?

When you hit the brakes, ABS takes over and adjusts the braking force up to 16 times per second. When this happens, you feel a strong vibration and pulsation noise. This means your ABS works fine and you should not stop braking. Most people meet their ABS at work the first time when driving on ice or snow. This is when you can safely test, at low speed and away from other cars, how ABS works, how your car responds, and how you can still steer the car to the left or right while keeping the brakes on.

What you should not do if you drive a car with ABS.

Do not assume that an ABS-fitted car allows you to drive faster or more aggressively just because braking is more efficient.

Do not pump the brakes. ABS does it for you, and applies the right force to the right wheel much faster than you can ever hope to do.

Do not forget to steer the car while braking, to avoid obstacles or correct its path.

Do not be alarmed by the mechanical noise, and the pedal and steering wheel vibration when ABS is working.

How do you know if your car has anti-lock brakes?

Look for the illuminated ABS symbol on your dashboard immediately after turning on to start the engine. If you are still in doubt, check your owner's manual.

Hupy & Abraham, S.C. have offices in Milwaukee, Madison, Appleton in Wisconsin, and Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Quad Cities in Iowa, and Gurnee and Bloomington in Illinois. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car, truck or motorcycle accident, contact Hupy & Abraham today at 800-800-5676 (toll-free) or 414-223-4800 (local) for a free evaluation of your case, or send us an e-mail with your questions.