There are a lot of things we believed in as kids. We all had a difficult time sleeping on December 24th because Santa was coming. We all knew how Easter eggs arrived and how a tooth turned into money under our pillow while we slept. We got this information from our parents and we believed them. Why not, right? After all, they taught us so much in our early years that, for the most part, was the truth. When it comes to driving, will they teach us the truth here as well?
With new technology comes new information. Some of this new information isn’t really new at all. Take anti lock brakes, or ABS, for example. They aren’t really new in our society, but for some people, it’s quite new. They may never have really had a vehicle that had these types of brakes before. They’ve actually been around on most vehicles for over 20 years, but for some vehicles, they were options that you had to purchase when you ordered your vehicle. If you bought used vehicles, you took your chance that it either had ABS or not.
Someone I knew years ago contacted me asking if I could show her how to use ABS now that her “new” car had it. I agreed to help and met up with her a couple of days later. To find out if her vehicle had ABS or not, I asked her to turn the key to the “on” position. If her vehicle had ABS, an ABS indicator light would come onto the dashboard instrument panel. In this case, there was no indicator light. I asked her why she thought she had ABS and she said it was because the car was only 3 years old. For this vehicle, the original owner never ordered this option, so it was built with a conventional braking system.
Using ABS is very different than using conventional brakes. If you’re braking normally for stop signs, red lights or vehicles slowing ahead of you in ABS equipped vehicles, the ABS system will not activate. Early braking is always best in any situation, but if you need to brake quickly and suddenly, ABS will activate.
Knowing the pros and cons is important before using these brakes. For example, ABS has two benefits for the driver; it may help the driver stop quicker under wet or slippery conditions, and of course normal road conditions. The added plus is that it can also allow the driver to brake and steer at the same time. Unpacked, deep snow covered roads and icy road conditions or gravel roads however do not allow the driver to stop any quicker. Actually, it can take you longer to stop in those conditions. Therefore, the driver will still need to slow down sooner on slippery roads or lose surface roads.
If you need to activate ABS for an emergency stop, hit the brake pedal as fast and as hard as you can. You’ll feel a pulsation under your foot from the brake pedal. This is quite normal, so you should not remove your foot from the pedal. You may also hear a rattling sound. This too is quite normal.
Seating position is vital for control or your vehicle. Sit in an upright position with your left leg out in front of you, not tucked under your right leg, and both hands on the steering wheel. In an emergency, your left leg will press hard against the firewall or “dead pedal”, which pushes you back in your seat. This will allow your right foot to press harder on the brake pedal so the ABS can be fully activated.
The reality of the ABS system is that it allows the driver to maintain control over the vehicle while braking. It keeps the wheels rotating, which gives the driver steering control. If wheels lock, they lose that all important steering ability. That’s why ABS is so useful in emergencies.
Remember, ABS on wet, slippery or dry roads can allow the driver to steer away from danger as well. If you look at the problem while braking, you’ll drive right into it. This is referred to as target fixation. With ABS, you’ll need to brake and look into your escape to give yourself a chance to avoid it.
If ABS is new for you, go into a totally empty parking lot, get your speed beyond 20 km/h and stand on the brakes. Listen and feel what the brakes can do. Do it again, but this time steer. You may be surprised at the benefits of ABS.
The challenge that I give to you is to see if you can avoid having the ABS activate. This means you’ll need to see the problems early and slow sooner. After all, no one likes to wait for the emergency to happen so they can suddenly react, right?