Discover Your Car's ABS System

Even if you’re an experienced driver, still some unexpected trouble can get in the way. In such a situation, to avoid imminent collision or danger on the road ahead, you might jump on the brake. This is the time where the anti-lock braking system (ABS) comes in. It prevents the wheels from locking up and also helps them in maintaining grip with the road below.

What Is An ABS System?

The full form of ABS system is anti lock braking system. It is a safety anti-skid braking system which is used on aircraft and land automobiles like cars, motorcycles, trucks, and buses. The ABS works in such a way that it can prevent the car wheels from locking up during braking, thus it can maintain friction with the surface of the road.

This automated system applies the principles of threshold braking and cadence braking, and the methods which were once practiced by trained drivers before ABS was universal. The ABS works at a quick rate, and more effectively than most drivers could manage. The ABS offers better automobile control and reduces the stopping distances on dry and oily surfaces. If the surfaces are snow-covered or have loose gravel, then the ABS might increase the braking distance, and it would improve the steering control. Since the time ABS was launched in production automobiles, such systems have become increasingly knowledgeable and successful.

The versions which are latest might not only prevent wheel lock under braking, but might also alter the front-to-rear brake bias. This last-mentioned function, based upon its particular capabilities and implementation, is called variously as electronic brake force distribution, traction control system, emergency brake assist, or electronic stability control (ESC).

When Was ABS First Introduced?

In the 1950s, ABS was first introduced as an anti-skid system for aircraft use. And then in the 1970s, Ford and Chrysler proved that it can also be utilized in cars. Antilock braking systems are now present in all the latest cars.

What Are The Major Components Of My ABS System?

The four major components of a typical anti lock system are:

  • Speed sensors - These sensors check how fast the wheel or wheels are rotating.
  • Valves - Valves in the brake line allow, block and release pressure on the brakes. This is done by assuming three unique positions.
  • Pump - These pumps are filled with hydraulic pressure and fluid applies to the brake drums or calipers on demand.
  • Controller - The electronic control unit (ECU) is the brain of the ABS and it uses data from the sensors to determine whether to pump the brakes.

What Are The Types Of ABS System?

There are different schemes used by anti lock braking systems based upon the type of brakes in use. Have a look at them below:

1. Four - channel, four-sensor ABS - A speed sensor is present on all four wheels and there is a different valve for all four wheels. The controller would inspect each wheel individually with this setup to be sure that it can achieve maximum braking force.

2. Three-channel, four-sensor ABS - A speed sensor is present on all four wheels and a particular valve for each of the front wheels, but there is just one valve for both of the rear wheels. The automobiles which are old with four-wheel ABS utilize this type.

3. Three-channel, three-sensor ABS - This scheme is generally found on pickup trucks with four-wheel ABS. It has a speed sensor for each of the front wheels. It has one valve and one sensor for both rear wheels. The wheel speed sensor for the rear wheels is situated in the rear axle.

4. Two-channel, four sensor ABS - It is found on passenger cars from the late '80s through the mid-1990s. It uses a wheel speed sensor at each wheel and has one control valve each for the front and rear wheels as a pair.

5. One-channel, one-sensor ABS - The pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans with rear-wheel ABS have this system. There is one valve which controls both rear wheels and there is one speed sensor which is situated in the rear axle.

What Are The Important Features Of My ABS System?

The salient features of an anti-lock brakes are:

1. Stopping on ice - It is the ABS system which would prevent the lock-ups and skidding when the situations are slippery. The ABS brakes have been proven to save lives in some conditions as they help car drivers to keep control of a vehicle.

2. Lower insurance costs - This device is thoroughly tested for its safety features and has a perfect track record of effectiveness. This is the reason why the insurers often give customers particular discounts for having an ABS system on their vehicle.

3. Higher resale value - If there would be a feature of ABS on a car or truck, then it would raise the market value of the automobile. These days the ABS technology has become standard on a lot of automobiles, so if you will not have it, then it might cause a lower price for resale.

4. Traction control - Some infrastructure of a traction control system is shared by the ABS. The latest technology would help to ensure that each wheel has traction on the road. This would make it easy for the manufacturers to install both features at the factory.

How Does My Car ABS System Works?

The primary theory which is behind the anti-lock brakes is very straightforward. This system stops the wheels from locking up, and would thus avoid uncontrolled skidding. It offers improved automobile control and would diminish the stopping distances on dry and slippery surfaces.

There would be less traction in a skidding wheel than non-skidding wheel. The ABS would change the brake fluid pressure, independent of the amount of pressure which is being applied on the car brakes, to bring the speed of the wheel back to the minimum slip level, which is compulsory for optimal braking performance.

How Effective Is My Car ABS System?

There are certain older models which can be bought without ABS, and some people prefer not having it. But it's a very effective safety feature:

  • The cars which are fitted with ABS are less likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
  • The chance of frontal collision on wet and dry roads would be decreased by ABS.
  • Cars with ABS rarely stray from the road ahead.

It is important to keep in mind that ABS works best on solid stable surfaces, and your experience on ice, snow or gravel can be different.

What Are The Common ABS System Problems?

Just keep in mind that all anti lock brake systems can fail and then there would be a need for periodic repairs, especially when your car and its mechanical and electronic components would start aging. Have a look at some frequent ABS brakes problems:

1 ABS Light Malfunctions - The ABS warning light on your dashboard can start appearing if there are some flaws in the brakes, ranging from serious mechanical problems to simple sensor or fuse related problems.

2 Sensor Problems - Sometimes dirt can get accumulated into ABS brake sensors and because of that the sensors might not work properly. This would trigger the error lights and codes from the car's computer.

3 Wiring - There can be some defaults in the wiring which controls the ABS system. If the wiring is exposed or not connected properly, then there can be some malfunctions in the ABS system.

4 ABS Controller - It is the ABS controller which inspects the things as how fast the wheels are turning. If this stops working on your automobile, then you might no longer have antilock brakes. A faulty or malfunctioning ABS controller should be taken to a car mechanic for replacement or repair.

My ‘ABS’ Light Is On – What Do I Do?

If you see that there is an appearance of ABS warning light on your dashboard, then it means that there is likely an issue which requires fixing. Although an illuminated ABS light does not mean that there are no brakes in your car. But be aware that you will no longer have the help of ABS when braking hard.

The first thing which you should do is to inspect your brake fluid levels. Just make sure that it fills the reservoir to the level. If you are not comfortable doing that, then you should head to your local garage and a professional will get your ABS back up and running.

What If My Car Doesn’t Have ABS?

Anti-lock brakes require you to press down hard when you're braking so that they can avoid an obstacle. But if you don’t have an ABS equipped car or motorcycle, what you need to do would be a little different:

1 Slow down as much as possible– You should slow your vehicle down as much as possible before you turn your steering wheel.

2 Foot off the accelerator–Take your foot off of the accelerator pedal and if you're in a manual geared car, push the clutch down.

3 Hit the brakes - Push the brakes with as much pressure as you can, until you can feel your wheels lock, then the brakes should be released.

4 Pump your brakes - Take your foot off the brakes, then the brakes should be reapplied, this replicates the ABS braking method.

Which Tools Do I Need To Repair My Car ABS System?

There are several skilled auto mechanics who have a goal of opening their own car repair shop in their career. But let’s face it; if you want to put up an efficient and profit making shop, then you might need much more than mechanical skills. There are several tools which you might need to perform the car repairs quickly and reliably. Auto repair equipment that you will need to repair your ABS System may include:

Which Top Brand ABS System Parts Should I Choose?

For vehicle owner’s choice, the brands really matter a lot. You might pay a premium for a specific car part brand, over time, as it has created a perception of quality, stability and trust. There are some leading car parts brands which are more than just products or services as they give rise to memories and emotions related with the quality. So have a look at some top brands for ABS System.

Which Parts Are Related To My ABS System?

There might be a big-picture overview of the ABS System in your mind, and now it’s time to look at its related components.

  • ABS Valves
  • ABS Module
  • Brake Master Cylinder
  • Brake Relay
  • ABS Hardware
  • ABS Connector

What Is The Repairing Cost Of My ABS System?

I bet that you’re thinking how much does an ABS System replacement costs. Just keep in mind that it is not as easy as putting a fast number on it. This is because the replacement/repair cost would be different for every ABS System and it would also vary depending on how in-depth the repair needs to be. If you are thinking about the exact cost, then you might take help of an expert mechanic. If you want to substitute your ABS wheel sensors, then it would range between $100 to $200 each and the ABS control modules range between $200 up to $600 a piece. Talking about the work expenses, they would range between $80 and $150 per hour.

What Are The Steps Of Changing My Car ABS System?

Do you want to change your ABS system? Then don’t worry as we are here to help you out! Have a look below at the steps of changing an ABS system:

Step 1 - First, reset the power of the central computer on your vehicle. This can be done by disconnecting the positive battery cable and then the brake pedal should be held down on the brake pedal until the automobile’s electrical system has been drained. If there would be no stored electricity, then the computer of the vehicle would be reset and the indicator light would go off. The positive cable of the battery should be reconnected so it can restore the power of the car. Now if the light would stay off, then it would mean that it has been reset. If it would come back on, then you should proceed to the next step.

Step 2 - The ABS sensor which would control your anti-lock brakes should be changed. With passing time, the sensors would age and they would start to wear out and would also send faulty readings. Luckily, they are inexpensive and can be replaced easily. There is a sensor housing within which the sensor for your anti-lock brakes would be situated. It is attached to your wheel hub by a screw. The housing should be unscrewed and then carefully unplug the sensor wire. After that, it should be replaced with a new unit. Now the indicator light should be reset on its own or sometimes there might be a need to repeat the Step 1 again so it can drain away the power from the computer. Now, if the light would remain off, then this was the actual cause of the issue. Or else, you can continue to the next step.

Step 3 - You can always use an OBD code reader with the help of which you will trace down the issue, which is causing the anti-lock brakes to give rise to the indicator light. The OBD reader would connect directly into the On-Board Diagnostics system on your automobile. You can purchase a code reader and if you do not want to buy a code reader, then you can always take your vehicle to the local auto parts store and then they can read the codes for you. With the help of these codes, you will know which parts should be replaced on your brakes so that there is no more sign of the indicator light. Repair or restore the parts, and then you are done.

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John Framigllia
Technical Writer
Our technical writer is known for simplifying automotive parts and services. Intuitive with various vehicles and manufacturers, he knows how to simplify complicated problems.