How Does Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Technology In Cars Work?

ABS prevents the wheels from locking up, thus avoiding uncontrolled skidding of the automobile and reduces the distance traveled without slipping.

Driving on expressways can be enjoyable and thrill-inducing, as most of you surely know. One gets to unleash a car’s full potential. The city streets keep us grounded, but as soon as you hit the highway, there’s no looking back. You’ll almost never see a car going below 100 km/hr.

Anti-lock Braking System


The situation becomes particularly tricky during monsoons, as cruising in a vehicle at such high speeds is the perfect recipe for a disaster if the roads are slick. Nevertheless, it does happen, so what do you do in a situation on a slippery road whenever you have to suddenly apply the brakes of your car? Without an anti-lock brake system, the wheels of your car stop spinning and the car will start to skid. You’ll completely eliminate control over the car and the results could be deadly.

If the road is not patchy, rough and on a hilly terrain, then the journey is not often worth undertaking as all destinations are already enough crowded. – By Romain Grosjean

Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) take a lot of the challenge from the sometimes nerve-wracking event. In fact, on slippery surfaces, even professional drivers can’t stop as quickly without ABS as an average driver can with ABS.

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What is the Anti-lock braking system (ABS) in automobiles?

As the name signifies, the anti-lock braking system is a safety system in cars and other automobiles that keeps their wheels from locking up and helps their drivers to maintain steering control. Also known as anti-skid braking system sometimes, it empowers the wheels of a vehicle to keep tractive contact with the floor so that they don’t go into an uncontrolled skid.

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With ABS, you have more control in your car during situations such as sudden braking.Basically, it is intended to help the driver maintain some steering ability and avoid skidding while braking.

ABS Working principle

The basic theory behind anti-lock brakes is straightforward. It prevents the wheels from locking up, thus avoiding uncontrolled skidding. ABS generally offers improved vehicle control and reduces stopping distances on dry and slippery surfaces.

A skidding wheel (where the tire contact patch is slipping relative to the road) has less grip (grip of the tire on the road) than a non-skidding wheel. For example, if your car drives over a road covered in ice, it is not able to move forward and the wheels will keep spinning because no grip is present. This is because the contact point of the wheel is sliding relative to the ice.

ABS modifies the brake fluid pressure, independent of the amount of pressure being exerted on the wheels, to bring the rate of the wheel back to the minimum slip level that is mandatory for optimal braking performance.

ABS has four major components:

1) Speed Sensor

This sensor monitors the speed of each wheel and determines the essential acceleration and deceleration of the wheels. It consists of an exciter (a ring with V-shaped teeth) and a cord coil/magnet assembly, which generates the pulses of power as the teeth of the exciter pass in front of it.

2) Valves

The valves regulate the air pressure to the brakes during the ABS action. There is a valve in the brake line of every brake that’s controlled by the ABS. In the first place, the brake valve is open and it allows the pressure from the master cylinder to be transferred into the brakes.

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In the second position, the brake valve stays closed and pressure from the master cylinder to the brakes is constrained. In the third place, the valve releases some of the pressure on the brakes. The third step is repeated until the vehicle comes to a halt. The resistance that you feel when braking suddenly at high speeds is actually the brake valves controlling the pressure which is being transferred into the brakes in the master cylinder.

3) Electronic Control Unit (ECU)

The ECU is an electronic control unit that receives, amplifies and filters the sensor signals for calculating the wheel rotational speed and acceleration. The ECU receives a signal from the sensors in the circuit and controls the brake pressure, according to the data which is examined from the unit.

4) Hydraulic Control Unit

The Hydraulic Control Unit receives signals from the ECU to apply or release the brakes under the anti-lock conditions. The Hydraulic Control Unit controls the brakes by increasing the hydraulic pressure or bypassing the pedal force to decrease the braking power.

Video Credit: Learn Engineering

ABS in operation

While braking, if a wheel-locking scenario is detected or expected, the ECU alerts the HCU by sending a current and commands it to release the brake pressure, letting the wheel speed to increase and the wheel slip to decrease. When the wheel speed increases, the ECU reapplies the brake pressure and restricts the wheel slip to a certain level (Note: When the braking action is initiated, a slippage between the tire and the road surface in contact will occur, making the speed of the automobile distinct from that of the tire). The Hydraulic Control Unit controls the brake pressure in each wheel cylinder based on the inputs in the system detector. Because of this, this controls the wheel speed. This process is repeated for the next braking operation.

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