ABS Brakes

I think in certain circumstances, anti-lock brakes are more dangerous than the locking kind. On slippery surfaces, I’d much rather just go into a slide I can control (or stop braking) than have my brakes lock and unlock and put the car into a slide that I can’t do anything about except stop braking. Anyone else have any opinions on them, whether they think they are safe or not.

It’s a trade-off.

A very skilled driver can outperform ABS under some circumstances, very slippery surfaces (ice) being one of them, AFAIK. Unfortunately, most drivers are not that skilled and cold-blooded, certainly not when their life appears to be in danger and panic begins to set in.

I guess we can agree that Michael Schumacher has precious little need of ABS, but Joe Random will be much better off with it. And since there are more J. Randoms around…

S. Norman

You have to also consider the braking bias inherent in a disc/disc vehicle. How hard do you brake before a single caliper locks up? Before the fronts lock while the rears spin, and so on? It’s very, VERY hard to fix or judge. I’ll repeat the above. If you’re not VERY skilled, stick with ABS.


I’ve never had ABS brakes. In fact, I’ve never had disc/disc brakes, only disc and drums. In 5 years, the only times I’ve ever locked my brakes was when one of the rear drums had oil in it. When it got hot, it locked whenever you applied the brakes.
I’ve driven cars with ABS brakes, and never locked them either, so I don’t really know what they’re like. But I’ve been a passenger in a car with someone who locked them on gravel. The gravel was little round pebbles and the car would slide, then the brakes unlocked and it stopped sliding, then they’d lock again and it slid. It didn’t seem very safe.
I was just wondering if anyone else knew any other situations where they seemed less safe than media and car manufacturers would lead people to believe.

I think that if there were even a tiny niche where ABS wasn’t as safe as standard brakes then the lawyers would have exploited it. I’ve been in a few situations where ABS has done a better job than I could have done on my own. Do they even teach you how to pump the brakes in driver’s training these days? Part of the UK driving test is doing a panic stop without locking the brakes, which is pointless when you have ABS to do the work for you.

Mousseduck, that description sounds creepy to me. In every situation I have been in where ABS kicked in, the braking modulated so fast that I couldn’t keep up with it if I tried. That is, whenever the brakes would begin to lock, they would immediately pump back.

I had the luxury of attempting a test of sorts. I have two cars, both of which I drive regularly. I also live off of a flat, long, wide, infrequently traveled road. The additional factor here is that they will not plow the snow unless there is at least a foot. This lends for a fantastically slippery surface.

The car with ABS was heavier than the non-ABS enabled car, and I was still able to stop faster with ABS. Additionally, I was not as able to control the direction of my skid in the car without ABS.

I recommend it. And, I think that if the ABS is not modulating the pedal faster than you could hope to keep up with, there’s probably a problem somewhere. Potentially the speed sensor could be going bad?

I read an article a while ago saying that insurance companies were thinking about removing the discount for ABS brakes.

Not because they didn’t work, but because they worked TOO well. The idea is that in a panic situation (where a person is “skidding”) they turn the wheel fully expecting the car to continue straight to no avail (I actually did this once in a non ABS car and the car kept going straight), but an ABS car will allow you to maintain control of the car during a skid and thus it goes off the road hitting a tree or some other obstacle, usually causing damage anyway. The other thing is that ABS makes a horrid noise and vibration and scares people so they let off on the brakes.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that AFAIK, ABS allows you to maintain control during a skid, and if people are taught to take advantage of that, and to expect the loud noise and vibration then they can avoid accidents. The problem is that many people don’t know what to expect.

** Mr Cynical ** I think I phrased something a bit incoherently here.
The brakes did unlock almost as soon as they locked. Then they locked themselves again. I wasn’t referring to the driver taking their foot off the pedal. Until the sliding got annoying that is. But it’s nice to know that ABS brakes are safer on snow.
**kferr ** No, In driver’s tests you don’t have to do an emergency stop, or pump the brakes. And I do realise that ABS brakes are safer on sealed roads, but I was wondering if anyone else thinks there are certain conditions where they can be a liability. Maybe it’s just me.

The owners manual for my last Grand Marquis said there were a few situations where the ABS brakes would not be better than manual braking.
Ie: Sand or gravel or snow that can pile up in front of the tires and get pushed along.

I think pumping brakes was the worst thing to ever get people into doing. Steady pressure until they are on the verge of locking is the best. People doing mad pumping is the second fastest way of loosing control and sliding into the guy in front of you… the first is locking the all up and not letting off.

Since there appears to be a UK poster here,

I wonder if you saw that ‘Top Gear’ (car consumer programme for US citizens) where they compared braking distances between ABS equipped cars and those without ?

The cars were the same in all respects except for ABS and the surprise was that the non-ABS car stopped sooner, a fair old bit too.
This was not just on one make and model either.
The big advantage was demonstrated when trying to steer around cones under heavy braking, the ABS cars did far better.
It would seem that it is not just stopping distance that counts but being able to buy enough time to find an avoidance strategy.

Having tested vehicles with no ABS, rear-wheel ABS and four-wheel ABS on a skidpad, I can tell you that ABS definitely makes a difference. It doesn’t necessarily affect how quickly you stop, but as others have said, it lets you maintain control while sliding. In a test situation, the difference is very noticable.

Of course, y’all realize that “ABS Brakes” is somewhat redundant. (Like “ATM Machine” or “HIV Virus” or “PIN Number”.)

I’ve had the luxury of attending several of Skip Barber’s professional and racing classes up at Elkhart Lake WI. ABS does make a difference. We drove ACR Neons (factory modded with four wheel disk NO ABS) and while you could slide into corners much easier, I personally don’t take the Dundee exit at 75mph unless I’m really really late :stuck_out_tongue: so it is an acceptable trade off to me- far better emergency handling at speed and stopping versus a marginal decrease in driver control under optimal conditions.
If you are going fast enough over frozen gravel, snow, or conditions conducive to hydroplaning (instances where brake modulation can cause breakout in a turn), well, that’s just a little of the ole chlorine in the gene pool;)

now the Vipers- I wish they had ABS; squirrelly in the corners is an understatement.

I was recently in a situation where I had ABS and the guy behind me didn’t. The car in front of me stopped suddenly. I was able to stop suddenly. The guy behind me…

Maybe he just wasn’t paying attention as well as he should have, but I think ABS stops faster.

FYI, pretty minor damage, no injuries.