What are anti-lock braking systems (ABS), how do they work, and why do I need one?

Anti-lock Braking Systems

With anti-lock braking systems (ABS) a standard small-print inclusion in all modern car-sales brochures, it’s easy to downplay the big role ABS play in road safety. Check out our guide to ABS – what they do, how they differ from older braking systems, and why your car needs ABS to keep you and your family protected.

How does ABS work?

Even when you’re an experienced driver, unexpected things happen on the road. You may find yourself jumping on the brake to avoid a collision or imminent hazard. Anti-lock braking systems are used to monitor wheels under heavy braking. In a basic ABS, every wheel on your car has a sensor attached to it – if a sensor detects that a wheel is about to stop moving, the system will release the brake for a split second to prevent your wheel from locking up. This helps your car maintain its grip on the road, and helps you stay in control of your vehicle.

Older braking systems without ABS increase the risk of losing control of your vehicle in an emergency, where you need to stop suddenly. You can simulate the action of an ABS by applying the brake and releasing it repeatedly, but ultimately no driver can brake as fast or as smoothly as an automated system.

Does my car definitely have an ABS?

ABS has been mandatory for all new passenger cars sold in Australia since 2003 – so long as you’re driving a model later than that, an ABS is already protecting you. However, if you drive an older car, or your motor develops a fault and your ABS stops working, you won’t have the peace of mind an ABS gives.

ABS technology continues to advance – the best way to take advantage of this life-saving technology is to invest in a dealer-new, dealer-demonstrator or late-model, quality used car.

While they are a standard safety feature in all modern cars, ABS are not as common in light or heavy commercial vehicles. If you’re looking for a ute or commercial with ABS, try a new or late model Toyota Hilux or Mazda BT-50 – these brands have taken the safety features from their passenger models across their entire range.

Staying safe now and into the future

Modern cars in every class come with ABS – from cheap and cheerful hatches, to the family wagon. For even more help in tricky braking situations, look out for other built-in features that complement your ABS when you’re searching for a new ride.

Brake-assist technology automatically brakes for you in situations where your own reaction speed is a little too slow. Most modern cars also include assisted hill start features – your car will independently read the angle of the road and your pedal position to apply more brakes on a slope as needed. Another standard in newer vehicles is traction control, which keeps your car more firmly gripped to the road when braking and accelerating.

An ABS goes a long way to keeping you and your family safe on the road. To find a car with the right protection for you, check out the Top 6 Safest SUVs in Australia.


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