Advantages and Disadvantages of Anti-Lock Brakes

In the 2004 model year, the US Federal Government required that all cars sold in the US had to have Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) systems installed. Before that date many manufacturers were installing them of their own accord as an optional safety feature.

ABS technology has saved many lives over the years. This is because they are quite effective when controlling skidding when driving in slippery conditions. What ABS systems do is help re-establish traction whenever a skidding tire is detected.

Interestingly, not everyone is sold on ABS technology. Today, the systems are far better than the originals. However, as important as this might sound, there are some that people that don't care for ABS systems. As it turns out there are some reasons for this. Let's take a deeper look.

What ABS does. One of the most unnerving things that can happen when driving in slippery weather is that a wheel locks up when you apply your brakes. Not only does it make it harder to stop, if your car's front wheels are skidding, your steering becomes almost useless.

Historically, the best technique to prevent skidding is to pulse the brakes rapidly with your foot. This action allows the skidding tire to regain traction so that control is maintained. A driver who is skilled at this can usually avoid wheel lockup, but an ABS system does this job automatically and usually more efficiently. No wonder federal regulations required that all cars and trucks manufactured after 2003 needed to have ABS systems installed.

How ABS works. We queried the service experts at Hyundai of Kennesaw, a local Hyundai dealer in Kennesaw, GA, about ABS system technology and got the low-down. Basically, ABS systems operate like self-controlled brakes. When an ABS system detects that a wheel, or wheels, are locking up, it releases/reapplies the brakes rapidly. This rapid cycling allows the skidding tire to re-establish traction so one can control the car again.

Disadvantages of Anti-Lock Brakes

Despite the fact that anti-lock brakes are a well proven safety feature, not all drivers are sold on the technology, at least not on the earlier versions (pre-2004). Here are some of the downsides that some drivers have complained about

1)      Expensive repairs. An ABS can be expensive to maintain, especially on older cars. Expensive sensors on each wheel can cost hundreds of dollars to fix and this is common as systems age.

2)      Inconsistent stop times. Anti-lock brakes are made to provide for surer braking during slippery conditions. However, some drivers report that they find stopping distances for regular conditions are lengthened by their ABS systems. This really isn't an issue for today's ABS systems but in the old days, it was a topic of conversation.

Advantages of Anti-Lock Brakes

1)      Stopping a skid. As mentioned above, ABS systems prevent lock-ups and skidding, especially during wintery slippery conditions. Anti-lock brakes have been proven to work effectively by helping drivers maintain control of their vehicle.

2)      Lower insurance costs. Because it is a thoroughly tested safety device with a track record of effectiveness, insurers build the reduction of risk that occurs with ABS into their premiums. Note: this may not be the case with an older, non-ABS equipped car.

3)      Traction control. An ABS system shares some of the components of a Traction Control Systems (TCS). TCS is a new technology that also ensures that each wheel has traction but it does so when a vehicle is accelerating. Because the functional parts of an ABS and TCS system are similar, it makes it easy for manufacturers to integrate both systems at the factory.


Todays ABS systems are well-honed technology and have proven quite effective. While no statistics exist on how many lives have been saved by ABS systems, common sense would say the number would be in the thousands.

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