What is the ABS/what does it do?
The anti-lock braking system on a car ensures the car can stop as quickly as possible without affecting steering and control while braking. Fundamentally, the anti-lock braking system ensures the driver is able to maintain control of steering, enabling smooth and safe braking by regulating the air pressure in the wheel brakes.
Getting into the details of the ABS
A clever and central part of the anti-lock braking system and crucial to its performance is the ABS Control Unit ECU. A highly advanced computerised part, its function is to control the car's anti-lock breaking system, making sure that it works properly. Sensors on the car wheels monitor the speed at which each wheel is rotating and measure the amount of hydraulic pressure needed. This information is sent back to the ABS Control Unit ECU, which then sends a message to the ABS modulator, an air valve located close to the engine, near the fuel filter. The ABS modulator receives the instruction and adjusts the brake pressure accordingly, stopping the car wheels from slipping and swerving. This action is repeated constantly and can be felt by the driver as a vibrating motion in the brake pedal. Essentially, when a wheel is likely to lock and skid, the ABS modulator adjusts the pressure in the brake chamber to stop this from happening. The ABS pump plays its part in this process by pumping the pressure released from the brakes back up.
The brake assist control unit is another part of the car's intelligent high-pressure brake system. The ABS system improves overall driving stability and the brake assist control unit plays an important part in this by working in conjunction with the anti-lock braking system to provide the most effective braking performance possible in an emergency. Studies have revealed that most drivers do not brake hard enough in an emergency situation. This vital electronic device is an intelligent safety feature developed to help the car slow down and come to a halt as quickly as possible, assisting the driver to brake safely and evenly. The brake assist control unit was developed to improve overall braking by minimising the level of pressure needed to apply on the brake pedals. It enables the driver to brake quickly if needs be, over the shortest possible distance, while allowing the driver to maintain steady control of the steering. The brake assist control unit works by recognising that the brake pressure needs to be increased and maintains this level of pressure until the ABS system takes charge, which then stops the wheels from locking, significantly reducing the braking distance and regulating the overall stability of the car when braking.
What if something goes wrong with the ABS?
If the ABS Control Unit ECU, or any of the components of the car's ABS system has a fault, the ABS alert light will show and the ABS will stop working. This won't affect your ability to apply the brakes, but because the automatic locking system has been disabled it won't stop the wheels from skidding or potentially locking up when you brake. It's important to check your ABS Control Unit ECU as soon as you can if the warning light comes on and if possible don't use your car in rainy conditions when the risk of swerving is high and the braking distance dramatically increased. If the ABS warning light shows; the brakes are not working; or the brake pedal is really stiff, these are signs that you need to speak to your mechanic and will potentially need to replace the ABS Control Unit ECU, or another vital component of the anti-lock breaking system on your car.