As far as speed is goes, we’ve have always found new machines that would allow them to move faster between point A and B. Moving faster has reduced the time required to travel and boosted productivity.
The invention of gas-powered vehicles dramatically reduced travel times; three-hour long carriage rides would take only a quarter of that time with an car. However, the faster it goes, the bigger the stopping power will be required.
Regular Brakes are limited
Current vehicles feature braking systems on all four wheels. Low-end models usually come with brake disks for the front wheels and drum brakes for rear wheels. Disk brakes work by the means of a caliper piston pressing brake pads against the disk, creating friction.
Kinetic energy is converted into heat and dissipated and the car is slowed down.
Drum brakes are less effective as a shoe applies pressure on the inside of the drum, converting less kinetic energy.
Even with disk brakes on all 4 wheels, there are still issues that need to be solved. In heavy braking situations, it is common for wheels to lock when full braking power is applied, causing the vehicle to skid out of control.
Fortunately, anti-lock braking systems are there to help.
How ABS works
ABS or anti-lock braking system represents a system formed by four main components: wheel sensors, valves, pump and an electronic control unit (ECU).
These components work together to stop wheels from locking under heavy braking conditions.
When wheels sensors detect a motionless wheel, data is fed to the ECU which further instructs the brake pump to reduce fluid flow through the valves and towards the brake caliper.
The flow is reduced enough to keep the wheel from locking up but also kept high enough to provide sufficient braking power. The ECU analyses data from sensors a few hundred times per second and tunes the amount of fluid allowed through valves for best braking performance.
ABS won’t only allow for shorter braking distance, but will also provide a certain amount of steering control, providing the driver with the possibility to avoid an obstacle.
Does my car have ABS installed?
If your car is 6 years or newer, there is an almost certain probability that your vehicles features an ABS system. Although the first anti-lock braking devices were invented in the 50’s, it took almost two decades before they were fit on consumer vehicles. Starting with the 90’s, ABS became more and more common. Right now, ABS comes as a standard feature on over 85% of cars.
There are two main ways to figure out if your vehicle has an ABS system installed:
1. Check your car’s manual
Your vehicle user manual includes various maintenance and functionality data regarding your car, as well as a list of included features within the build. If your car comes with an ABS system, it will be listed there.
2. Experience it first-hand
You might have experienced the work of your vehicle’s ABS system without realizing it.
Under heavy braking, as the ABS pump reduces fluid flow to the caliper, certain vibrations will be felt on the braking pedal. Basically, the pedal will push up intermittently. Although the push will be brief (the pedal travels less than an inch), you will definitely feel it.
Innovations in ABS systems
The first ABS systems came with a 3-channel fluid regulator.
While the front wheels are acted upon independently by the ABS pump, the rear wheels don’t feature the same option, fluid being regulated the same on both sides.
Newer anti-lock braking systems come with 4-channel fluid regulators, thus applying different brake pressure on every wheel according to data fed from sensors.