Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

By Stephen Neil

A little birdie says, Anti-lock Braking System or Anti-skid Braking System (ABS) is an automobile safety system that allows the wheels on a motor vehicle to maintain tractive contact with the road surface according to driver inputs while braking, preventing the wheels from locking up or ceasing rotation and avoiding uncontrolled skidding.

Again, What the hell is ABS?

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

Let us explain. Remember those times when you were on a bicycle and had to show off, so you would ride a little fast and jam on the rear brakes making the rear wheel skid and come around.

Times that made you felt like a superhero, well that is exactly what ABS DOES NOT ALLOW you to do.

What once was fun on that lightweight bicycle at 10 km/h is outright dangerous and could be fatal on a bike at 100km/h, well even 60km/h. The same rule also applies to cars.

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

Right from the time the first horse drawn carriages were made, brakes have been important.

With the advent of motorised vehicles came an increase in speed, and the greater need to stop from that speed

So, bigger brakes came about. And then, wheels were locking up in no time. This gave way to the need for an ‘Anti-Lock Braking system, to stop this from happening.

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

Here's how it works:

To understand how ABS works, you first have to understand how brakes work.

When your foot pushes the brake pedal, or hand pulls in the lever on a bike, you increase hydraulic pressure in the brake hose, as the brake oil in the reservoir too gets pushed.

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

The same pressure is then applied on the brake pads inside the calipers. The brake pads press onto the disc/rotor, scrubbing off speed in turn.

Without ABS, if the pedal is pressed hard or lever pulled hard (like in an emergency braking situation), the pressure applied on the rotor is too much, and the disc locks up, locking up the wheel with it.

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

With ABS though, things are different. A sensor monitors the spinning of the wheel. When you hit the brakes hard, if the sensor detects that the wheel has locked even for a millisecond, it releases brake pressure before applying it right back.

Some ABS systems can release and apply pressure up to 15 times a second.

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

How does it make things safe for me?

Contrary to how it usually feels, sounds and what most people think, your vehicle is not braking the quickest if its wheels are skidding.

Skidding literally means, the tyres have lost grip, and loss of grip means no control. Losing control while emergency braking is not really a good thing now, is it?

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

In such a situation, ABS becomes the saving grace, as it regulates braking pressure, preventing the vehicle from skidding.

If the tyres aren't skidding, you also have steering control of the vehicle, allowing you to steer away from that runaway cow, or the helpless child who runs onto the middle of the road, while braking hard.

Safe Enough?

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

So How did ABS come to be?

A mechanical version of the modern electronic ABS was first developed in 1920 by French automotive and aviation pioneer Gabriel Voisin on his aircraft.

Over the next few decades, the anti-skid system became popular in the aviation Industry, with aircraft manufactured by several companies using the Dunlop Maxaret anti-skid system.

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

The first automotive application came about in 1958 when the Maxaret system was tested on a Royal Enfield Super Meteor motorcycle.

The first known usage of the modern electronic ABS though was on the legendary supersonic airliner - Concorde.

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

1971 saw electronic ABS being used on cars for the first time, with Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Nissan all using the technology.

ABS has since then, come a long way and is today being employed in almost all cars.

Garage Talk — What The Hell is ABS?

It is mandatory in some countries for all cars being sold to be equipped with ABS. India too would be making ABS mandatory for all motorcycles from 2018.

Thoughts On ABS In Vehicles

If you are on the verge of buying a motorcycle in India, we do suggest you wait for the implementation of ABS. The wait and the slightly higher price is totally worth it.

Read more on: #garage talk #technology
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