What Does ABS Stand For In Driving & How Does It Work?

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Written By Michelle Sutton

ABS (Anti Lock braking system) prevents you from losing control of the steering when applying the brakes. It helps to steer in emergencies, by restoring traction to your tires. It helps the driver maintain control of the car and also reduces the braking distance, even on ice, though you must still be careful on the ice as it won’t have as much traction due to it being slippery.

ABS is less effective on gravel, snow, and mud, so driving in winter you will need to be extra careful. Cars with Anti Lock Braking System (ABS) are less likely to crash. It will only reduce your chances of skidding and stop your brakes from locking up.

How does ABS work exactly?

Once pressing down the pedal for the brake, the brake pads on the brake discs will be activated. When they press against the discs quickly, this will slow the rotation of the wheels at a fast rate. As the wheels come to a quick stop, this can cause slippage between the road and tires.

ABS can detect rotation, acceleration, and deceleration by having sensors on each wheel. It’s designed to prevent the wheels from completely locking up. These sensors detect when a wheel is about to lock up.

A modulator unit partially releases the brake pad on that wheel. This way the wheels will be allowed to spin intermittently during braking. This will help you to be able to steer more safely than without ABS.

Are cars dangerous without ABS?

Cars without ABS can face big issues:

  • Braking on surfaces with different levels of traction
  • When the left and right wheels have different traction surfaces, applying the brakes will generate different frictional forces on the wheels, this will produce “Torque” and then the car can go into an uncontrollable spin.

If your ABS (Anti-Lock brake system) light comes on in your car, that means it has been deactivated and that there is a malfunction. It’s a warning light and means it can be dangerous driving without it activated. This is because the ABS helps the driver to control the car and will help you steer safely. If your ABS light is illuminated, check to see if you have manually deactivated it, or go to a garage to get it checked out.

You will still be able to steer to safety if in an emergency when ABS is engaged. It is designed for safety and has helped save many lives. ABS will help in wet and dry conditions.

The video below will show you exactly the difference between ABS being on and off.

What happens when you don’t use ABS?

When you don’t have ABS on the car, or you have disabled it, it can cause many issues such as:

  • Wheels skidding
  • Uncontrollable steering
  • The car can drift off angle
  • Takes longer to stop and can add up to 50% stopping distance

All of these can cause a lot of problems, especially when going at high speed.

How to tell if a car has ABS

As most cars have ABS, not all older cars do. Switch on the ignition to see if there is an ABS light on your dashboard. Always check with a mechanic before buying a used car, This way you know it will be safe to drive.

What does ABS stand for in motorcycles?

It essentially means the same thing as the cars. ABS stands for “Anit-braking system” and makes driving your motorcycle much safer. It prevents your wheels from locking up when braking, preventing you from skidding uncontrollably.


Who invented ABS?

The modern ABS technology was invented by Mario Palazzetti in 1971 at the Fiat research centre. Although, The first fully-electronic anti-lock braking system was developed for Concord aircraft in the late-1960s.

History of ABS

ABS was first used on aircraft back in the late 1960s. It was brought to most vehicles in the 1970s and has made driving safer for years. It is now compulsory in all modern cars in the EU since 2004.

What do ABS mean?

ABS stands for “Anti-lock Braking System”. It’s a system that was designed to make cars safer by stopping the wheels from locking up and causing dangerous skidding on the roads.