ABS - boon or liablity? - RichardW
I was thinking about ABS the other day. I have never owned a car with ABS, but have had access to a works car.

Over the last 11 years I have driven about 150,000 miles. I can think of only less than 10 occasions where I locked the wheels up in situations where ABS MAY have helped (but which were controlled by cadence braking), which begs the question really is it really worth it? Does it make people drive as if they are invincible \"because I\'ve got ABS\" under the mis-apprehension that it shortens stopping distances markedly?

If you\'ve got ABS think back to when (if) if last helped you to stop, if you feel more secure with it, and perhaps more importantly if you have taken the time to practise with ABS to get the most from it (eg steering whilst ABS activated in big wet open space)?

Ducks head behind parapet whilst shouting \"Discuss!\"....

ABS - boon or liablity? - Nsar
Better to have it than not, I'll choose steady braking avery day of the week, but it's the time when you don't have a choice that counts, so why not have a tried and tested system to back you up? I don't believe anyone consciously drives a bit closer to the edge because they know ABS will kick in. Anyone who drives with that attitude is going to get into trouble all on their own, with or without ABS.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Marcos{P}
Unfortunately the general public when confronted by a situation requiring an emergency stop will just plant their foot on the brake pedal and hope for the best. They will not lift off or pump the brakes to control the skid so will normally slide straight into whatever they are trying to avoid.
A.B.S. stops the skidding and you still have control of the vehicle to turn etc.
For the general public A.B.S. is a usefull safety feature and has undoubtedly saved lives.
ABS - boon or liablity? - peterb
When I went to a skidpan earlier this year I drove the same Primera with and without ABS. With ABS one could steer around objects while braking hard; whithout it one just ploughed straight-on.

Conclusion: ABS vastly increases your options in a sticky moment.

The only argument against it is that it's pretty useless in snow/ice.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Andrew-T
peterb - the other argument against ABS is that when you stop, the car behind you without ABS doesn't. When all cars have it, things should be rosier.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Chad.R

I take your point but there may be other factors that affect the stopping distance of the car behind you, not necessarily having or not having ABS;

Driver awareness, condition of brakes, condition of tyres, general stopping distance of the vehicle etc.

If your cruising on the M'way and have a giant 4X4 a few feet from your rear bumper there's little chance it won't rear end you in the event of a emergency stop, even if it has *really* good brakes.

ABS - boon or liablity? - Cardew
IIRC the first major manufacturer to fit ABS was Mercedes as a trial on the 300SEL 6.9. They gave selected customers ABS cars at no extra cost. There were a high percentage of them that had dented rear ends!

I cannot believe that anyone can seriously doubt the value of ABS and I would never consider a new car without it.

ABS - boon or liablity? - Cyd
...undoubtedly saved lives....sorry Marcos, but overall ABS has made no difference to road death figures. Look at these threads and follow the links into NHTSA.


ABS - boon or liablity? - Altea Ego
On my company defensive driving course, we were taught to use the benefits of ALB. It was hammered home that it does not make you stop shorter, sometimes the reverse, but that you can steer while braking. We were taught using wet track, brake, slalom round cones.

Never used it till late last year. Country road, village, me going one way, lorry comimng the other way. Combined head on speed 60mph. Woman pulls out of pub car park into path of lorry.
Lorry swerves onto my side of road, I brake, HARD, ALB goes into overdrive, and i steer up onto pavement. Lorry missed me by inches and went 20 yards past. I would be dead if I could not have braked AND steered onto pavement. Make me feel invicible? quite the reverse I am alive enough to realise how vunerable we are on the roads. ALB not a benefit? you are having a laff no?
ABS - boon or liablity? - chris2
try it on a light, fresh dusting of snow over sheet ice. Wheels lock, ABS kicks in, brakes release .... etc

10 mph and over 100 yards to stop. No abs would have stopped sooner 'cause the wheels would have locked and snow built up in front of them. Same happened when I hit a fresh diesel spill on a dual cway.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Altea Ego
>try it on a light, fresh dusting of snow over sheet ice. Wheels lock, ABS kicks in, brakes release .... etc 10 mph and over 100 yards to stop.

Yes True, depends if there is ice under the snow, if there is this will happen, at least you can steer tho. 100 yards? at 10 mph? hmmmmmmmmmmmm

>Same happened when I hit a fresh diesel spill on a dual cway.

Dont you dare try and tell me non ABS brakes are better with a diesel spill
ABS - boon or liablity? - Dave_TD
The only situation where ABS puts you at a disadvantage is on fresh snow and ice. In every other conceivable situation it is an asset.
Modifying your driving behaviour to accommodate this characteristic should be easy - drive at a speed where you know you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear - if you know your ABS will increase stopping distance on snow, leave more room.
I am 100% in favour of ABS, in fact when choosing SWMBO's latest car it was an essential criterion.
ABS - boon or liablity? - chris2
Cars got traction control as well, with both on it took over 100 yards at 10 mph 'cause the applying the brakes even lightly locked them, instantly the electronics relesed them and the car just rolled on.

Just trying to highlight ABS can be alot worse in this type of case.

ABS - boon or liablity? - chris2
nothing but sand/sawdust helps with diesel spills
ABS - boon or liablity? - Gen
Seem to remember when hiring a car once (vauxhall vectra maybe or astra or zafira?) I played around with a switch that turned the ABS on and off. Don't think do this much now.

If they fixed a switch to turn off and on we could all be happy right? I hate this paternalism- I think I am intelligent enough to chose if to have or not have something like that on.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Marcos{P}
You will find that some ABS systems are worse than others. The ABS on my mates Vectra is a load of pony compared to the system fitted to my Merc. It feels awfull and seems to pulse very slowly whereas the merc system is superb.
ABS - boon or liablity? - sombrueil
well i will only buy a car with ABS, drove sons car for a while, and i hate mine now because it does not have it. Hope one day all cars will have it, why even the new Micra has it.
ABS - boon or liablity? - John S

Vauxhall have never fitted an 'ABS off' switch, but until a couple of years ago they did fit a switch to turn off the Traction Control, and that's probably what you are thinking of. The traction control did use the ABS sensors to detect wheel spin.

On the general point of whether ABS is a benefit, even if I had a switch for the ABS I'd never use it - it's a huge safety benefit, and my experience is that this business about it being worse on ice is an urban myth. It's a damn sight better than locked wheels when you're in a panic. Further, how can you judge the true road surface from within the car? What if there's a patch of diesel on the otherwise dry road? Do these people really want to drive around in bad weather constantly turning ABS on and off? Do they really think they can beat its performance? Hands up the driver that can cadence brake 10 times a second, and only do it on the wheels that are locking!


John S
ABS - boon or liablity? - Flat in Fifth
John S,

Nail firmly hit fair and squarely on the head there John, hear hear!

IIRC the only vehicles I can recall that had an ABS off switch were Audis and it really was some time ago. 1980's??

Also and this is relying solely on memory and my execrable German language skills, there was a strong recommendation that this ABS-off should only be used for driving continuously on loose surface and (maybe) fresh snow.

ABS - boon or liablity? - Morris Ox
IIRC the only vehicles I can recall that had an ABS
off switch were Audis and it really was some time ago.


It was certainly fitted to the original Quattro coupe, precisely for those reasons. With all the snow in the Alpine regions of Europe the idea was that you'd switch it off during/after heavy falls.
ABS - boon or liablity? - John S

Thanks for the support. Yes - original '80's Quattros had the ABS switch, but I suspect it's now gone because it was more liability than benefit - the circumstances where no ABS is a benefit are both transient and virtually non-existent, making its use risky even for drivers who just might potentially benefit. I did wonder if it was fitted for homologation purposes?


John S
ABS - boon or liablity? - CMark {P}
Hello everyone,
my 1994 Mercedes G-wagon 463 model standing outside has an "ABS off" switch. I have used it when driving on fresh snow and also on the long, fast, smooth murram back-roads in West Africa.

A couple of anecdotes:
I first started switching off the ABS on these dirt roads after a bull water buffalo stepped out in front of me from the elephant grass lining the road. It stood calmly in the middle of the road, chewing the cud, as I was hurtling towards him in full ABS mode, pulling up in a huge cloud of dust seemingly just a few yards in front. Steering round the beast could have put me in the deep ditches on both sides of the steeply cambered track. [1]

A few years ago I was doing some nav-scatters [2] in a much-missed 200-bhp 620Ti in Devon. One of the most fun things I have ever done. Anyway, coming over the brow of a hill on a typically steep and sunken, 6foot-6inch-wide Devon track when I found the road suddenly covered in mud. Brakes on, shortly followed by onset of ABS as a sharp 45 degree bend came towards me at an uncomfortably fast speed. I remember feeling my whole body bracing for the expected impact with the earth bank, an impact which never came as I managed to steer round the corner at 20 mph or so with ABS in full chat. Perhaps 30 seconds of uninterrupted ABS action. Without ABS I would have certainly slid into the bank. A memorable moment. [3]

ABS - excellent piece of kit;
Being able to switch it off - useful in certain (limited) conditions.

CMark (in Holland)[4]

[1] route recce'ing the 3-day Burkina on Back Roads rally-raid.
[2] navigation exercises organised by the local motor club (Minehead).
[3] we went on to win the Novice Cup that year.
[4] no accidents last 19 years and never a point on my licence.
ABS - boon or liablity? - John S

I'm confused by the reference to traction control - this might well use the ABS sensors, but the traction control system does not operate during braking - only when driving or accellerating.


John S
ABS - boon or liablity? - Martin Wall
Was there not a 'study' that showed the average driver when confronted with the pulsing sensation through the pedal from ABS working thought 'something's up with the brakes' and eased up instead of keeping the pedal buried??
ABS - boon or liablity? - Rob C
Yes, hence the introduction of EBA, Emergency Brake Assist.

and then theres some Brake distribution system as well
ABS - boon or liablity? - Cyd
Yes, look at my contribution above and follow the links there to other threads. From these threads look for my posts and follow the links I've provided to NHTSA.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Bilgewater
A few weeks ago I was following a lorry on a narrow bendy country road when we met a tractor followed by several cars.
The lorry and I stop and allow the tractor to slowly pass when round the bend comes a silly young lady in a new shape Mondeo travelling at horrendous speed. She braked and steered to the right of the cars following the tractor then headed straight for the front of the lorry then steered right again into the ditch just missing the front bumper.
I don't think she would have pulled off this manouvre if the Mondeo didn't have abs.
She of course blamed the road for the accident, not her driving.
ABS - boon or liablity? - smokie
I suffered a rear end shunt which I am sure would have been a concertina if I hadn't had ABS. Damp motorway, everyone following too close for the speed (as usual). Somewhere ahead brakes go on, then the chain effect, I stopped but watched the (non ABS) car behind me go straight into a skid and stop halfway in my boot. I think with ABS he would have stopped rather than skidded.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Shortwing Rob
This reminds me of all the arguments about seat belts when they were first introduced "You are safer sometimes being thrown from the car rather than being trapped etc etc"

There is no doubt ABS is a boon. But it does require old dinasaurs like me to die out first. Having spent much of my youth punting around a Ford Consul 375 on bald tyres at speeds hardly believable for the vehicle, cadence braking became a matter of course and you NEVER NEVER braked and steered.

Now, whilst I know in principle that you can, the first major incident that happened in an abs equipped car (a genuine life-threatener) I just reverted to my training, braked very hard, then came off the brakes, onto the power and steered.

The car and I survived uunscratched, but about two minutes later when the worst of the shakes died down I suddenly realised that I had ABS and could have sorted it out with much less drama.

ABS - boon or liablity? - Thommo
ABS has saved my life three times (I won't bore you with the details, suffice to say I was being stupid). I will never now drive a car without it.

Does Michael Schumacher need it? No. Do I? Yes.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Chad.R
Does Michael Schumacher need it? No.

Yeah, not on his F1 car maybe, but I bet you he has ABS on all his *road* cars and is glad of it too.

ABS - boon or liablity? - Altea Ego
Actually, at the height of the driver aids boom in F1 he DID have ABS on his race car.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Cyd
This is exactly what NHTSA found. Follow my links above and then look for my posts with the links to NHTSAs site.
ABS - boon or liablity? - PhilW
Give me ABS anytime. I know all about cadence braking but recently came up behind a car (on a wet and greasy road -50 mph limit, I was below that)) which had decided to turn right into his driveway without indicating and without (as far as I was aware) brake lights. What did I do ? Slammed on the brakes, wheels locked, thought about cadence braking, then thought I daren't release brakes for a second 'cos I can't possibly stop in time if I do and (luckily) slid to a halt about an inch from his bumper. It's all very well talking about cadence braking but in a split second how many of us have the skill (nerve) to do it? Not so bad when you can see a hazard way ahead and do it but in 20 yards, white knuckles and foot hard on brake? Maybe I'm a poor driver - or honest enough to say that I would have preferred the car to do the cadence braking for me!
ABS - boon or liablity? - bazza
I'm with Richard on this one. I owned ABS cars for 5 years and never, ever needed it. I used to have to find a quiet road occasionally just to see if it was still working! Now I drive 2 cars without it and don't miss it at all. But I think what suits me won't suit everyone. I think this is down to driving style and depends to some extent on what people have honed their skills on. There will soon be a generation who have learned on ABS and expect it, whereas i guess there are many like myself who are pleasantly suprised whenever the brakes pull up properly and drive accordingly. What does concern me though is the possibility of reduced margin for error created by the false belief that ABS can stop a car in a shorter distance - several friends comment how often it kicks in approaching roundabouts etc - IMO this is plain bad driving, placing too much reliance on the brakes and not enough on anticipation and correct reading of the situation.
ABS - boon or liablity? - googolplex
several friends comment how often it kicks in approaching roundabouts etc
- IMO this is plain bad driving, placing too much reliance
on the brakes and not enough on anticipation and correct reading
of the situation.

I don't think its as simple as that. The ABS on my ex-cavalier used to kick in occasionally approaching junctions which were badly pot-holed. As the car went over the uneven surface, something must have caused the system to cut in. There was no question of me not leaving sufficient time - I was only braking gently on all these occasions. A few times, it left me just a few inches short of the car in front - dangerous, to say the least - what if a pedestrian was crossing?!

However, to answer the thread question, I'm actually for ABS but agree its important to know how it works, and think that there ought to be some place where drivers can do some testing just to practise using it. The point is that ABS can cause braking distances to increase substantially. We need to get more personal control over what ABS does for a car.

ABS - boon or liablity? - bazza
>>>>>However, to answer the thread question, I'm actually for ABS but agree its important to know how it works, and think that there ought to be some place where drivers can do some testing just to practise using it. The point is that ABS can cause braking distances to increase substantially. We need to get more personal control over what ABS does for a car.>>>

Excellent point - I'd be very interested in such courses,seing as ABS is pretty much standard kit these days.

ABS - boon or liablity? - Peter D
You say the "ABS can cause braking distances to increase substantially."

Under what circumstances do you think this applies ??


ABS - boon or liablity? - Cyd
Peter D

On snow, ice and gravel.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Peter D
Thanks Cyd, The statement was out of context thus the question. It it always nice to be able to switch it off under certain cicumstances however on snow ABS allows the wheels to turn and expose a cleaner tread pattern and allows the snow that was being swept in front of the wheel to be driven over. Difficult to judge when to turn it off in really wintery conditions. Regards Peter
ABS - boon or liablity? - Altea Ego
>Peter D

>On snow, ice and gravel.

Err 2/3 -

Snow and gravel yes, when braking on snow or gravel, when the wheels lock they build up a wedge of the loose material in front of the locked wheels. This wedge is an aid to braking and locked wheels will pull you up significantly faster.

Ice is different. There is very little between ABS or non ABS on ice. With ABS on ice the ABS kicks in too quickly and pulses too fast, so there is little retardation. With locked wheels there is alomst the same little retardation. The benefit of steering is reduced too on ice. So on ice it makes no odds - its all about balance and weight transfer.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Altea Ego
>its all about balance and weight transfer.

Bang - shoots oneself in foot should read

Balance and inertia (ie momementum, direction of such and loads of newtons laws on motion)
ABS - boon or liablity? - Cyd
If you follow the links I've provided, you'll see NHTSA recommend that all ABS users should practice using ABS in non-emergency driving so they don't panic when they need it suddenly - one of the causes of it's apparent ineffectiveness in cutting road deaths.

Try practicing with it on a quiet road when it's wet.

Just as cadence braking requires a certain degree of skill and practice, so does using ABS.

As for cutting in at junctions, don't forget that it can cut in where the surface is poor or slippy or there is a patch of gravel. Of course, a skilled driver would be looking for these things some might say.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Cyd
I used cadence braking extensively in my rallying days in the mid 80's to 90's. I used to practice, practice, practice and then practice some more (nearly got kicked out of uni for practicing on the car parks at night!). Nowadays, give me ABS every time, no human can control the brakes as efficiently from his single point of input (the pedal) as ABS can by controlling each wheel independantly.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Gazza
Braking distance with (or without) ABS:

When I was a learner, I was taught to gradually apply brakes, shift weight of the car forward onto the front wheels, before braking as hard as the car/road allows without skidding. This method gives shortest braking distance. That was before ABS.

Now in my first ABS car (QX), in the icy 31/01/03 days, I find that the same physics applies, though I am not surprised. If I jump on the brakes, the ABS switches on very early. If I brakes gradually, I feel the ABS switches on much later and I feel a greater deceleration force.

This is another fact that drivers' training is much more important than driver aid(s).

* The instructor of my sister, who is learning how to drive now, never teaches her any of these driving skills. That's a far cry from 1998 when I learned how to drive, with a different instructor.

ABS - boon or liablity? - RogerL
In theory none of us need ABS because if we all drove perfectly, there would be no need for any emergency stops. In the real world, however, we might all benefit. Since I've had ABS, I've never used it but I wouldn't be without it.
ABS - boon or liablity? - Flat in Fifth
"Since I've had ABS, I've never used it but I wouldn't be without it."

Bit like insurance really, have it, wouldn't be without it, but try quite hard to avoid having to use it in anger[1] as it doesn't always bail you out in a crisis.

[1] anger is not the correct word but rather nice chilean cabernet last night must have zapped a few brain cells!


Value my car