Guide to understanding, troubleshooting and diagnosing your ABS
Evolution of ABS
Anti-lock braking technology has been around for nearly a century. Since World War II, aircraft have had anti-skid braking systems, and the earliest anti-lock braking systems on automobiles date back to the 1920s. Anti-skid or anti-lock braking first became more commonplace on cars and trucks in the 1990s as a positive step toward improved safety and vehicle control during hard braking in slippery conditions.
Although ABS seems complicated, it’s actually quite simple in function. If you encounter a skid while braking, the ABS control module senses a slowdown or pause in wheel rotation, modulating brake application to help you steer out of trouble. In a conventional skid, steering control is lost and the vehicle continues to travel in the direction of the skid. Then, anti-lock braking pulses the brakes, which results in an improved measure of control out of the skid.
A typical ABS consists of four wheel sensors (sometimes two or three), an anti-lock electronic control module and a hydraulic control unit. Under normal conditions, this system applies master cylinder hydraulic pressure to all four brakes, and pulsing pressure to each brake when a skid is detected.
Early anti-lock braking systems were non-electrical, hydromechanical models. They were mechanically controlled to modulate brake application. Contemporary anti-lock braking systems are computer-controlled, electrohydromechanical brake hydraulic systems. The ABS electronic module or controller can be integral with the hydromechanical braking controller or it can be separate. There can also be electrical relays that fire when the system is called to duty.
Anti-lock brake sensors are typically magnetically triggered. As the reluctor’s teeth pass the sensor, the normal pulsing rhythm of wheel motion indicates normal operation. It is when the reluctor speed across the sensor changes dramatically (wheels slow down or stop) that the ABS will pulse brake application. When the ABS pulses, it pumps hydraulic pressure to the brakes in rapid-fire succession, sometimes as rapidly as 15 times a second depending on the system. This function produces intermittent braking and some level of steering control.
Seems we’ve been focused on fuel economy for decades. And that’s a good thing. The question then becomes how to get better gas mileage. If you want to know how to improve fuel economy, aim for the obvious in your fuel consumption habits and be willing to try what you haven’t tried. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
1: Tire inflation
It is an old saw but you would be amazed how many of us overlook this one. Tire pressure must be checked once a month. Most of us check it once a year and only if we see a bulging sidewall. Tire pressure must be maintained for fuel economy, and also for your safety. The latest thing is to inflate tires with nitrogen, which runs cooler and maintains pressure better than air. Checking tire pressure periodically when filling up is a good habit to develop.
2: Modify driving habits
We’ve heard this one before, too, yet it applies now more than ever. Drive like there’s an egg between your foot and the accelerator. Drive with a light throttle, and do your best to stay in overdrive or final drive once you get rolling.
Other fuel economy driving tips include aiming for the smoothest pavement, which requires less power. Consolidate errands and take the UPS approach to planning each journey to the letter. Are you a left foot braker? Left foot brakers tend to ride the brake pedal while accelerating. Maintain a steady throttle and make finite adjustments to power.
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