Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Mika asks: My “ABS” light is on and I’m wondering what that means? Is the car safe to drive?
My reply: It depends on whether you can drive!
ABS is a system developed to deal with the problem of people who can’t – by preventing skids and loss of control caused by following too closely or driving faster than one’s skills permit. ABS uses a hydraulic pump to relieve (and re-apply) brake pressure in such a way as to keep the wheels turning even when the driver has pushed the brake pedal to the floor – which (absent ABS) would result in the wheels locking and the tires skidding and the car continuing to travel in the same direction, probably into something.
Because when the wheels lock you lose steering control.
ABS is designed to aid the poor driver by allowing him to just stand on the brakes without loss of steering control. A good driver is skilled in the art of doing this without assistance, via threshold braking – and is also skilled in the art of not tailgating and driving faster than his skill set.
ABS has, arguably, reduced the skill set of drivers generally – who feel more confident than their skills warrant.
But to get back to your question . . .
Usually, when the ABS light comes on, it does not mean a problem with the brakes. It means there is a problem with the ABS system. Which can mean you have brakes without ABS. Which means the brakes may lock if you stand on them – and that will result in a skid and loss of steering control, if you don’t ease off them.
Bu assuming you’re a careful, conscientious driver who doesn’t tailgate, who pays attention and doesn’t drive faster than your skills can handle, you should be fine. The brakes will operate without the ABS and you may even like the additional control over your car this gives you.
. . .
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