Anti-Lock Brakes

I posted a comment over at John Scalzi’s website that piqued my curiosity enough to ask the question to everyone:

* Do you love/hate/not_care_about anti-lock brakes on your vehicle?
* Also, where do you currently live, and where did you live when you started driving?

I ask, because I live in northern Michigan, and we have icy roads all winter. Anti-lock brakes tend to annoy the crap out of me. Not because I’m a crazy driver that feels the need to lock up my tires and slide around like an idiot (although, I admit at times that’s kinda fun). I learned to drive with regular old brakes, and I tend to perform best when I have a “feel” for the road conditions, and can apply the stopping force that is appropriate.

I find that anti-lock brakes assume I’m an idiot, and go PBPBPBPBPPBPBPBPBBPBBPPBPPPBPBB, stealing any actual braking skills from me and forcing me to hope the van knows what it’s doing in time to stop. I’ve had this discussion with people that assure me it’s physically impossible for a human being to stop better than anti-lock brakes can. Well, I say pshaw.

How about you? Do you love anti-lock brakes on icy roads? Am I just and idjit?

UPDATE: Interestingly, this post just received a visitor from a computer user at Welcome. 🙂

30 thoughts on “Anti-Lock Brakes

  1. I live and learned to drive in Iowa. I learned to drive before anti-lock brakes and in fact, I’ve only ever owned a single car with anti-lock brakes (my wife’s current car). I too find it disconcerting when the anti-lock brakes kick in. However from my understanding of how anti-lock brakes work and how one should react to icy roads, I tend to believe the anti-lock brakes do a better job of stopping the car than I can.

  2. My rational side says that anti-lock brakes are a wonderful thing that save lives (and money). But I have to say I agree with you 100% in feeling that the more control I have, the safer I feel, and I hate electronic devices programmed by some total stranger of unknown intelligence level taking control away from me. I want everybody else on the road to have anti-lock brakes, but I’m glad that my vehicle does not have them.

  3. I learned to drive in Detroit without anti-lock brakes, and never managed to crash (though I did once slide into a curb and bork my wheel alignment in Dayton, OH).

    I now live in Minneapolis, where the roads stay icy much longer than Detroit since it never warms enough to melt it off. I very much appreciate anti-lock brakes up here, but I wish they were a little less sensitive on our current vehicle. The slightest slip and they go sputtering away. I still catch myself attempting to pump the brake and throwing off the anti-lock’s rhythm.

  4. Well, I don’t think you’re an idjit, but I learned to drive in Colorado, and live here now.

    I like anti-lock brakes, although I have to say the first time they engaged, it scared the crap out of me.

  5. Michael:

    Perhaps that’s part of my problem. Our current Dodge Caravan (2007) seems to engage the anti-lock system as soon as you touch the brake pedal. When stopping, I basically have no choice but to mash the pedal and pray.

    Even apart from pumping the brakes, a calm driver can usually “feel” when the brakes are actually grabbing versus locking up. With our current vehicle, like I mention before, it just goes crazy sooner than I’d like.

  6. @Shawn – Mine’s a 2007 Dodge Caliber so maybe they got overzealous that year. I previously leased a Pontiac Vibe and its anti-lock brakes were much smoother, only engaging when I was really in a dangerous slide. Caliber’s kick in when I slow to a stop sign at 5mph.

  7. My car doesn’t have them and my wife’s does. I forgot about that the first time I was driving her car in icy conditions this winter and the anti-lock breaks kicked in. Freaked me out.

    I prefer no anti-lock breaks. I know how to handle my car and how/when to apply the breaks.

    The last time I drove my wife’s car and it was icy I did my best to pump the breaks and avoid using the anti-lock system.

  8. I learned to drive in Ohio and I’m still here (“still here” he cried to the gods in their temples). The only time I’ve almost crashed was using anti-lock breaks. No I didn’t pump them once I felt them pulse, I just laid on hard. Fortunately, the left hand shoulder was as wide as a lane and I was able to get in there before hitting the car in front of me (went about half the length of the car in front of me). I’ve driven through the most horrendous weather all my life and I’ve only had one accident, a joker backed into me as I was gassing up my car (he was using the minimart inside and “lost control” aka was an idiot with a truck that shouldn’t be on the road).

  9. I’ve never driven in anything frozen or that even looked frozen. I have only had the anti-lock brakes engage a few times, mainly when the road was slick with rain/oil, freaked me out. I actually called my husband (those that know him are laughing – he knows about as much as I do about cars) because I thought the car was broken down.

    Having said that, Ummm… I don’t care. I live in Austin. If it even LOOKS like it might snow/ice (which is basically never) people stock up with Chef Boyardee and don’t go anywhere… of course, there’s always that one idiot..

  10. I live and grew up here in Canada, in Newfoundland, where we get upwards of 8 meters of snow a year and where snow covers the ground for up to 5-6 months. (extreme cases but still happens). I grew up learning to drive on snow-covered roads where there was little traction and my car didn’t have ABS at the time. However, my current car does have ABS and it does stop better than I could. ABS doesn’t do anything magical, it just detects the tires slipping and lets off the brakes and then re-applies them rapidly, a lot more rapidly then any human could. ABS does the same thing that you’re doing with brake pumping, but does it faster and more accurately. If your car is engaging ABS all the time when braking, even when there’s traction, it might need to be looked at because the sensor is probably malfunctioning. My father’s truck was doing that for a while and had to be fixed.

    In any case, my vote is for ABS. It may take away your feeling of control, but it does a better job and it’s an absolute necessity for people who don’t know how to drive on ice and snow, as far as I’m concerned.


  11. My biggest problem with anti-lock breaks is that they have failed in every vehicle I’ve ever owned.
    I’ve had three Ford trucks (one Ranger and two Bronco II’s) which had rear anti-lock breaks. In all three I had to tape over the idiot light warning me of their failure. In all cases mechanics said there was nothing wrong.
    My current vehicle is a 1995 Toyota Tacoma, and guess what? The anti-lock breaks are out. 🙂

  12. I’m with you Shawn. Not a big fan.

    I learned to drive in Florida, so no snow-driving until I was in college in Boston. I learned to drive in snow with no automatic brakes and that’s what I still prefer.

  13. I learned to drive in Indiana, but don’t believe I’ve ever driven a car with antilock brakes (or at least, if there was ever a rental car with them, there was never a situation where they needed to engage). Therefore my opinion would be useless. 😉

    My favorite story of a car backing into me: we were at a red light, and he saw a friend on the sidewalk he wanted to talk to – so he tried to back up to them, not realizing that I was right behind him and therefore in the way. Turned out that he was a cop, and we were in front of the police office. I bet he didn’t hear the end of that one for a while. 😉

  14. I live in Northern Michigan too. I learned to drive almost before paved roads in a suberb of Detroit. (I don’t really remember when there wern’t paved roads), any way MY new car has antilock brakes and on a couple occasions I have put the (brake) peddle to the mettle hoping the thing really did know what it was doing as I find it very hard to believe if I had had control I would have nearly slid out into oncoming traffic, even my husband said they, the anti lock brakes do it faster and more effeciently than a person could. As I said I have doubts. I tell myself, you better go slower cause whether you or it really do or could do it better, I can’t override them and I only just made the first payment. I like the car and I think it’s only icy winter roads we’ll have this issue.

  15. I have noticed that it all depends on the car. I used to have a Chrysler Concord that had great antilock brakes. They would only kick in hard if I was mashing the pedal.

    My girlfriends car (2000 Sunfire) is the exact opposite. Her brakes don’t seem to pulse much if you need to stop hard. If your just trying to take an snowy corner at low speed they lock up and you slide off the road.

    My trusty beater 94 Shadow has no antilock brakes. The brakes are also bad since I don’t change things on my car till they break. I just keep a few car lengths back drive at a reasonable speed.

  16. I’ve a 2000 Sunfire, and a couple of weeks ago the Abs light came on. I thought at first a weight sensor had kicked in to tell me to start working off my added holiday pounds, but it was the brake system. Rear hub sensor $300-350 to replace. That repair is not in my budget now, so I’ll try driving old school for a while – watch the conditions, keep my distance, pump the brakes if I slide. We do have a lot of snow here in Ottawa Ontario but I learned to drive 46 years ago up north – going fine so far.

  17. I was driving on snowy roads today when I tried to brake. The car was fine until I was almost at a stop, then the brakes made a rub, rub, rub sound while the car sort of stuttered, bumped to a stop scaring me half to death that the car was not going to stop. It happened 3 or 4 times on the way home. Is this my antilock brake system or is something wrong with my brakes. I appreciate any help you can offer.

  18. the abs on my 2001 dodge 1500 don’t fucking stop you ,they slide you right into what ever’s in front of you, I FUCKING HATE THEM

  19. I have 2 vehicles, both with ABS. I also grew up learning to drive without them. Living in Indiana, we had our share of ice and snow during the winter. I have not had so many ‘close calls’ as I have had with these ‘braking systems’. I had better control of my vehicle w/o the car doing the work for me. I CAN’T STAND these braking systems. I dread seeing snow/ice…not b/c I am not capable of driving on it, but I am not comfortable with how ‘my car’ drives on it. Thank god for technology!!!!!!!!!

  20. Still doing fine without ABS, I haven’t noticed any sliding when I brake. I drive more cautiously on snow/ice anyways, rather than pretend it’s summer and assume technology will save me.

  21. Pingback: Anti-Lock Brakes, And Why I Hate Them « The Brain of Shawn

  22. I’ve never been able to stop my car on a snowy, icy, or even wet leaves condition! I can’t stand the anti lock breaks and don’t understand why they were ever invented! I just called the dealership to see if there was a recall on my car and they are charging me 95.00 just to look at my car. Came across this thread to realize that’s just how anti lock breaks work. I’m going to die in this car because I CAN’T STOP IT IN WINTER CONDITIONS!

  23. I just got my first car with ABS about two months ago, and am finally realizing that what I thought was damage to my new car is actually the ABS system kicking in. Scared the hell out of me each of the three times it’s happened, and I don’t like that it takes far greater distances to come to a stop. I drove with regular brakes for years in ice and snow and never had a wheel lock up … now three times in two months. I found this page by trying to research if that “crunching” noise and violent pedal jumping were indications of brake damage. I guess I have no choice but to get used to it … intellectually, I suppose the system brakes better than I can, but … yeah, I really hate ’em.

  24. I learned to drive in the mountains of Colorado. My wife and I now live in the mountains of northern New Mexico and daily drive three miles of steep dirt road, complete with several switchbacks to and from work. We both think the ABS is inferior on snow packed and/or icy roads, when compared to our reflexive non-ABS stopping skills. I finally decided to compare the difference in my own personal vehicle (Forester) by pulling the ABS fuse … HUGE improvement! I am able to stop again when our steep and curvy road is snow packed and slippery. I think the design engineers need to expand their test parameters and do more comparative analysis. I don’t doubt that ABS will help stop a car more quickly when it is going in a straight line and stopping a panic situation where the brakes are locked up on a dry or just wet road surface. But this is not the case on snow packed roads. I have found that I can actually improve the performance of the ABS on snowy roads by pumping the brakes, even on level roadways. Sometimes the public is “sold” a product that is over-hyped … think: Swine Flu Vaccine and Global Warming. I will probably reinstall the ABS fuse on my car, but only after there is no chance of snowfall. And I am going to pull the fuse on my wife’s Toyota as well. She is a good driver and I am now confident her report will mirror mine. Pulling the ABS fuses will just be a part of winterizing our vehicles from now on. Thanks for opening this topic up to discussion. Now I know that if I am a nut, I’m not the only one!

  25. Joel – I completely agree. We have an 2004 Highlander with Blizzaks and If you can keep the abs from coming on you stop WAY FASTER on icy conditions. Very noticeable when going down a hill. I’m sick of them.


    We both think the ABS is inferior on snow packed and/or icy roads, when compared to our reflexive non-ABS stopping skills. I finally decided to compare the difference in my own personal vehicle (Forester) by pulling the ABS fuse … HUGE improvement! I am able to stop again when our steep and curvy road is snow packed and slippery.

  26. Born in MI near Detroit, live in MN since before I learned to drive more than 30 years ago. I practice on frozen lakes so I know how my vehicle will respond.

    I have a 2000 Chev Silverado 4×4. The ABS has long pissed me off with its over sensitive setting. About a month ago it started going off as I come to a stop light, on dry pavement, going less than 10 mph and medium to light peddle pressure. This almost caused a crash in a parking lot because I had trouble getting it to stop before hitting the car in the slot in front of me. I probably should have it looked at, but would rather figure out how to disable the ABS with out FUBARing the breaks all together.

    I know when ABS is working properly, it will stop a vehicle sooner than a human can, but my truck is not right even though the dealer said some time back, it was all with in spec.

  27. So, it turns out I am NOT crazy! RickCrain, you are having the same freakishness I am…less than 10 mph, coming to a very slow stop while parallel parking in DRY conditions and the brake pedal pulsates wildly while my Chevy Tahoe feels like it’s going to lurch forward. Very scary. I hate ABS and want my little Hyundai back! If you figure out a way to disable, do share! My ABS kicks in more than it doesn’t; it hasn’t snowed in weeks and the roads are dry, dry dry!

  28. Very light snow in Boston the other day and abs kicked in, it doesn’t stutter to a slow. The wheels just lock up and you go sliding. Have had other cars and suv’s that had abs, but something has to be wrong. If the vehicles i had before acted like this on road trips to Tahoe, I would have fallen a thousand feet to my death.

  29. Read this next sentence and don’t ever forget it. Faulty sensors on anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are
    life-threatening. ABS brakes should be banned immediately. Just because they work for some period of time before going bad does not outweigh the fact that they eventually fail, and some fail miserably. I believe anti-lock brakes with their finicky and often faulty sensors are a terror to our highways and cause more accidents than the incompetant idiots they were designed for. Anti-lock brakes are for those who should not be behind the wheel of a vehicle to begin with. Long before they forced these brakes on us, I always said that those people who hit their brakes and then “freeze” mentally as if they are a deer frozen in the headlights of an oncoming car, and who lose all thinking ability and defensive reactive measures due to a little panic should in no way be driving a vehicle. But drive them they do; and therefore the push for anti-lock brakes to compensate for driver inadequacy. But the trouble is that anti-lock brakes are not a proper solution. When I hit my brakes, I want my brakes to work 100 percent of the time. I don’t want them to suddenly have some god-forsaken sensor to fail and suddenly ski ski ski ski ski ski ski ski ski ski ski ski skip skip skip like some demonic automobile trying to determine whether or not it should brake properly for me. If I ever need to let my feet off the brakes and reapply pressure in variant ways or intervals in order to do some defensive driving, I’ll do that, and by God it should be up to me and not some vastly inferior braking system that causes it to occur at some inopportune timing that puts my life in danger. It used to be that I only needed to perform defensive driving in honest to goodness situations usually due to some fool doing something idiotic. However, in these days of the latest and greatest misstep by vehicle manufacturers, i now occassionally find myself having to perform defensive driving manuevers simply because today’s brakes aren’t performing adequately, and are the actual cause of the seemingly impending collision. When the older-style brakes began to go bad, there was a warning long beforehand by the scraping noise caused by a very worn pad. Today’s anti-lock braking system is so faulty, that professional auto garage mechanics will swear there is nothing wrong, even though the vehicle’s owner is swearing that the sensor, or some faulty cicuitry, is nearly killing him because of being oversensitive and not working properly.
    I’ve been driving for 30 years, primarily in West Virginia which is where I’ve lived most of my life. I’ve owned vehicles in West Virginia since the day I turned 16 years old, and have had tons of vehicles since then. Every winter through high school and college and after college, when blizzards hit, my friends and I would nearly be the only ones on the road, helping shuttle people around. From the first year I had my license, I’ve driven in all sorts of extreme conditions on and off the highway. Fifty-below wind chill factor and completely frozen tundra all around me never ever caused me to stay at home. My friends and I actually looked forward to those wintery hazordous conditions, because we knew that it would keep all the P.A.D.s (poor ass drivers) inside and off the roads. I’ve had lots of nice big trucks, lots of hot rods, lots of family sedans, and lots of motorcycles. And the only vehicle I’ve ever owned that has ever impeded my driving ability and put me in dire straits is my fairly new full-size pickup with the ABS brakes. Those brakes are a severe hindrance to any competent driver’s ability to come to a controlled stop at times. After three incidences of nearly wrecking because of those damn brakes, and after spending money replacing everything because of knowing something was faulty, and after having three auto mechanics at two different professional garages tell me that everything should be fine, I finally had to figure out by myself how to pull one of the two ABS fuses to disable the stinking system. I tried pulling both ABS fuses at first and guess what? The truck wouldn’t even allow me to shift it out of “park.” But at least I finally figured out that only pulling the one under the hood was the justice I so desperately needed. The professionals at the garages did not dare tell me how to disable it, even with me pleading to them that what really needed to be done for my safety was to simply disable them. In Fact, they did everthing in their persuasive power to make me believe it was impossible to disable. The bastards would rather let me or somebody else suffer a severe and perhaps tragic accident rather than do something that goes against insurance policy. And even though my odometer now says “service the brakes” instead of showing me digitally how many miles I’ve traveled, I will not replace that fuse, because the safety of myself and others is far more important.
    Lots of drivers before 2004 used to easily be able to disable the sensors, but many models of vehicles since then now have built in parameters to prevent people from disabling this very troubling braking system which is treating us all like we are great-great grandma who really couldn’t drive all that good even when she was young. Over the years, I’ve heard horror stories by the most competant drivers I know about their inability to brake properly in certain situations due to anti-lock brake oversensitivity. I just did a recent poll at the community store near my residential area, and only one person out of about forty liked anti-lock brakes. But you see, the people I polled are down-to-earth country folk, and filled with common sense, and aren’t easily persuaded by Madison Avenue marketing tactics. They know, in spite of what the industry has been selling and telling us over and over, that their old brakes which worked 100 percent of the time when pressure was applied to them for the entire length of time the vehicle was licensed, and which lasted and continued to work even up to the point that the vehicle rusted completely apart, are and were far better and less dangerous than these new brakes which, let’s face the facts, do not work 100 percent of the time when a person is desperately trying to get some braking action, even when they are maybe only going ten miles per hour and yet can’t get the proper braking action to prevent them from stopping adequately on a perfectly dry road at a stop sign or an intersection or in a parking lot, let alone in the extreme conditions we have to drive in all the time in this state filled with very steep grades, very curvy roads, lots of lightly graveled areas and steep long graveled driveways.
    The bottom line: the need for a brake to work right 100 percent of the time when pressure is applied over the lifetime of the vehicle is far too important to be wiring our brakes to glitchy overly-sensitive sensors which fail miserably at times. Instead of auto-disabling themselves when they aren’t working properly, they try their damnest to permanently disable the occupants in the vehicle they are on which is in dire need of proper braking action. Auto manufacturers already have had to have way too many recalls on these pathetic devices masquerading as some great advanced braking system. In addition, big industry in this country further prohibits justice being done in some cases. It will fight like hell against a recall on a certain model in this country, even though the same model will be recalled in Canada for example. I would like to know how many deaths and how many accidents these types of brakes have caused so far. I hope and pray that enough people can eventually get together and force the government to abandon by law these horrendous and dangerous devices that are being attached to what otherwise, would be a perfectly good old-fashioned brake. At some point, we’ll all be stuck, when it comes to braking ability, with the deficient driving capabilities of great-great grandma, simply because the technology we are depending upon to stop isn’t as good as it used to be, and they will be the only type of braking system being produced. But hey, don’t take my word for it, just do a little research online and you will find thousands of cases involving recall after recall, and people whose ABS brakes caused them to have a really, really bad day, even after some mechanic at a professional garage assured them everything was fine. To say that I hate ABS brakes would be a giant understatement. I completely loathe and despise these types of brakes, and the fools that are forcing them upon us without options of disabling them ought to be held criminally liable when they inevitibly fail.
    Post #14 brought to my memory a funny incident that happened to me when I was a senior in high school. I had a big 1980 3/4 ton Chevy Scottsdale with about a 5-inch lift kit. A friend of mine had a 4WD Blazer and he purpously and gently tapped into the rear end of my truck while I was waiting at a stoplight. So I threw my truck into reverse, just kidding around. Well, he saw my reverse lights come on, so he threw his Blazer into reverse, and in a bit of a panic, he then rammed a car that had pulled up behind him. The light turned green, and I put my vehicle back into gear and drove onward to school, laughing all the way, barely believing I had just witnessed such a thing.

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