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What is ABS and why should your car have it?

Article PhotoWhen searching for a new car, safety is often at the top of the list for Australians. Driving can be dangerous, so making sure your car is packed full of safety features is one of the best lines of defence in case of an accident.

One of the car safety features available in newer models is anti-brake locking systems (ABS). You may have heard the term thrown around by car dealers or seen it advertising new cars - but what actually is this safety feature, and is it important?

Put simply, anti-lock braking systems help to keep the driver in control of the car when applying the brakes suddenly.

Occasionally, hard braking can cause the car to spin, skid or lose traction on the road, leaving the driver with little control and potentially causing an extremely dangerous situation.

To counteract this possibility, ABS allow the driver to slow down quickly without skidding, while still allowing steering capabilities.

So how does ABS actually work?

ABS works by preventing the wheels of the car from 'locking' upon heavy braking.

Cars with ABS installed have wheel sensors which continually send information to the electronic control unit within the car, which allows it to detect "impending lockup of the wheels", states the Royal Automotive Club of Queensland (RACQ).

If trouble strikes, the system will send signals to the hydraulic modulator and automatically apply and release the brakes. This can occur up to 15 times per second, and does not take into account how hard the driver is braking. This systematic braking approach prevents wheel lock up and allows the driver to continue steering the vehicle.

The system will continue to work until brake pressure is released, or the conditions causing the wheel locking are over.

Although the best way to prevent wheel locking is to avoid heavy braking, changing conditions on the road means this isn't always possible. Thus, ABS is a great safety feature to look for when buying a new car.

Keep in mind that this system is no substitute for safe driving, and accidents can still happen - so make sure your rego, ctp insurance and other insurances are all up to date.