WHAT ARE ANTILOCK BRAKES, AND WHY ARE WE SO GLAD TO HAVE THEM?



Let’s hear it for the amazing antilock braking system! Also known as ABS, this standard safety feature deserves a hearty round of applause. It helps you retain control of your vehicle when you need it most: in an emergency.


Before antilock brakes, wheels could lock when a driver suddenly hit the brakes, making steering difficult. Today’s ABS senses that a wheel is about to lock up or go into a skid and respond by easing the braking force momentarily. This enables the wheel to maintain traction and helps the driver steer to safety.


Here’s what to do to activate antilock brakes effectively:


  1. Apply pressure to the brake pedal

  2. Press and hold — no need to pump ABS

  3. Steer to safety


A closer look at the technology behind this important safety feature. Understanding what antilock brakes are and how they work can take some of the panic out of panic stops.

The primary components of ABS include:


  • Hydraulic Control Unit (or HCU)

  • Hydraulic Pump

  • Control Module

  • Wheel Speed Sensors (or WSSs)


Here’s what happens when these components work together:


  1. The WSSs produce a signal that indicates the speed of a wheel (or wheels).

  2. As the system senses an impending wheel lockup at a specific wheel, the control module sends a signal to the HCU to limit the amount of brake application to that wheel, allowing it to continue rolling rather than lock up.

  3. As the wheel is allowed to speed back up, the control module monitors the WSS and reapplies the brake.

  4. These steps occur over and over (many times per second!) until the brake lockup circumstances no longer exist.

  5. The hydraulic pump typically runs during this operation.


What are the typical configurations of antilock brakes?


  • Rear Wheel Antilock (RWAL)

  • 2-Channel (Front/rear or X configuration)

  • 3-Channel (Single front/dual rear wheel configuration)

  • 4-Channel (Individual wheel configuration)


Take care of your antilock brakes, so they can take care of you. When something is essential to your personal safety, the safety of your passengers and the drivers with whom you share the road, you don’t want to leave maintenance to chance. Be sure to make time for a brake inspection. Once or twice a year is the usual, but you should check your owner’s manual for the recommendation for your specific vehicle. Please don’t skip a brake maintenance check. It’s too important.


But don’t rely solely on that scheduled check. Be on the lookout for these seven signs of brake trouble.


  1. Noise. Do you hear screeching, grinding or clicking when you apply the brakes?

  2. Pulling. Does your vehicle pull to one side when you brake?

  3. Low pedal. Does the pedal go almost all the way down before engaging?

  4. Hard pedal. Do you have to apply more pressure than usual to come to a stop?

  5. Grabbing. This is the opposite of “hard pedal.” Your brakes grab with even a light touch to the pedal.

  6. Vibration. Does the brake pedal pulse under normal, non-emergency conditions?

  7. Brake light. When that light comes on, it means your vehicle is telling you something — loud and clear!


Bring your vehicle to Jiffy Lube® for antilock brake inspection and maintenance. Whether you pull into one of the 2,000 Jiffy Lube locations across North America for a scheduled brake check or because you’re hearing suspicious sounds or experiencing abnormal stops, you’ll drive away with peace of mind. A trained technician can answer the question “what are antilock brakes?” and recommend the next steps for helping to prevent/repair problems with your brake system.


  • Your vehicle will be test driven before and after the inspection

  • You’ll be asked a few questions about your driving style

  • A complete visual inspection of the brakes will be performed

  • The ABS hydraulic and electronic components will be visually inspected

  • The ABS control module will be tested for any existing Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs)


If brake trouble is detected, a Jiffy Lube technician will give you an estimate of how much the repairs should cost and how long the work will take to perform. Upon your approval, your vehicle will be serviced and fully tested.


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