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Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) in Cars: What Is It and How Does It Work?

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 12/07/2023

No matter how experienced a driver you are, encountering unwanted troubles on the road is sometimes inevitable.

Fortunately, we can rely on the ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) in cars to ensure our safety during such situations. The ABS story began in the 1950s when it was initially known as the 'Anti-Skid System' and was primarily used in aircraft.

However, in the 1970s, Ford and Chrysler revolutionised the automotive industry by introducing this technology in their cars, challenging the perception that ABS was limited to aircraft use only. Since then, ABS systems in cars have significantly advanced, becoming a standard feature in modern vehicles, including cars and bikes in the Indian market.

Let us now learn more about the technicalities of ABS systems in cars. Continue reading to learn more about what is ABS in cars and how does it work.

What Is ABS System in Cars with an Example

Before proceeding forward to help you learn about ABS systems, let us tell you the ABS full form in cars first. The full form of ABS is Anti-Lock Braking System.

The Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) is a vital safety feature that helps drivers maintain control of their vehicles during emergencies by preventing the wheels from locking up and allowing them to steer effectively. It works by restoring traction to the wheels, ensuring they maintain a grip on the road surface.

ABS is represented by a symbol on the car's dashboard instrument panel. The ABS symbol in cars typically features the letters "ABS" enclosed within a circular or square shape. Car manufacturers may vary in the exact design of the symbol, but it serves as a visual indicator of the status of the ABS.

When the ABS is active, or there’s a potential issue with the system, the symbol may illuminate in yellow or amber. Today, ABS has become a standard feature in modern cars and bikes, although it's important to note that not all ABS systems are the same, as some may only prevent the locking of the rear tyres. To understand what is anti-lock brake system in cars, let us consider an example scenario.

- Example

Imagine driving on a wet road; a pedestrian unexpectedly steps out in front of your vehicle. Your immediate reaction is to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision. It is where ABS comes into play. In this situation, ABS is a crucial safety feature that helps you maintain control of your vehicle while braking.

Without ABS, a hard brake application could cause your wheels to lock up, leading to a loss of control and an increased risk of skidding or sliding. However, with ABS, the system detects the impending wheel lock-up through sensors that constantly monitor the rotational speed of each wheel. When the ABS detects that a wheel is about to lock up, it automatically modulates the brake pressure to that particular wheel.

ABS rapidly adjusts brake pressure, preventing wheel lock-up. It releases and reapplies brake pressure multiple times per second, allowing the wheel to rotate and regain traction. It enables steering and adjustments to avoid pedestrians while maintaining maximum braking force.

The ABS monitors the wheel speed and adjust the brake pressure as needed until the vehicle stops or the driver releases the brake pedal. This dynamic control of the braking process ensures that you can maintain vehicle control and steer safely, even in emergencies.

ABS Working in Cars: Explained

When braking heavily in emergency or panic situations, the abrupt application of brakes can cause the tires to lose traction and stop rotating, leading to wheel lockup. The Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) prevents wheel lockup and enables safe vehicle stopping.

To understand how ABS works, familiarising yourself with the system's main components is essential. The ABS consists of four primary components: pressure release valves, wheel speed sensors, a controller or ECU (Electronic Control Unit), and a hydraulic motor.

In simple terms, ABS operates on the threshold braking principle, a technique used in motor racing where the driver modulates brake pedal pressure to optimise braking force. The technique involves releasing the brake pedal when the wheel starts to slip and reapplying the brakes when the wheel regains traction. However, ABS performs this modulation automatically.

Let's go through the working mechanism of the Anti-Lock Braking System:

  • Wheel speed sensors continuously monitor the speed of each wheel.

  • When the sensors detect a sudden change in wheel speed, indicating potential wheel lockup, they send this information to the controller.

  • The controller interprets the signal as a wheel lockup and sends a signal to the hydraulic motor to release the brake pressure.

  • Pressure release valves are activated, reducing the braking pressure.

  • With the reduced pressure, the wheels regain traction and begin rotating.

  • Once the wheels start rotating, the speed sensors detect this change and send another signal to the controller.

  • The controller then signals the pump to close the pressure release valve, preventing further loss of brake pressure and increasing the braking force.

  • This cycle repeats several times per second until the vehicle stops without any wheel locking.

By rapidly modulating brake pressure, ABS allows the wheels to maintain traction with the road surface, preventing them from locking up and enabling the driver to maintain control of the vehicle. It allows for effective steering and manoeuvring, even during emergency braking.

Importance of Anti-Lock Braking System

ABS is a crucial safety feature vital in ensuring your safety on the road, especially in unpredictable conditions. Indian roads are known for their unpredictability, making it essential to be prepared for any situation that may arise. Here are some key points that highlight the importance of ABS:

  • ABS prevents your car from skidding when braking hard, allowing you to maintain control and bring the vehicle to a safe stop, even in critical situations. It helps you avoid potential collisions and maintain stability on the road.

  • ABS reduces the braking distance, enabling you to stop your car at a shorter distance. It is particularly crucial during emergencies, where every inch matters and can make a significant difference in avoiding accidents.

  • ABS proves beneficial in adverse weather conditions, such as wet, slippery, or icy roads. It helps you brake efficiently and maintain control of your vehicle, reducing the risk of skidding or loss of traction.

  • The most crucial aspect of ABS is its ability to save lives. By preventing wheel lockup and enabling effective steering control, ABS can help you avoid potential accidents. It provides you with the necessary stability and manoeuvrability to respond quickly to unexpected obstacles or hazards on the road.

Importance of Having a Four-Wheeler Insurance Plan

When it comes to ensuring your safety on the road, the importance of ABS in cars cannot be overstated. However, it is equally crucial to complement reliable safety systems like ABS with a comprehensive car insurance policy. Combining these two elements allows you to navigate the roads with increased confidence and peace of mind.

If you buy car insurance, you financially safeguard yourself. It acts as a source of reassurance in accidents, damages, or theft. Not only does it provide you with the necessary protection, but it also offers peace of mind, knowing that you are adequately covered. In fact, basic car insurance coverage is a legal requirement in many countries, including India.

Tata AIG car insurance plans can be crucial in providing you with comprehensive coverage and peace of mind. Our insurance policies offer a range of benefits that can help you confidently navigate the roads. Our car insurance coverage includes protection against damages caused by accidents, theft, natural disasters, and more, ensuring you’re financially protected from a wide range of risks.

This peace of mind lets you focus on the road, promoting a safer driving experience for yourself and others.


The effectiveness of ABS has been demonstrated and acknowledged globally, highlighting its importance in ensuring road safety. Recognising its significance, the Indian government has made ABS a mandatory safety feature in vehicles. This requirement reflects the commitment to enhancing road safety and reducing the risk of accidents. However, besides ABS, having a comprehensive four-wheeler insurance policy is equally vital for safeguarding yourself and your vehicle. So, compare car insurance plans conveniently through our online platform, make an informed decision, and choose the policy that best suits your requirements.

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