I recently bought a Lincoln Town Car with an anti-lock...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently bought a Lincoln Town Car with an anti-lock braking system (ABS). I've always been told to gently pump the brake pedal when stopping on icy or slippery surfaces. Should I abandon this practice and let the ABS take over, or just continue the old way?

TOM: Abandon it, David! Like you, we have always been taught to pump the brakes during a panic stop to keep the wheels from locking up and sending the car into a skid.

RAY: But that's exactly what ABS does automatically. In an emergency stop, you just plant your foot as hard as you can on the brake pedal, and the ABS automatically "pumps" the brakes and keeps the wheels from locking up. And it does the job much more effectively than you could ever do it with your foot. In fact, it can pump the brakes many times per second, if need be.

TOM: It IS hard to unlearn old habits. So when you get your first car with ABS, we suggest you get in some practice. Take your car out to a safe place (like a big, empty parking lot) next time it snows. And practice deploying the anti lock brakes.

RAY: You'll hear a chattering sound and feel a pulsating sensation in the brake pedal when the ABS is engaged. But don't be alarmed. Just keep your foot right there on the pedal.

TOM: You'll also notice that while your foot is slammed on the brake, you're still able to steer the car in the snow. THAT is the real advantage of anti-lock brakes. They don't really help you stop any faster, so you still have to drive slowly and leave plenty of room to stop. But they DO let you keep steering the car while you make an emergency stop.

RAY: That's a point worth emphasizing. Don't get cocky and drive like a nut just because you have ABS. They won't stop you from going off the side of a cliff. They'll just allow you to steer in an emergency stop, so you can steer away from a bridge abutment, and steer into something soft...like a roadside farm stand.

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