My husband and I have a Grand Am with anti...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband and I have a 1992 Grand Am with anti lock brakes. I'm wondering how I should routinely brake on slippery winter roads. Do I pump the brake, or do I apply gentle steady pressure, and if the ABS kicks in, let it do the work for me? Should I back off and pump the brake myself if I hear the ABS working? I need to know if they are a front line offensive weapon against our roads, or just an emergency back up. The car stops quickly, and without sliding when I do use the ABS. Your guidance would be appreciated.

TOM: Good question, Laura. The answer is you should drive just like you would drive without ABS. Just apply normal brake pressure to stop the car, and if the ABS kicks in, let it do the work for you.

RAY: In the old days before ABS was common (like four or five years ago), we used to have to pump the brakes to keep the wheels from locking up. When a wheel locks up during braking, the car skids and goes in whatever direction it pleases. Obviously, that leads to a lot of accidents.

TOM: What the ABS does is it takes over the job of pumping the brakes for you. And it does it faster, more effectively, and more precisely than you could ever do it. But to allow the ABS to work, you have to keep your foot firmly planted on the brake pedal. When you feel the ABS kick in (when you feel a rapid pulsing in your pedal), DON'T take your foot off the brake. Just keep it there and steer the car where you want it to go.

RAY: That's not what most of us have been taught to do in a panic stop, but with ABS, we've got to re-educate ourselves. So if you have ABS, forget get everything you ever learned about pumping the brakes. Practice in an empty, snow covered parking lot until you change your old habits and get used to how the ABS works in a panic stop.

TOM: And if practice doesn't help you forget your old ways, try a Vulcan mind dump. My brother does that twice a week, and it does wonders for him.

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