2003 Honda Accord - brakes grind & fail in snow!

I took my car to the dealership over and over - they insisted there’s nothing wrong - but I’ve had many near-accidents in snowy weather b/c of this. VERY SCARY - PLEASE HELP!!!

Thank you…

I hate to say this but the dealer is probably right, the grinding is the ABS kicking in. Driving in snow is all about the tires, not the brakes. If it’s that scary, invest in 4 dedicated snow tires, slow down, and practice driving in an empty parking lot to get a feel for them. Here is a link to Tirerack’s selection of winter tires in 205/65R15 for a 2003 Accord LX 4cyl.


Other posters can recommend a specific winter tire. Here is a link to some articles about winter tires and driving.


Ed B.

Your Accord has “anti-lock” brakes, or Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS).

ABS is designed to keep the wheels from locking when you apply the brakes, regardless of the surface conditions. On dry roads you’d probably never know the system was there.

During wet or snowy conditions, however, the brakes will pulse (grind?) to prevent the wheels from locking up and putting you into a skid. This is what they are designed to do.

How old are the tires on your Accord? If the tires are near the end of their life they won’t offer much traction in snow, slush, or rain conditions, and might be responsible for this problem

If you must deal with snow and ice on a regular basis, I suggest you invest in a set of four winter tires for your Accord.

They make a world of difference.

Thanks edb1961 & moparadise,

My tires are now slightly worn, but just passed inspection so they’re not totally bad. But I’ve had this problem since I bought the car in '03. At first I took it to the Honda dealer every time it snowed, but they kept telling me it’s the way ABS is supposed to work! Then, until this winter, I had a job for which I took the commuter rail (good old Boston), so I let the issue fade. BUT - now I’ve moved to Boulder CO - and the snow issue has resurfaced big-time…WICKED bad!

I’d like to disable the ABS, frankly - my car is a 5-speed manualtransmission and I’m a total control freak when it comes to driving - can’t stand the CAR making decisions for me!!

So, the way I see it I have 2 options: either disable the ABS or buy 4 new tires. Disabling is obviously way cheaper, but what is safest? I know one thing for sure: this needs to be addressed pronto!

Please advise…

Tires can pass inspection and still have terrible traction. Some tire brands/models are just plain terrible on winter road surfaces–for example the Bridgestone Potenza RE-92 (and 92-A) is essentially worthless on winter road surfaces.

New tires that are top-rated for winter traction will enable you to go, corner, and stop far more safely than tires that are just so-so or worse than so-so on winter road surfaces. Personally, I think that a person living in Colorado could benefit from a set of 4 winter tires, with the Michelin X-Ice being the best of the lot.

If you don’t want to have to keep one set of tires for winter and one set for the other months of the year, then I suggest the Goodyear Triple-Tread. This is one of the very few all-season tires that is able to display the universal winter tire symbol (a mountain peak and a snowflake) on the sidewall.

With a good set of winter tires, you will be able to stop from 40 mph in about 30 ft less distance. That is the difference between a collision and no collision.


I also live in Colorado near Boulder, and have to drive in the snow, possibly somewhere near you at times. My sister, and her family live in Louisville.


If you hit me or my family, and we find out you disabled your ABS system, we are going to take you to the cleaners. The same will happen with anyone else you hit, and they find out you disabled the ABS.

You need to go buy yourself a set of winter tires.
You have moved to Colorado, now please take the extra effort to make sure your car is safe to drive in the winter, and in the snow!


Perhaps you could elaborate just a little on “grind” - but especially on “fail.” What do you mean that the brakes “fail?” Describe it as best you can.

I hate to be a twit (though your lack of description leaves the door open) but perhaps you just need to learn to drive in the snow - ?

Without a better description, I just have to agree with the others. The grind is the ABS operating, and the “fail” is something between your tires and your unrealistic expectations of traction on the snow. The most dangerous thing here might be you.

So feel free to clarify.

ABS is not meant to help you stop sooner on any surface. It is there to release your brakes so you can turn if you decide that you can’t stop in time. So go slower and use that round thing in front of you.

Not sure if your first car with ABS or maybe your tires are exceptionally bad in winter conditions(they vary greatly).

If first with ABS trying putting less pressure on pedal and figure threshold of grinding. If you are barely pushing them and this is happening it could simply be very worn tires or poor in the snow model. Lastly DO NOT PUMP BRAKES.

If you want to alleviate all of this buy an all-season that is biased towards winter conditions(Nokian WR G2 is one example) or simply purchase a set of winter tires. It is near impossible with quality winter tires to get the ABS grind.

And yes when ABS engages on snow and gravel it enlongates stopping distances.

The advantage of ABS is on all other surfaces. It allows you to steer but letting tires turn where otherwise you would be able to steer. It is an a distinct advantage on majority of drive time.

Thanks to all for your comments. I did some tire research and have an appointment to take my car in on Wednesday to have 4 new winter tires mounted.

As for driving ability, ouch! - that hurt - but I’ve driven stickshifts all my driving life and have been told I “drive like a guy”. A major compliment, IMHO.

B/c of the braking problem, I’ve been driving as slowly as 10mph and the grinding and loss of control still occur. Staying off the road until I drive to the garage!

Last point: Bladecutter, you told me not to disable my ABS, which was good and wise advice. But you could stopped there and not threatened me. I just asked what was the safest option. Sheesh. I do, however, appreciate your concern that I could be a danger to you & your family, and I want to assure you that I would never do anything that someone advised me was dangerous.

So although I’ll be $400+ poorer, rest assured that I’ll not be a menace on the road - despite having been a Boston driver for many years! Thanks again for the help, everyone.

Wow. A little dramatic?

I guess my two old trucks that don?t have ABS must be danger to everyone on the road too.

If you want to try driving w/o the ABS you can pull the fuse. The ABS light on the dash will always be on though.

It also might be advisable for you to purchase 4 steel rims to mount the snow tires on. This makes it easier when you have to switch back to your regular tires in the spring.

I guess my two old trucks that don?t have ABS must be danger to everyone on the road too.

Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t. Regardless, I hope you are smart enough not to deliberately disable the safety features came with your trucks.

Glad you are getting the winter tires. Investing some more money in wheels for these tires could save you some money and time every time you change back and forth from winter and summer tires. Perhaps you can find some used wheels at a salvage yard. I purchased some lower price aluminum wheels for my '03 Civic years ago and they have paid for themselves by now.

As far as ABS goes, it keeps the car straight and under control. The downside is the traction is only as good as the the worst tire on the car grips the road. As soon as one tire skids the ABS shuts off the braking pressure to the other wheels. This is why you need 4 tires all in equally good condition to get the benefits of ABS brakes. Keeping the tires all inflated properly at the same pressure is important too.

Once you get the new winter tires on the car head for a big snow covered parking lot that is pretty empty and practice braking. Get the car up to some pretty good speeds apply the brakes hard and steer the car as you are braking. You should feel pretty strong braking to slow you down and the ability to steer the car. The secret to ABS brakes is to keep your foot down on the petal hard. Don’t worry about the “grinding” noises and the pulsing in the brake petal, that is normal ABS brakes doing their thing, just keep your foot hard on the petal until you stop completely.

As soon as one tire skids the ABS shuts off the braking pressure to the other wheels.

If a 2003 Honda Accord has a single channel ABS, that’s pathetic. It probably has a 3, if not 4, channels ABS. One tire skidding shouldn’t cause other brakes to release, and that’s the advantage ABS has over a finely trained right foot. Just floor it and let the computer modulate at each wheel’s limit.

I’m willing to bet the issue is just the ABS kicking in. It’s been my experience that in the winter, ABS typically makes a somewhat loud, mechanical grinding noise, and it feels like the brakes are failing, then engaging, and then failing again, until you regain traction. In my first car with ABS, I was absolutely convinced that I had a severe mechanical problem with my car due to how loud the system was when I tried to stop on ice/snow.

One is an 86 and the other is a 92. So no ABS on these gems:)

It might not be brakes.
It might be wheel alignment or a ball joint getting loose.