To use antilock brakes or not

I recently went into a big back & forth slide when turning at an intersection. I learned to drive before AB came into use, so I kept my foot off the brake (& the gas). I wondered afterwards if I had used the AB if I would have gotten control sooner & quicker. When I talked to the guys at work their answers varied. One guy said to use the brakes, but only lightly. Another said to push down firmly. So, use the AB or not? Use a light push on the brakes or firm?

ABS (not AB) was designed to be fool-proof, meaning you don’t need to think about how to use them. They were designed to maintain control of the car in slippery braking situations, even when the driver is trying to panic stop, ie: putting all available force on the brake pedal. And, they are self-activating, meaning they kick in only when they sense a wheel locking up. You don’t even need to tell the car to ready the system, it is always on and ready.

However, the anti-lock braking system is not perfect. The system will prevent wheel slide due to brakes, but not lateral turn forces. The anti-lock system will extend your braking distance since it cannot add traction to ice, but designed to keep the wheels from locking up so you can hopefully maintain control. But, trying to turn on ice can still send you into a slide or spin.

And one friend had an observation at an icy intersection a few years back. A car with ABS sliding down a slope to an intersection and cannot stop due to ice may not appear to be out of control. The ABS is preventing the wheels from locking up preventing a slide, but the car still cannot stop in time for the intersection due to no traction on ice, and run into or through the intersection, or cars in the way, with the driver hammering the brakes. Just something to think about.

using the brakes more (ABS or not) before entering the intersection would have helped. You had too much speed for the limited traction. ABS wouldn’t have helped control this kind of a skid. If the vehicle had stability control, that system would have kicked in and would have helped.

In a FWD car in such a skid there isn’t much you can do. As a driver you just “ride it out” and wait for your speed to decrease enough to regain some traction and control, hopefully before you run into something. A RWD car gives you more options in this scenario.

I Too Learned To Drive Long Before ABS. I Use Them To Gauge My Winter Driving Techniques. IF Those Babies “Go Off” Then I’m Not Driving Correctly, Too Fast For Condtions, Poor Reaction Time, Etcetra.

I try and drive so as to never activate ABS and I sometimes go for months (darn that “black ice”).

"I recently went into a big back & forth slide when turning at an intersection. "

I have had times coming to a slow speed stop on black ice or slush where I purposely tried ABS. I swear ABS extended my stopping distance over the old pump the brakes method. I suppose it could be argued that the ABS for sure kept my steering intact.

Turning at an inersection and realizing that you were traveling too fast for conditions and fish-tailing is a tough one. Since “too fast for conditions” is the cause then it makes sense to slow the car, but not so as to send it out of control. I suppose one could try mashing the brake pedal and let the car’s reaction tell you whether to continue mashing. You could also “feather the brake pedal” to lose speed yet still have steering, just like pre - ABS times.

Maybe the best choice is no brakes at all, but natural deceleration. Once a car is out of control there may not be a good answer, only one better than others. I was always taught to brake into (before) turns and smoothly accelerate through and out.

I guess some of us will have to get in a very vacant, empty, slippry parking lot and give it a spin. Then we’ll weigh in here again.

Oh, and let me compliment you on your query. This is one that could generate over 100 responses.


  The test seem to show that in a ice/snow type skid ABS will slow the car while allowing some directional control. In most all conditions that is preferred.   [b] Stability control[/b] would help under almost all conditions.  

   In real life, when a skid starts under limited traction conditions, there is little time for thinking.  The auto response means putting on the brakes.  Controlled braking under emergency conditions usually just does not happen except what the car can give you.  

    So my opinion is that we can't really tell you.  Each situation is different each driver is different.  I would put my money on ABS and Stability control if you can get them.

ABS it to keep the brakes from “locking” up and going into a skid’
slowing down on turns is what you actually need to do.

Once in a skid I don’t think ABS would have helped. I think you did the correct thing in taking your foot off the pedals, steering to correct, and allowing the vehicle to regain its traction naturally, free of any driver-applied forces.