How to Use Anti-lock Brakes in Winter

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Learn how to safely use anti-lock brakes in winter to winterize your car, extend its life, and improve safety in this free vehicle maintenance and safety video.

Part of the Video Series: How to Winterize a Car
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Video Transcript

In this clip, we're going to talk about the foremost feature that vehicle manufacturers have engineered and installed in order to prevent crashes during the winter time or unsafe driving conditions. What we're going to talk about are your vehicles antilock brakes. Antilock brakes apply a pulsing pressure to the braking components in order to stop the wheels suddenly as you go. What that does is prevent them from locking up and turning your tire into a ski. A ski is a ski for one certain reason; it doesn't have very much friction. You can hop on a set of skis and just go right down the mountain, and there's nothing you can do about it to stop if you had to. You're trying to avoid that with your vehicle by stopping the wheels at an interval. The system operates by pulsing hydraulic fluid to the antilock brake module using a computer and wheel speed sensors in order to stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. If you step on your brakes in the winter time, and you noticed the pedal behaving unusually, that makes a buzzing noise, or feels like it's pumping back at you. That's normal. Don't panic. What is happening is the vehicle is noticing one of your wheels locking up. It pulses fluid to it to keep the vehicle rolling so it doesn't disturb the directional stability of the vehicle. If you drive something like mine, all it has is rear wheel antilock. What the antilock is doing is trying to keep the front from changing places with the back. What it'll do is avoid your vehicle being thrown into a very severe slide. If you're antilock brake light is on before the winter time, or during the winter time, it is a good idea to go to a service garage and have it serviced, or buy the book, and service it yourself. Antilock brakes are a fantastic invention. A lot of people don't quite understand how exactly they work. However, take my advice for it. They are a godsend. If your vehicle is not equipped with antilock brakes, what you're going to want to do in the winter time is take an exaggerated stopping distance, twice as much as you would use in the summertime. And when you begin to slow down, you're not going to want to apply all of the braking pressure at once. If you were to do that, the wheels will lock up and you will slide into what happens to be in front of you, or through the intersection you want to stop for. There's also a method that you want to use. It's called pumping your pedal. You're not going to want to pump pedal extremely hard. You'd want to light taps to the braking pedal to simulate antilock brakes. Like I said, you don't want to pump your brake pedal extremely hard because you'll lock them up. You're going to want to pump your brake pedal as rapidly as you can, as lightly as possible in order to achieve the stopping distance that is required. Another thing is, if you drive a stick-shift vehicle, what you're going to want to do is use what they call engine braking. Anybody that drives a stick-shift can tell you that if you're slowing down, and you go from, say, fifth gear to fourth gear. Lift your foot off the clutch, vrroom, the engine will slow down. You know it's your rpm's will spike. What that does is use the mechanics of the engine through the drive train to slow the vehicle down. You're going to want to downshift more and more progressively in the winter time than you do in the summertime. Those are couple of tips and hints for you for proper braking and the methodology that the manufacturer has used that antilock brakes operate on.

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