AARP Driving Resource Center

Antilock Brakes — Know How They Work

3 steps to effectively using your ABS brakes in an emergency

ABS brakes are present on most vehicles, and are standard in model year 2012 and newer vehicles.

See also: Learn How to Handle a Skid

To determine if you have ABS brakes:

  • Check your owner’s manual
  • Look for the ABS symbol on your dashboard when you turn on your ignition before your engine starts.

When ABS brakes are working:

  • Drivers may experience a rapid pulsation of the brake pedal — almost as if the brakes are pushing back. Sometimes the pedal could suddenly drop.
  • The ABS controller may make noise that sounds like grinding or buzzing.
  • In some vehicles, you may feel a slight vibration. It is important to keep your foot on the brake pedal when you hear noise or feel pulsations. Do not take your foot off the brake pedal, rather, continue to apply firm pressure.
  • The ABS provides stability and control during skid situations. You should keep the pressure on the brakes and steer in the direction you want to go.

Remember the three key words

Stomp — Firmly depress the brake pedal.

Stay — Stay on the brakes. Do not pump the brakes!

Steer — Steer where you want to go while still braking.

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