You’re driving along the same route you usually follow, only it’s a slick, wet, rainy day. Your car suddenly begins to slide, so you do what feels natural and you brake. Your car’s ABS, if it has one, will kick in now. How do you know whether your car has ABS?
Generally speaking, the best way to find out if your car has ABS is to turn the key in the ignition and watch for ABS light. If you are still unsure, you can also read through your owner’s manual or inspect your vehicle, looking for an ABS pump or a speed sensor wire.
If you’re not quite sure what ABS is, then you won’t want to miss this article. Ahead, we’ll explain ABS in more detail, including how to tell whether your car has it. Then we’ll talk about the pros and cons of ABS. Keep reading!
What Is ABS?
Let’s start at the top. What exactly does ABS stand for and what does it do?
ABS is short for an anti-lock braking system. As that name tells you, ABS is designed to prevent skidding on slippery roads. How? When ABS mode is activated, your car’s wheels cannot lock up.
In some instances, it’s only the rear wheels that have ABS, whereas for other car models, all four wheels utilize this feature. When the wheels don’t lock up as you brake, you can maintain your traction on the road and feel like you’re in control, even in inclement weather.
ABS is mostly a safety feature so you don’t skid and slide on a wet road, injuring other motorists and possibly yourself as well. When using ABS, your car will come to a stop later than it would if you relied on your vehicle’s regular brakes. We’ll talk more about this later.
Besides preserving you, the driver, and any other passengers in your vehicle, ABS can also protect your vehicle. The wheels, brake calipers, brake pads, and tires all have a potentially longer lifespan thanks to the inclusion of ABS.
4 Ways to Determine If Your Car Has ABS
Are you interested to know whether your car includes ABS? You have plenty of ways to be sure, and none are that difficult to do. Here’s what we recommend.
Turn on Your Car
The next time you’re in your car, pay attention to the dashboard as you put the key in the ignition. A lot of little icons will light up, and the ABS light will be among them if your vehicle has this feature.
On some vehicle dashboards, the words ABS are printed. In other cases, it says Anti Lock. Both refer to the same feature, just that one uses the acronym and the other doesn’t.
Read Your Owner’s Manual
Another method that’s just as easy and doesn’t require going to your car is to open your owner’s manual and page through (or you can read it online if you find a copy there). In the index of the guide, you should see a page or section dedicated to your car’s ABS.
If there’s nothing in the owner’s manual about ABS, that’s indicative that this braking feature is not included in your car.
Look for a Sensor Wire
Maybe you’re still not sure whether your car has ABS. That’s okay. This next method requires you to inspect your car, but it’s good to know how your vehicle works anyway.
First, you need to position yourself in such a way that you can see one of your front tires from the back. You might need a second person to sit in the car and rotate the steering wheel if you can’t get a good vantage point of the front tire from where you are.
Now check out the hub area of the tire. The brake caliper will feature a rubber brake hose as well as a wire. The wire attaches to the car’s speed sensor. If you don’t see the wire, then your car doesn’t have ABS.
Check for the ABS Pump
While you’re under there, you might as well confirm whether your car has ABS or not by searching for the ABS pump. You can find this under the hood, usually near the brake master cylinder.
The Benefits of ABS
Now that you know what to look for, you’re certain whether your car has ABS. If it does, then you can enjoy the following advantages of this safety braking system.
Reliable Traction Control in Dangerous Conditions
Did you get caught in a heavy downpour in the middle of a busy highway? Perhaps you turned onto a country road after a snowstorm and the road is coated in a sheet of ice. Vehicles without ABS might struggle in these kinds of scenarios, but not you.
Not only can you avoid damaging your car from collisions with other motorists or the guardrail, but in some instances, ABS can save your life. It’s a highly valuable feature that you’ll be glad to have in your car even if you don’t have to use it very often.
Your Car’s Resale Value Could Be Higher
Many people are aware of the value of ABS. If you decide to someday sell your car, you might be able to fetch a higher amount for the vehicle due to the inclusion of the safety brakes.
Your Car Insurance Might Be Lower
You must pay for car insurance, but your premium doesn’t have to be so high. Ask your insurer about any discounts you can get on your insurance plan since your car has ABS. Even small savings add up month after month and year after year!
The Downsides of ABS
As fond as we are of ABS brakes, there are some notable downsides that you should be aware of, especially if you’re trying to buy a car with this feature.
Cars with ABS Are More Expensive
ABS technology is becoming more commonplace, but until it’s in every car on the road, the vehicles that have it are more expensive than those that don’t.
Depending on the vehicle manufacturer, you could be looking at hundreds of dollars more tacked onto the price of the car, sometimes more. Safety doesn’t come cheap!
Repairs Can Be Costly Too
Your ABS is great, well, as long as it’s working, that is. Many drivers who have ABS in their cars report that the technology is rather fragile and delicate. If your ABS brakes are only lightly damaged, then maybe you can get them repaired for a couple hundred dollars.
Should you need ABS brake replacement though, car repair resource RepairSmith quotes the work as costing between $320 and $1,000.
Here is the price breakdown for several popular vehicles with ABS:
- Honda Civic – $523 to $941 for parts, $95 to $125 for labor; the total is $706 to $1,066
- Toyota Camry – $571 to $820 for parts, $95 to $125 for labor; the total is $754 to $945
- Chevrolet Silverado – $420 to $712 for parts, $95 to $125 for labor; the total is $515 to $837
- Ford Focus – $398 to $679 for parts, $95 to $125 for labor; the total is $493 to $804
- Nissan Altima – $240 to $478 for parts, $95 to $125 for labor; the total is $335 to $603
ABS Braking Takes Some Getting Used To
Your ABS brakes don’t stop on a dime like your regular brakes do, which is something we touched on earlier. This requires an adjustment period to understand when your ABS brakes will kick in so you can press them to come to a stop exactly when you need to.
If you’re timing your stops just right but your ABS brakes still aren’t responding when they should, it could be due to an issue with the braking system. It’s worth bringing your car to a mechanic just to be sure. Expect this visit to be costly!
What If Your Car Doesn’t Have ABS?
Let’s say that you found a dependable, great used car. It runs well for its age and is still in surprisingly good condition. The one downside? The car doesn’t have ABS brakes.
Since ABS brakes or a lack thereof hold no bearing over the performance of your regular brakes, you can still stop your car whenever you need to. The problem is that you won’t have nearly as much traction as you’d expect. This is only exacerbated in inclement weather.
In the short term, it’s okay to drive a car without ABS brakes, but in the long term, we’d suggest saving your money for a car with this feature. Until then, limit your driving in inclement weather. If you do have to be out in storms, drive slowly without being a hazard to other motorists.
Anti-lock brakes or ABS is a feature found in many cars today, but still not all. This braking system can be a literal lifesaver, especially if you lose traction on the ground due to ice, rain, or snow.
Although ABS technology has its downsides, it’s still better that your car has this feature than has not.