Advantages and Disadvantages of Anti-Lock Brakes

March 14, 2012

Anti-lock brakes are a highly-touted feature in modern cars, but they do have drawbacks. Learn more about anti-lock brake system (ABS) pros and cons.

Anti-lock brakes help drivers have better control of a vehicle in some road conditions where hard braking may be necessary. In vehicles without anti-lock brake systems, drivers who encounter slippery conditions have to pump their brakes to make sure they do not spin out of control because of locked up wheels. Anti-lock braking systems coordinate wheel activity with a sensor on each wheel that regulates brake pressure as necessary, so that all wheels are operating in a similar speed range.

Advantages of Anti-Lock Brakes

The main benefits of an anti-lock brake system (ABS) include.

  • Stopping on ice. As mentioned above, an ABS prevents lock-ups and skidding, even in slippery conditions. Anti-lock brakes have been proven to save lives in some situations by helping drivers keep control of a vehicle.
  • Lower insurance costs. Because it is a thoroughly tested safety device with a track record of effectiveness, insurers often give customers specific discounts for having an ABS system on their vehicle.
  • Higher resale value. As a feature on a car or truck, an ABS raises the market value of the vehicle. Nowadays, where ABS technology has become standard on many vehicles, not having it could result in a lower price for resale.
  • Traction control. An ABS shares some of the infrastructure of a traction control system, where new technology helps ensure that each wheel has traction on the road. That makes it easy for manufacturers to install both of these features at the factory.

Disadvantages of Anti-Lock Brakes

Despite the fact that anti-lock brakes are proven to be a safety feature in most situations, and insurers consider them to significantly lower risk for a vehicle, not all drivers are sold on this option for a car or truck. Here are some of the down sides that drivers find in this kind of brake system.

  • Inconsistent stop times. Anti-lock brakes are made to provide for surer braking in slippery conditions. However, some drivers report that they find stopping distances for regular conditions are lengthened by their ABS, either because there may be errors in the system, or because the clunking or noise of the ABS may contribute to the driver not braking at the same rate.
  • Expense. An ABS can be expensive to maintain. Expensive sensors on each wheel can cost hundreds of dollars to fix if they get out of calibration or develop other problems. For some, this is a big reason to decline an ABS in a vehicle.
  • Delicate systems. It's easy to cause a problem in an ABS by messing around with the brakes. Problems include disorientation of the ABS, where a compensating brake sensor causes the vehicle to shudder, make loud noise or generally brake worse.

Average Price of Anti-Lock Brakes

Today, almost every automobile comes standard with anti-lock brakes. Some people think of anti-lock brake systems as a new development, however they have been around for nearly a century and were first developed to provide stabilization to aircraft upon landing.

It is rare for anti-lock brakes to fail. The ABS system is not critical for the primary function of braking, because the car will stop without the ABS engaging. However, without anti-lock brakes, a car will not have the traction control most drivers expect today.

When an anti-lock brake system has problems, most of the time just one component has failed and not the entire system. Therefore, it is difficult to specifically name an average price for anti-lock brakes. Dealer completed anti-lock brake replacement will range between $1,000 and $1,500 for most automobiles manufactured after 1993.

However, depending on the specific component failure, the average price of anti-lock brake repair will be significantly lower. It is very important to have a mechanic or dealer service center that you can trust before replacing your anti-lock brakes. A trustworthy mechanic will not try to replace the entire system if only one component is failing.

Do Anti-Lock Brakes Decrease the Cost of Insurance?

Most insurers do offer specific amounts off of a vehicle insurance policy if the car or truck comes with anti-lock brakes from the factory.

How Insurers Value Anti-Lock Brake Systems
Auto insurance companies look at safety features on an individual basis and see how that "risk value" may affect their bottom line for claim payouts. Because anti-lock brakes have proven effective in preventing certain kinds of accidents (and therefore certain kinds of claims), insurance companies generally provide customers with a discount for having an ABS. Ask your insurer rep about this item at the time that he or she is helping you put together a policy.

Where to Go to Install Anti-Lock Brakes

If you have a car that doesn't have an anti-lock braking system, your easiest solution would probably be to go to a manufacturer's dealership. Their mechanics are most familiar with your car model and what is needed to install anti-lock brakes. However, if price is a factor, going to a junkyard for parts, then to a trusted certified mechanic might be your next move. By saving on parts, your biggest expenditure would be labor.

In any circumstance, because an anti-lock system must be integrated with your car's current braking system, the installation will not be cheap. However, the benefits of such an upgrade can be priceless.

How do the Actuators on Anti Locking Brakes Work?

Anti locking brakes are controlled by sensors that monitor the speed at which you are slowing down and activate when you are stopping more rapidly than normal. The sensors send a signal to the computer controlling the brakes. When the system feels that you are stopping too fast, it will release the pressure of the brakes to prevent them from locking and putting you in a spin. As actuators work, they open and close the releases until you slow down safely. This braking system works in a totally different way than older types of brakes. Because of this, you should never use a pumping method to slow down when driving a car with an anti locking brakes system. Anti locking brakes work far better than the older type of brakes.

Is it Cheaper to Get an ABS Module Repair, or to Replace it?

ABS module repair is absolutely possible, and a great deal cheaper than replacement of the full ABS. All in all, if you decide to have your ABS repaired by a specialist, you can anticipate saving at least half of the cost of installation of a new full ABS, if not more. New ABS modules can cost up to $600 or more. Keep in mind, however, your ABS module repair person must be reliable and reputable. These repairs are cost effective, and reputable specialists are readily available. A reliable ABS specialist can complete your ABS module repair in approximately two days.

Are Anti Lock Brake Systems Standard on All New Cars?

An anti lock brakes system is not found standard on all new cars. The reason for this is that there are a lot of drivers that prefer not to have them. Even though the major insurance companies endorse their use, and will even offer discounts to owners of vehicles that have anti lock brakes systems, they are costly, and are therefore rejected by many purchasers of new vehicles. As the insurance companies and the DOT push for the addition of this system, it is very likely that in the future, the government will mandate they be included on all new cars.

Where Can I Get an ABS Brake Pump?

Junk yards are usually good places to find spare parts for your vehicle; however, it is best to buy an ABS brake pump that is new, or remanufactured. The ABS brake pump is a complicated and important part of the ABS braking system, and it is imperative, for safety reasons, that a suitable replacement be used. To that end, the Internet will be your best bet for finding the part you need, and usually for less money than at a local parts store. Online stores like;,,, jcwhitney, shopzilla, eBaymotors, and racepages can provide you with OEM parts, or quality remanufactured parts, and you might even get free shipping.

How Long Should an ABS Pump Motor Last?

The longevity of an abs pump motor is dependent on the driving conditions, and level of maintenance the vehicle is subjected to. Modern abs systems can last as long as 100,000 miles, if properly maintained. Hydraulic brake fluid is used to actuate the brakes. The fluid is exposed to high amounts of heat at each of the wheels, and will pick up contaminants, and break down over time. If the brake fluid is neglected, the contaminants can affect the abs system, and the life of the abs pump motor. Additionally, exposure to dusty environments, including those found around leaf blowers, can cause wheel sensor problems.

How Can I tell if My Car has an Anti Lock Brakes System?

Vehicles employing an anti lock brakes system will typically have an emblem attached somewhere on the vehicle identifying that fact. Additionally, there should be an indicator, in the dash, that lights "ABS" when the vehicle is started. However, if this is not the case, then there are a couple of things you can do. First, look in the vehicle owner's manual, this will state if the vehicle has ABS or not. Second, you can ask the vehicle manufacturer by phoning one of the local dealerships, or by looking up your model vehicle on the manufacturer's website.

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