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This is the way ABS works: when braking hard enough to overcome available traction and create wheel lockup, sensors detect when one or more wheels are slowing more quickly than the others. The system then releases some pressure to the braking system on any wheel approaching lockup, allowing it to continue to turn, thus retaining some grip. (Viatcheslav Dusaleev/Getty Images/Hemera)
This is the way ABS works: when braking hard enough to overcome available traction and create wheel lockup, sensors detect when one or more wheels are slowing more quickly than the others. The system then releases some pressure to the braking system on any wheel approaching lockup, allowing it to continue to turn, thus retaining some grip. (Viatcheslav Dusaleev/Getty Images/Hemera)

You & Your Car

Driver, not the ABS, is the problem Add to ...

I recently bought a 2011 Hyundai Elantra (comprehensive five-year warranty) from a Hyundai dealer and bought and installed new winter tires (Goodyear) with rims from Canadian Tire (with balancing). Now, during snow when roads are slippery, when I apply the brakes the ABS kicks in and my car slides for some distance, not stopping immediately – even after braking hard. I am sure my old 2004 Nissan Sentra 1.8S (which doesn't have ABS) stopped better than this. My dealer is blaming the car's tires and says that there is nothing wrong with the ABS. So, now, whenever there is snow, I am scared to brake. The dealer is saying that I should switch to Michelin tires but the Goodyears I have meet Canadian safety standards and have a good reputation. What should I do? – Anand

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I suspect the answer lies within one statement you made: “When I apply the brakes the ABS kicks in and my car slides for some distance, not stopping immediately – even after braking hard.”

The key parts of that observation are “braking hard” and “my car slides”. The way ABS works, is that when braking hard enough to overcome available traction and create wheel lockup, sensors detect when one or more wheels are slowing more quickly than the others. The system then releases some pressure to the braking system on any wheel approaching lockup, allowing it to continue to turn, thus retaining some grip. All of this happens extremely quickly, within centimetres of vehicle travel.

I suspect you are expecting too much from ABS. It doesn't necessarily allow a vehicle to stop in a shorter distance, rather it ensures the front wheels continue to rotate to provide traction, allowing an alert driver to steer around a problem rather than slide into it.

When you say “my car slides” I don't believe it is actually doing so, since none of the four wheels will be locked up and “sliding”. It's more likely that the ABS system is frantically applying and releasing pressure to the individual wheels in a situation where grip is minimal. The car is not sliding but rather slowing as much as possible on a very slippery surface.

Under these identical conditions your older non-ABS vehicle would certainly be sliding and likely not in the intended direction, with no semblance of control. Traction is entirely dependant on speed and surface conditions and I suspect this is another area where you are making comparisons that are not suitable.

If, for example, it is extremely cold and you are driving on several centimetres of snow you can expect a certain level of braking performance. If, however, the temperature is closer to the freezing mark, the surface beneath that snow would be much more slippery as your tires compress the snow and it turns to water on top of an already icy surface. Braking distance could easily be twice as long – same car, same tires, same surface.

As for the Goodyear versus Michelin question, I seriously doubt you would notice any difference in performance. Each company makes a wide variety of winter tires and under carefully controlled instrumented testing it might be possible to measure a slight difference in braking distance – but that could go in favour of either product, depending on the specific tire mounted.

I suggest you simply slow down.

High revs

I own a new GTI and I love it and want to keep it well maintained for a long time. Should the car normally be driven at high rpm (under safe condition) or be pampered? I keep a good maintenance schedule. – Henry

Sustained high revs will increase wear and use more gas. Back in the day of leaded gasoline and mechanical ignition timing, the occasional blast would clean things up. But, that is no longer the case. Varying revs according to conditions and following a proper maintenance schedule are the keys to long engine life.

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