How to Stop Properly Using ABS Brakes In the Snow

Why You Should Only Engage ABS When Necessary

How to Stop Properly Using ABS Brakes In the Snow

Anti-lock brakes are a wonderful invention that now come standard with just about every modern car. They go a long way toward making us feel safer in slippery condition, but when trying to brake in the snow, what is the proper way to stop in a vehicle equipped with ABS?

What Do ABS Brakes Do?

It is a common myth that ABS can help your vehicle stop in a shorter distance at a certain speed than it might without ABS. Therefore, you should never expect that just because your vehicle has ABS that you can travel faster in snow or other slippery conditions than you might otherwise.

ABS is designed to keep you in control of your vehicle, something that was not possible with older braking systems. What ABS does is keep your wheels from locking up, so that if you get into a skid, you will still be able to turn the wheels and direct your vehicle in a safe direction.

[Read more: If you must drive on black ice, be sure you’re aware of these tips]

When to Engage ABS While Stopping

wheels on snowy roadIf you’ve had any experience driving in particularly snowy conditions, you’ll come to realize that if you brake hard enough, the ABS will kick in. But the question is, do you really want the system to kick in?

Generally speaking, no. You don’t want ABS to kick in unless it is absolutely necessary, even if your vehicle has AWD. ABS will activate when you brake hard, allowing you to apply maximum braking force while still being able to steer the car.

But, like we said, ABS won’t do anything to shorten your stopping distance. So, if you can avoid engaging it in the first place, you may find you do a better job of stopping your vehicle with enough distance to spare. This can be done by applying firm but gentle force on the brakes when coming to a stop, only applying the amount of force that is necessary. Of course, if maximum braking force is required, your ABS can still kick in to make sure you have steering control.

[Read more: Driving mistakes you didn’t know you made in the snow]

As you can see, the question of how to stop properly using ABS brakes in the snow is more of a question of when you actually want to engage ABS at all. If you can stop gently without activating ABS, that’s your best bet. Of course, this means you’ll want to travel at slower speeds in slick conditions. But, if you do get into trouble, ABS will be there to make sure you’re able to continue directing your vehicle in a safe direction.