Keeping your vehicle properly maintained is part of making you and others safe. Drivers have a duty to drive carefully and ensure they don’t put others at risk, which includes ensuring their vehicles are in good working condition.
The anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are part of the overall brake system and important to the safe operation of a vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated that all light cars and trucks must have ABS as part of a vehicle’s electronic stability control system (ESC) by September 1, 2011 as established in FMVSS 126. ABS failure can lead to your car in the event of an accident, and a car accident lawyer can guide you in legal representation.
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ABS, or anti-lock braking system, significantly reduces the risk of a vehicle losing control when the driver has to slam on the brakes. The system has four ABS speed sensors one on each wheel. The sensors feature a coil with a magnet. The contact creates an electrical signal and forwards it to the ABS controller. The ABS controls braking based on the digital returns it receives.
The system also uses valves to control the pressure applied to each brake. When the valves open, it allows more pressure to the brake. When it closes, it blocks pressure to the brake, preventing you from locking up the brakes and going into a skid. The third position is the release position, where the system releases pressure on the brake. If the valves jam, it no longer works, which prevents the ABS from controlling the pressure on the brake.
The ABS pump restores hydraulic pressure to the brakes after the valve releases it. The ABS controller changes the pump’s status to create the proper amount of pressure to prevent brake lock-up and reduce sliding.
The controller is the ABS computer it receives the signal from the ABS speed sensors. If a wheel loses traction, the speed sensor sends this information to the controller, which then determines whether it needs to increase, decrease, or release the pressure for the brake on that wheel.
Finally, this system does not work without brake fluid. The hydraulic brake fluid transfers the pressure from hydraulic lines to the calipers. Thus, it is imperative to check the brake fluid and ensure that the master cylinder is full.
Brakes produce a lot of heat, which heats the brake fluid. While it has a high boiling point, the brake fluid degrades over time because of the heat. Many vehicle manufacturers recommend flushing the brake fluid every five years and replacing it with new fluid. If you use the brakes a lot, such as towing or driving in the mountains, manufacturers recommend flushing the brake fluid more often.
How the Anti-Lock Braking System Works?
When a vehicle’s brakes lock up at a sudden stop, you lose control of the vehicle. It could cause you to slide or spin out. During a lock-up, the tire stops rotating. If you are old enough to have learned to drive a vehicle that didn’t have ABS, you were most likely taught to pump the brakes to get out of a skid or to prevent a skid.
ABS replaces manually pumping the brakes since it can pump them faster and at the correct time. It also allows the driver to concentrate more on steering to avoid crashing. The ABS allows you to control the vehicle better should you need to brake hard. The ABS can apply and release the brake on each tire up to 20 times in one second, which is much faster than a human can.
The constant application and release of the brakes allows you to slow down quicker without the wheels locking up and forcing you into a slide.
In newer vehicles, the ABS works with the electronic stability control and traction control systems to make driving even safer.
Additional Brake System Components
In addition to ensuring the anti-lock brake system works properly, you need to ensure the rest of the brake system works properly.
Each time you take your vehicle for maintenance, your auto technician should check the brake system, including:
- The brake fluid. Since the brake system is a closed airtight system, you most likely have a leak if the brake fluid is low. Additionally, if air gets into the lines or you don’t have enough brake fluid, the vehicle’s brakes will not work properly.
- Brake hoses and brake lines. Most of the brake lines are metal with compression fittings. They can eventually rust, so it’s imperative that your auto technician checks them when you go in for maintenance. A short rubber brake hose runs from the metal line to the caliper. As with other rubber hoses, the brake hose degrades over time, letting air into the system or collapsing.
- Brake calipers and wheel cylinders. Most vehicles have four-wheel disc brakes, meaning all four wheels have calipers. Some trucks might have shoes instead of pads in the rear, in which case, you will have wheel cylinders. Calipers and wheel cylinders open and close as you press and let off the brake pedal. Both can leak brake fluid.
- Brake pads and shoes. Disc brakes use brake pads, while drum brakes use shoes. The pads or shoes rub on the rotors or drums to create friction to stop the vehicle. If the brake pads or shoes get too hot, they could cause the brakes to lock up. The thinner the pads or shoes get, the faster they heat up.
- Rotors and drums. The calipers or wheel cylinders press the pads or shoes against the rotors or drums when you step on the brakes to slow the vehicle. The ABS mimics this motion much faster to prevent a wheel from locking up if you have to brake hard.
Your auto tech should check the entire braking system when you bring your vehicle in for maintenance. Brakes are a wear-and-tear item, which means you must replace the pads, rotors, calipers (shoes, drums, wheel cylinders), and rubber brake lines as they wear out.
How to Tell if You Need Brakes
You can prevent an accident by paying attention to the braking system.
Since it is difficult to see the pads unless you remove the wheels, you can use other tells to know when the vehicle’s brakes are low, including:
- The distance the brake pedal travels to the floor. If it goes more than halfway, have an auto technician check the brakes.
- The emergency brake pedal or handle travels more than half the distance to engage the emergency brake fully. In most cases, the emergency brake is a manual brake you pull the handle or press the foot pedal, which pulls a cable and presses the pads against the rotors. If you have drum brakes on the rear, your auto tech can adjust the rear brakes if there is enough material on the shoes.
- The vehicle takes longer to stop.
- The brake fluid in the master cylinder (located on the firewall, usually on the driver’s side of the engine compartment) is low.
Another cause of poor brake function is if you have a vacuum leak and the brake booster isn’t getting enough vacuum. Sometimes, if you listen to the engine running with the hood open, you can hear the hissing of a vacuum leak. A leaking vacuum line anywhere on the engine could affect the brake booster.
Types of Accidents and Injuries Caused by ABS Failure
When the ABS fails, the vehicle tends to slide. In most cases, the locked tire will pull the vehicle in that direction. An ABS failure could cause a sideswipe accident, rear-end crash, head-on collision, or rollover, especially if you have never learned to drive a vehicle without ABS. Even if no one else is on the road, you could crash into someone’s home, yard, a tree, or slide off a roadside.
Injuries Caused by ABS Failure
The type of injuries you might suffer if your ABS fails or another driver’s ABS fails and causes an accident are the same. The severity of the injuries depends on several factors, including the speed of the vehicles, the driver’s skill in getting out of a skid, and the size of the vehicles.
Injuries might include:
- Bumps, bruises, scratches, cuts, and scrapes.
- Infections of open wounds.
- Hematomas from bumps and bruises.
- Road rash.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones and other crush injuries.
- Chemical and/or thermal burns.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Ear injuries, including permanent deafness.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Lung damages due to smoke or chemical inhalation.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
Any open wound could become infected, whether it is one you sustained during the accident or a surgical wound caused by repairing an accident injury. Additionally, accident injuries could exacerbate existing injuries and illnesses. The at-fault party is responsible for medical expenses and other losses from these secondary injuries. You would not have suffered physically, emotionally, and financially if not for the accident.
You could recover compensatory damages, designed to make you whole, if the at-fault party failed to maintain the ABS or a manufacturer or mechanic error resulted in an ABS failure.
In some states, you might recover punitive damages, designed to punish the wrongdoer, if you can prove the at-fault driver knowingly failed to repair the ABS or other systems on the vehicle. However, punitive damages are entirely at the discretion of the court and are rarely granted. You can only recover punitive damages if the court orders compensatory damages however, it is often worth pursuing if your injuries are catastrophic or you lost a loved one.
Most accident victims recover compensatory damages in the form of economic damages or damages that have a clear dollar amount. Those who lost a loved one in a car accident or whose injuries caused long-term or permanent disabilities could also recover compensatory damages in the form of non-economic damages or subjective damages for the losses specific to that victim’s experience.
Compensatory damages include:
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value and include:
- Current and future medical expenses.
- Lost income and loss of future earning capacity.
- Compensation to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property, including your vehicle.
- Death claim , including funeral and burial expenses, cremation expenses, certain probate court fees, and probate court attorney’s fees and costs.
Medical expenses include doctor’s appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, ambulatory aids, physical therapy appointments, psychological therapy appointments, occupational therapy appointments, cognitive therapy appointments, home health care, nursing home and/or rehabilitative home care expenses, hand controls for your vehicle, and accessibility upgrades such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars, handrails, and widened doorways for your home.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a set monetary value and include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make lifelong changes such as using ambulatory aids or taking prescriptions.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy or participate in family activities and events.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a finger or foot.
- Loss of bodily function use, such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you normally do, including but not limited to house cleaning, grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, and home repair and maintenance.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a car wreck because the at-fault party did not properly maintain the ABS or other parts of the vehicle or a manufacturer or mechanic’s error, contact a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia for a free case evaluation.