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Antilock Brake Systems

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6.3.1 – Trailers Required to Have ABS

All trailers and converter dollies built on or after March 1, 1998, are required to have ABS. However, many trailers and converter dollies built before this date have been voluntarily equipped with ABS.

Trailers will have yellow ABS malfunction lamps on the left side, either on the front or rear corner. See Figure 6.7. Dollies manufactured on or after March 1, 1998, are required to have a lamp on the left side.

In the case of vehicles manufactured before the required date, it may be difficult to tell if the unit is equipped with ABS. Look under the vehicle for the ECU and wheel speed sensor wires coming from the back of the brakes.

6.3.2 – Braking with ABS

ABS is an addition to your normal brakes. It does not decrease or increase your normal braking capability. ABS only activates when wheels are about to lock up.

ABS does not necessarily shorten your stopping distance, but it does help you keep the vehicle under control during hard braking.

ABS helps you avoid wheel lock up. The computer senses impending lockup, reduces the braking pressure to a safe level, and you maintain control.

Having ABS on only the trailer, or even on only one axle, still gives you more control over the vehicle during braking.

When only the trailer has ABS, the trailer is less likely to swing out, but if you lose steering control or start a tractor jackknife, let up on the brakes (if you can safely do so) until you gain control.

When you drive a tractor-trailer combination with ABS, you should brake as you always have. In other words:

  • Use only the braking force necessary to stop safely and stay in control.
  • Brake the same way, regardless of whether you have ABS on the tractor, the trailer, or both.
  • As you slow down, monitor your tractor and trailer and back off the brakes (if it is safe to do so) to stay in control.

Remember, if your ABS malfunctions, you still have regular brakes. Drive normally, but get the system serviced soon.

ABS won’t allow you to drive faster, follow more closely, or drive less carefully.