Anti-locking brakes or ABS are an important safety feature that comes standard in today’s vehicles and save lives by preventing the brakes from locking up which can result in loss of control of the vehicle.
Although ideal for on-road driving, ABS used off-road can cause accidents rather than prevent them.
If you are planning on taking your vehicle off-road, it’s important that you understand how ABS works and the potential hazard of them in off-road vehicles.
In addition to upgrading your off-road vehicle with performance parts and protective gear like a truck Grumper, you may want to consider your options for disabling the ABS if your truck has it.
How Does ABS Work to Prevent Accidents?
The ABS anti-lock braking system on your truck works by preventing the brakes from locking up when you step on the brake pedal hard enough.
On dry roads, this isn’t usually an issue. On surfaces that are wet, slippery, or loose, it’s easy to lock up the brakes and skid without ABS.
When the brakes lock up and hold the wheel in position, it becomes nearly impossible to steer the vehicle.
Between the skidding and loss of steering ability, you could very easily lose control of your vehicle and crash.
Anti-locking brakes prevent the skid and maintain steering control, two critical factors for avoiding that crash.
Off-Roading with ABS Not Recommended
Although it might seem ABS would be a good safety feature to have while off-roading, it can be very dangerous.
Two of the most important systems on any off-road vehicle, no matter what you like to do with yours, are the braking system and steering system.
For greatest safety, it’s essential that you have complete control over your stopping and steering ability as well as the ability to gauge how quickly and in what distance your vehicle will actually stop.
ABS affects all of that. If you activate the ABS while driving down a dirt road, descending an incline, or clearing various other obstacles, your truck will not stop as precisely as you might need it to or you could lose fine steering control.
This can be extremely hazardous and lead to the loss of control of your vehicle in a completely different way.
A perfect example would be what could happen if the ABS on your truck activated while you were carefully creeping down a steep incline: too much speed and an inability to steer could result in a loss of balance and your truck rolling over instead of creeping to the bottom and tapping the brakes to maintain your slow speed.
Safer Off-Roading Without ABS
Maintaining control of your braking while off-roading is easier and safer without the addition of ABS.
Since this feature is now standard in most vehicles, you should research the different options available for deactivating it.
If you are driving a part-time 4WD vehicle, you should not have a problem; ABS does not work while the vehicle is in 4WD.
It does work with AWD and full-time 4WD vehicles, so this could be a concern.
Some drivers choose to install a kill switch into their vehicles so they can turn off the ABS when they hit the trails; others choose to pull out the ABS fuse until they are done wheeling for the day.
Regardless of how you choose to deactivate it, use your ABS wisely so it will protect you when it needs to.
Always keep it on when driving on the roads and deactivate it when driving off-road.
Stay Safe With and Without ABS
While it’s never recommended that you tamper with the onboard safety systems your vehicle may have and doing so could affect your warranty, you must also take steps toward the safe use of your vehicle when you go off-roading.
To safely enjoy some weekend fun, a truck with part-time 4WD might be ideal; for more serious off-roading, a dedicated truck or Jeep with full-time 4WD, protective equipment like steel truck bumpers, and no ABS is recommended!