Winter Stopping Components
We’ve already had a few blasts of winter weather here in Calgary, and as the season goes on, there’s bound to be days where you can’t avoid hitting the roads, even when they’re covered in ice. Modern vehicles have all kinds of safety systems built in to help you keep control on slick surfaces – but they rely on proper maintenance and upkeep in order to work their best and do what they’re meant to.
One of these systems is traction control, which is a real-time analysis of how your wheels are moving and whether they are getting any traction on road surfaces. The computers send power back and forth from one wheel to another to try and maximize friction and grip along the road surface, leaving you with (hopefully) better chances of not ending up stuck in a snowbank, or skidding out on the side of the road. Your heads-up display (HUD) on the dashboard should have lights or other indicators to show that the system is working, when your wheels are spinning on gravel, ice, dirt, etc. – and if not, then you know there’s an issue somewhere along the line.
Another system is your shock absorbers, which allow your tires to keep better contact with the ground while driving through rough or bumpy terrain. However, like all good things, they don’t last forever, and when they start to wear away, your driving experience can be significantly lessened: not only will your ride be bumpier and rougher, but factors like your stopping distance will be increased as well. Because bad shocks are less effective at keeping your tires down on the road surface, during a hard brake the rubber is likely to actually lift up off of it as the weight and momentum of the car builds up and releases again and again. From there, it’s simple math – less contact with the road, more time to stop. In fact, depending on speed, it can take an additional 15-20 feet to stop if your shocks are worn down, and in a potential crash situation, that can literally be the difference between life and death.
To know if your shocks are nearing the end of their usefulness, look for some common warning signs: besides the warning light on your HUD, listen for bumps or squeaks when you brake or drive over rough terrain; uneven wear on the tires; loose hardware at the connection points; or leaking fluid or increased wetness around the shield by the shock. A little bit of attention goes a long way!
As for anti-lock braking systems (ABS), they operate by preventing your wheels from locking up and skidding along a surface when the brake pedal is held. This allows for improved steering in a skid and less wear on the friction points when emergency brakes are held. In these systems, the computers track wheel speed, hydraulic pressure, air pressure, and other factors, and if they cross certain thresholds in combination – like when the hydraulic pressure increases while going highway speed – then the ABS system kicks in. It will input and remove pressure from the system, increasing and decreasing the braking ability, to allow for maximum control at the most efficient stopping speed.
There’s no doubt that these systems are great, and that their implementation has revolutionized the safety of the vehicles they are in. But they are all dependent on proper maintenance in order to function, and require systematic checks to make sure they are operating at their best potential. Don’t wait until the snow falls again, or an accident almost takes you out, before you think about what’s going on in your engine and throughout your vehicle. Be proactive, get everything looked at, and save yourself trouble and worry by knowing that you’re doing all you can in order to be safe on the road.
At West Tech Mobile, we are certified to inspect these systems and many others, and our knowledgeable technicians can make sure you’re roadworthy, even in our rough Alberta winters. With our fleet of service vehicles, we can even come to you for an added layer of convenience. Contact us today to find out more, and stay safe out there.