The Car Fail Danger ABS Brake Malfunction !

It had been reported that the Department of Transport intends to re-write the UK Highway Code in order to allow the use of the Google driverless cars they are currently testing on private roads in the US onto the public roads here in the UK,  If you are reading this you are obviously online and must know full well just how inherently unreliable computer system are by personal experience of incidents like them freezing up on you from time to time or loosing what you have just written by windows experiencing a problem and reopening the page.  I expect that most long term computer users will have experienced a full crash of their computer at some time and although annoying its no real problem because when you re-boot everything is usually OK and works perfect.  I expect that the vast majority of people with experience of computers would never stake their life on one, and yet now everyone is forced to drive cars fitted with computerised electronic ABS due to alleged road safety legislation as usually lobbied for by various automotive industry sponsored road safety charities.  Perhaps said charities will not raise any opposition to computerised driverless cars because they only have a top speed of 25 Mph ?
I have experience of Fail Danger ABS malfunctions in my 1000cc petrol car, alleged to be fitted with one of the latest high tech systems when I bought her new in May 2006, and on which I have never fully trusted the brakes since an emergency stop on the way back from the first trip as part of running her in.   Whilst coming down the A682 from Long Preston one still light quiet evening at the point where the road is narrow to go through farm buildings and at the junction with the Wigglesworth road where I had to make a precautionary sharp application after a farmer unexpectedly popped out of a field gate and parked his quad bike and trailer on the road.  I made a heavy application of the foot brake and she failed to slow down as fast as I expected from my experience with non ABS cars I had always had previously but there was nothing coming the other way so no problem and I thought nothing about it putting it down to her being new.   The brakes seemed OK afterwards and seemed really efficient, however some time later whilst going down the bottom of Ribble Lane towards and after already slowing to negotiate the left hand corner ( as I had practiced hundreds of times without any risk of breaking Newton’s Laws of Motion as I studied at tech ) I had to make a further heavier application when the ABS kicked in as indicated through the brake pedal and whilst not accelerating due to the steep gradient my speed would not fall further.   I was probably very fortunate that there was just enough room for me to squeeze past the coach coming in to opposite direction and on further contemplation concluded that the obvious Fail Danger ABS malfunction was induced due to the heavily rippled due to people braking old tar spray and chipping road surface on the corner.   At the next opportunity I reported the state of the road surface to my Parish Council pointing out that it was potentially dangerous and it was resurfaced shortly afterwards and I never had any similar problems and no warning lights were apparent on the dash even though they were proven operating on turning the ignition on before starting.
She passed her first MOT no problem and I never thought anything more about it until after having all the brakes relined on my regular mileage service and it was not until well after at least one other passed MOT when I experienced another ABS Fail Danger incident on my then regular Saturday morning shopping trip to Morrison’s at Nelson with my elderly dad as passenger.   I like the challenge driving  the trip over the top of the Annals Cross end of Pendle Hill through Barley and Roughlee over the top again and down Pasture Lane into the top end of Barrowford, although later I found it was just as quick going through Newchurch and down the Padiham by-pass from Fence.   On one such morning going down Pasture Lane from the summit and having enough trust in my brakes to reach almost 60 Mph on the long straight with ample time to slow for the 30 Mph Max left hand bend with adverse camber at the start of the built up area.  No point going any faster after that with the right hand bend before the gradient then steepens again down to the right hand sharp bend at the bottom before the narrow bit going down onto the A682 Gisburn Road.  Approaching the narrow bit and having already braked to bring the speed down to around 20 Mph and having by then changed down into second gear I made at further brake application just at the instant the nearside front wheel struck an uneven manhole and I could feel the ABS kick in on the brake pedal under my foot.  Like at the bottom of Ribble lane incident I described earlier although she didn’t go any faster due to the gradient she was not slowing down either and again no warning lights on the dash and I was lucky nothing was coming up the hill in the opposite direction.   This time I ignored the official ABS training and quickly fully released the brake and made another new application and I was able to stop with no problems at the junction onto the main road and again no problems afterwards on the journey back home. 
Several Saturday morning regular shopping trips later she did it again and I again quickly released the brake and made a new application and everything was OK and I was minded towards the possibility that the Pasture Lane incidents were due to significantly heating brakes when slowing for the previous bend with the adverse camber.  However, in the original Ribble Lane incident I had just set off from stone cold and less than a mile from the start of my journey and perhaps the malfunctions were due to probably almost unavoidable short changes in the coefficient of friction of the road surface.   Back in the 1990s I wrote to Lancashire County Council outlining the potential dangers of the red paint they were then using on the road surface at the nearside as part of traffic calming and how it could confuse ABS systems by one wheel on any axle having a different coefficient of to the other based on my personal experience of ABS malfunctions in HGVs.   Not that long ago I emailed a letter to my CA&T local paper about the disgraceful state of the roads in Clitheroe especially since the 20 Mph Zone was introduced, and how it was beginning to resemble a third world county and perhaps LCC were punishing the residents for electing a Lib-Dem town council, and paying particular attention to the potholes at the bottom of Well Terrace prior to the Chatburn Road roundabout.   I also outlined the possibility that said potholes could induce a Fail Danger ABS malfunction even at low speed, but I can’t prove it because it would appear that I have accidentally deleted the original, and yet the next time I went down town a couple of days after I sent it all the potholes had been temporarily repaired but CA&T never published it.
Its now so long since I experienced an ABS malfunction on my own car that I have virtually forgotten exactly when, my dad has been dead for well over a year now and since Lidl opened I now get all my shopping from Clitheroe so apart from an occasional trip out to see relatives near Preston and give her a flat out blast up the motorway to clear out any cobwebs which may have accumulated in the engine the brakes never get hot these days anyway.
My main concern and the primary driver for me writing about this subject is the real possibility that the Police are currently convicting innocent drivers as such ABS malfunctions are almost certainly impossible to prove by analysis after the accident and the Police will probably always assume that the accident was caused by speeding, which in turn will then be used to justify cuts in the speed limits to appease those who worship the ” Speed Kills ” quasi-religion as inspired by the universities via the media.   Just as a rough off the top of my head estimate its probable that Clitheroe is now at least an extra five minutes from the M6 on the A 59 ( even if you don’t get stopped for no good reason by the new traffic lights at Samlesbury ) making it now as far away from Preston as Gisburn was in the 1980s due to all the reduced speed limits.  In the case of goods vehicles the new roundabouts probably add even more time and with it extra fuel consumption.  It can’t be good for the future sustainability of our local economy, if not our entire national economy and the true safety challenges the alleged road safety charities all totally ignore need to be urgently addressed.
Back in 1994 whilst still technically recovering from my back operation they sent me on a computer skills course at Accrington ( on which I passed Level 1 in record short time ) and instead of copying all the bullshit they gave you for practice I wrote an article entitled The Potential Dangers of ABS on HGV’s which I sent to the Commercial Motor and got it sent back date stamped by them but no comment. 

It was based on an incident I experienced whilst pulling a tri-axle tipper trailer fitted with one of the earliest ABS systems on my well practiced and perfected down the last minute detail Swinden to RMC Burnley run.   As I was approaching the Windsor Ave traffic lights on the level main A56 Colne Road through Reedley during the first stage of my usual deceleration to stop I realised that only the tractor unit brakes were contributing and as always having the drivers window open I could hear the ABS valve releasing air as it was designed to do when they locked in an emergency application.   I managed to stop in time OK but had to abort my usual brake release to change down gear before coming to rest, and I proceeded with caution to tip at RMC which was only a level couple minutes away, then straight back to the depot empty to get it checked out. The fitter checked it with his meter as trained and found noting wrong so I was obliged to proceed with the rest of my day’s work but I was glad to get back to my old favourite non ABS tri-axle the day after. And to conclude the said article I suggested that the incident was due to an intermittent minor electrical fault even as simple as a dirty connection somewhere on the tractor unit.  Another safety disadvantage of ABS on HGVs I outlined was that it made it impossible to undertake a slow speed easy brake efficiency test when setting out loaded like I and other properly trained drivers used to do coming down the incline from the weighbridge at Swinden every load, which also had the advantage of trimming the load and stopping any chance of it moving on corners, it would also blow any dodgy brake cylinder diaphragms before they failed somewhere inconvenient during the journey.

Some time after when I was in my local Tesco I met and got talking to a ( patently not that competent at the time I first encountered him near the end of my apprenticeship ) driver ( who had left for years but come back after I retired ) who told me all about how he had rammed a newly fitted with a factory reconditioned Cummings 320 engine C-Series ERF day cab unit square into a big tree on the bend at the bottom of the short hill coming down into Cracoe on the Swinden road.  He had survived without serious injury even though the tractor unit was a write- off, but then ERF used to advertise ( in the New Zealand truck magazines I saw whilst out there ) on the fact that no driver had ever been killed as a result of a failure of their SP cab structure.  He claimed that the accident had been caused by the failure of the trailer brakes, in fact the exact same trailer involved in my incident except this time empty going up early for the first load in the morning.   The Police report concluded that he had ” fallen asleep ” even though you have to have your wits about you to get so far and at that time falling asleep was considered a valid defence ( if you were in compliance with driving hours rules )  unlike now, so he never faced any charges over the accident.  If it was true that he had fallen asleep then ( with no seatbelts fitted ) its likely that he would have been thrown out through the windscreen and possibly killed by hitting the stone wall behind.  The story doesn’t end there though, and several years later the very same guy whilst driving the latest 44 ton technology ( with speed limiter ) for the same company ploughed into standing traffic on the end M62 just going into Liverpool killing some people.  Big court case which even made it onto the NW regional BBCTV and he was acquitted of a charge of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving after the Police claimed he had ” fallen asleep ” as a subsequent medical examination had concluded that he was suffering from Sleep Apnoea.   They gave him medication and he was allowed to go back to his job as a HGV driver even though the company would probably have been glad of any excuse to get rid of him in the face of current employment regulations.

He had always been a dodgy character and when I was an apprentice at the new garage one day he knocked the front nearside cab sidelight / indicator unit off his A-Series ERF tractor unit, and to hide the fact he had gone down to TGB the local ERF agent and bought a new one and attempted to fit it, but it was half hanging off when he came back into the yard that night.  Whilst I working for an agency in between jobs once at the end of the 1980s I did a weeks holiday cover driving a concrete mixer for Steetley’s at Preston who we had the stone haulage Ex works from Carnforth when I was an apprentice.  I was informed by the other mixer drivers that due to the fact that the batch weight numbers were not adding up after they had cleared all the alleged stock tipped in the yard it was obvious that a significant amount stone was missing.  They followed him one day and he was taking the full load down to Preston docks and tipping up to a third of the 21 ton load there before going back to the nearby Steetley plant and tipping the remainder into the hopper just inside the gate some distance away from the batching plant office so nobody had noticed.   He was charged with theft and convicted as a result and his company lost the good contract despite the fact that they had sacked him on the spot.  The last time I saw him was one day whilst shopping in our local Lidl and after he had been made redundant when the company decided that the little money they were making from tipper haulage was no longer worth the grief, and the owners son transport manager was on the verge of retirement anyway with no son to carry on.  Even though I remembered him as fairly thin even if he had a bit of a beer belly, he had gained a lot of weight to a point where he could be described as clinically obese if not verging on morbidly obese ( fat arms and legs like a Michelin man ), and I was still there to see him leave on-board  his latest brand new top of the range model four wheel electric motobility scooter.  He never said anything about it but it would appear that he has now become a professional disabled person even though disability benefits are now extremely difficult to claim for most ordinary genuinely sick and disabled people.   Perhaps he and others are being given preferential treatment in the state benefits system ( or in accident compensation from the courts ) on the understanding that they remain forever silent about the inconvenient truth and in his case to protect the financial interests of the motor industry and in particular the electronics sector ?

One thought on “The Car Fail Danger ABS Brake Malfunction !

  1. I expect any truly competent automotive engineers to know this basic electronics but any dirty connection or dry soldered joint in the wiring system can turn itself into an intermittent DIODE and therefore transmit a signal throughout the entire electrical system. Similarly differences in the coefficient of linear expansion between ” plugs and sockets ” can disturb the connections as the joint warms up and cools down during the day, again with the risk of precipitating a diode. Add salt on the roads in winter to the equation and you probably have a major problem with any high tech electronics including electronic engine management especially if its ” fly by wire ” accelerator control, which probably explains many high power motorcycle accidents even when ridden by mature long experienced riders !

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