The History of TPMS - A Shameless Product Placement Piece


It all started with the invention of a round wheel...

The principle behind ABS (anti lock braking) is fairly straightforward (pun intended); retaining control under braking.

Now standard on most production cars worldwide.

"One famous German car-maker has long boasted of having the first electronic four-wheel anti-skid system. But an American luxury model got there first....A story published in Popular Science in November 1970, written by respected scribe and noted spy photographer Jim Dunne, described Sure-Brake in detail.

The system had a speed sensor on each wheel, and, in the trunk, an electronic control box.


"When Mercedes-Benz offered the first production car with electronic four-wheel multi-channel ABS in 1978, it launched a safety and performance revolution...Before World War II, French and German engineers (including Robert Bosch) experimented with numerous anti-slipping systems for the railway and aviation industries.

In the '50s, disc brake pioneer Dunlop came up with a system that could improve the RAF's (Royal Air Force) braking performance by up to 30 percent.

The Maxaret anti-lock brake system was also put on motorbike prototypes, and by the '60s, Ferguson Research used it on the world's first four-wheel drive Formula One car, the Climax-powered P99."

"How does it work?

ABS is part of an overall stability system, commonly known as electronic stability control, which monitors wheels' under heavy braking. Each wheel has a sensor attached to it."

If the intelligent sensors detect that a wheel is about to lock up and stop moving, the system will release the brake. The release is only for a moment.

ABS then continuously and repeatedly applies optimum braking pressure to each wheel, meaning the system will brake just enough to not lock the wheels."

What if you use your production car for rallying or racing?

"On loose surfaces, a locked wheel is more effective at stopping because it 'digs in' to help bring a car to a stop. That's why many off-roaders feature a special off-road mode, which reduces the effectiveness of the ABS or turns it off completely to boost low-speed grip."

Racers or rally drivers want to turn off traction control to aid cornering and "drift" their cars using a technique called countersteering or "opposite lock". Many weekend racers used a modified production car rather than a track specific vehicle.

ABS in snowy conditions?

The principle also applies in a number of other situations when you want to retain grip on one wheel and do not want to re-allocate grip to all tyres, say in the situation of a bogged down vehicle or in traversing a slope in snowy conditions (Probably not your average Sunday drive).

The unusual case of Hybrid drivers...

For hybrid drivers the option to keep the petrol engine running while performing general service checks on other systems is a handy feature. The Carista ABS tool allows you to do this, at the touch of a button.

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So, the Americans, Brits and Germans all claiming credit for inventing a new technology ...nothing new there, but how does it work?